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Does God Ever Speak to Men Through Women?

We hear a lot about God speaking to women through men. But, does God ever speak to men through women? Let’s look at the biblical record.

‘After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”’ (Matthew 28:1-10, NIV, emphasis added)

‘There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.’ (Luke 2:36-38, NIV, emphasis added)

‘Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”’ (John 4:28-29, NIV)

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.’ (John 4:39-41, NIV, emphasis added)

‘But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”’ (Genesis 21:9-13, NIV, emphasis added)

‘Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites came to her to have their disputes decided. She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead the way to Mount Tabor. I will lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’”’ (Judges 4:4-7, NIV, emphasis added)

‘Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the LORD has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the LORD gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, followed by ten thousand men. At Barak’s advance, the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera abandoned his chariot and fled on foot. But Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim. All the troops of Sisera fell by the sword; not a man was left.’ (Judges 4:14-16, NIV, emphasis added)

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20 Comments

  1. Brian
    Comment #62533 posted July 30, 2007 at 11:21 am

    Every complementarian I know would affirm that God does speak to men through women. God speaks to me through women.

  2. JLP
    Comment #62541 posted July 30, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    It depends on the complementarian. I’m glad that you (see comment 62533) do affirm that God speaks to men through women.

  3. JLP
    Comment #62544 posted July 30, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    Brian (see comment 62533), what inspired me to put together this series of Scripture of God directing men through women was that some complementarians (not all, as you can well attest) believe that God inserts men as a layer between himself and women. Instead of God directly speaking to a woman, he speaks to a woman through her husband or another man. And, they also believe that God never directs or speaks to a man through a woman. But, as Scripture attests, this is not so.

    It seems strange to me that Jesus should appear first to Mary, a woman, and then tell her to tell the disciples (and the twelve were all male) to go to Galilee if he puts men as a layer between himself and women.

    Or, why would the first recorded announcement of Jesus identifying himself as the Savior have been made to a woman, who then went and told all her townspeople (many of whom had to have been men) if he puts men as a layer between himself and women?

    So this is the issue I’m addressing here – that God does not care about gender when giving directions or speaking to people. Thankfully there are complementarians like you who realize this.

  4. leigh
    Comment #62545 posted July 30, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    I think the question is, ‘Does God ever speak to men through women in ways that don’t fit in line with the way that complementarians would expect God to use women?’

    Does God ever speak to men through women who have authority?

    And, if so, how is that reconciled with the understanding that women were created to follow, and for a woman to lead (men) is sinful?

  5. HistoryLoverAlways
    Comment #62550 posted July 30, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    Some complementarians believe that God only gives guidance to the church through men, and guidance to the family through the husband.

    Yet, when Christ chose to give his first guidance to the church after he rose he gave it not to a man, but to a woman.

  6. Mary
    Comment #62558 posted July 30, 2007 at 9:09 pm

    See comment 62533.

    Every complementarian I know would affirm that God does speak to men through women. God speaks to me through women.

    Just not ‘in the church,’ or ‘with authority,’ or by various other contradictory ‘yeah-but’ (dis)qualifications. These are a rather obvious attempt to explain away the fact that God still does choose, often, to speak to men through women. The fact is, some Christians have built an entire theology around their preference to pick and choose what and when they will listen to God speaking through women, claiming that God conforms to their sensibilities of when/what God couldn’t possibly be speaking through women. Some restrict God far more than others, but such restriction is one of the defining characteristics of what is currently called ‘complementarianism.’

  7. Terri
    Comment #62607 posted July 31, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    I was just listening to a young pastor today that called the husband the head of the home (which is incorrect because the husband is only called the head of the wife). He also made reference to the husband being priest of the home (this, too, has no scriptural basis). I was quite surprised by his statements on account that he and his wife co-pastor their church together.

    I thought to myself: this man is so intelligent, and I learn a lot from his teaching, so why is he quoting things about men that have no basis in Scripture as if they were foundational spiritual truths? The headship doctrine ranks with salvation in most complementarian camps, and if a woman rejects the myths associated with this doctrine, her salvation most often will be questioned. I took the time to reference the word head/kephale (#2776) in my Strong’s Dictionary and it simply said, ‘in the sense of seizing; the head (as the part most readily taken hold of), lit. or fig.:-head,’ and that was it. Here was not a hint of authority or leadership in that definition. To imply that the Greek word kephale connotes authority is to destroy the true Greek meaning completely.

