Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Huldah


"Treasure the Word" by Elspeth Young

II Kings 22:12-20
II Chronicles 34:22-28

Background: 7 Century BC

Josiah, the king of Judah, was placed on the throne by the people when he was 8- years-old. When he was16 he began to seek after the God of David and to do what was right. When he was 20 he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of all the carved images and other idolatrous worship (II Chronicles 34:1-3). When he was 26- years-old he began to have the temple repaired; previous kings had defiled and used the temple for the worship of false Gods. While they were repairing the temple, Hilkiah the high priest, found"the book of the law of the Lord give by Moses" (II Chronicles 34:8-15). The scribe read it to Josiah. When Josiah heard the words he rent his clothes (II Chronicles 34:18-19). He was worried about the prophecies written in the book and so he sent several of his men to ask Huldah, the prophetess, what would happen to his people because because they had not kept the words that were written in the book.

Facts about her:
  • She dwelt in the college, also known as the "Mishneh" or "second section" of Jerusalem. This is a geographical suburb of Jerusalem between the inner and outer wall;
  • She was married to Shallum who was the "keeper of the wardrobe", which could have reference to either the King's wardrobe or the priestly vestments of the temple;
  • She is a prophetess;
  • She would have been contemporaries with Jeremiah, Zephanaiah, Nahum, and Lehi;
  • She was literate. Which would have been an extraordinary thing for a woman at that time, not even the King was literate;
  • The king sent the high priest Hilkiah, the scribe Shaphan, Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, and Asaiah, the King's servant to seek her wisdom concerning the book of the law that was found in the temple;
  • She verified that the scrolls were the word of God, and that their prophecies concerning the destruction of Jerusalem would come to pass (which they do 35 years later), but says that because King Josiah had a "tender heart" and had humbled himself before God, he would not be alive to see the destruction;
  • She was the first to declare scripture to be holy. Up until this time written words had not been declared to be the word of God;
  • She is the last (recorded) woman prophet before Judah falls to the Babylonians;
  • Her name means "weasel" in Hebrew.
Speculations about her:
  • Mishneh (the area where she lived) means " a repetition" in Hebrew, and it is thought that this would have been a place where the oral tradition was preserved and taught;
  • According to Jewish tradition she had a school in Jerusalem where she taught the oral tradition;
  • Rabbinic commentaries say that Josiah sought her out, instead of a male prophet, because he thought that a woman would be more compassionate and more likely to intercede on his behalf to God;
  • She might have been a relative of Jeremiah, because they were both descendants of Rahab;
  • Jewish tradition says that she co-preached with Jeremiah, admonished and teaching repentance to the women, while he taught the men;
  • In Jerusalem, in the Second Temple, there is the "Gate of Huldah" which may or may not have any connection with her. The name may have meant "Cat's Gate", but some scholars think the gate might have been associated with Huldah's schoolhouse.


My Thoughts

Women can possess the gift of prophecy

Elder James E. Talmage of the Quorum of the Twelve wrote, “No special ordination in the Priesthood is essential to man’s receiving the gift of prophecy. … This gift may be possessed by women also.” (Articles of Faith, 12th ed., Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1924, pp. 228–29.)

The gift of prophecy is a gift of the spirit (D&C 46:22; Moroni 10:13; 1 Corinthians 12:10) and therefore is available equally to men and to women, based upon their personal worthiness and standing before God. Huldah is a testament that God is no respecter of persons when it comes to bestowing spiritual gifts upon those who diligently seek them.

As Elder Bruce R. McConkie declared in Nauvoo at the dedication of the Monument to Women: “Where spiritual things are concerned, as pertaining to all of the gifts of the Spirit, with reference to the receipt of revelation, the gaining of testimonies, and the seeing of visions, in all matters that pertain to godliness and holiness and which are brought to pass as a result of personal righteousness in all these things men and women stand in a position of absolute equality before the Lord. He is no respecter of persons nor of sexes, and he blesses those men and those women who seek him and serve him and keep his commandments.” (Ensign, Jan. 1979, p. 61.)

