Unexpected Saviors: 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.
Throughout the Bible, God employs unexpected saviors. Author Nana Dolce peers into the lives of Old Testament women who intervened for His people.
Unexpected Saviors: Nana Dolce
Ann: When I was a new follower of Jesus and I started reading the Bible, I was surprised by the lineage of Jesus.
Dave: In what way?
Ann: I just felt so disqualified. I felt like Christians were the good people. They had it all together and they didn’t have the past that I had. So then I start reading the Bible, and I’m like, “Wait. Some of these people are messed up.” And then when I started reading the lineage of the women, “Wait! God can use them?” And it made me question, “God, can you use me with all of my junk?”
Dave: And He is.
Dave: He really is, this very second. Pretty incredible.
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.
Ann: This is FamilyLife
We have Nana Dolce back with us today. Welcome back, Nana.
Nana: Thank you.
Dave: Obviously, you’re smiling because you wrote a whole book on several, thirty different women that God has used. It’s called The Seed of the Woman: Thirty Narratives that Point to Jesus. I just love—Thirty Narratives—that wasn’t the end. Thirty Narratives that Point to Jesus. We’ve already talked about a couple of these women.
Ann: And we’ve talked about how often you don’t think of the Old Testament as already pointing to Jesus. We talked yesterday of how in the very beginning of Genesis, Genesis talks about Jesus.
Dave: When you were talking about Eve and the promise God gave even before the curse, whenever I would preach that the promise of God started in chapter three of Genesis, people would come up to me every time and go, “I’ve never heard that.” Even that He covered them by shedding of blood was a—
Ann: The first sacrifice.
Dave: —a foreshadowing of how this is going to come to be thousands of years later. And you just illuminated Eve’s role in that. So who do we want to talk about today? Yesterday we talked about Eve, we talked about Rachel and Leah, so where do you want to go? You talked quite a bit about the women in Exodus.
Nana: Yes. One of the things I wanted to do in this book was to talk about thirty individual women, but at the end of it I wanted you to look back and see the big story of the Old Testament. So we walk through Genesis to Exodus, and we go to the time of the Judges, the time of the Kings to the exile, and talk about women within the different time periods of Israel’s history.
Some of them you’ll be familiar with; some of them you won’t be as familiar with, but I want you to see this grand story unfold, and to see the faithful God Who keeps His promise, and Who uses unexpected saviors.
When Exodus begins—you know Exodus is this story that Moses is telling. He tells Genesis as well. He tells the first five books of the Bible. I love how it’s like Moses can’t even get to himself until he talks about these six women first. All of them are actually women that are used to save him. The one who will be used to be the mediator of the exodus is himself saved by six women.
Ann: You’re right. I had never thought of that, because it’s Moses telling the story, but he highlights them.
Nana: He does, yes, in a beautiful way. He starts with these two midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, who look like small fish in this big sea of the story, the story of this big nation that’s multiplying and the Pharoah who sees them as a threat and is trying to subdue them. Then comes these two little women.
Ann: They’re nobodies.
Nana: They’re nobodies, and yet the Pharoah wants to use these nobodies as really his hands at the birthstool to smother the children and to kill them. This Pharoah actually reminds me of the serpent in many ways. So actually, culturally, he wore a crown that had a cobra on it.
Ann: You’re right!
Nana: So he’s this—
Ann: I only know that through watching Moses, the movie.
Dave: Even the cartoons.
Ann: Yes. But it must be true. You’re saying it is true.
Nana: Yes, it is true. So he very much represents the—if there is the seed of the woman, there is also the seed of the serpent, because that’s part of the promise in Genesis 3:15, that the seed of the woman would crush the offspring of the serpent. So this Pharoah represents that in many ways.
He comes to these two women and really gives them, these women that are nobodies—it’s almost like a chance to be somebody, right? You are Pharoah’s—
Nana: —instrument. You are literally his hands at the birthstool. What a chance for them to be the most feared women in that community, and yet it said that they didn’t fear Pharoah but they feared God, and they let the children live.
Ann: Probably thinking that they would be murdered as a result, possibly.
Nana: Sure. How do you say “no” to Pharoah?
Nana: And yet these women did, because they feared God. So the end of their story doesn’t end with less children, but actually with more, because God gives them families, and they add to the number because they fear God. So that’s Shiphrah and Puah.
Dave: Let me ask you this.
Dave: As a woman, how do you copy that? How do you carry that spirit forward as a woman, knowing what they did? As you said, critical.
Dave: They don’t do that? All of history is different.
