Putting women in their place
The November 17, 2009 CBMW blog post by John Starke that we started to evaluate last post, is an amazing “piece of work” that exalts the 17th century writings of a Puritan named Richard Baxter who attempts to put women in their place. Starke continues to summarize Baxter’s writings:
2. Discontentment. There is something about the sinful heart that is always wanting something other than the place in which God has placed him or her. When something other than God is the desire of the heart, it begins to desire more than the portion granted. The sinful cravings of the heart are deceitful and can justify sin or can explain away divine instruction. Baxter’s appeal to wives is to find your contentment and treasure in Christ and you will recognize the joy in resting in his purposes. (emphasis is mine).
Here Baxter concludes that there is a “portion granted” to women by God Himself. As seen in the last post, this “portion” is not an equal hearing of wisdom from God, but a “portion granted” as a follower of the man who follows Christ. Yet in the very nature of giving the woman the “place” of being the follower of a man, CBMW along with Baxter, perhaps unwittingly, identifies the husband in essence as the mediator between God and the woman as she follows God only through following under the leadership of the man. The “sinful cravings of the heart” are identified not as the man’s fleshly need to be the boss and have the woman subjugated under his will, but the sinful cravings are identified as the nature of a woman outside of her “place”.
According to the CBMW blog article, outside of the “leadership” of a man, the wife finds a “deceitful” way of serving God directly and her actions of serving God without going through the authority of the man is said to be the “sinful cravings of the heart” of a woman who apparently cannot know divine instruction properly without her place under the authority of a mere human. Starke’s summary rings hollow by saying “Baxter’s appeal to wives is to find your contentment and treasure in Christ…” While this may sound right, what is really being said is for women to find their contentment and treasure under the man while giving him full access on their behalf to Christ’s wisdom and instruction. This smacks of an OT priesthood arrangement where only a select few had access to the Holy of Holies.
In the last point, John Starke summarizes the need to “trust” in the leadership of the husband even if he is a “failure” because there is no provision by God for a woman to step outside of her “place” no matter what a husband does with his leadership:
3. Distrust in the leadership of your husband. Following the leadership your husband is not first and foremost based upon his merits, but upon the design of God’s intentions. Baxter recognizes the failures of husbands, since he was one himself, and there is no biblical expectations for women to follow their husbands in sin or submit to abuse. Yet, many may see the husband’s imperfections as an opportunity to exchange roles, as if he has lost his chance to lead. Baxter encourages wives to put away their fears of following their husbands, for it is not in him that you place your trust, but in the Lord who has given you good and perfect instruction for your joy. Rebelling against God’s instruction for the home will never bring peace or contentment. (emphasis is mine).
While CBMW’s John Starke (and Baxter) make it clear that there is no “expectation” for women to follow their husbands into sin, it is also very clear that any distrust of the husband’s “leadership” even if he is demanding her to sin, would be going against the design of God’s intentions for the woman. The message is clear – even an imperfect rule of the man is protected by God as the husband’s right to rule is kept for him alone and the “place” that God has designed for women is under the rulership of the husband.
The hidden message is that even godly women cannot be trusted to lead in righteousness because God has decided that a husband who is acting in an ungodly manner and who is enmeshed in sin is still entrusted to “lead” his wife. He has not lost his “chance” to lead and women are to set aside their fears of following a sinful husband as it is still God’s way to work in her. Apparently God still instructs her through the sinful man. It is also clear from Starke’s conclusions that a woman who rebells against following the leadership of a sinful man is actually rebelling against God Himself and she will lack peace and contentment if she fails to be led in whatever direction the man choses to go.
Is this really what God has said? Are women instructed to obey any “leading” of the husband even if she senses danger and her wisdom convicts her that his way is folly and a less-than-perfect lead? Is it true that the wife is given no ability to follow God directly but must follow Him through her husband? Let’s test this by God’s word concerning a godly woman’s rebellion against her husband’s “folly”. The husband’s name was Nabal and his wife’s name was, Abigail.
In 1 Samuel 25 the story is told of the kindness that David’s men had shown to Nabal’s shepherds by protecting them and acting as a “wall” of protection both day and night while the shepherds were looking after Nabal’s sheep. When David turned to Nabal to get a favor, David’s men were turned away and instead of receiving good back from Nabal, David’s men were met with insults to David. David’s anger was aroused and David decided to kill Nabal. When Abigail, Nabel’s wife was told about what Nabal had done and the trouble that was on its way to her house because of Nabal’s insults, she made a decision to act independently of her husband. The young man who informed Abigail had come to her for action since he knew that Nabal would not listen. The young man said to Abigail:
1 Samuel 25:17-19 “Now therefore, know and consider what you should do, for evil is plotted against our master and against all his household; and he is such a worthless man that no one can speak to him.” Then Abigail hurried and took two hundred loaves of bread and two jugs of wine and five sheep already prepared and five measures of roasted grain and a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs, and loaded them on donkeys. She said to her young men, “Go on before me; behold, I am coming after you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal.
Notice that Nabal was being bypassed by his wife and she did not take a position of staying under his “leadership”. Instead of trusting in a sinful man as God’s design of rulership over her, she acted in wisdom to avert disaster. Was Abigail in sin for stepping outside of the “leadership” of Nabal? The account shows that she was not in sin. Yet we should notice that she was not asked by Nabal to sin, so according to CBMW, John Starke and the Puritan Richard Baxter’s rules of marriage, she was not to “exchange roles, as if he has lost his chance to lead.” Let’s continue to follow the account to see what God has to say that may be in direct contradiction to the “wisdom” of CBMW.
