The Bible through the Stories of Women: Nana Dolce
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Nana DolceNana Dolce teaches women and children at The New Macedonia Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., where her husband is director of discipleship. She has an MA in theological studies. Nana writes for various ministries and serves as an instructor for The Charles Simeon Trust.
God’s laced the Bible with stories of women strong or vulnerable, evil or deeply good. Author Nana Dolce examines a handful of these prominent females.
The Bible through the Stories of Women: Nana Dolce
Nana: I thank God for the faith of my great grandmother. When I think about women whose narratives point to Jesus I think of Nana Akotu(sp?) whose story, when she tells it, points to Jesus. I pray that my children can say the same of me and that we would have many generations of women whose stories point to Jesus.
Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson.
You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Dave: This is FamilyLife—
Today is another exciting day.
Dave: Oh, yes. Why’s that?
Ann: Because we’re talking about women of the Bible. It’s not something we talk about that often.
Dave: We need to talk about it more.
Ann: Because there are so many women that are overlooked, but today we’re going to highlight some. We’ve been doing that. We did it yesterday, and we have another series that we did earlier that is pretty remarkable.
Dave: Yes, we’ve got Nana Dolce back with us. She is the expert, in my opinion, on women in the Bible.
Ann: Yes, me too.
Dave: Welcome back.
Nana: Thank you for having me.
Ann: Your book is called The Seed of the Woman, and the subtitle is 30 Narratives that Point to Jesus. You’re covering women all the way back to the beginning of Eve. You’re pointing us, and these women are pointing us, to Jesus.
Dave: One of the things that I’ve been impressed with is we haven’t hit all 30 women, but we’ve hit more than 10, I would guess. The courage of these women in the midst of adversity and a male-dominated culture for them to trust God.
Again, we’ve looked at so many different—but every one of them in some way, often unseen, but yet they make a move of courage. I thought, as a man, I have women all around me that are courageous women and I don’t think I stop enough to say to Ann, “Way to go! Wow! You inspire me.”
I would encourage men to do that. Dad’s, husbands, men in the church, look at women around you that are doing remarkable things.
Ann: —or unnoticeable things.
Dave: It takes remarkable courage to do that, especially for women. Often, they are not seen, and their voice is not supposed to be heard, and yet they have the courage and humility to come forward. We need to celebrate that.
Ann: We ended a little bit with Tamar, so let’s back track about who Tamar is and let’s talk about her story.
Dolce: Tamar is David’s daughter. David is King of Israel at this point. I think her story reminds us that some of these stories in the Bible, especially those pertaining to women, can be dark, because the Bible isn’t a fairytale where everything is like a Disney princess movie. This is east of Eden. This is thorns and thistles. This is the wilderness before home. Painful things happen, and sometimes they happen to women.
The Bible is not prescriptive in that sense but descriptive, describing the wilderness experience and sometimes the violence that women face as a result. We know that even in our world today.
Tamar is David’s daughter who’s actually raped by her own brother. Her brother, the crown prince, the one that was supposed to succeed David desires this half-sister. It says that he loved her so much that it made him sick. [2 Samuel 13:1-2] He desired this woman that he could not have.
There’s a cousin that comes to him. The Scriptures describe him as crafty. I almost imagine the serpent. He comes probing in the same way the serpent was probing: “Why are you sick? You’re the king’s son. You shouldn’t be sick.” [2 Samuel 13:3-4, Paraphrased]
He says, “I love my sister, Tamar.” [2 Samuel 13:5]
He says, “Here’s the plan: Pretend you’re sick, and David will come see you and send Tamar to you to make you some cakes. When she’s here you can do with her what you want.” [2 Samuel 13:5, Paraphrased]
Ann: Didn’t he say, “Ask for Tamar.”
Nana: Yes. So, she comes into his home, and she will never leave the same. [2 Samuel 13:8-13]
When I was in seminary, I worked at a domestic violence shelter in Philadelphia. This was a home for women and children. I was an intake counsellor. Women would come in with bruises telling the stories of the abuse they had encountered in their homes by people who should have protected them.
When I read Tamar’s story and that description, I think of those women. In the story, David does not punish his son.
Ann: It’s interesting, too, Nana, because it says that son, after it occurred, hated her, hated Tamar. [2 Samuel 13:15]
Nana: Yes, absolutely. The Mosaic Law said that if you raped a woman, you actually had to care for her, because she had no hope of marriage after that. So, you had to take responsibility for her care. He takes her and literally pushes her out of his home, and she says, “This latter thing of pushing me away is worse than the first.” [2 Samuel 13:16, Paraphrased]
Nana: She ripped her clothes and threw ashes and lived desolate in her brother Absalom’s house. When David heard about it, he did not do anything. Not only was he a father, but he was also the king. The king should bring justice. We don’t see David doing any of that.
