Thursday, January 5, 2012
Jezebel and Sensuality
Jezebel and Sensuality
It is fitting that a teaching on godly womanhood provide some instruction on the topic of a woman’s dress and external appearance. The Bible has a significant amount to say on the subject. Some years ago I was led to meditate upon the following questions:
Seeing that Christ’s disciples are described as “aliens and strangers” in this world, should not their outward appearance provide testimony that they are part of the Kingdom of God, and have been translated out of the kingdom of this world which lies in the power of the evil one? Knowing that Christ testified repeatedly that He never did anything of His own initiative, but that He always did the will of the Father, I wanted to know whether Yahweh has a specific desire for the appearance of His children.
Would walking by the Spirit lead a man, or woman, to dress differently, and to appear differently than those in the world around them? The world does not seek the mind of Christ in matters of dress and appearance, but the saints of God ought to do so. Is it not likely that those led by the Spirit of Christ, and those led by their souls under the influence of this fallen world system, would arrive at very recognizable differences?
At the time, I was primarily considering these things as they related to the man. Christians are not encouraged to ponder such things today. Most make their daily life decisions independently of the Holy Spirit. They dress as their parents taught them to do, or as their peers have influenced them to do, but rarely consider whether God has an opinion in the matter. As I contemplated these things I became convinced that God did have a specific will regarding my outward dress and appearance.
In the Old Testament we find the following instructions in the Law.
A woman shall not wear man's clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman's clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to Yahweh your God.
The spirit behind this command seems to be that it is God’s will that gender distinctions should be maintained between the dress of men and women. It is not the will of Yahweh that men make themselves appear effeminate, nor that women make themselves appear masculine. I considered my clothing, and felt confident that I was conforming to the spirit of God’s commandment. No one had ever accused me of dressing like a woman, but what about other aspects of my appearance?
The Bible also has somewhat to say about a man’s hair.
I Corinthians 11:14-15
Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her?
Oftentimes today one sees depictions of Christ that portray him as having long hair and a short beard. This is actually a reversal from the truth. Paul was speaking just a short time after Yahshua’s earthly ministry. Writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Paul declares that it is a dishonorable thing for a man to have long hair. The Scriptures also reveal that Christ had a substantial beard, for at His arrest the Roman soldiers were pulling it out by the handfuls.
I gave My back to those who strike Me, and My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard...
One cannot easily pluck out a man’s beard unless it has some length to it. The trendy five o’clock shadow beards of today are not typical of those worn by the Jews in the time of Christ. I gave considerable thought to this matter, and eventually wrote an article titled The Significance of the Beard. Following is an excerpt:
The Hebrew word for beard is zaqan (zaw-kawn'). We are told in Strong's Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words that zaqan comes from the related word zaqen (zaw-kane'), which is a primitive root meaning to be old. The correlation to this second word for age is so clear that Strong's Dictionary defines the Hebrew word zaqan as “the beard (as indicating age).”
To the Hebrew mind the beard was a symbol of maturity. This was not a cultural viewpoint, rather it was an understanding of God’s design in placing a beard on mature males. A boy cannot grow a beard. A boy is one who is not mature. When a young male passes through the time in his life defined as puberty some distinct outward signs accompany this advancement to maturity. The voice takes on a deeper timber, it becomes more commanding. Another obvious sign is the growth of body hair and, for a male who is modestly arrayed, the only part of this growth that is seen is that which is on the face.
Webster’s 1933 Dictionary defines puberty in this way: “the age of maturity; manhood, adult; the time a plant comes into flower.” Is not the beard of a man a sign of the flowering of his manhood? Even as the flower is the beauty and adornment of many plants, so is the beard the beauty and adornment of a man as he crosses the line of puberty and comes into the age of maturity.
God gave the beard to man for beauty and glory. Older men whose beards had turned grey were to be accorded special honor because the grey beard was a sign of advanced maturity. We find this understanding in the following verse.
Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.
The phrases “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head” and “and honour the face of the old man” are parallel expressions denoting the same truth. The hoary, or grey head, directly corresponds to the phrase “the face of the old man.” The hoary head certainly could include the grey hair found on top of the head, but it most specifically refers to the grey hair of the face which is the beard...