    As for husbands being the priest of the home, there is no corroborating Scripture that I have found to back this up. The male ego demands that men be respected and revered by women. What better fabrication could men invent than to interject themselves (create a second priesthood) between a woman and her God (that will surely get him the respect and honor he deserves), but what does the Bible say? ‘[T]here is one God and one mediator between God and men [or humankind], the man Christ Jesus.’ (I Timothy 2:5, NIV, emphasis added)

    I ask: how do these scholarly, theological seminary graduates that can speak eloquently on Salvation and the Trinity get away with such faulty/wrong understandings and teachings on women?

    I personally believe it’s intentional. With all of the biblical wisdom that we have acquired through the ages, I find it impossible to believe that the faulty translations (and doctrines that have arisen from them) of important words pertaining to women was purely accidental.

  8. Comment #62611 posted July 31, 2007 at 11:23 pm

    I’m so glad that you began this thread, because for me the fact that God speaks to men through women is proof positive that patriarchy and headship, as God’s preferred option in marital and church relationships, is contested in Scripture.

    Consider also this notion, which I believe, which follows. There are a significant number of times, throughout both the Old and New Testament records when God spoke by divine visitation to women without the agency of a man. A prime example is Mary, the mother of Jesus. Her father wasn’t involved nor was Joseph before the event. If headship and patriarchy were indeed God’s rule then Mary should have been advised by her father or fiancé that this was God’s intention for her. This would have cleared up the issue of her being an unreliable witness and a candidate for stoning under Jewish law. But no, the angel spoke directly to her and she confirmed it’s reality by speaking with another woman, her cousin Elizabeth. No headship evident here! In fact, when Elizabeth’s husband does come on the scene he is struck dumb because of his inability to receive the angel’s testimony. Frankly, I can’t see God breaking his own rule if it is indeed as important as most complementarians would have us believe. There has to be another God-honoring way of interpreting all of this.

  9. JLP
    Comment #62635 posted August 1, 2007 at 11:58 am

    In regard to Diane’s comment (see comment 62607),

    I was just listening to a young pastor today that called the husband the head of the home (which is incorrect because the husband is only called the head of the wife). He also made reference to the husband being priest of the home (this, too, has no scriptural basis). I was quite surprised by his statements on account that he and his wife co-pastor their church together.

    I’m sad that the young pastor was not aware that the word translated as ‘head’ in Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 11 generally wasn’t used in the original Greek to mean ‘leader’ or ‘authority.’

  10. Lori
    Comment #62682 posted August 2, 2007 at 4:32 am

    See comment 62929.

    I think the question is, ‘Does God ever speak to men through women in ways that don’t fit in line with the way that complementarians would expect God to use women?’

    Does God ever speak to men through women who have authority?

    And, if so, how is that reconciled with the understanding that women were created to follow, and for a woman to lead (men) is sinful?

    Ah, now that’s the real question!

    I remember a few years ago attending my mother-in-law’s Anglican church for Easter. The vicar, a woman, proclaimed at the beginning of the service ‘Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!’ This is, of course, exactly what Mary Magdalene said to the disciples on the first Easter. Ah, a patriarch will tell you, the difference is that the modern vicar has authority. She is the head of a church, therefore she is sinning against God. Mary Magdalene had no power, no authority. She was ‘just’ a woman who happened to be in the right place at the right time. The disciples refused to believe her, and so we too, in the modern church, can set her aside as ‘just a woman.’

    This is the central obsession of the headship movement: somebody has to have authority. Somebody has to be responsible for disciplining people if they stray. Never mind, of course, that this is the exact opposite of the model given by Jesus and Paul. Yes, Jesus exercised authority – by criticizing the religious leaders. He also demonstrated, however, that leaders are supposed to humble themselves and serve their followers. Paul talked about discipline in the church, but he spent far more time emphasizing unity and humility among its members. This insistence on emphasizing the worldly values of hierarchy, power, authority, etc. is precisely why most of the Western world doesn’t take Christianity seriously. Why should they, when it’s not much different from the world?

