The Revelation 2 Jezebel was a very powerful woman in Thyatira. Likely up to her elbows in secret guilds and society climbs, she did everything she could to infiltrate the church with them. Lydia was also a powerful woman in Thyatira. Together they provide a lesson on abuse versus wise use of authority. Let’s perform a character sketch of Jezebel and invite Lydia to hold up a lamp of contrast in her counterpart’s insidious darkness.
1. Jezebel assumed places of authority God did not assign her (v. 20). Before you jump to the conclusion that her infraction was assuming a role that could belong only to men, note that the New Testament undeniably records the viability of a woman having the God-given gift of prophecy, or what we might generalize as “speaking forth” (Luke 2:36-37; Acts 2:17-18; Acts 21:8-9). Jezebel had no such God-given gift. She wasn’t called. She was controlling! She wasn’t wisely authoritative. She was bossy! Oh, that none of us–male or female–would confuse the two!
Certainly God calls women into places of leadership, but in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 11:5, I believe our heads must be covered by higher authority. I cannot express how strongly I feel about this issue. As women, we enjoy a wonderful umbrella of protection. The biblical, proverbial buck stops with the men of our households and churches. If God calls a woman to assume a leadership role, I believe with all my heart she is only safe and operating in God’s authentic anointing under that umbrella!
Given my past and my lack of credentials, I will never understand the sovereignty of God to appoint me to an area of leadership. At the same time, I know what He has called me to do for this season, and I’d be in direct disobedience to God if I let someone’s disapproval dissuade me. I cannot describe, however, anyone can have an intimate relationship with God and be arrogant and fearless in a position of authority is beyond me.
James 3:1 warns, “Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment.” Why would anyone ask for “stricter judgment”? Jezebel was asking for it whether she knew it or not. Please don’t miss that Jezebel’s most serious infraction was not her sin but her unwillingness to repent! Lydia stands in stark contrast to Jezebel as a woman of success. She was a worshiper of God–not of herself or position. She opened her heart to Paul’s message rather than pull rank on him. Both professionally and spiritually, the tone of Scripture suggest she was a servant leader.
2. Jezebel abused her feminine gift of influence (v. 20). She misled and deceived. I am convinced that women have a unique God-given gift of influence. I am married to a very strong man. He no doubt wears the cowboy boots in our family. But, if I used my feminine wiles just right (or just wrong), I fear I could talk him into almost anything. I have to be very careful because he loves me and wants to please me. You see, in some ways I am is weakness. Do you understand what I mean?
Many accounts in Scripture attest to the power of a woman’s influence. Eve and Sarai represent some biblical blights but, thankfully, we can find many more scriptural examples of positive womanly influence than negative. Lydia is certainly one of them. She influenced her whole household to follow Christ.
3. Jezebel misused her sexuality (v. 21). Sisters, I’m not sure our culture has taught us to use anything more powerfully than our sexuality. Don’t think for a moment that seducing someone into fornication is the only way a woman can use her sexuality to manipulate. We can be completely clothed and in broad, public daylight and still misuse our sexuality.
I might have a sister in Christ who is horrified right this minute by our discussion of this tawdry topic. True, she may never have dreamed of using her sexuality seductively or manipulatively. Then again, this same woman may wield it like a massive weapon in her marriage.
Sexuality was given by God as a gift. Not a tool. Just because we’re married doesn’t mean we don’t horrifically misuse our sexuality to get what we want. Routine withholding is just one example. God created us to be women complete with all our gifts, contributions, and influences. But let’s be women well.
Praying God’s Word Today
Lord, I receive Your Word that says older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to much wine. We are to teach what is good, so that we may encourage the young women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, pure, good homemakers, and submissive to their husbands, so that God’s message will not be slandered. (Titus 2:3-5). I want to be a woman after Your own heart.
Beth Moore Personal Reflection Series JOHN 90 DAYS WITH THE BELOVED DISCIPLE pg. 341-344