Abagail boldy took the lead and went out to meet David and his men:
1 Samuel 25:20-28 It came about as she was riding on her donkey and coming down by the hidden part of the mountain, that behold, David and his men were coming down toward her; so she met them.
Now David had said, “Surely in vain I have guarded all that this man has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belonged to him; and he has returned me evil for good. May God do so to the enemies of David, and more also, if by morning I leave as much as one male of any who belong to him.”
When Abigail saw David, she hurried and dismounted from her donkey, and fell on her face before David and bowed herself to the ground. She fell at his feet and said, “On me alone, my lord, be the blame. And please let your maidservant speak to you, and listen to the words of your maidservant. Please do not let my lord pay attention to this worthless man, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name and folly is with him; but I your maidservant did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent. Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, since the LORD has restrained you from shedding blood, and from avenging yourself by your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek evil against my lord, be as Nabal. Now let this gift which your maidservant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who accompany my lord. Please forgive the transgression of your maidservant; for the LORD will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the LORD, and evil will not be found in you all your days.
Abigail was willing to take the blame for her husband upon herself and she spoke in faith to David telling him that she believed God would appoint him ruler over Israel and she wisely appealed to him to not to avenge himself with the blood of a fool along with the blood of others without cause. Abigail said:
1 Samuel 25:30-31 “And when the LORD does for my lord according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you, and appoints you ruler over Israel, this will not cause grief or a troubled heart to my lord, both by having shed blood without cause and by my lord having avenged himself. When the LORD deals well with my lord, then remember your maidservant.”
In complete opposition to CBMW’s position, David acknowledges that Abigail’s actions (which were stepping outside of her husband’s will) was an act of the leading of God Himself:
1 Samuel 25:32-35 Then David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me, and blessed be your discernment, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodshed and from avenging myself by my own hand. Nevertheless, as the LORD God of Israel lives, who has restrained me from harming you, unless you had come quickly to meet me, surely there would not have been left to Nabal until the morning light as much as one male.” So David received from her hand what she had brought him and said to her, “Go up to your house in peace. See, I have listened to you and granted your request.”
Abigail’s discernment in acting of her own accord and in opposition to her husband’s revealed will was an act worthy of praise. Her wisdom commanded the respect of David and he acknowledges that God used her to bless David and to keep him from taking revenge into his own hand. God blessed Abigail with further wisdom as she kept her actions as a secret from her own husband when she returned home and found out that he was drunk. According to CBMW’s outline of putting women in their place, the pattern would show that it was wrong for Abigail to have distrusted the leadership of her husband and chosen from her own will to act as a leader. How did Nabal, Abigail’s “appointed leader” act when he found out that his own wife had saved him from certain death?
1 Samuel 25:37-38 But in the morning, when the wine had gone out of Nabal, his wife told him these things, and his heart died within him so that he became as a stone. About ten days later, the LORD struck Nabal and he died.
The fool Nabal had no leadership gift for his wife. It is folly to think that Abigail should have done anything other than the courageous actions that she took outside of her husband’s control. According to CBMW, the only right a woman has to disobey a husband’s leadership is if he is telling her to sin, but Nabal did not instruct Abigail to sin so her actions would be listed as “sinful cravings of the heart” which are “deceitful and can justify sin or can explain away divine instruction”. According to the hierarchists “role” distinctions, she was to find her “joyful place of submission” even to a sinful male because failing to keep under his leadership is “rebelling against God’s instruction for the home” and such an action “will never bring peace or contentment”.
Did Abigail have peace and contentment in acting from her own God-given wisdom? Yes, absolutely as she was given a place of honor as David’s wife.
1 Samuel 25:40-42 When the servants of David came to Abigail at Carmel, they spoke to her, saying, “David has sent us to you to take you as his wife.” She arose and bowed with her face to the ground and said, “Behold, your maidservant is a maid to wash the feet of my lord’s servants.” Then Abigail quickly arose, and rode on a donkey, with her five maidens who attended her; and she followed the messengers of David and became his wife.
Remember that CBMW is affirming that the woman is to be under the authority of her husband even if the husband has “imperfections”. The woman is never to take the lead even though her husband may be acting with his “imperfections”. She is not to distrust him but must follow him in his leadership because according to CBMW the man’s leadership of his wife is not based on his merits, but upon the specific design that comes from the very intention of God.
Are we being told the Biblical truth by these hierarchists? Or is this divine leadership of the man over the woman a deception happening in the name of God? No Biblical passage says that the husband has been given a leadership role over his wife. God’s blessing comes to us when we obey God rather than men. Jesus words ring true when He said that the tradition of men sets aside the commandments of God.
Mark 7:7-9 ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’ “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.”
As wives, we are to honor our husbands by doing good for them, but it is a tradition of men, not a command of God that says women are to be under the leadership of the husband. We have one Lord and one Master. That one Master is the Lord Jesus and not our fleshly husband.
If you are a wife who has received godly wisdom in the face of her husband’s folly, let me encourage you from the Bible to be an Abigail. If you serve God from godly fear and from the wisdom that He has given you, you need not fear. God does not consider a refusal to follow your husband’s “leadership” into folly as a sin. God’s word trumps the tradition of men that may have caused you to feel false guilt and shame for stepping out in the wisdom of the Lord. You are not alone. If we may help to encourage you, we are at your service.