    So the question is not ‘Does God speak to men through women?’ The questions is, ‘When you continue to insist that there is a qualitative difference between the words of men and women (one has authority, the other does not), can you see why that might be considered as idolizing men – as offensive to women, especially non-Christian women?’ If you say ‘no’ or ‘I don’t care,’ then you have just explained why the church will not have a significant impact in the Western world.

  11. Kathryn
    Comment #62914 posted August 5, 2007 at 11:45 pm

    I think another good question is: ‘Does God speak to any of us in ways that don’t necessarily fit our theological “boxes”?’ If he can and does, what does that say to the ‘headship’ movement which seems to try to put God into a theological ‘box’ which tells him to whom he can or cannot speak?

  12. Mary
    Comment #62929 posted August 6, 2007 at 6:42 am

    Lori (see comment 62682), you mentioned the offensiveness of the ‘headship’ message. I’ve heard ‘headship’ proponents respond to this. The problem is that they equate ‘headship’ with the gospel and therefore take no little pride in being ‘offensive’ to people they’ve decided are not true Christians (namely, anyone who doesn’t swallow the ‘headship’ pseudo-gospel whole). Even some of the kinder ones claim that the women who are offended by their message just need to get over the offensiveness because headship is ‘God’s way’ and just a part of being a woman.

    There is zero respect for women or for the Holy Spirit who lives in Christian women, unless we deny our God-given holy authority as children of the Most High God and accept the sham of a human man’s ‘headship authority’ over us. They refuse to believe that we all have a real authority as Christians: the authority to serve one another as fellow members of Christ’s body. It’s all about which human being gets to be in charge, according to ‘headship.’

    I think it’s terribly ironic that there’s this ‘I have authority over you because I’m the man’ mentality, when the passages describing a husband as the head and a wife as the body teach us that marriage is an inseparable unity. Why divide that unity into an authority figure and a unilateral submitter? That is the world’s historic way. Anybody can do that; it’s neither godly nor Christian. But, two spouses humbly submitting to one another out of their mutual reverence for Christ – now that’s uniquely Christian. Perhaps that’s even why some Christians rail so vehemently against it. It’s a stark contrast to the ‘way we’ve always done it,’ which is a common excuse for refusing to set aside the world’s ways in order to live Christ’s way.

  13. Terri
    Comment #62930 posted August 6, 2007 at 7:14 am

    I believe that Kathryn (see comment 62394) makes a good point. I was amazed at how the judgment and prophecies of Deborah were minimized in my Sunday school lesson this week. I was excited as I began my study on Deborah, but it did not take long to see that the curriculum that I teach from was ever so gently subtracting from Deborah to add to Barak (or really anyone else in the story). At the beginning of the lesson I read that ‘God will use anyone who is willing to be used by him.’ I thought, amen. But, just a few paragraphs later this is what I read: ‘Deborah was a prophetess and a judge in Israel. She belonged to the tribe of Ephraim. It seems that God had to raise up a woman for this important position of judge because no man could be found for the task. This is not to imply that a woman was God’s second choice, but rather to emphasize that men should have been better spiritual leaders.’

    What I have found is that women’s accomplishments and spirituality have to be toned down and sometimes even diminished by preachers to maintain this male headship principle. I remember one woman making the comment, ‘Women get credit for being whores and witches but not for being teachers and disciples.’ Needless to say, in my teaching I gave Deborah the credit she was due.

  14. JLP
    Comment #62956 posted August 6, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    I’m glad to hear that Terri emphasized the true contribution Deborah made, instead of dismissing her significance.

    Here’s a verse about Sarah I have noticed no one pays attention to, but which I think is important to consider:

    ‘God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”’ (Genesis 17:15-16, TNIV)

    God didn’t just establish the nation of Israel through Abraham, but through Sarah also.

  15. JLP
    Comment #62958 posted August 6, 2007 at 9:13 pm

    Here’s another verse about Sarah that is also ignored:

    ‘And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.’ (Hebrews 11:11, TNIV)

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