I wonder if the shame of his own sin made him think, “Well, if I did that, how can I punish my son?”
Ann: —with Bathsheba, you mean.
Nana: Exactly. But I love that the gospel is for mothers and for their children, it’s for fathers and it’s for their children. I can say something to my children even if I have struggled with that because my hope is their hope. I need Jesus as much as they need Jesus, which encourages me to speak to my kids about their sins because I’m not hiding my sins. We’re all before the Lord. But David is quiet.
Ann: What do you wish David would have come and done?
Nana: He should have brought justice for Tamar. Amnon should have been punished according to the law of God, and Tamar should have been cared for in a way that we don’t see that happening.
Dave: I have to say as a husband and a dad, a man, we can be passive.
Dave: It’s almost the sin of Adam in the garden being passive, even with Eve when the snake came. He knew the truth, and he just watched. As a dad, as a husband, it takes courage to say, “No, I need to step in; I need to confront my son; I need to have a conversation; I need to protect the women in my home; I need to protect the women in every home in our culture.”
Again, I’m stopping just for a second because I know men are listening. [I’m] saying, “Guys, it’s up to us to step up. That should have never happened ever. Then once it did, it should have been dealt with quickly by a man who was called by God to protect that woman and discipline that son.”
Nana: I’m reminded of a father who never fails to do that. That’s the Father that I pointed these women to in the domestic violence shelter where I worked. I had a chance to help them to see a father and a protector who doesn’t fail.
It’s amazing to me that even in this kind of violation that Jesus can sympathize with us. Just imagine how they stripped Him and hung Him naked on that cross, right? That kind of violation that God would send his son to redeem a woman like Tamar and the ones that I ministered to in this shelter; that this is the extent to which God will go in redeeming these women.
Tamar would probably never marry because she wouldn’t be a virgin. Yet there is a King who welcomes women into His court, not because of their purity or virginity, but because of the purity He gives them through His righteousness. That makes us beautiful. The darkness of these stories in the Old Testament and these women shout for the seed of the woman.
Nana: When it gets so dark, we want light. They shout for God to keep His promise, for Him to come again and to make all things new, and for us to see the foretaste of that coming through stories of redemption, through her healing, through the compassion that Christians show, that the church would be a light that says, “Yes, He keeps His Word and there is a coming when there will be no more death and pain and violation of children.” We want to see that day.
Ann: Let’s go now to a woman that had a negative impact. Let’s talk about Jezebel. [Laughter]
Nana: Jezebel—in my book I have Jezebel with Athaliah. She was married to King Ahab. She was actually a queen in Israel. By the time we get to Jezebel in the book, we know that Israel is two nations. There’s a Northern Kingdom and then there’s a Southern Kingdom.
The Southern Kingdom was the line of David. But in the North, it was just random kings one after the other. All of them were wicked. Ahab was one of the worst.
Nana: —horrible. He had his wife to help him in that.
Ann: When I read this story of Jezebel [I think], “She must have been powerful.”
Nana: Oh, yes.
Ann: Because she’s influencing Ahab and all kinds of people in such a negative way. I usually will say that as women, we can carry a lot of power and influence, and we need to be careful how we wield it.
Ann: Because this girl, she was negative.
Nana: She was the daughter of the king of Phoenicia. Her father worshiped Ba’al or Baal. He must have been a good discipler of his daughter because she took her father’s god into Israel and would kill the prophets of the Lord and would—one story of Jezebel that we don’t often note is the story of Naboth. He had this vineyard that Ahab wanted. He didn’t want to give it to the king because the law said that you should not sell your land. [1 Kings 21:1-16]
When Jezebel heard that, she wasn’t going to applaud him for keeping the law but came up with this whole scheme to kill him and to take his vineyard. She does that.
The story of Naboth really reminds us of the same kind of betrayal of an innocent man and killing him that we even see in the story of Jesus.
But one of the things I wanted to point out with Jezebel is she had a daughter. Her daughter’s name was Athaliah. If her father trained her well, she must have trained her daughter well. Because Athaliah, in a lot of ways, was even worse than her mother, Jezebel.
She married into the Southern Kingdom. King Jehoshaphat, who actually is one of the good kings—
Ann: He’s a good guy.