Not only does God bless women with the gift of prophecy, he expects them to cultivate it and to seek for it. The Apostle Peter declared on the Day of Pentecost: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: "And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:17–18 ,see also Joel 2:28–29).


How can a woman have the gift of prophecy when she does not hold the priesthood?

Dallin H. Oaks explained that: "It is important for us to understand the distinction between a prophet, who has the spiritual gift of prophecy, and the prophet, who has the prophetic office...The scriptures often use the word prophet and its derivatives in the broad sense of one who teaches and testifies of God... As we read in the Book of Revelation, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev. 19:10.) The Prophet Joseph Smith relied on this scripture in teaching that “every other man who has the testimony of Jesus” is a prophet. (Teachings, p. 119.) Similarly, the Apostle Paul states that “he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” (1 Cor. 14:3.) Thus, in the sense used in speaking of spiritual gifts, a prophet is one who testifies of Jesus Christ, teaches God’s word, and exhorts God’s people. In its scriptural sense, to prophesy means much more than to predict the future." (Dallin H. Oaks, Spiritual Gifts, Brigham Young University Women's Conference, 1986.)

It is important to note that Huldah does not reveal anything, she interprets and clarifies what is already written and revealed. She is not acting as a seer and revelator, but she is teaching, edifying, warning, and bearing testimony of God's words. All women are called to be prophetesses, to witness of the divine origin of the scriptures and to bear testimony of the living Christ.

She sought after knowledge, secular and spiritual

Huldah was literate and educated in a time when women were not suppose to be educated. She was a wife, and probably a mother, who had obviously cultivated her mind and had sought after knowledge. Her searching after knowledge and understanding, both spiritual and secular, placed her in a position where God could use her to help His people repent and come unto Him.

Huldah is a great reminder that women too must seek after spiritual knowledge. Too often women are content to let others tell them what to think and to believe. Yet, God expects each of his daughters to study the scriptures and meditate upon their teachings. He expects each daughter to have her own testimony, one that is firmly founded upon the truths of the scriptures and from personal revelation.Elder Neal A. Maxwell said: "We need more women who are gospel scholars and more men who are Christians," (Robert L. Millet, Men of Valor, 2007).

Lessons to be learned from her:

God wants and needs his daughters to be scholars of the scriptures. When women study the scriptures God uses them in marvelous ways. Remember: "We need more women who are gospel scholars and more men who are Christians," (Elder Neal A. Maxwell in Robert L. Millet's, Men of Valor, 2007);

Women have the right to possess every gift of the spirit, including that of prophecy, if they live worthy to have the Holy Ghost rest upon them;

All women can be prophetesses if they listen to voice of the Lord and are not afraid to teach and bear testimony of God's words.

Questions to think about:

Why would Josiah seek out Huldah instead of Jeremiah, Lehi or the other male prophets?

How had she learned to write? Who took the time to teach her? A father? Brother? Mother? Did she teach her daughters?

Are you a prophetess?

How can women of the church be better gospel scholars?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Widow of Zarephath


1 Kings 17: 9- 24
Luke 4:25-26

Background: 10 Century BC

Ahab and Jezebel were ruling the Kingdom of Israel in wickedness. Not only were they worshiping false Gods, but Jezebel had also commanded all the prophets in the land to be killed. Because of the great iniquity of the people, the Lord caused that there would be no rain, this lasted for three and a half years. Elijah the prophet was commanded by the Lord to dwell by the brook Cheribth, where the Lord told him that He would provided for him and keep him safe from Jezebel who wants him dead. Ravens feed Elijah for many days, but when the brook dries up he is commanded to go to Zarephath where the Lord has prepared a widow woman to sustain him. Jezebel was from this same area, so in sending Elijah to Zarephath God was sending Elijah into Jezebel's territory. It was a trip that was WAY out of his way, but he went because he knew that God had prepared someone to provide for him, and more importantly that there was someone who needed him.

