Courage in the face of overwhelming odds holds women of all eras and ages together. Women throughout time and the world around have possessed the intuitive ability to overcome the odds, or to accept what they cannot change. For six women in ancient Israel, acceptance and change of fortune shaped their futures and saved their lives. In my study of the women of the Old Testament, I found it interesting that there was at least one thing whether it was physical or spiritual I could relate in parallel to their and my character and life. One might find it difficult in these times to associate themselves with these women because of the liberties we as women have gained. For instance:
In the case of Queen Esther, it causes me to ponder in wonderment on God’s purpose in our lives, that sometimes God’s purpose in our lives is predestined even in the confirmation of our names. Queen Esther or Hadassah possessed courage and cunning in order to save her people from the wicked plans of Haman. Queen Esther or Hadassah is from the Hebrew meaning "myrtle tree". It is a symbol of victory and a symbolic name for girls born on Sukkoth because a branch of the myrtle bush, which has a lovely fragrance, and is one of the Four Species. The word Sukkoth is the plural of the Hebrew word sukkah, meaning booth or hut. The sukkah is reminiscent of the type of huts in which the ancient Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of wandering in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt. My name is Sandra Gail Dukes. Sandra originates from the Greek meaning defender of mankind; Gail is the Hebrew meaning a Father’s joy .The surname Duke and its variant, Dukes is an Americanized form of French Leduc or Spanish Duque. This ultimately stemmed from the Latin dux, meaning "leader", and is a derivative of ducere, "to lead". The surname was evidently acquired by someone who was either looked upon as a leader or as a nickname for someone who acted in a noble manner, since many captains or military leaders were titled landholders who would have taken their last names from their estates. The surname Dukes translates literally as "Duke's son". Let me clarify, I would not be so presumptuous to assume that because of one’s name they can claim greatness or disgrace , for God has a divine purpose for each of His children. In my opinion it is our belief, faith and service to God that determines the outcome of whom and what we become in His sight. But just like the robes young Samuel wore year after year made by his mother, a name can indoctrinate a purpose. I have always known that I wanted to be of service to mankind and please God, even as a little girl playing in the role as preacher on my grandfather’s back porch. It is interesting that all that heard me, my captured audience ,my mother’s hair salon clients always spoke of me in the future as an actress or entertainer but never as a preacher or a woman of God. Just like the children of Israel it has taken me 40 years of going in circles to reach my destiny because of my disobedience to God.
In the Case of Ruth, the lady who clung to her destiny, Ruth inherited a family by marriage. The family line was no ordinary one for out of it came Jesus (Matthew 1:5).Ruth was born a Moabite (or Gentile) yet her faithfulness led her to a greater inheritance. She clung unto that which was good. Neither circumstances nor things past were able to hinder her from laying hold of that which was more precious. Like Ruth my life is a representation of the born-again Christian. We are born again by faith. We all have to make a choice to walk with God. Like Ruth I cherish what I have inherited in Christ more than the world and all it has to offer. In the scriptures it reads that Ruth called Naomi Mara meaning 'bitterness', considering the hardship that had befallen Naomi, this could be understandable. Even as Christians sometimes adversities can cause us to become aggrieved and resentful. But because of our covenant with God, when we walk in faith He shows us mercy and favor. The Name Ruth a Hebrew name which was derived from the Hebrew word meaning "friend". The friendship and compassion of Ruth causes Mara’s bitterness to transform her into a woman who is beautiful, pleasant, and delightful, the Hebrew meaning of the name Naomi. It is also interesting to note that Orpah, Naomi’s other daughter-in-law; though she loved Naomi chose to return to her family, the Hebrew name Orpah means “she who turns back or fawn”. The words spoken by Ruth “Your people will be my people and your God my God” (-Ruth 1:16 ) conveys my sentiments exactly, as one who was reared in two other diverse denominational religions but somehow was led to worship God in the Apostolic Ministry because it embraced and was familiar to my spirit.
In order to form an intellectual and conformed opinion I asked myself several questions about five women whose lives and character was of interest. In my research of these five women of the Old Testament: Hannah, Sarah, Z'llpunit* (Samson’s mother), and Jesus’ mother Mary, I found several distinctive attributes and I asked these questions.
1. What was her problem?
2. How does she attempt to solve her problem?
3. How does God respond to her?
4. How does she respond to God's miracle in her life?
5. What parallels did I see between the story of Hannah and the story of Sarah and me?
It is interesting to comparing these women stories in the Bible Hannah's story with stories of other women, like Sarah, like Samson's mother, and like Mary. All of these women sacrificed their children for God's service. Although Abraham did not actually kill Isaac on the altar, he did offer him in sacrifice to God. Samson was set aside for God's service (he was a Nazarene) and he ended his life by sacrificing himself to kill Israel's enemies. And Jesus, of course, gave his life as atonement for the sins of the whole world.
