Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

“There is no fear in love; but perfect
love casteth out fear: because fear
hath torment. He that feareth is not
made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18

     Several different aspects of courage, along with some examples from Scripture, were touched on in the first article on this subject. We need to keep in mind that just because a person possesses exemplary courage to do great achievements for God, country and others doesn’t mean that he or she is never fearful or afraid. Courage is doing what is right, or what needs to be done in any given circumstance in spite of fear. Everyone has certain normal fears depending on the person and his or her makeup. For example, some of the things people fear are flying, fire, heights, drowning, snakes, bugs, animals, death, ghosts and so forth, but I don’t think that fearing your wife is going to force you to spend an evening attending Pucini’s 1896 Opera, La Boheme is in the same category—neither is fearing that your favorite team may not win the Super Bowl.

      All kidding aside, both history and the Bible contain a “gold mine” of examples of courageous people; and, some of them that I have chosen for this article may surprise you. The first person we are going to look at exemplifies the courage of character. Her story is found in Genesis chapters 24-29. This beautiful woman was chosen, called, prepared and ordained by God. In Genesis 24:15, 16 she is introduced as the daughter of Abraham’s brother, Nahor. We are told that she was fair to look upon, and morally pure. One wonders if the same thing could be said about most of the young, pretty girls in our corrupt day and age. It takes strength and courage of character to keep oneself morally pure and unspotted from the world. Rebekah is a type (representation) of the Church that Jesus is returning for. Abraham’s servant is a type of the Holy Spirit who was sent to secure the bride for the Father’s Son.

      The next thing we read about Rebekah is that she was sensitive to the needs of others and in this case the weary, thirsty Eliezer and his camels. Her kind words and actions displayed the virtues of humility, honor, diligence, compassion, kindness, and hospitality all of which was not only recorded in detail once, but twice as the servant recounted every detail to her family. Rebekah was definitely not an immature, flighty, silly, ignorant or arrogant young woman. For her to draw water out of a well that could have been up to 100 feet deep to satisfy the thirst of ten camels, Abraham’s servant, and the men who traveled with him, revealed her servant’s heart. A thirsty camel can drink up to ten gallons of water. The water jars in those times could hold up to three gallons of water, and weighed thirty pounds. This was quite a test, but the uncomplaining Rebekah passed with flying colors.

      For Rebekah to decide to leave her family behind and travel with this stranger for over 500 miles to marry his master’s son, whom she had never met, indicates a woman of incredible faith and courage. We must remember that when she waved goodbye to her family, she knew she would probably never see them again. Before she and her nurse and damsels mounted the camels to begin the long, slow journey, a great prophecy came forth from her family. “And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them” Genesis 24:60. We know that this prophecy has been, is, and will be, fulfilled, not only for the nation of Israel, but in the future earthly reign of King Jesus. Even though this prophecy was personally to Rebekah, it applied to the nation of Israel, and can also be applicable to the Church that Jesus is building.

      After twenty years Rebekah conceived, “And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD. And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger” Genesis 25:22, 23. Again we see the strong, godly character of Rebekah as she went to inquire of the LORD, and He answered with this second prophecy given to her, which, by faith and belief, directed the course of her life. Then in Genesis 26:34, 35 we read of Esau’s disregard for the will of both God and his parents by marrying pagan wives, thus clearly demonstrating how he not only despised his birthright (Genesis 25:32-34), but had no respect or regard for the lineage of the Promised One yet to come. This story of the twins can be compared to the “twins” of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism—the former struggling to maintain the purity of the Gospel, and the other (Esau) embracing different facets of Babylonian paganism.

      After the passing of time, when Isaac was old and his eyes were blind, he decided it was time to pass on the blessing. Neglecting to confer with his wife about his decision, he called in his favorite son, Esau. Instead of pronouncing the blessing on Esau at that moment, however, Isaac’s appetite craved fleshly satisfaction for venison, so he sent Esau away to get it and prepare it for him. Rebekah overheard what was going to take place, and then—poof! She turned into a lying witch, right? Isn’t that what most of us have been taught? So much for the God-chosen, upright Rebekah—her courage of character just flew out the window on her broom. And, to make matters worse, she even enlisted Jacob in on her scheme to secure the blessing of the birthright, which Esau despised and sold to Jacob for a bowl of lentil soup. Rebekah’s courage to take fast action was based on prophecies to fulfill God’s will, not her husband’s will, concerning the precious lineage of our LORD Jesus Christ. So, was she really a wicked, conniving wife?

      Consider this: If Rebekah’s quick thinking had not secured the blessing of the birthright for Jacob, who was God’s choice, then the Lord would most likely have killed Esau just as He did Judah’s two sons whose mother was a Canaanite. (See Genesis 38.) Courage of character is built into a believer who knows how to wait on the LORD for His eternal perspective, whose heart is strengthened because of that perspective, and who acts according to God’s will in a matter for His glory. Unless our unregenerate worldview, which is established through “philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” Colossians 2:7b is changed by the Holy Spirit, then we will judge after the natural man that “receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” 1 Corinthians 2:14. “We ought to obey God rather than men” Acts 5:29. And, that takes courage of character!