Facts about her:
  • She was a widow with a son;
  • She was from Zarephath, a city in Zidon (about where Lebanon is today). She would not have been one of the covenant children of Israel;
  • She was the mistress of a household (1 Kings 17:17);
  • The Lord knew her, her situation, and the condition of her heart. He had been preparing her to be an instrument in His hand;
  • She and her son were dying of starvation and when Elijah found her they had nothing left to eat but "a handful of meal in a barrel and a little oil in cruse";
  • When Elijah asked her, she brought him water and food, even though she knew that she and her son would have nothing to eat;
  • She prepared food for Elijah with the last of her food, and trusted his words that her barrel would not be empty;
  • The barrel and cruse did not fail and she and her house ate for many days;
  • Elijah lived in the widow's household throughout the famine;
  • After the famine is over her son got sick and died but was brought back to life by Elijah.
Speculations about her:
  • Perhaps she was a widow because her husband had already passed away during the famine from starvation;
  • Maybe she was gathering sticks at the gate of the city because she was too weak from starvation to go much further.

My Thoughts:

The Lord knows her and is aware of her needs


This story bears testimony to me that God knows and loves each one of his daughters, because it is obvious in this story that God is VERY aware of this widow and her needs. Elijah had to travel way out of his way to get to this woman. Zarephath was in the opposite direction from where he was. Yet, she was important enough to God that he commanded Elijah to go to her. One can only imagine what her prayers must have been. Perhaps she had been praying for a miracle and for deliverance. I bet she didn't think her prayers would be answered like they were.

She has faith to walk into the the unknown


It is important to know that she did not know who Elijah was, and she did not know that there would be more meal and oil left over after she had fed him. She gave ALL she had and put her trust in the Lord. She went to the very edge of her faith, and God caught her and sustained her by his hand. Often times God asks us to go to the very end of our limits, the bottom of our barrel, calling upon all our resources before he provides deliverance. He asks us to sacrifice ALL that was have, in order to gain much greater blessings.

She receives revelation from the Lord and is faithful and obedient

In verse 9 the The Lord tells Elijah that He has commanded a widow woman to sustain him. How long had the Lord been preparing this woman? How long has she known in her heart what would be asked of her? It is a beautiful testament to her character that she was able to receive revelation from the Lord and was obedient to it, even in the hardest of circumstances.

She is pushed to the end of her rope, doubts, and becomes stronger

After all that this woman goes through, her son gets sick and dies (vs.17). This seems to be more than she can bear and she reaches her breaking point. She exclaims to Elijah " What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?" Even though she had witnessed a miracle, and had been fed by the hand of the Lord, she still had her moment of weakness and doubt. Despite her faith, she feels like God as forsaken her and is punishing her. Even Elijah asks God "hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son? " After much pleading Elijah is able to bring her son back to life. As he hands the living child back over to his mother she remembers her faith and the mercy of the Lord and cries " Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth. " God does not leave her alone, once again he hears her prayers and provides deliverance. Even when she thinks he has forsaken her and there is no hope.

Lessons to be learned from her:

Every day we are dependent on God for our lives. Whether we recognize it or not God sends us manna from heaven each day we are alive. We live by faith.

God does not leave us alone. He hears our prayers, and he answers them. Often in ways that we never imagined.

We can receive personal revelation from the Lord. When we are obedient he works miracles through us.

"If we allow Him, God will take us to that place where there is no one else to help us but Him"
-Camille Fronk, lecture on Women in the Scriptures, Brigham Young University, 2005

Questions to think about:

How old do you think she was? How old do you see her son being?

What made her faith extraordinary?

Why does God ask us to sacrifice?

How is this woman similar to you and experiences you have had in your life?

Are you willing to sacrifice EVERYTHING for Jesus Christ?