Dear Mishpocha in Yeshua,
As we celebrate the holiday of Purim this month, we decided to focus on the quality of COURAGE as exemplified by Queen Esther, the heroine of the Purim story. We encourage you to read the Book of Esther and celebrate with all the Jewish People on Wednesday, March 23 (Fast of Esther), Thursday, March 24 (Purim), and/or Friday, March 25 (Shushan Purim).
Courage is defined as, “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.” A simple definition of courage is, “the willingness to try to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous.”
The first mention of courage in the Bible is found in Numbers 13:20 where Moses sends out the spies into the land of Canaan. He tells them to “Be of good courage”— חזק Kha-ZAHK in Hebrew – (usually written Chazak) and to bring back some of the fruit of the Land. The second mention of COURAGE occurs in Deuteronomy 31:6 where Moses gives his final words to the children of Israel as they are about to cross over into the Promised Land. Moses gives them the same exhortation: CHAZAK (Kha-ZAHK) “Be strong and of good courage.”
We sense that the Lord is saying this to each one of us this month: CHAZAK! “BE OF GOOD COURAGE!” God is for you! God is with you! God has gone before you! God will empower you! You and God are a majority! Take heart!
While there are many examples of men who demonstrate courage in the Bible, the Lord has led us to look at some of the courageous women, beginning with Esther. May our sisters in the Lord be encouraged this month to follow their godly examples, step out, and do great things for God.
Esther: COURAGE TO RISK HER LIFE FOR HER PEOPLE
God consistently uses unlikely people to do heroic deeds and accomplish His purposes. Esther is one of these people. An exile. A Jew. A woman. An orphan. Among the weakest of society in the mighty Persian Empire. And yet, one of the most courageous! God saw something in Esther. He knew that she could be the one to deliver an entire people. His ways are always higher, and unique. “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty… “ (1 Corinthians. 1:27)
Most of us know the story well. The wicked, Jew-hating Amalekite Haman, wanted to exterminate the Jews living in Persia. He consulted his gods by casting lots (purim) to ascertain the most favorable date to annihilate the Jews. The date revealed was the thirteenth of Adar. Esther, by the providence of God, had become Queen of Persia. Her uncle Mordecai, who raised her, heard of the plot and asked her to beg the King for mercy for her people. To do this would be to risk her life, since anyone who went into the inner court of the king without being summoned would be put to death. And Esther had not been summoned in the past thirty days.
Esther’s reply to Mordecai demonstrated her great courage as well as her faith in the God of Israel, “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” (Esther 4:16)
The Lord honored Esther’s courage, and King Ahasuerus extended the golden scepter to her. Her brave act resulted in the salvation of the Jewish people. This victory over Israel’s enemies continues to be celebrated today by Jewish people throughout the world. The courage of one woman resulted in deliverance and joy, and mourning turned into a yearly holiday of rejoicing called “Purim” (Esther 9:22). Esther’s courage bore long-lasting fruit.
Shiphrah and Puah: Courage to defy the King of Egypt
Who? These two brave women were Hebrew midwives whose courageous action, like that of Esther, saved a nation. The king of Egypt, concerned about the increasing number of the Hebrews, decided on a solution. “Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of one was Shiphrah and the name of the other Puah…When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birth stools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live. But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive. (Exodus 1:15-17)
It took great courage for Shiphrah and Puah to defy the king’s decree. They could easily have been put to death for going against his orders. They feared God more than man. They safely delivered not only Jewish male babies, but assisted in the birth of the redemption of God’s People Israel. The midwives in Egypt have been called “conduits for the Exodus.”
God thought so highly of the midwives that he gave us two of their names – while the king of Egypt is not named. Insignificant? Not at all. Neither are we. God knows your name!
Jochebed: Courage to entrust her baby to God
We don’t hear a lot about Jochebed, but she was a very courageous woman of God. Her name means “The Lord is Glory,” and through the courage of this mother, a baby’s life was preserved. Through this life, Israel saw the Glory of God. The baby’s name was “Moses.” Jochebed was the daughter of Levi and the mother of Moses, Aaron and Miriam.
