Quiet Women Are Talking

Good Morning, my siblings in Christ!

I’m indebted to Leilani Henry, a transformational business leader based in Boulder, from whom I adapted this sermon. I find inspiration for sermons in a lot of places, and last night I had what I thought would be a providential experience. I was in a thrift store, I’m a big thrifter, browsing the cookbook section. A couple of teenage boys behind me suddenly said, with a hearty laugh, “Look at this . . . Bad Girls of the Bible.” I silently said “Yes!” and sent up a quick prayer that the $3.99 cost for that book would come from my wallet . . . not theirs. My prayer was answered, at least that one. I didn’t find inspiration for this sermon, but definitely for others.

Also, I haven’t preached here in awhile, so another quick primer on the African American worship style:

  • I’m going to speak for a few moments—45 minutes
  • I’m about to take my seat—20 minutes
  • In closing—15 minutes

We also like feedback

  • If you like what I say . . .amen, preach that brother, etc. This is not a time to be the frozen chosen.
  • If you’re unsure . . . you can say something, “well,” or “my, my, my.”
  • If you completely disagree . . . “Help him lord.”

On this Mother’s Day, we focus on this end result of one the important things that mothers do . . . raising daughters who can take on the world and make it a better place for their children. In other words, they were future mothers motivated by the well-being of their future children.

We’ll look at the book of NUMBERS– CHAPTER 27—VERSES 1-8.
Then the daughters of Zelophehad came forward. Zelophehad was son of Hepher son of Gilead son of Machir son of Manasseh, of the clans of Manasseh, son of Joseph. The names of his daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.
2 They stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders, and all the congregation at the entrance of the tent of meeting, saying,
3 “Our father died in the wilderness; he was not among the congregation of those who gathered themselves together against the Lord in the congregation of Korah but died for his own sin, and he had no sons.
4 Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father’s brothers.”
5 Moses brought their case before the Lord.
6 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
7 “The daughters of Zelophehad are right in what they are saying; you shall indeed let them possess an inheritance among their father’s brothers and pass the inheritance of their father on to them.
8 You shall also speak to the Israelites, saying: If a man dies and has no son, then you shall pass his inheritance on to his daughter.

First, some context on these women. The late pastor Ray Stedman notes:

Now, these five remarkable young women, whose names are given to us here, are a picture for us of the activity of faith. These five girls names are rather similar, you will notice – the names indicate to us that they are from a very Godly home. For the syllable ah, which occurs in each of these names, is a contraction of the Hebrew form Jehovah, so that each of these girls bears in her name the name of God, as well. This was a common practice among the Hebrews, especially those who had strong faith. And though we do not know much about these young women other than what is revealed here, it is indicative that in their family life, they came from parents who were so concerned and so enraptured with the grace of God, the grace of Jehovah, that they incorporated the name of God in the names of their children.

And these five girls came before Moses at a time when he was numbering the people of Israel in order to determine the allotment of land when they came into the promised land. Mind you, they weren’t yet in the promised land, and, they didn’t know this, they were decades away.

Here we have a story of five women in a large family speaking up, taking a risk to change law of the day. A time when women were mostly servants and child-bearers, having few decisions outside the home.

The change in the law was that they, as women, should get an inheritance that would have come to them if they were men.
As I reflect on this story….three themes emerge.

1. WHAT DID IT TAKE to make this happen? Individual Discernment

  • I imagine they practiced Deep listening. Listening to their intuition–God’s voice inside of them. Despite the norms of the day, the law, something told them they had a chance to change the system. They probably came to realize each of their voices makes a difference, each voice has the capacity to make change, and collectively they are powerful.
  • They drew on their faith, trusting the answers they heard
  • It was important that they acknowledged the problem with the law and what it meant for their family
  • They had to Be present with the discomfort they felt, allowing it to be there.
  • Finding the fire within their heart, regardless of how difficult it might be to follow through.
    I understand individual discernment–It takes a lot of silence and reflection to hear God’s voice within. Sometimes it’s a quiet voice that’s easy to ignore.

They Came together to work through conflict and find a common vision. After individual discernment—listening within–it is not hard to imagine that they were not in agreement to make this petition. When two people are gathered, we know the possibility for conflict exists, never mind five family members! Even if their individual intuition was present–Some of them may have felt hopeless, reluctant, unsure, angry that they have to speak up, too hard to do or afraid to ask. What if MOSES wouldn’t want to consider their idea of getting their father’s inheritance? Would they be shunned or punished for asking?


How did these five siblings come to agreement about what to do?

Could it be God’s Will that a family line would be eliminated forever?

After listening within and talking among themselves to quell any doubts or fears, they pull together; trusting what was burning inside their hearts. They believed their family’s name had a place in the Promise Land. The law said inheritance only goes to sons. As they deliberated as a family, they gained strength toward have a common vision: To inherit land so their father’s name and the family would live in the Promise Land. From conflict to common vision.

Still, I imagine the hush that fell over the crowd as they women approached Moses to speak. WHO DO THEY THINK THEY ARE?

3. WHAT ELSE DID IT TAKE? – The third theme is “Speak up, ask for what they wanted.

Prior to her death, Clurie Bennis, wrote a handwritten note that her daughter Katie later found posthumously. The note indicated ANNOUNCE WHAT YOU WANT! In capital letters.

So–After they listen to the Fire in their hearts, work through conflict to find common vision—The daughters needed to announce what they want—speaking their truth to the men who held the power.—At that time, Moses had the ability to speak to God. They had to make their case because the law said only males received inheritance from their fathers.

Zelophehad’s daughters didn’t know that God would tell Moses that the law needed to be changed for everyone, not just this one family. They choose to speak truth to power, And take the RISK. —uncertain of what would happen, but being brave in the face of conventional thinking. …it starts with us expanding WITHIN OUR HEARTS what we’re willing to perceive and do.

WHEN YOU FREE YOURSELF OF THE STRUGGLE WITHIN, THIS CAN LEAD TO CHANGES THAT ARE BENEFICIAL FOR ALL. When you want a change in yourself, your family and society–use the fire in your heart, your connection to God, to move into action.

For those of us who aren’t women, Moses does something important. He listened to them, and took their case directly to the Lord. He didn’t dismiss them outright or mansplain. He was an ally by speaking truth to the ultimate power.

When people on the margins are trying to tell us something, we need to at least listen, and prayerfully move to action.

What is a learning for your life from the scripture and stories you heard today?

Let’s practice a form of full body prayer—If you’re comfortable, I invite you to close your eyes and take a couple deep breaths. Take a full Inhale and exhale. Feel your body in your seat. And again inhale and exhale. As you continue breathing, ask within—
What is God within my heart asking of me right now?

Long silence


Remember that feeling joy and the satisfaction of being alive can affect change. It’s important to listen to what’s burning inside of you. When you hear that small voice that wants something to be different, it can be the seed of something new, something huge.

God is whispering. Then come together with your family, friends, or coworkers and ask for what you need to evolve and make a difference in the world.
I can tell you from personal experience that people respond to passion and dreams. When they see you have something to say, they shout: SHHH! Quiet! Women are talking.