Ellen Redman

Are you ready to step up and show courage?

God is waiting for women to come forward and fight for change, says Ellen Redman.

Mahlah, Noa, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah were the five daughters of Zelophehad (you can read their full story in Numbers 27). They are examples of feminine courage from the Bible who stepped up, came forward, petitioned for change and challenged the authority of their era. Their story celebrates boldness, conviction, dignity and wisdom.

To give you a little context, history indicates that Zelophehad was a man of God who died during the 40 years when the Israelites were wandering through the wilderness. However, since he had no sons, he had no heir to inherit his land in Israel after his death.

A census was taken to count all of the men over 20 in the area in order to share and distribute land between them. This meant that Zelophehad’s five daughters, being women in the customs of their time (wholly dependent on their fathers, brothers or husbands), would not be counted or included in this census and would, therefore, be left without any right to their father’s land or inheritance. They were left destitute and fatherless. So what did they do?

You might expect that women of such a time – heirs to Egyptian slavery under the chauvinist law – would respond by staying silent and by accepting the rule decreed for them to follow.

What they did, however, was this: “They came forward and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly at the entrance to the tent of meeting and said, ‘Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among the company of those who banded together against the Lord, but he died for his own sin and left no sons. Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives,’” (Numbers 27:2-4).

They looked at the law and their history which they wisely understood and they made a decision. They decided that this law was not complete – they believed that God’s heart was big enough to see them, hear them and provide for them.

They knew that they were rightful heirs to the Promised Land and so they took authority. I love that they came forward.

In my mind, I envision them walking boldly and unashamed towards the entrance of the tabernacle (which was the tent of meeting/place of holiness), opening up the doors, walking through the centre of the room (probably trembling a little but still with their heads held high) and standing before the assembly of leaders (which would have been a congregation of high-ranking men).

Their coming forward was significant and historical as they questioned and challenged authority in a way that was unheard of in their era. After Moses took their request to the Father, this is what happened in Numbers 27:5-7:

“So Moses brought their case before the Lord, and the Lord said to him, ‘What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property and possession as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them.’”

God’s response surely ruled in the favour of his daughters. He adjudicated on their behalf and his answer was loving and generous. He was quick and confident to grant them equality and justice. He did not withhold their inheritance or birthright based on their gender; he did not treat or regard them differently. I believe that God is telling us that it’s time to come forward.

Today and every day, he’s beckoning us to stand up and step up in strength to challenge the norms of our day and age. I believe that he’s calling us to speak the truth even if our voice shakes. And I believe that he’s asking us to step forward even if the rest of the world stays seated.

Is there a situation in your life that you need to take hold of and approach with conviction? Just like Mahlah, Noa, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah, is there anything in your world that you need to challenge, confront and petition to change? God beckons you to come forward, unashamed.

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