Nana: —he made this wrong move of marrying his son to Jezebel’s daughter. He married his son to Athaliah, and she became queen mother in Judah. [2 Chronicles 21:6]
When her husband died and then her son died, she saw it as a chance to take over. She killed her own grandchildren. She murdered the entire line of David except for one little boy, Joash, who was hidden in the temple. She didn’t know Joash was alive. She reigned in Judah until Joash was six years old, and they brought him out and they killed Athaliah. [2 Kings 11:1-16]
When I think of Athaliah’s story, it reminds me how all throughout the Bible, it’s like the serpent, the seed of the serpent is rising up to try to swallow God’s people. We see that with Pharoah. We’ll see that even later on in the story of Esther. But it never works. We talked about the remnant.
Nana: God always preserves someone. The enemy might think that he has it under control, that he’s covered the bases, but God always, always keeps a remnant. You can’t overcome God’s purposes.
Joash comes and Athaliah is killed. Jezebel is thrown out of a window. This story reminds me of places where Christians are persecuted. It can be very hard to be a believer in some places right now.
Ann: It’s hard to understand “Why God?” and “Where are You, God?”
Nana: Yes. Our family, my little family of five, we pray for the persecuted church every night. We have a calendar that tells us who we can pray for from a different part of the world. Some of those stories are so hard.
But God preserves a remnant. His power shows up strong for when the enemy thinks that he has it, that he has God’s people. May He prove that even today in places where Christians are persecuted. We see that in the story of Jezebel and Athaliah and may we see that even today.
Dave: Well, we have to get to—[Laughter]—The Seed—
Ann: Welcome to the table of women. [Laughter]
Dave: —of the woman is Elizabeth and Mary, the last two. Take us there.
Nana: We come into the New Testament with the last few chapters of this book. When we come, there is darkness and there is silence. There has been 400 years of prophetic silence, no new revelation from God.
Israel, because of her idolatry, went into exile and a remnant came back into the land, and they are praying to God and there is silence.
And God answers in a remarkable way. This promised Savior all the way in Genesis that He makes to Eve, there’s a day when He comes to an old woman named Elizabeth. It says that her and her husband, they were Levites, they were righteous. You would think being righteous means God answers all your prayers and there is no issue in your life. But they are barren. They’ve prayed for years and no children.
Ann: How old was Elizabeth?
Nana: It says they were old. It doesn’t give an age. It says they were an old couple, and they were righteous and they were faithful. It reminds me even when I’m hoping for something and that prayer hasn’t come, may God help me to persevere in living right before Him and not charging Him of wrongdoing but living right before Him.
But there’s a day when her husband goes into the temple and there’s an angel. He says, “Not only am I sending you a son, but this is the son that will prepare the way for “The Son.”
No wonder—we blame Zachariah for not believing it, but it was big news! [Laughter] He can’t speak; he’s made mute because he doesn’t believe. He doubts it.
He goes home, and Elizabeth conceives, and she goes into hiding for the first two trimesters of her pregnancy, for those first six months.
She, to me, is a little picture of Israel. She literally sits in silence. Her husband isn’t speaking; remember. Her husband is completely silent. She’s in hiding. It’s just silence.
This was Israel 400 years of silence. But then one day in the courtyard of her husband walks in Mary. The prophetic silence breaks with singing. Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit starts to prophecy and says, “Blessed are you among women.” [Luke 1:42]
Mary picks up this Magnificat. Just imagine that scene of these two pregnant women. An old woman six months along and this young girl who probably just has an embryo developing in her womb. The prophetic silence breaks with singing of these two women.
Mary sings a song that sounds like Hannah’s that says, “The lowly, the despised God lifts up,” [Luke 1:52, Paraphrased] because you’ll remember, Mary was a nobody. She was from Nazareth. Nazareth was a nobody town. Nobody was thinking anything of Nazareth, but this is where God chose to send His Son. He uses the despised, the ones we don’t think of, and He shows that He’s the One that’s the Glorious One ultimately.
These two women sing. Within months, the seed of the woman, Jesus Christ, who will crush the head of the serpent and reverse the curse, will be born because God keeps His promise no matter how long it takes.
Ann: Let’s talk about for a second this was no easy thing for Mary. First of all, she conceives through the power of the Holy Spirit. But she’s living in a little village. Can you imagine—
Nana: —the scandal.
Ann: —the scandal that would go along with her name forever? It’s not like “Oh, look. There’s Mary who’s the mother of the Messiah.” What do you think they would have said?
