"AND who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4 : 14).
We find in God's Book several stories of women in crises. Sometimes the feminine role is played in the setting of a personal experience. Then again the account takes on the dimensions of a national crisis. These human interest stories—true, historical accounts—were written for our admonition upon whom the crisis of the world has come.
The experience of Christ on the cross was a crisis for His disciples, including Mary, out of whom He had cast seven devils. Bravely this woman tarried with her Lord at Golgotha. She was last to leave the scene of Calvary, but she was first at the tomb on the resurrection morning. Her undying affection for Jesus kept her close to her Lord in life and in death.
In the crisis of Israel, when Xerxes was king of Persia, the women did not fail. Queen Esther became God's instrument for the deliverance of the chosen race. It was a crisis for her when Mordecai said: "Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" With prayer and fasting she and other women besought the Lord. "I will go in unto the king," she said, ". . . and if I perish, I perish." She met the crisis bravely. She went to the king and he extended the golden scepter. Her prayers were answered. Esther, lovely person that she was, beautiful in character and form, met the crisis bravely.
Quite apart from the spiritual connotation of Esther's crisis experience is the fact that she exercised a great deal of womanly insight into man's character. My secretary, who is a married woman, remarked to me: "Did you notice that Esther fed the king twice before she asked him the big favor? It is always good to talk to a man after you have fed him."
Deborah was leader and judge of Israel. Wife of Lapidoth, she dwelt under the palm tree between Ramah and Bethel in Mount Ephraim, and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. The crisis of her people was her own personal crisis too. At that time Jabin was king of Canaan. He reigned in Hazor and he sent Sisera with his host to fight against Israel. Deborah met the crisis with courage and wisdom. She summoned Barak, the captain of the Lord's army. "Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded," said she, "saying Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?" (Judges 4:6).
But Barak the man trembled. He said to Deborah the woman, "If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go." And Deborah said, "I will surely go with thee." But, she explained, "the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman."
It wasn't really Barak who won the battle that day. It was Deborah and a woman named Jael. You know what happened. True, Barak defeated the armies of Sisera but Sisera escaped and fled. Providentially, he fell into the hands of a discerning woman. Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, befriended Sisera and took him into her tent. She gave him food to eat and tucked him in bed. He was a tired, weary soldier. In the crisis that Jael faced she had to decide what to do. So while Sisera slept, she killed the enemy of her people.
So the victory was won by two women —Deborah and Jael. Barak, as Deborah had predicted, took no honors. The honors went to the ladies. But Deborah was a humble soul. She knew that it was God who had gained the victory and she composed a song of triumph. "Praise ye the Lord for the avenging of Israel," she sang, "when the people willingly offered themselves. Hear, 0 ye kings; give ear, 0 ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel"(Judges -5:2, 3).
"I, even I," said she. Those were the words of a woman singing a song of praise to God who had given to her the victory. God has given to many women the victory —women who did not fail in times of crisis.
Women have proved themselves as courageous as men and sometimes even more so in times of crisis. The Seventh-day Adventist Church—along with the people of the world in which we live—faces the bigo-est crisis just ahead. A woman who was courageous and who faced and resolved many crises said, under inspiration, of the time in which we live and of her own day:
The present is a time of overwhelming interest to all livine. Rulers and statesmen, men who occupy positions of trust and authority, thinking men and women of all classes, have their attention fixed upon the events taking place about us. They are watching the strained, restless relations that exist among the nations. They observe the intensity that is taking possession of every earthly element, and they recognize that something great and decisive is about to take place—that the world is on the verge of stupendous crisis. Education, p. 179.
Ellen G. White wrote those words back in 1902. If the world was on the verge of a crisis six decades or more ago, what would she say about today?
For Seventh-day Adventists the crisis will come "when the protection of human laws shall be withdrawn from those who honor the law of God.
"There will be, in different lands, a simultaneous movement for their destruction. As the time appointed in the decree draws near, the people will conspire to root out the hated sect. It will be determined to strike in one night a decisive blow, which shall utterly silence the voice of dissent and reproof."—The Great Controversy, p. 635.
The real crisis of the world will not be a political one but a moral one. The issue will be over the law of God. Will we obey it or not? The final battle of the world will not be military struggles in places like Korea, Vietnam, Cyprus, Israel—but the scene will be the human heart. Loyalty or disloyalty to God will be the question.
One reason why we should learn how to face the little crises of life at home, in the office, or in the shop—face them in good grace and with faith and courage—is that our attitude toward the big crisis ahead will have been crystallized in the spirit of Christ, learned through daily experience. "If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of the Jordan?" (Ter. 12:5).
