She Gets the Revelation First
This is a common refrain in nearly all Christian communities. Worldwide, churches are filled with women who are (at least) one step ahead of their husbands with regard to spiritual development. Almost anyone who has spent time within Christianity can usually come up with a laundry list of women who have shared this experience. These women are often deeply conflicted by the fact that the Father revealed truths to them first and their husbands seem to be lagging behind. Within our traditions and cultures, it all seems weirdly misaligned with our Christian expectations.
But the Lord works in mysterious ways...
The Bible is filled with many unanticipated things. Yahweh regularly defied the norms and customs of the ancient world and revealed His power in unexpected and unconventional ways. By defying expectations, God continually demonstrated His superiority over all creation, including nations, nature, families, and individuals.
Instead of coming as a warrior king, Christ arrived as a baby. Instead of leading His people to springs of waters, Yahweh brought the Israelites to a dry rock, from which they miraculously drew water. Instead of passing the promises of Abraham through the firstborn sons, the promises passed through Isaac (the second-born), Jacob (again, the second-born), and Judah (the fourth son) and Ephraim (the second-born son of an eleventh-born son).
As it turns out, God's plans seem to often contradict our human expectations and flimsy ideas of propriety and normalcy. Throughout most civilizations, including our own, women have been routinely marginalized and devalued. But, in defiance of humanity, Yahweh always shows preference for those who are considered to be the "least." Nowhere is this more evident than in God's persistent bias toward women throughout Scripture, which mirrors God's work in our age. In fact, God involved women at nearly all of the most pivotal moments of Biblical revelation. Here are a few examples:
In 2 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 34, under the order of the teenage king, Josiah, the Temple was restored and the Torah was discovered. Upon reading the Torah (evidently, for the first time), King Josiah sent his officers to ask Huldah, a prophetess, about the fate of their kingdom. Huldah then verified that what was written in the Torah would come to pass.
This was a watershed moment in Judeo-Christian theology: For the first time since Moses, a physical copy of the written Torah was confirmed by God, through Huldah, to be legitimate, authoritative, and binding. This revelation came through a woman, and not because she was the only option. Certainly, God could have spoken directly to King Josiah. Or God could have used the other contemporary prophets, such as Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Nahum, and Habakkuk. But He didn't. God chose Huldah for this divine revelation, which has become a cornerstone of our faith.
While the Jews have faced many enemies over thousands of years, their ultimate trial came through Haman. Throughout the Bible, we read many stories of rulers trying to conquer the Jews and the Israelites, but Haman is the only Biblical person who explicitly sought to exterminate them entirely. In the story of Esther, we see that the salvation of God's people was brought about through the direct action of a woman, which foreshadowed the ultimate salvation of God's people, which came through Mary's birth of Christ. In both cases, women brought forth salvation.
In the incarnation of Yeshua (Jesus), Mary is cited as being the first to know of Christ's coming. Not only did Gabriel tell her that she was pregnant, he also told Mary that her child, Yeshua, would be the Davidic King and the Son of God. Shortly thereafter, Mary, in what would later become known as "the Magnificat" (Luke 1:46-55), is the first person to profess that Yeshua's advent was the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. Later in Yeshua's life, Mary is the one to initiate Yeshua's first miracle, turning water into wine (John 2), and she continued to have a significant role throughout the first century Church.
In Luke 1:42, Elizabeth is the first person to acknowledge the Lordship of Yeshua. And, as Scripture tells us, such a declaration is the very foundation of salvation (Romans 10:9 and Philippians 2:11). Therefore, Elizabeth was the first person to come to salvation through the knowledge and agreement ("confession") of Yeshua as Lord.
In Luke 2:36-38, the prophetess Anna meets Yeshua in the Temple. Verse 38 reads: "At that very moment [Anna] came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem." In so doing, Anna became the first evangelist, sharing the Gospel with the men and women ("all") who had come to the Temple seeking the ultimate redemption.
The Samaritan Woman
In a unique story, the Gospel of John tells of a Samaritan woman who had a conversation with Yeshua. During their discourse, Yeshua proclaimed himself to be the Messiah (John 4:26). This was the first time that the Gospel of John records Yeshua self-identifying as the Messiah. Armed with this knowledge, the Samaritan woman then spread the Gospel to her village. John 4:39-42 shows that this started a firestorm of faith among the Samaritans, which was the first instance of non-Jews being evangelized and embracing the Gospel of Christ.