Nana: Even the threat of death. Not even just scandal. The scandal followed her but there was even the threat of she could have been killed for this. God comes to Joseph, her betrothed, and says, “This is of me; I’ve done this,” and he decides to marry her.
But her life really could have been in danger. [Matthew 1:20-24, Paraphrased]
Which reminds me that sometimes the things God is asking us to do isn’t always easy. But we live not for the dot of today but for the line of eternity.
Dave: Again, it takes me back to the courage of women. I have to admit, you gals are so much more courageous than us men.
Ann: But it’s more than courage, Dave; it’s the faith.
Dave: It’s faith—no question. It’s belief. But for her to step forward—all these women you’ve talked about, every single one of them, there’s an amount of courage that a lot of us men do not have. I marvel at it because it’s inspiring to me. I just want to say, “Way to go!” again to the women.
We just talked about a few in the Bible, but I want to have the courage of my wife; I want to have the belief of my wife.
Ann: You totally do. You’re amazing.
Dave: It’s been inspiring to listen and hear, Nana, the way you talk about these women. I’m inspired. I want to go back and read every passage again. [Laughter]
Ann: I know.
Dave: You mentioned earlier that you have women in your life, as you think through, have inspired you. Can you end with one?
I want to talk about my great grandmother. Her name was Nana, as well. Her name was Nana Akoto(sp?) was her name. this was a woman who lived in Ghana, a poor woman. She married a man who unfortunately was not faithful to her. He had other wives and had children with her that he did not care for.
She had 11 children. She had a lot of children. Some of them went hungry because she didn’t have the means to care for all of them.
She lived in a place at a time where she did not know about Jesus. Her trust was in these idols. These ancestral idols are who she was looking to. She suffered so much. Her daughters—I want to say she had about six daughters—most of them, five of them died giving birth to children.
Nana: One after another, her children would die in childbirth. A neighbor started to gossip and say, “What are you doing for your children to be dying in childbirth?”
There was a day when a neighbor came to her and said, “Nana Akoto(sp?), these idols are not helping you,” and they told her about Jesus. They told her about a God who was able to help.
My mother tells me the story that my great grandmother went and put herself before—there was a church that she eventually found, and she went and she lay at the altar. She said, “Jesus, if You will have me, then take me. I’m yours,” and she never turned back.
As a very little girl in Ghana, I have a memory of my great grandmother. I remember she was really wrinkled. I would be looking at her hands, and they were so wrinkled. I’d say, “I don’t want my hands to look like that.”
But she would always have her Bible. She would sit in this little chair, and she would rock reading her Bible. Her Bible was in Twi which is the dialect of the Ashanti people. She had her little Bible in Twi, and she would always read her Bible. That’s the image I have of my great grandmother.
Her children, my mother’s generation and my generation, everybody stopped dying in childbirth when she came to Jesus. So, the ones that had their children in Africa, no one died of childbirth. We that have had children here, we can thank the medical system, but ultimately God heard her and helped her.
I thank God for the faith of my great grandmother. When I think about women whose narratives point to Jesus I think of Nana Akoto(sp?) whose story, when she tells it, points to Jesus. I pray that my children can say the same of me and that we would have many generations of women whose stories point to Jesus.
Ann: I thought our time with Nana Dolce was pretty remarkable.
Ann: Because she highlighted women that we just read and pass over. But it really was amazing to see the redemption of Jesus, and Jesus, at the very beginning of Genesis [all the way up] to Mary.
I hope that as you listen, you are inspired and know that God is using you. There’s so much good; there’s so many things that He’s gifted you in.
We want to say personally, “Thank you for being a supporter of FamilyLife Today, for listening, for passing things on, and for even discipling others around you.
Dave: We appreciate you and we hope you were inspired, as well.
We love you. Thanks.
Shelby: I’m Shelby Abbott. You’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Nana Dolce on FamilyLife Today. Let me just say, yes, thank you so much for your partnership. It’s such a blessing to have you with us as a partner.
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Nana has ushered in such a great conversation over the last couple of days here on FamilyLife Today. She’s written a book called The Seed of the Woman: 30 Narratives that Point to Jesus. This book traces the gospel storyline through the narratives of women.
You can pick up a copy at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you could give us a call at 800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now coming up next week, Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be joined in the studio with the Philip Yancy. He’s going to be talking about disappointment with God. Have you been there? I definitely have.
He’s going to be talking about the three questions no one really asks aloud: “Is God hidden?” Is He silent and unfair?” and “Why do bad things happen?” That’s going to be hitting close to home for many of us, myself included. We hope you’ll join us next week.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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