We must all face sickness and even death in the family. The Syrophenician woman —a Greek, not a Jewess—faced a crisis in her home. She came to Jesus begging that her daughter might be healed. Jesus took this occasion to test His disciples, who were afflicted with prejudice toward the Gentiles. He said to the woman, in effect, "It isn't the thing to do, to take the food from the children at the table and cast it to dogs." The disciples thought that was a good statement. The Lord was just right—dispensing blessings to despised Gentiles wasn't a good thin r! The food on the Lord's table was for Jews, not for these dogs called Gentiles.
Said the courageous Syrophenician woman—and this was her time of crisis—"Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs" (Mark 7:28). O Lord, give me a few crumbs for my ailing child!
"For this saying go thy way," said Jesus; "the devil is gone out of thy daughter" (verse 29).
So the woman met her time of crisis. She stood the test and went home and her daughter was well again. What a glorious reunion it must have been as the precious daughter came skipping and dancing for joy to meet her mother!
Remember the importunate widow in the parable Jesus told. She went to the unjust judge to be avenged of her enemies and I suppose to have her estate properly settled. The judge wasn't interested in this woman's crisis. Nevertheless, she pressed the legitimate and honest demands of her problem before this tribunal. The judge finally gave her what she wanted in order to get rid of her. In her time of crisis she won out. Women have a certain persistence. Times of crisis seem to intensify this characteristic. Persistence is a good trait. It will be needed in the final crisis. We "ought always to pray, and not to faint" (Luke 18:1).
Think, too, of the time when Jesus in Capernaum was making His way to the home of Jairus, ruler of the synagogue. There Jairus' daughter lay dying. Indeed, she was already dead. Jairus was so anxious that Jesus should not delay the journey that he forgot momentarily that he was in the company of the divine One. Sickness was not a challenge to Jesus—nor was death.
On the way to Jairus' home a woman who had suffered with an incurable issue of blood for twelve years pressed her way through the crowd. With Jesus so near, this was her one hope, her crisis. "If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole," said she (Matt. 9:21). So she pushed her way into touching distance. There was the hem of His garment! She managed the touch! And she was healed. Jesus stopped. "Who touched my clothes?" He asked (Mark 5: 30).
"Why, everybody is touching You and jostling You," said the disciples in effect.
But Jesus could tell the difference between the touch of faith and the casual touch of the crowd. He saw the woman in the crowd. He knew her. His love had drawn her to Himself. She fell at His feet. She admitted what she had done and hoped that she hadn't done anything wrong. "Daughter," He said, "thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague" (verse 34). She was healed, instantly healed. In the time of crisis she had faith and it was rewarded. She was made whole again. If she had run away from her problem and given herself up to tears and despair, she would have died of her disease.
The faith of the women of the Bible is thrilling to me. 1 like to think that Eve—the last creature of the divine creation in Eden so long ago—represented the best of all God's creation. And it has been so in every age. What would the world be—in point of character—without women? Not only the great Bible women, but Clara Barton of the Red Cross; Susan B. Anthony, suffragette; yes, even Carrie Nation with her ax, breaking up saloons, chopping, demolishing, getting rid of booze; Ellen G. White with her inspired pen and divine counsel. And Kate Lindsay, Mary McReynolds, Alma McKibbin, Sarah Peck, Matilda Andross, and all of you.
The world hasn't seen all of its best women yet. The Seventh-day Adventist Church will produce many of them. We face the biggest crisis, and we need the finest women—big in faith, strong in courage, large in their love and affection, with broad, keen minds, hearts aflame with a passion for souls; women in love with Jesus as Mary was, women courageous for Jesus as Esther was, women of faith like Deborah and Jael. We need women like that in the church today. We have such women, but their best works will yet appear in the times of crisis we face.
Today is an exciting time in which to live. And women seem to be able to take excitement better than men. They have fewer ulcers. And for the Christian, every day is exciting. An announcement inserted in a church bulletin stated:
Christians need excitement. That's the way we're made. We crave it. And if we don't find it in the church, we'll find it outside. But seek it we will. Witnessing for Christ is an adventur?, in power. It can bring more excitement into one's life than anything this world has to offer.
Routine Christianity is not really interesting or attractive, is it? If we took meetino.s out of the modern church program, we'd have little left. The New Testament church lived on the excitement of God's power. Thrill after thrill shivered through the early church as she witnessed in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Excited about Christ! That makes exciting women. But these are not the glamour girls of today. These are Christian women who are excited about Jesus and enthusiastic about His friendship—beautiful people, for whom the world has an eye, a bigger eye than for the girls who exhibit their physical charms to the world but who have little character. Said the wise man, "As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion" (Prov. 11:22). But a discreet woman with a beautiful character, what a testimony to the world! I think all Adventist women who are in love with Jesus are beautiful. But courage for the crises—that is a different thing. It is something that we don't come by naturally. We need to pray and fast for courage and faith. We face times of test in the world. We must stand up to these tests.
(To be continued)