This coming Sunday is Pentecost. It’s a time when the church remembers the empowering pouring out of the Spirit on all people, enabling both men and women to prophesy.
What a unique thought!
Both men and women empowered to speak forth the word of God.
In light of remembering Pentecost, I want to put on our radar a woman in the Bible, one that we may not recall too easily.
Her name is Huldah.
You can read about her in 2 Kings 22 (with a very similar accounting in 2 Chronicles 34).
I want to highlight something very specific about Huldah’s ministry.
The larger storyline of 2 Kings 22-23 is this: Josiah has just become king at the young age of 8. Nearly two decades later, though, Josiah began a temple-repair project. During this time, the book of the Law (perhaps Deuteronomy) was discovered in the temple and this leads to great reform amongst the people and an ultimate renewal of the covenant with God.
Upon Josiah hearing the words of the Law-Torah read, he is so moved that he tears his robes as an act of repentance. He then commands his officials to, “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found” (2 Kgs 22:13).
So where did these five men go?
They went to Huldah, the prophetess.
There is speculation as to why they would go to Huldah as opposed to Jeremiah, who had a prophetic ministry during Josiah’s reign as well (not to mention that 2 Kgs 23:2 identifies many prophets in that time). Perhaps they, like many today, thought a woman would offer a much more gentle response than a male prophet. Knowing their motivation, this may explain why she responds in vs15 with, “Tell the man who sent you to me…”
Regardless, check out Josiah’s words in vs13: “Go and inquire of the Lord…”
They went to Huldah to hear from God.
Even more, note Huldah’s response: “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel…”
This was the common prescriptive language of the prophets. We know Huldah is speaking directly on behalf of the Lord. The phrase is actually used three times in her direct statement from God in vs15-20. Not to mention we also find the oft-used phrase, “declares the LORD” (vs19).
Not only that, but it is Huldah’s words that lead to such an epic reform in the southern kingdom of Judah. In ch.23, we read that Josiah went on an all-out cleansing of the idolatrous items in the area. It was intensive, no doubt! This was all part of the renewal of the covenant. The restoration process ended with a great celebration of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover. We even read these words in 23:22: “Neither in the days of the judges who led Israel nor in the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah had any such Passover been observed.”
A powerful account, to say the least.
What’s my point?
I think it’s clear. God is in the business of using women in powerful ways to proclaim his word. Matter of fact, so powerful that it could lead to a monumental change in the people of God, if we will allow it.
I know what some may argue.
But prophecy isn’t the same as teaching, which is the responsibility given to elders, and the elders are to be men.
To that I can only say one isn’t dealing with the actual text of Scripture.
Are you going to read what happened in 2 Kings 22 where Josiah says, “Go and inquire of the Lord…,” and then Huldah says, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel…,” and not see that women can have the authority to speak the word of God, whether it is prophecy or teaching?
I know the argument that prophecy is now less than what it was in the Old Testament times, put forth in places like Wayne Grudem’s The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today. Of course, I believe this does not stand. Prophecy did not shift with the new covenant. But, even so, Huldah lived in the era of the old covenant, the time when Grudem would argue prophecy was the authoritative word of God. And she spoke with authority. She spoke the word of God.
So, yes, women can prophesy.
Yes, women can preach.
Yes, women can teach.
Yes, women can speak the word of God.
I am thankful for Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Mary, Anna, Pricilla, Phoebe, Nympha, Junia and the countless myriads of women since the biblical days who have been faithful to proclaim the word of God.
This Pentecost, let’s remember the words of the prophet Joel, words taken up by Peter on that fateful day nearly 2000 years ago.
In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy. (Acts 2:18-19)