To those who would say that the beard is just an external matter and it holds no real value, I would ask “Why do you want to throw away that which God has ordained to cover the face of man?” Yahshua had a beard and we know that He only did what He saw the Father doing. Christ did not wear a beard because it was a social standard of the time. The only standard Yahshua conformed to was the standard of His Father. He did not see the Father cutting off the beard, so he did not cut off the beard... Furthermore, Yahshua said that He came to fulfill the Law and the Law has these commands concerning the beard:
“You shall not shave around the sides of your head, nor shall you disfigure the edges of your beard.”
Leviticus 21:1, 5
Then Yahweh said to Moses, "Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them... 'They shall not make any baldness on their heads, nor shave off the sides of their beards.’”
What is referred to in the preceding verses is the practice of Egypt where men wore a long goatee from the chin, but they shaved off the beard from the sides of the face. I concluded, that it was not Yahweh’s will that I wear a goatee. (I am sheep, not a goatee.)
Nelson’s Bible Dictionary has this to say about the beard.
In biblical times most adult males of Israel wore full beards... The Law of Moses required Israelite men not to "disfigure the edges" of their beards (Lev. 19:27), a common practice of Israel's pagan neighbors.
To shave or pull out part of the beard was a sign of grief (Jer. 48:37-38), and to cut off someone's beard was to insult him (2 Sam. 10:4-5). Isaiah 7:20 pictures God's judgment on Israel as a shaving of the nation's beard, an intentional disgrace.
(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary)
In Isaiah God symbolically spoke of shaving off Israel’s beard as a sign of their disgrace.
In that day the Lord will use a razor hired from beyond the River - the king of Assyria - to shave your head and the hair of your legs, and to take off your beards also.
To have the beard shaved off was a sign of great disgrace. This is shown in the story of King David’s ambassadors who were disgraced by the Ammonites by having their robes cut in two at the waist and having half of their beards cut off. David was so enraged that he declared war on the Ammonites and destroyed them. So deep was the shame of David’s ambassadors that David told them to not return to Jerusalem until their beards were grown back, but to stay in Jericho.
II Samuel 10:5
When they told it to David, he sent to meet them, for the men were greatly humiliated. And the king said, "Stay at Jericho until your beards grow, and then return."
Is it not a great delusion that has led men today to so carelessly cast off that which God designed to... distinguish men from boys and from women?
As I thought on these things, I considered that the man who cuts off the beard is altering his appearance to be like the woman. God created the adult woman to have a smooth, hairless face, while He caused hair to grow on the face of the adult male. I wanted to be a thoughtful Christian, giving heed to all of my ways. The decision to wear a beard, or to shave it off, should not be made according to the counsel of the world, a world which lies in the power of the evil one. I wanted my decision to be based upon the Spirit and the word.
My point is this, if we are being led of the Spirit, rather than being led by our souls and the counsel and patterns of a fallen world, we will think, act, and LOOK differently than many in the world. It has been nearly thirty years since I last did not wear a beard. Does it not reveal a blind spot in man’s thoughts that many would not think of wearing women’s clothing, but they shave the beard off without any consideration at all? Whether consciously, or not, they are altering their appearance to be like that of the woman. Where does the motive, or inspiration, come from that leads men to do this? I have talked to many men and none have told me that God directed them to cut off the beard, or that they read in the Scriptures that removing the beard is the will of God.
Is it not possible, that the same Jezebel spirit that seeks to elevate women, and to emasculate men, is the driving force behind this trend? Consider how much more distinct men and women would be in appearance today if men did not daily remove the beards God causes to grow on their faces. Is not something altered in the psyche of men and women when men go about smooth faced, and they do so deliberately by daily removing the beard by shaving? Many hidden spiritual truths are revealed through outward testimonies in this world.
Over the years, the most common reason I have heard men give for not wearing a beard is that their wife does not like them to have a beard. Sisters in Christ, if this is your influence toward your husband, let me suggest to you that there is a lot more behind your attitude than the fact that you find beards to be scratchy, or think your husband to be unattractive in one. There is a spirit in this world that ever seeks to confuse the genders, and to diminish the authority of the man. There is a spirit that pressures men and women to conform to the ways of Satan’s kingdom, rather than the kingdom of God.
