Judges 4:8-9 Barak told her, “I will go, but only if you go with me.” “Very well,” she replied, “I will go with you. But you will receive no honor in this venture, for the Lord’s victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman.”
The title for this study comes from Acts 13:22, wherein Paul relates the story of how David had been chosen to replace King Saul who disobeyed God. Because of David’s willingness to obey God in all things, God called him “a man after my own heart.” I wondered what would it require for a woman to become someone after God’s own heart? What characteristics must women demonstrate to be victorious for God’s glory, and receive honor in their ventures for God? I believe that the three attributes of women after God’s own heart are the willingness to speak the truth as God reveals it to them; the willingness to challenge injustice and to work for change; and the acceptance of Christ Jesus as her Savior and Lord and doing God’s will in her life.
There are six women in the Old Testament and one woman in the New Testament whose stories, taken together, demonstrate the three attributes that I believe will help us understand what it means to be a woman after God’s own heart. The women in the Old Testament are the prophetess named Huldah and the five daughters of Zelophehad. The woman in the New Testament is named Lydia.
The first attribute of a woman after God’s own heart is the willingness to speak the truth as God reveals it to them. Hulhah’s story can be found in 2 Kings 22:11-20 and also in 2 Chronicles 34:14-28. In 2 Kings, Chapter 22, King Josiah began to reign, and he did what was right in the sight of God. During the restoration of the Lord’s Temple, a scroll was found that was believed to be the Book of the Law. After hearing the words of the scroll, King Josiah tore his clothes in despair.
He gave orders to his officials, including Shaphan, the court secretary, to go to the Temple and speak to the Lord for him and for all of Judah. They were to ask God about the words of the scroll, for they had not been doing everything required of them in the Book of the Law. The officials went to the New Quarter of Jerusalem and consulted with the prophet Huldah (some translations refer to her as a prophetess).
Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, is not as well-known as her sister-prophet, Deborah, and she does not have a whole book that carries her name like Esther. But, she spoke the words revealed to her by the Lord. In 2 Kings 22:15–20, she told the officials what the Lord, the God of Israel, had told her to say. The scroll was real, and all the words on the scroll regarding a pending disaster would come true, because God was angry at his people for their abandonment of him and their disobedience. However, she assured King Josiah that God would not send the promised disaster until after he was dead and had been buried in peace.
Although the words were not what King Josiah and his people wanted to hear, she did not hesitate to speak the truth, speaking only the words revealed to her, not adding to them or taking anything away from them. It is obvious that the king and his officials regarded the prophetess Huldah highly and trusted her to speak the truth. Huldah is only mentioned in the two places noted, but her story teaches us that God can and will speak through a woman, and that a woman after God’s own heart must speak only what God, through the Holy Spirit, tells her to speak and nothing else. I thank God that He is still revealing His words to His daughters as well as to His sons.
The second attribute of a woman after God’s own heart is her willingness to challenge injustice and to work for change. The story of the five daughters of Zelophehad is found in Numbers 27:1-11. These five women lived in a patrilineal system in which women did not inherit their father’s property, to keep the land within the family or tribe. If a man died without sons, his nearest male relative inherited his property, placing his daughters in a precarious financial situation. As the children of Israel prepared to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land, Moses was instructed by God on the division of the land according to tribal affiliation.
But, what was to happen to the daughters of a man who died without any sons? What were they to do about a place of their own in the Promised Land? The daughters of Zelophehad understood that they were in danger of not having any share in the allotments, which would leave them economically vulnerable and potentially homeless. They must have felt the injustice of the situation, and decided to confront Moses and the other leaders regarding the unfairness of the present system.
We learn that they stood before Moses, the priest, the tribal leaders, and the entire community at the entrance to the Tabernacle and presented their petition. This was very risky, for they were women challenging a system that benefited men who would not want the system changed. The five women couched their request, not in terms of changing the system for women, but in terms of their father being cheated out of his inheritance and his name disappearing just because he had no sons. They asked for the land that their father would have received had he had sons.
This was a smart move, for when you confront the dominant group about injustice, you must know what to say and how to say it in a way that does not create anger. They did not approach the men in anger or talk about the unfairness to women. They chose a way that allowed them to make their petition known without causing a riot, even as they made a huge request, one that would change the way inheritances had been done for generations.
I like that Moses did not dismiss their petition out of hand or say, “That’s the way things have always been done, and we are not going to change it.” Instead, Moses went to God for advice on such a monumental request. God advised Moses that the daughters of Zelophehad had a legitimate claim, and He told Moses to assign them the property that would have went to their father. God changed the legal requirements regarding who could inherit, with women capable of inheriting. God commanded, though, that the daughters had to marry within their ancestral tribe, to keep the land from passing from one tribe to another one.
In Numbers 36:10, we learn that the daughters of Zelophehad obeyed the Lord, and they all married cousins on their father’s side. These women trusted God to be fair and impartial, and He proved to be just. Their story teaches us that cries for justice and fairness are heard, and that God recognizes the value of women and men. In God’s eyes, both are due equality of opportunity. We learn that women after God’s own heart must be willing to challenge unjust systems and be willing to work, whatever the risks or costs, for change.
The third attribute of a woman after God’s own heart is accepting Christ Jesus as her savior and seeking to do God’s will in her life. The story of Lydia is found in Acts 16:11-15. Lydia was a seller of purple, meaning Lydia was a businesswoman. The Scriptures tell us that Lydia worshiped God. She and other women were gathered by the riverside, when Paul stopped and began to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. God opened her heart to accept the words Paul spoke, and she and her household were baptized. Women must take some of the responsibility for the salvation of their households, with family devotions and taking our children and grandchildren to church.
After Lydia was baptized, she persuaded Paul and Silas to come stay at her home, with all the extra work that entailed. She was willing to do all the extra work of cleaning and cooking because she loved God and felt that was His will. She teaches us that sometimes God calls us to do the mundane tasks, and that we are not always called to grand actions.
Yes, we must ask God what is His will for our lives, but we can start from the first serving Him by simply offering ourselves to help His people, using our skills to edify the Body of Christ. Lydia offered her home and hospitality, and after Paul and Silas were beaten, placed in jail, and, subsequently, freed, first by God and then by the authorities, they went back to Lydia’s house where the men and women of God could be found. She was a woman after God’s own heart who accepted Jesus as her Savior and then sought to do the will of God by serving His people.
We are God’s daughters and He loves us. He expects us to serve and obey him, just as David, the man after God’s own heart, did. We can be women after God’s own heart. Let us strive to be like the prophetess Huldah, women who speak boldly the words the Holy Spirit lays on our hearts. Let us imitate the five daughters of Zelophehad and challenge injustice, working to bring change.
And then, let us be like Lydia, continuing to worship God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, keeping our hearts open to Him and to His will. Let us stay mindful that women, too, were made in God’s image. Seek to capture the heart of God in all you say and do. We can be women after God’s own heart, being the instruments of God’s victories in the land of the living.