Joshua had the great privilege of seeing God’s promise to Abraham become a reality. Moses received the vision for this new life in the promised land. God has directed him on how to bring it about, but it was Joshua who actually walked the vision out. Yet hidden in the commands of Moses, which Joshua fulfills, there is a major principle that the church too often ignores: “Don’t Discount the Women.”
There is a man in the book of Numbers named Zelophehad. He was counted as a member of the tribe of Manasseh when Moses issued the command to take a census of the new generation in the wilderness in Numbers 26. Verse 33 tells us, “Now Zelophehad the son of Hepher had no sons, but daughters.”
As the story continues, we learn that none of those listed in Moses’ first census, appear in this second one. God had fulfilled his promise that the former generation, due to their sin, would not inherit the land (Numbers 26:63-65).
What happened next is a story of great boldness by the daughters of this man. In a culture where women were viewed as subservient to men, the Bible tells us,
“Then drew near the daughters of Zelophehad the son of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh, from the clans of Manasseh the son of Joseph. The names of his daughters were: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. And they stood before Moses and before Eleazar the priest and before the chiefs and all the congregation, at the entrance of the tent of meeting, saying, “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah but died for his own sin. And he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father’s brothers” (Numbers 27:1-4).
Once again this is a bold move. But what happens next, makes it all worth it.
The Principle Made Clear
The Bible tells us, “Moses brought their case before the Lord. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘The daughters of Zelophehad are right…’ (Numbers 27:5-7a; emphasis mine).
I wonder if any of the men standing around saw this coming. The women stand up and demand to be counted the same as the men were. And God said their claim was right! He goes on to make it a rule:
“You shall give them possession of an inheritance among their father’s brothers and transfer the inheritance of their father to them. And you shall speak to the people of Israel, saying, ‘If a man dies and has no son, then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter” (Numbers 27:7b-8).
God makes it a law in Israel that women are not to be discounted among His people. They were to have major legal rights and even the ability to own land. This has been a big point of contention in many cultures, even up to today.
Don’t Discount the Women
What we cannot say is that Israel interpreted this rule from Moses to give women full equality in their society. That is a shame. Over and over again, the Lord gives women equal opportunities for life and leadership among His people. We see Deborah rising up to become a judge (a saving hero) of Israel (Judges 4:4). There are women who take up positions as prophets, such as both Deborah and Aaron’s sister, Miriam (Exodus 15:20). Other powerful women rise up to rule, such as Queen Esther, who saved the Jewish nation. The Bible says God appointed her for such a time. (Esther 4:14).
God could have just as easily used men in all of these things but chose to use women. Why? Because He didn’t create them to be subjugated to men. He created them to be equal partners in life and society. In fact, in the beginning, in all of God’s perfect creation, the only thing that God said was “not good” was that the man was alone (Genesis 2:18). God, therefore, determined to make a “helper” for the man and created the women to make it right.
The word “helper” is “āzar” in Hebrew. Throughout the rest of the Old Testament, it is the same word used for God as man’s helper. As we have already seen in Joshua, God is our counselor, and we get our boldness from His presence. I don’t think anyone would mistakenly think that God’s “help” makes Him subservient to men. Neither should women be viewed that way.
The New Testament Perspective
Once again, I believe the Bible teaches that women were created as equals to men, even though the cultures depicted in the Bible did not practice this as truth. The New Testament, however, takes this principle to another, more obvious level, for the life of the church.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter is declaring that God’s prophetic promise to release the Holy Spirit onto all humanity was manifesting. And what did that promise say?
“But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:16-18; emphasis mine).
The promise of the Holy Spirit – which means the promise of God to empower us to lead the world in salvation and equip us as rulers in God’s Kingdom – is not exclusionary! God does not discount the women!
In fact, Paul takes this even further when He writes to the Galatian church. He says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28; emphasis mine).
I believe the day is quickly approaching when women will fully step into their equal destiny and authority in the Kingdom of God. We have tasted it in every generation, and it has always been a blessing. And it is growing.
I am so thankful, as a father of daughters, that our generation has some of the most powerful and respected female leaders in both the church and within secular culture than any before. Yet I do not believe we are where God wants us to be.
Moving forward, it is time for all of us to check ourselves and see if we are discounting the role of women, either intentionally or not, and to make a course correction if necessary. It is time for men to stop acting like God’s call to be the head of the family, is justification to hold women down or treat them as servants to ourselves. (Even in the family, the call on men is to give up our own lives, to enable our wives to live freely. Just see Ephesians 5:25-30.)
It is time for women to stop believing the lie that they are second-class citizens in the Kingdom of God. The world needs you out front. We need your gifts. We need you to demonstrate God’s power. We need you to teach us what you know of God’s heart. We need you to fulfill the callings and dreams God has for your life.
And to the church, it is time we begin to live by a very old principle. One that has been missed for far too long: “Don’t discount the women!”
What’s Your Takeaway
What about you? Whether you are a man or a woman, you have been affected by the lie that women are not equals in God’s Kingdom. Maybe you have even helped to propagate it. What do you need to reevaluate or change to help empower the women in our generation and beyond, to become all that God wants them to be?
If you are still wrestling with this issue, and the biblical truth of it, I would also like to highly recommend the book, “The Other Half of the Army: Women in Kingdom Ministry” by Phill Olson, as your next stop on the journey.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Anthony Scott Ingram.