The male babies born alive, thanks to the midwives, were still destined to die. “So Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, ‘Every son who is born you shall cast into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive.’” (Exodus 1:22) After hiding Moses for three months, seeing that he was a beautiful child, Jochebed came up with a creative solution. She cast her baby into the river – but in a basket, an ark of bulrushes. Baby Moses was placed in a — תבת tehBAHT, the same word used for Noah’s “ark.”
When Jochebed placed her baby in the Nile River, trusting God to preserve him from the crocodiles and the elements, she had no idea that God was using her to preserve the life of Israel’s future deliverer. The “basket” was an “ark of salvation.” Constructing the ark was an act of faith and courage. Jochebed’s faith is even mentioned in Hebrews 11:23. Her act of courage, in saving her baby, is the first act of courage in the Book of Exodus – a book filled with courageous deeds.
Many of you are courageous mothers. You have had to make difficult decisions, especially as single mothers. It takes a lot of courage to be both mother and father to children. It takes courage – and faith – to entrust your children to God. Only He knows the greatness that lies within the fruit of our wombs!
Rahab: Courage to hide enemy spies – by faith
God uses not only ordinary women, but despised, outcast women, for His eternal purposes. Rahab was one of these. A harlot. A Gentile. But God used her to further His kingdom, to bless His People, and she was blessed in return. Her courageous deed? She hid two spies whom Joshua had sent out to spy out the land, especially Jericho. The king of Jericho found out about the spies and told Rahab to turn them in. She not only hid the spies, but made up a story to protect them, deceiving the King, and made a way for Israel to conquer Jericho.
Rahab took a big risk, put her life on the line, because she had come to believe in Israel’s God. (See Joshua 2:9-11) Her confession to the spies was, “…for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” (Joshua 2:11). Rahab’s faith infused her with courage to act. She was in awe of Israel’s God. Rahab is mentioned in James 2:25 for her “works,” and in Hebrews 11:31 for her “faith.” She is also listed in the genealogy of the Messiah in Matthew 1:5. God has a very high opinion of Rahab – a gentile, a woman, a prostitute.
Rahab’s “holy chutzpah” (holy boldness) and courage were demonstrated when she made the spies swear an oath that her life and the lives of her family would be spared when the Israelites conquered the city of Jericho. They agreed, and the scarlet cord that they gave her marked them out for salvation (Joshua 2:17-18).
Ladies, let us all, like Rahab, fear God, trust God, and take a courageous stand for the lives of our family members. We stand for family salvation! We trust the God of Israel to save us all by the scarlet cord – the blood of Yeshua, the Lamb of God. Grab hold of it – and the promises of God. Don’t let go. CHAZAK: Be of good courage!
Deborah: Courage to lead a nation back to God and peace
Deborah: Courage to lead a nation back to God and peace Deborah, whose name means “honey bee,” was certainly a Queen Bee in Israel, the crucial personage in the hive that guaranteed its survival. Deborah served as both a prophetess and judge at a time when women political leaders were rare. What courage she must have had!
As we read Judges 4-5, it becomes obvious that Deborah’s courage came from her close relationship with God. She was a woman of great faith. Deborah heard from God and believed Him. But the children of Israel had done evil in the sight of the Lord, returning to idolatry. God had allowed them to be oppressed by Jabin, king of Canaan, whose army was commanded by Sisera. The Israelites had been harshly oppressed for twenty years.
Deborah heard from God that Barak was to engage Sisera in battle, and that God would deliver Israel the victory. Barak refused to go if Deborah did not go with him. She went, encouraged Barak, and the Lord gave them victory over their enemies. Israel was delivered – thanks to Deborah. It was her courage that rallied their troops. Deborah and Barak’s victory song included, “When leaders lead in Israel, when the people willingly offer themselves, Bless the LORD!” (Judges 5:2)
Deborah called herself “a mother in Israel!” (Judges 5:7) She was mother to a nation. She influenced the nation of Israel for good, and for God. After the victory over Sisera, the land had rest for forty years! Deborah’s faith and courage changed a nation! Some of you are Deborahs! God can use you to change our nation. We need more “mothers in Israel.” YOU could be the next Governor of your state – a Representative – even our President.