Nana: Yes, yes. Their stories actually remind me of Corrie ten Boom and how they, because of their fear of a greater authority, they actually don’t listen to the authorities of their day, and they hide the Jews. We can even look at people who hid slaves on the Underground Railroad, right? Who subverted the authorities that were calling them to do something evil because of their fear of a greater authority.
How many, in smaller ways—those are dramatic stories—but it makes me wonder how many ways does God call me to fear Him over the things that call my attention to fear, just within the regular, everyday life of being a woman. Where am I tempted to fear and give my allegiance to something other than God, as opposed to fearing Him and trusting Him?
It can be in small ways, or it can be in big ways, but I think we always have a chance to obey God and fear Him over other forces that call for our fear and that call for our obedience.
Dave: Yes, and even to see the value of a human.
Nana: Oh that’s so true.
Dave: Those women were like, “Oh, this is a baby boy. He’s valuable. I’m not going to do something that would be wrong.”
Dave: “I’m going to do the right thing.” I thought of Rosa Parks when you said that. She’s like, “This is wrong. I could just obey, or I could say, ‘I need to be a voice.’” Again, I’m not saying they’re the same, but you think of school teachers, you think of all these sort of unseen moments where a woman can step forward and say, “I’m going to obey God, even though I’m told not to,” and suffer the consequences.
Ann: The ministry that we can have in those places of being in the medical field—there are so many—teachers—there are just so many places where we can bring Jesus and the gospel into those, especially in our culture where it’s very much frowned upon and we can lose our job. I love that: “But they feared God more than man.”
Ann: We can do it, even in sharing the gospel where we’re embarrassed to talk about Jesus.
Ann: I was thinking that the other day when we were at a restaurant. I was like, “Oh, I should have talked to her about Jesus.”
Dave: I think you say that about every single person we meet.
Ann: But I remember getting in the car thinking, “Lord, I don’t want to miss those moments of being afraid of what they’ll think of me. What are they going to think of me if I do? And who cares? I have the answers of eternal life.”
Dave: I ended up one time in college—I came to Christ my junior year, and I was pretty much a wild kid until that moment. Not that I became perfect outright, but copying my dad, drinking, womanizing. I come to Christ. I start sharing Christ on the football team at my university, but there was a guy on the team that was just a wild man, and he scared me.
I’m not kidding, one night I’m at a dorm across campus and there’s a party going on. Somehow there’s a bunch of people pushing down the hallway, and I get pushed into this room by myself. I sit down. I’m in somebody’s dorm room, and that guy, my teammate, walks in. It was his dorm, and as soon as he came in I’m like, “Man, this guy’s the biggest partier on the team. He’s just a bad dude,” and I felt like God was saying, “Share me with him.” Long story short, I did; He came to Christ.
Dave: I’ll never forget. I was scared of him, and I felt like God said, “You fear Me, or do you fear some man?” I shared Christ, and he came to Christ, and his whole life was different. Again, these women are just unseen and yet they make a decision to overcome fear.
Ann: And Dave, sometimes they are the people under our roof. It’s our husband or wife that don’t know Jesus, or our step kids or our wayward kids. It’s a way of loving them, in a winsome way, not a condemnation, judgmental kind of way.
Dave: Alright, we have to go back to Exodus.
Nana: Yes. We don’t have time to go through all these women, but there’s Shiphrah, there’s Puah, there’s Jochebed, who is Moses’ mother, who hides him for three months and then makes this basket. The word for basket is the same as ‘ark,’ so she makes a little ark and puts him in. If you remember Noah’s story, it was the ark that became the safety in the judgment of the waters, right? The waters of death. So Moses, who writes Noah’s story, is saying, “My mama made me this little ark that kept me.”
Ann: I never knew it was the same word.
Nana: It’s the same word. It’s the same Hebrew word, and it keeps him from those waters of death. His sister, Miriam, is watching and intercedes, so that Moses goes back to his Hebrew home and then this Egyptian woman—she was Pharoah’s daughter. She should have been the first to obey her father, but she doesn’t act the part, and she adopts him and then eventually his wife, Zipporah, who will intercede when the Angel of Death is coming to kill Moses because he doesn’t circumcise his son.
She acts quickly and circumcises her son and applies blood and the angel passes over. So Moses doesn’t get to himself until he has mentioned these six women.
Nana: All of them will save him and preserve him to become the mediator of the Exodus, delivering God’s people from enslavement into that Promised Land. So women are everywhere in the Bible, and God uses unexpected saviors to do His work.
Ann: That’s really—
Dave: It’s neat to think, I know God inspired Moses to write what he wrote, but Moses chose to highlight women in front of himself.
Nana: What it reminds me of again is that often in the story of Scripture, God uses the unexpected person. We know that with David and Goliath, for instance. We talk about that all the time.