But ultimately it was Hannah and Sarah whose characters integrated into my character and my physical and spiritual life. I found a spiritual kinship within me linked by God’s favor when it seemed they would be barren, but because they finally relied on God’s word with unfailing faith they were rewarded with a gift, a child from God. All of these women experienced miraculous conceptions: Sarah had been barren for most of her life and then conceived in her old age; Samson's mother was barren until an angel appeared to her; Mary was still unmarried when the angel appeared to her to tell her that she would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit.
In my research Hannah whose Hebrew name means grace, favor, is a story about a woman who very much wanted to have children, but she was unable to conceive. In her case, her identity was probably tied up with having children. There weren't opportunities for women to have careers or to make a name for themselves in other ways, and so most women found a sense of identity by being someone's wife and by having children and raising them. For some women, at least, being unable to have children was like having no purpose, or like having no identity in life. In the scripture we are told that Hannah's barrenness was made even worse because she was one of two wives, and the other wife had many children and ridiculed Hannah because she was unable to conceive. So Hannah sought the Lord, asking Him to give her a child and promising that she would give the child back to God as a servant if she were able to conceive. God heard her prayer, and she conceived and gave birth to Samuel, one of the most important prophets and leaders in the Old Testament. As she had promised, she gave Samuel back to God by taking him to live at the tabernacle of God when he was old enough to be weaned. God then blessed Hannah--she had several children after Samuel.
The name Sarah has Biblical significance. The character Sarah in the Bible was originally called Sarai. Sarah shared an adventurous and nomadic life with her husband, Abraham, “father of the nations”. She is described, in the Bible, as being exceptionally beautiful even into her older years. Sarah was unable to conceive a child for many years. So she gave her handmaiden, Hagar, to Abraham for the purpose of having a child. Hagar gave birth to Ishmael. The Lord told Abraham that he and Sarah would have a son. When Sarah heard this, she laughed because she thought she was too old to have a child. However, she did have a child, and they named him Isaac, which means” he will laugh”. Isaac's destiny was confirmed when Abraham proved willing to comply with the divine command to sacrifice his son on Mount Moriah. An angel stopped Abraham from slaying Isaac, and offered a ram as a substitute.
The parallel between these women and my life is that of wanting a child, only in my case my child died in childbirth. But the birthing of spiritual gifts can be characterized as childbearing. God is so awe-inspiring that what is taken away in the flesh can be restored in the spirit. When one surrenders all to God in obedience, whether it is fasting, tithing, severing ties to persons and things ungodly; or offering your child to God as proof of your unwavering devotion. God sees your worship for what it is, a sacrifice and He blesses those who serve Him with reverence. Praising God is how Christians offer spiritual sacrifices to God (He.13:15). As these women I have endured problems and extended vibrant prayers that God Jehovah has heard and I have experienced God's provisions. The scripture reads we should rejoice always (1Th.5:16). I have learned to praise in blessings seen and unseen. I have learned to lean to the Lord for His understanding on my purpose and to let God use the creative power He implanted in me to do His will, His way. The gift of using words to empower, to heal, and to bring joy and understanding is potent when I rely on God to administer my thoughts. Thus my works are anointed and are able to breathe new life into any situation. The scripture states: THERE ARE DIVERSITIES OF GIFTS BUT THE SAME SPIRIT. THERE ARE DIFFERENCES IN MINISTRIES, BUT THE SAME LORD. AND THERE ARE DIVERSITIES OF ACTIVITIES, BUT IT’S THE SAME GOD WHO WORKS ALL IN ALL. BUT THE MANIFESTATION OF THE SPIRIT IS GIVEN TO EACH ONE FOR THE PROFIT OF ALL: FOR TO ONE IS GIVEN THE WORD OF WISDOM, THE WORD OF KNOWLEDGE THROUGH THE SAME SPIRIT, TO ANOTHER FAITH BY THE SAME SPIRIT, TO ANOTHER GIFTS OF HEALING BY THE SAME SPIRIT, TO ANOTHER THE WORKING OF MIRACLES, TO ANOTHER PROPHECY, TO ANOTHER THE DISCERNING OF SPIRITS, TO ANOTHER DIFFERENT KINDS OF TONGUES, TO ANOTHER INTREPRETATION OF TONGUES. BUT ONE AND THE SAME SPIRIT WORKS ALL THESE THINGS (1Cor.12)
*Some Scholars argue the point that we don't know the name of Samson's mother, because in the Bible she is only known as wife of Manoah, Samson’s father.