      Whenever we have had the opportunity to work with young people we always present the Christian life in the light of challenge, because they are quick to respond. Christianity is not about sleepwalking through fields of daisies, but about being a good soldier in the army of God. Real Christianity is “active duty” not passive pussyfooting around problems, trials, tribulations, and challenges. As soldiers of the cross we are in a daily battle with the world, the flesh and the devil, and if we are truly about our Father’s business, there will always be challenges. I fear we present Christianity these days as sort of a softy, cozy, feel-good subculture that guarantees you will go to heaven someday after you go out and live life on your terms. Nothing is farther from the truth, and the Bible does not teach that “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” Matthew 7:14.

      Our next hero of the faith played a very important part in the plan of God concerning the Messiah. Her story is found in Genesis 38 and her name is Tamar. Judah took to himself a Canaanite woman to wife who was the daughter of a man named Shuah, which means “pit.” I just have to say, this long season of Judah’s life was definitely the “pits.” First, he left his brethren and struck out on his own. For what reason we are not told, but the application is clear to the Christian who forsakes the company and fellowship of other believers, and becomes unevenly yoked with an unbeliever. Satan is the supreme “sniper” who loves to pick off wandering sheep, and it appears that Judah was just such a target.

      Judah’s wife bore him three sons, Er, Onan, and Shelah. When Er was grown, Judah took a wife for him whose name was Tamar. However, Er “was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him” Genesis 38:7b. As was the custom of that day, Judah was responsible to give the bereaved widow his next-born son, Onan, in order to rise up seed for Er, which he did. But, Onan rebelled at this which “displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also” vs. 10. Then, Judah told Tamar to stay at her father’s house until his third son, Shelah, was grown, but Judah was fearful that she was a “jinx” and that his third son would also die, so he conveniently “forgot” to fulfill his promise. Therefore, Tamara disguised herself as a harlot, had an encounter with Judah who gave her his signet, bracelets, and staff for a pledge, and wisely concealed those items until the time came to prove who the father was of her unborn twins.

      When Judah was told that Tamar was pregnant, he was indignant and wanted to burn her to death; that is, until she brought forth his signet, bracelets, and staff which Judah acknowledged as belonging to him. Then he said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son” vs. 26. Thus we see that although the Lord killed two of Judah’s sons by the Canaanite woman, He gave him two sons by Tamar, the Hebrew woman—the woman who acted in faith with the courage to challenge Judah, even in the face of death, to undo Judah’s sin of unbelief and omission in order to ensure, protect, and maintain the Messianic lineage (See Matthew 1:3). Tamar is the ancestress of most of the tribe of Judah, and in particular the house of David.

      Tamara was not a prostitute or an immoral woman as some would have us to believe. She was a righteous, meek, patient, and obedient woman who waited for years to fulfill the requirements for Judah’s legacy. Like Rebekah, she used her wits in order to carry out God’s will in spite of the obstacles and challenges before her. Her courage to challenge should be a wakeup call for today’s lukewarm, “politically correct,” half-committed, sleepy Christian when it comes to challenging sin, error, heresy, compromise, demonic activity, worldliness, unscriptural practices, and unholy living in the church, and in their own lives as well. We need to be about our Father’s business, and when we wait upon Him and step out in courage as ambassadors for Christ, He will give our hearts the courage we need to challenge and confront for righteousness sake.

      Another God-fearing woman in Jesus’ genealogy is Rahab “the harlot”, an Amorite woman who lived in Jericho and who believed everything she had heard about the God of Israel, His power, might and miracles. When the Jewish spies entered Jericho, she took her life in her hands by hiding them and helping them to escape the city, but not before she made them swear that they would spare her and her family when Joshua and his army besieged it.

      Rahab had the courage of compassion. She had compassion on the spies, compassion on her family, and the faith and power of that courage saved her and her loved ones. The courage of compassion is love in action. This type of love gives of itself without reservation, enters in with the plight of others, and is self-sacrificing. Rahab is mentioned three times in the New Testament, Matthew 1:5, Hebrews 11:31, and James 2:25. She believed with the heart (Romans 10:9, 10), confessed with the mouth, and acted on her profession at the risk of her life.

      Rahab married Salmon, the son of Judah’s tribal leader and from their union would come their son Boaz, a faithful man of God who married Ruth. Their son Obed became the father of Jesse, the father of King David, and out of his descendants would come the Savior of all mankind, the Lord Jesus Christ. How wonderful that a former harlot of Canaan would become what every woman of Israel longed to be—a mother in the line of the Messiah. Rahab herself experienced the messianic hope in a personal way, finding deliverance from a pagan culture and spiritual deliverance as well through God’s mercy. Never forget, God looks at the heart.