The Women Who Anointed Christ
Throughout the Gospels, there is only one person that Yeshua explicitly told His followers to tell people about: Mary (traditionally believed to have been Mary Magdalene, though was likely Mary of Bethany). Yeshua's direct instruction was: “Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her” (Matthew 26:13).
In washing His feet, Mary did what even the disciples failed to do. In anointing Christ, Mary served as a type of priest and prophet, anointing His reign and foreshadowing his death as "King of the Jews" (Mark 14:8 and John 19:19).
Scripture also tells us of another woman who anointed Christ. In Luke 7, we read about an "sinful woman" who anointed Yeshua, much to the contempt of the Pharisee. Christ explicitly rebukes the Pharisee for mocking the woman. Yeshua faults the Pharisee: "You did not anoint My head with oil" (Luke 7:46), implying that the Pharisee (and others) should have recognized Christ's role as High Priest and King.
After the crucifixion, Mary Magdalene went to Yeshua's grave to anoint Christ. But He wasn't dead. Instead, very much alive, Yeshua appeared to Mary. She was the first to encounter Christ after the resurrection. She was the first to know that Yeshua had conquered the grave. She was the first to tell others, "He is risen!" The most important message in history — the greatest revelation of all time — was first entrusted to a woman.
Only a priest or a prophet could anoint a king, and only women anointed the King.
Scripture is also filled with wonderful examples of women being included in key moments of revelation and salvation. God's inclusion of women has confounded men for millennia, both in and outside the Church. Nevertheless, Scripture is clear about God's pattern for the continued inclusion of women.
Miriam was a prophetess for Israel (Exodus 15:20), and she served alongside Moses and Aaron in leading the people of God (Micah 6:4). Thus, from the very beginning of the nation of Israel, Yahweh included a woman.
The Women of Israel
At Mount Sinai, Yahweh enacted a covenant with the Israelites. In so doing, He brought all of the people to the foot of the mountain where He presented them with the covenant:
"'You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the children of Israel” (Exodus 19:4-6).
And, all of Israel, including the women, said, "All that Yahweh has spoken, we will do!” (Exodus 19:8).
Later, in Exodus 35 and 36, we read about the overwhelming contributions given by the Israelites, including the women, for the construction of the Tabernacle. The source of this wealth is believed to have been largely derived from the Israelite women. Prior, in Exodus 3:22, Yahweh had stated that the salvation of the Israelites would culminate in an incredible transfer of wealth from the Egyptians to the Israelite women: “But every woman shall ask of her neighbor and the woman who lives in her house, articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and you will put them on your sons and daughters. Thus you will plunder the Egyptians.” The wealth of Israel came through the Israelite women.
The Assembly in the Upper Room
Acts 1 describes how the followers of Yeshua gathered and waited in the "Upper Room" following Christ's ascension. Verse 14 states, "These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers." Then, in Acts 2:4, we read, "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance."
When bystanders asked what was happening, Peter explained, citing the prophet Joel: “ In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy" (Acts 2:17-18). Peter's sermon explicitly stated that this congregation of men and women prophesying under the power of the Holy Spirit was a fulfillment of Joel's prophecy.
Throughout the Bible, we can see God's purposeful inclusion of women. When we are inclusive of women, we're acting in the character of God. At many of Scripture's most pivotal moments, and at many of the first expressions of our theology and faith, God granted women the honor of being the forerunners and standard-bearers. Moreover, we often see God granting revelation to women first. On many core aspects of our theology, from the lordship of Yeshua to the testimony of His resurrection to the prophetic empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we all walk in the footsteps of extraordinary women of faith.
I believe this pattern is laid out in creation and will extend through all time. Romans 1:20 states that God can be clearly understood through His creation. There is nothing more foundational to creation than life and procreation. And, when life is created, which of the sexes is the first to know? Restated, to whom does the revelation come first?
We should fully expect that when revelation comes, it will likely come first to the women around us. Granted, God is sovereign and He can choose whomever He prefers, even if that's a man. Nevertheless, we shouldn't make the mistake of discounting the revelations, wisdom, and insights that God grants our wives, sisters, and mothers, simply because of our expectations and false ideas of propriety and normalcy. We also should exhort the women around us who may be struggling with the revelations God has given them and the bondage of their own expectations. God has always been in the business of defying expectations.