Ruth: Courage to leave the known to follow God
Ruth: Courage to leave the known to follow God I relate to Ruth, whose name means “friendship,” in many ways. In 1973 I left my home state, my family, my gentile upbringing, to follow my Jewish husband (Neil Abraham Lash) to another state (Florida), and another culture. But for Ruth, it was much more difficult. She had lost her husband, and only had her mother-in-law Naomi as companion. It took courage to renounce the idols of Moab, and to embrace a different people and a different God. The Moabites had been enemies of Israel for a long time. Ruth was a Moabitess. She is referred to in this way in Ruth 1:22, 2:2, 4:5 and 4:10. What courage it must have taken to glean in the field of an Israelite, not knowing what to expect. A stranger in a strange land.
Ruth also took on enormous risk when she obeyed her mother-in-law and went to the threshing floor at night to lie down at Boaz’s feet. This meant asking Boaz to redeem her. Her? Ruth? But God. He had a plan, and he gave Ruth the courage to be bold and cooperate with His purposes. Boaz gladly became Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer. Her faith and courage were rewarded by being the wife of Boaz, the mother of Obed, the ancestor of King David, and eventually, of Yeshua the Messiah. (Matthew 1:5)
A stranger. A Moabitess. A woman. A widow. Poor. Ruth. But God knew her by name and rewarded her cleaving to her Jewish mother-in-law and her God. He will reward you too. We are claiming the promise of Ruth 2:12 for our Jewish Jewels family: “The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.” (Ruth 2:12)
Abigail: Courage to oppose an offended King
Abigail: Courage to oppose an offended King Abigail is another woman used of God to save lives. She did this by being a peacemaker. We read her story in I Samuel 25:2-42. Abigail’s name means “My Father’s Joy.” Unfortunately her marriage brought her little joy since she had been matched with an arrogant fool by the name of Nabal.
An incident occurred where David’s men had provided protection for Nabal’s flocks. When a feast day came around, David sought hospitality from Nabal. Nabal not only denied his request, but insulted David and his men, refusing to give them provisions. David was furious, and determined to kill all the males of Nabal’s household.
Abigail was informed of the crisis by a servant, who asked her to intervene. She immediately prepared provisions for David and his men, and went out to bring them to him. Abigail humbled herself before David, took Nabal’s foolish act upon herself, and saved her household through her wise, courageous words (one of the longest speeches by a woman recorded in the Bible vs 24-31).
David admired Abigail’s courage and wisdom, and was grateful that she kept him from shedding the blood of innocent men. He said to Abigail, “Go up in peace to your house. See, I have heeded your voice and respected your person.” (1 Samuel 25:35). About ten days later, the LORD struck Nabal and he died. David heard about it, proposed to Abigail, and she soon became his wife.
Men admire wise, courageous women. God loves peacemakers. May we be found exemplifying these qualities, so that the Lord can use us in the salvation of lives.
Mary, Mary Magdalene and Elizabeth: Courageous women of the Brit Hadasha
Room does not permit us to elaborate on these women nor on the many others that model courage in the pages of Scripture. Miriam (Mary), the mother of Yeshua, risked everything: family, reputation, and marriage, by saying “Yes” to the will of God. Her willing response to an angelic pronouncement was a courageous step. It also took courage to flee to Egypt with Joseph and Yeshua, and courage to stand with her Son at the cross, as her heart was pierced with grief.
Mary Magdalene stood courageously by the Lord when others fled. She followed him in life across the Galilee and Judea. She was still following him when He died on the cross, and then went to the tomb where she was the first witness of the Resurrection.
Elizabeth had the courage to “walk blameless,” although barren. In a society where infertility was considered a curse, Elizabeth overcame much as she walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord (Luke 1:6). She was a descendant of Aaron, and found her identity in God during most of her childless life. Great courage, in the midst of great emotional pain. We can have it too. Nothing is impossible with God!
CHAZAK, (Be of Good Courage) Women of God (Men too!)