     In the Book of Judges, chapter 4 we find an exceptional example of the courage of confidence in Deborah, the fourth judge of Israel. The first thing we read about Deborah is that she was a prophetess. This means that she was a chosen vessel of God to proclaim His truth, wisdom, and word for the people. She was also a wife and the judge of Israel, or authority in Israel. Judges 4:5 paints an interesting picture for us. It reads, “And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.”

      One day “she sent and called for Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedeshnaphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the LORD God of Israel commanded, 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? And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand” vs. 6. Talk about courage of confidence! The situation was grim for Israel because the LORD had sold Israel into the hand of Jabin, the king of Canaan, which reigned in Hazor. The captain of his host was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles. The Bible records that Israel had no weapons, but Sisera had nine hundred chariots of iron, and he mightily oppressed the children of Israel for twenty years.

    Barak was a man of faith in God’s word through Deborah. He had no problem with her gender, and knew that she was a true prophet of God. He also knew that to go up against such a well-equipped, powerful enemy was suicide unless the LORD’s presence was with him. “And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go” vs. 8. Deborah responded, “I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Rayola Kelley, in her Hebrews Bible Study wrote, “Barak receives a lot of criticism for not going into battle alone, yet he is accredited as a man of faith that subdued a kingdom. It was clear that Barak trusted Deborah’s faith and calling. He did not want to go into battle without the prophetess. King David never went into a battle without first inquiring of the Lord. Neither Deborah nor Barak took the credit for the victory. They gave it to the Lord. Once again Barak was not on some pride trip touting his accomplishments because he was the man. He not only recognized the advantage of having a prophetess with him, but the reality that it was the Lord who won the real victory.”

      Deborah’s confidence in the LORD underscored her great courage, as well as the brave and courageous Jael who killed Sisera, a woman whom Deborah “blessed above women” in her song of victory and praise. (See Judges 5.) After this great victory that the LORD gave to Israel, they enjoyed peace for forty years. (For interesting archeological discoveries at the site of Harosheth Haggoyim go to: Deborah is one of seven Old Testament prophetesses whose words are recorded in Scripture.

      The Bible describes Abagail as “a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance” 1 Samuel 25:3b. Abagail’s quick thinking and actions averted death, destruction and disaster. It took great courage of commitment (to God and righteousness) for Abagail to go against Nabal’s foolish refusal to help David and his men, and go forth to meet King David and his men, who were armed for war and determined to destroy Nabal and all that he had. Humbly and wisely she hurried to him, with much provision, and lighted off the ass, and fell before David on her face, and bowed herself to the ground. And fell at his feet, and said, Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be: and let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak in thine audience, and hear the words of thine handmaid” 1 Samuel 25:23, 24. Then she prophesied to David all that the LORD would fulfill in his life (vs. 28-31.) We know that soon afterwards the LORD smote Nabal and he died. Then David sent to take her for his wife. Her humility continued to shine through her as “she arose, and bowed herself on her face to the earth, and said, Behold, let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord” vs. 41. Abagail knew that returning evil for good (which her husband did) was totally displeasing to God, and would bring evil upon her household. (“Whoso rewardeth evil for good, evil shall not depart from his house” Proverbs 17:13.)

      Abagail’s righteous actions are a beacon of light and hope to Christian women who live in the dark shadows of abusive physical and mental oppression. God never condones masculine dominance over women in any situation, even though most of the world, including many individuals and certain churches in Christendom, still continue in this wickedness. Professor Kathryn Bushnell wrote concerning Abagail, “She knew her husband was a foolish and worthless man, and frankly said so. She did not even consult him when she took ‘two hundred loaves and two bottles of wine, five sheep ready dressed, five measures of parched corn, a hundred clusters of grapes, and two hundred cakes of figs,’ and gave them to David, knowing full well that her husband had just refused to give David anything. Under ordinary conditions, had she had a worthy husband, she would not have done this. Nabal did not measure up to the occasion, and his masculinity counted for nothing, as to the authority over a wife wiser than himself. The whole Bible story goes to show that Abigail did the right and prudent thing in going against what she well knew was her husband’s will, to do what she could not have done with his knowledge. She showed moral courage. She averted a dire calamity, David praised her for it, and Scripture shows its approval,–for, ‘It came to pass that about ten days after, the Lord smote Nabal that he died.’” (God’s Word to Women, pg. 150).

      In conclusion, women whose faith and lives demonstrate the courage of Christlikeness can be seen in Ruth, who left everything behind to follow Naomi and serve her God; Hannah whose prayer, prophecy, and personal sacrifice shine as precious gems, forever recorded in 1 Samuel 2; and the humble, godly virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, whose beautiful praise in the Holy Spirit lifts the souls of weary pilgrims and sojourners seeking for, and looking beyond this world of woe to the glorious Kingdom of the Great God and King.

      May we all find the courage to endure to the end as we seek to draw near to Him, who promised, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” John 15:10.