Show of hands, who still doesn’t have God completely figured out?  

Ok.  Good to know I’m not the only one.  See, I’ve been walking with Jesus in some form or another for over 40 years now, and over the course of that time I have bumped into some things in scripture that I just don’t get.  For the life of me I can’t figure out why God would say this or that. But he did and, if I’m honest, some of those things kinda bother me.  I think, maybe I could have a chat with him. Maybe I could change his mind.  Maybe my idea is better, and if I just explain to him… Ya, I know what you’re thinking, but don’t even try to tell me you haven’t had those moments too.

You know those times when you read something in scripture and think, “That does not sit right with me.” “I just plain don’t like that.”  “That doesn’t seem fair.”  If I’m honest, a lot of those passages still flutter around in the back of my mind unresolved.  But when you have spent 40 plus years with someone you start to understand their character pretty well, and I am getting more and more comfortable with saying, “God, this doesn’t make sense to me.  But I know you.  I’ve seen your goodness.  I know your heart.  And I know your mind is so much greater than mine.  I will trust that the reason this doesn’t sit well with me is because I can’t see it from your perspective.  And I will trust that if I saw it through your loving, wise and powerful eyes, it would make perfect sense.”  I have had to leave quite a few things right there.  

But every now and then, God opens my eyes a little wider and gives me just a glimpse from his perspective that completely reshapes my understanding of one of those passages.  These are some of my favourite times in God’s word.  They feel like God is reaching out and going, “Sweet girl, you know how you choose to trust me even when you don’t understand me?  Here’s a reminder that I’m as trustworthy as you think I am.” Oh my goodness, those are some of the sweetest moments.  You know those moments that smell like fresh rain, feel like sunshine and taste like tree ripe peaches?

I had one of those just the other day as I was finishing writing out the book of Numbers.  If I haven’t mentioned it before, my quiet time/devo time/whatever you want to call spending dedicated daily time in God’s word, is largely comprised of copying out scripture. I will pick a book and plug away at it, copying a page worth or so a day.  For someone like me who loves words and has the attention span of an eight week old puppy, it slows me down and helps me really read the word of God.  Since I started doing this a few years ago, I have seen so many things I never noticed before.  Through my life I have read through the Bible in various challenges and year-long reading plans and what not, but writing it out? Wow.  There is so much I missed that I’m finally seeing.  And Numbers 30 is one of those passages.

Numbers 30 is also one of those passages that never sat well with me.  If you, like me, are not a human bible commentary, and the words “Numbers 30” aren’t immediately bringing the contents of the passage to mind, allow me to summarize.  God is talking about his expectations for people who make vows and oaths to him.  Not to oversimplify, but the gist is that if a man makes a vow, God will hold him to it.  If a woman makes a vow she has to keep it…unless she is married and her husband says no, or she is single and still living with her father and he says no.  In either of these cases, the vow is off.  And any time I have read this, I have had a little knot in my stomach, a little bubble of insecurity and wounded confusion.  God, how can you say that we are all equal in your eyes and then say this?  It didn’t compute for me.  Why does God value my word less than my husband’s, or my dad’s?  How come they can just overrule me? Is my promise just a joke to him because I’m a girl?  

Photo courtesy of @keirsten_c

So I saw this passage coming the day before.  I had enough time to start copying it out towards the end of my devos, but I stopped.  I was having a long, tough week and I just didn’t feel ready to tackle what I always thought of as “that annoying vows passage” so I put my Bible down, spent some time in prayer and got on with my day.  

When I picked it up the next day, there was that heavy feeling in my gut; that “preparing myself for feeling a little bit rejected” feeling.  Thankfully, I had a rare and momentary flash of good sense and chose to pause and ask God to show me his heart as I copied out his word. Then I dove in.  So, I’m reading and copying and reading and copying and suddenly I stopped and looked at the words I had just written.  

It was like God caught my hand, stilled my pen and said, “Read that again.” So I did.  The particular version I was reading said, “the LORD will release her because her Father has forbidden her.”  Again a little further down, “the LORD will release her.”  Now I’ve stopped copying and I’m reading ahead and, sure enough, the man in her life does have the ability to cancel her vow, but it is God’s response that is grabbing my attention here.  As I am reading, I am remembering my history classes, and it’s all connecting, which in my brain is rare and wonderful.  See, in the ancient middle east, and in most of the ancient world, not to mention much of the present day world, women were property.  Their fathers and husbands had ultimate authority over them.  Women were servants in their homes.  Not only that, but their husbands or fathers could make their lives miserable and no one would really find it concerning.  It was kind of normal.  That’s just the way things were.  So when God was giving his instructions through Moses, he was talking to people in that cultural setting.  He was talking to women who were owned and governed by the men in their lives. So he was acknowledging the situation in which these women found themselves and first of all he was validating them.  He never said, “A woman should not make a vow to me.” In fact, if she was widowed or divorced, living on her own, he expected her to keep her vow as firmly as he expected her male counterparts to keep theirs.  A woman’s vow had no less value than that of the man who held total authority over her.  But he was also showing extravagant kindness to women because he knew the broken society in which they functioned.  He knew that some of the vows they took would anger the men in their lives.  And he knew that those men could make their lives hellish if they wished.  God was taking a moment in a list of instructions detailing how to live in community with him to extend grace, because he understood what it could be like to be a woman in that culture.  He wasn’t saying, as I had always thought, that a man’s vow was more important than a woman’s.  He was saying, “Women are uniquely precious in my eyes because of their situation.  I care deeply about the way they are wrongfully treated and, honey, if that vow you made to me is going to make living with your man unbearable, then I am going to release you from it.  You are more precious to me than your vow.”  

I just sat in my chair with my Bible balanced on one knee and my notebook perched on the other and I felt that sunshine; I smelled that freshly fallen rain; I tasted that perfect peach; and I thanked God for loving me enough to help me see his word from his perspective.  Then I grabbed my phone and texted my sleeping daughter, “When you wake up, remind me to explain what I figured out about the heart of God and his unique grace for women.  A passage that has always upset me makes sense for the first time.” 

2 thoughts on “Numbers 30, bossy boys, and God’s unique grace for girls.

  1. Oh, how I love that God, in His infinite wisdom & power, does not owe us anything; but chooses to reveal His heart to us(where it’s needed) to draw us closer to Him!

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