As a son of God, I want to conform to that image He has chosen for me. If all the world is doing one thing, but God is directing me to do something different, then I will appear like the alien and stranger that I truly am. I encourage my sisters in the Lord to seek out the mind of Christ to know what His will is for them regarding their dress and appearance. Is it not reasonable to conclude that the woman who is led by the Spirit of God will in many ways think, act, and LOOK differently from the women of this world? It is a privilege given to the body of Christ to be able to model before the world that which is pleasing to God.
Following are two passages from the New Testament in which Christ makes known His will regarding the dress and appearance of women in the church.
I Peter 3:3-5
Your adornment must not be external - braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands...
I Timothy 2:9-10
Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.
As I observe girls, and women young and old in the church today, I see that the majority are giving much attention to external beauty and appearance, and very little thought to that beauty that God commends. The apostles are expressing the mind of Christ. In the eyes of Christ a woman’s beauty arises from within, from “the hidden person of the heart.” The woman who aspires to godliness will be beautifully arrayed as she clothes herself with a gentle and quiet spirit, with reverence and honor toward her husband, and with good works.
Many girls and women today are like the Pharisees whom Christ condemned. They are giving great attention to external appearances, but inwardly they are full of sin and corruption.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.
“Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness. Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?”
Yahweh searches the inner parts. He knows the thoughts of men and women. He judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). What are the thoughts and intentions that drive Christian women’s fashion and appearance choices today? Are they not the same thoughts and intentions that motivate women in the world?
Let me phrase this question another way. What spirit is “inspiring” women in their decisions relating to dress and appearance? The word “inspire” literally means “to put spirit into.” In the world, the spirit driving the women’s fashion and beauty industries is the same spirit observed in Jezebel thousands of years ago.
II Kings 9:30
Then Jehu went to Jezreel. When Jezebel heard about it, she painted her eyes, arranged her hair and looked out of a window.
Jezebel was not a godly woman. Inwardly, her life had no beauty. The beauty of Jezebel was strictly external. She adorned her flesh, coiffed her hair, and painted her eyes. She put on expensive clothing, gold and jewels. Jezebel knew only one kind of adornment, that of outward, physical body. Tragically, many women in the church find inspiration in the same spirit that inspired Jezebel. This was true in the days of Peter and Paul. If it were not, they would have had no need to give the instructions they gave. In essence, they said, “Don’t let your adornment be like Jezebel’s. Let your beauty be that of your spiritual life.”
In the previous chapter we noted how rampant the spirit of Jezebel is by observing its relationship to Christmas and Easter, the worship rites of Baal and Asherah. Consider now how rampant this spirit is as its influence is seen in the attire and appearance of women in society and in the church.
Fashion magazines are among the most popular genre of periodicals sold today. Millions of women scour the pages of fashion magazines to get “inspired.” They want to find some new way to make themselves appear attractive, seductive, successful, or powerful. In America entire industries have arisen that are devoted to beauty care products, clothing fashions and accessories, hair care, jewelry, fingernail and toenail painting, achieving the perfect tan, body fragrances, etc.. In the present generation there has also arisen a tremendous commerce in body piercing, tattoos, and cosmetic surgical procedures such as breast augmentation, liposuction, Botox injections, face lifts, tummy tucks, and the list goes on and on. Every year in America, tens of billions of dollars are spent as women seek to make themselves outwardly beautiful, desirable, or impressive.
What spirit is behind this massive societal tsunami? It is not the Holy Spirit. Stand outside most churches on a Sunday as the congregation leaves the building and observe the sensual dress of the young girls and the adult women. Their plunging necklines, short dresses, tight pants, high heels, hosiery, hairdos, cosmetics, painted fingernails and toenails, perfume, ankle bracelets, earrings and other jewelry are all on display. Yet no one notices Jezebel’s presence. No one protests the emphasis placed upon that which is physical, sensual, and provocative.
A discerning appraisal of the practice of the majority of Christian women reveals that the beauty they seek to project is external, rather than internal. Purity, innocence, gentleness, humility and holiness are not the image most girls and women are seeking to convey. They want to appear desirable, or powerful, or sophisticated. Their dress, bodily array, and conduct are designed to elicit a response of admiration; to stir up sexual desire in others; to promote an air of worldly success and glamour.
Sisters in Christ, I ask you to consider what motivates you in your choice of dress and appearance? Have you searched the Scriptures, and prayed to the Father, to understand what His will is for you? Or did you make your choices independently of God? Is your appearance in conformity with this world, or do you walk as an alien and stranger in this land?
I have a lovely daughter who recently celebrated her 24th birthday. When Kristin was fourteen she experienced a spiritual awakening in this area of her life. She began to consider what Yahweh’s will was for her in the realm of dress and appearance. Formerly, Kristin had always been what some would describe as a tomboy. Her favorite fashions were camouflage shirts and pants, cowboy boots, and other fashions that are associated with masculinity.
When Kristin was fourteen, she became convicted as she studied the Scriptures that she needed to begin wearing a covering over her long blonde hair. Soon after this she also began wearing long skirts and dresses. Kristin has continued this practice to this day. She is very modest in her appearance, and she is careful not to provoke lustful thoughts in men by dressing sensually.
Kristin has on occasions asked me for counsel concerning clothing. One thing that is popular among young women today are t-shirts that have some image or message written right across the breast area. I have advised my daughter to be aware of the subtlety of Satan in such fashions. Even if the message or image is innocent, it draws the eyes to the breasts of a woman. Men don’t need much encouragement in this area. A young girl, or woman is doing her brothers in Christ a disservice if she is by her dress and appearance causing them to have thoughts of a sexual nature stirred up inside them.
Kristin has many Mennonite friends, and they too dress modestly, and eschew jewelry, and elaborate hairdos. I cannot remember seeing any of them with their nails polished, or cosmetics on their faces, yet they glow with a different type of beauty. They have the beauty of purity and innocence.
There are a few denominations and groups like the Mennonites and Charity Churches that have chosen to array themselves in a manner that is altogether distinct from the sensual fashions of this world. Some refer to themselves as “plain people.” Such a description is offensive to the woman who wants to appear worldly in order to have the admiration and respect of the world. To be “plain” is to be humble. Jezebel is not humble, but the woman whom God favors is.
I have had a fair amount of interaction with many of the women and young girls in these churches. One thing that has impressed me is that the beauty of the inner life is much more readily evident in these ones than in women from churches that dress according to the fashions of the world. I see a greater honor in the homes. The children are respectful and courteous. The women submit themselves to their husbands, and they are renowned for their good works.
Although there are exceptions, I have noted a contrast among those Christian women who dress in worldly fashions. The women are much more likely to be outspoken, to seek equality with their husbands. Rather than being keepers at home, they are often career women, and many are addicted to shopping instead of being devoted to good works.
In effect, the women who focus on adorning the outside of the cup are more selfishly minded. Those women who have adopted plain attire while pursuing an inner beauty are more likely to exhibit a selfless attitude, focused on serving others.
The apostle Peter, while contrasting the carnal and the spiritual woman, declared that the beauty of the spiritual woman is “imperishable.” No matter how much success a woman has in making herself outwardly attractive and desirable, she will soon find her beauty fading. The glow and vitality of a youthful body soon loses its luster. In contrast, the woman who has beauty of spirit finds that her attractiveness never grows old.
Surely my words and counsel on these things will strike many as alien. If so, then perhaps I have conveyed some of the difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world. Few ministers will speak forth these things today. Jezebel is renowned for slaying prophets and righteous men. Those she cannot destroy, she will drive into hiding.
I Kings 18:13
“Has it not been told to my master what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of Yahweh, that I hid a hundred prophets of Yahweh by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water?”
This brazen spirit cows the most courageous spiritual men, leaving them no spirit to fight.
I Kings 19:2-4
Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time." And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, "It is enough; now, O Yahweh, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers."
As many pastors and teachers today are cowed into fearful submission to this unclean spirit, the effect is observed throughout the church. The purity and innocence of the virgin bride of Christ has been lost. Christ is soon to return. It is time for His bride to make herself ready.
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