Dave: Yes, David’s out in the sheep, taking care of the sheep.
Nana: Yes, kind of the outcast, the little boy. You don’t expect him to be the savior. But we see it so many times throughout Scripture with other characters, including women. And then ultimately, even the Lord Jesus Himself comes in this unexpected way. He’s born in a manger, He’s poor. He doesn’t look the part in many ways, and He’s rejected. And then He dies on a cross, and that’s not what we were expecting.
We wanted this conquering, military—a cross? A sign of weakness? But it’s through that that God redeems sinners, through the cross and the resurrection. So God does things to point ultimately to His power, His glory, and uses unexpected saviors. It makes me think of the people that maybe we look down upon, that we disregard because they don’t look like what we would think, but yet God often honors the people that we may not choose in our human wisdom to honor.
Ann: I remember thinking that. There were times that Dave and I would be speaking, and when you’re on the stage and the spotlights on you, people can think, “Oh, that’s so amazing. God loves them so much.” I’m thinking even of our church. We have these prayer teams of warriors that are just in the back room, praying and praying and praying for every person that came. Women that come so early, praying over every single seat as the people come into the auditorium and the sanctuary.
I’m thinking of the people that are parking. I’m thinking of the women that are coming really early to bring food. Nobody knows who brought the food. It just ends up being there every time. But they’re so faithful, and I think it’s such a good reminder that God doesn’t see the people that are on their social media accounts that are just killing it. He sees the person that has nothing but they’re faithful and they love Him, and every prayer is heard by God.
Nana: Yes. I think that what encourages me is, be faithful with whatever God has given you to do.
Nana: Sometimes it is the platform, and sometimes it’s just the quiet, older mama who’s in her closet praying faithfully on her knees. Just be faithful with what God has given you, and He is pleased to use whatever He’s given our hands to do to fulfill His purposes.
Ann: And it all matters to God.
Ann: And it’s important to God.
Dave: I would just say as a man—Nana, when you were talking it just hit me that the greatest people that have impacted my life the most are women. My mom, single mom, amazing woman. Who shaped my life, my dad or my mom? My mom. Dad wasn’t there. Not that he didn’t shape my life, but my mom—.
And this woman right here, Ann. Man, oh man, I am not even sitting here without her in my life, and all these amazing truths and hard truths that she’s spoken into my life. As men we often can overlook that, and only celebrate men. They’re important as well.
Dave: But even as you’re walking through these sort of unseen women that we’ve barely even recognized in the story, I would just say to the men, to the husbands, to the dads, “Turn to your wife, turn to your mom, turn to your sister, turn to your daughter and say ‘Thank you,’ because I guarantee you, if you’re like me, they have shaped you probably as much as anybody else in your life. Don’t miss that moment.”
Okay. That’s my little sermonette. Do you want to go to the women of the conquest? We have a few more minutes.
Ann: I want to hit Rahab.
Ann: Let’s talk about her just a little bit. Give our listeners just her background.
Nana: Absolutely. Oh I do love the story of Rahab. When we get to Rahab, Moses has come through the wilderness, but that first generation with Moses, all of them have died. Now there is Joshua and a younger group of Israel going into the land. The first thing Joshua says is, “Let’s go spy this land and see what we’re about to get into.”
So he sends these two men, and they go to the house of Rahab. The Scriptures say that she was a prostitute. She had this home, so they go there. Unfortunately for these spies, they must not have been very good because the king knows exactly where they are by verse two of the first passage of the first chapter. So you’re like, “Oh no. Rahab is going to turn them in.” She is a Canaanite, and she does a surprising thing, unexpected.
She hides them on her roof and tells her own government, her own king, “Oh, they’re not here,” sends them on a wild goose chase while she hides these men. So you’re asking yourself, if you’ve never read the Bible before, you open it and you’re reading it like, “Why is she doing this?” So she goes to them, and she explains.
She said, “I have heard about your God.” She literally retells God’s works in the Exodus, and says, “I heard about these things, and our hearts are melting with fear because your God is the God of heaven and earth.” I love the story of Rahab because all the way in Exodus, when God is talking to Pharaoh, God says, “I am doing these acts of judgment really to reveal Myself to all the nations of the earth.” Now just imagine this prostitute woman all the way in Jericho. God was thinking of Rahab, even in His acts.
Ann: As He parted the sea.
Ann: As He brought the plagues.
Nana: Yes. He said, “I did this to make Myself known to all the nations.” And somewhere all the way in Jericho, Rahab hears the story, and she believes and renounces her own idols and says, “This is the God of heaven and earth,” and literally seals herself with Israel. They save her. She puts this red cord; they know exactly where she is.
They save her and her family when they come into the land, and it doesn’t end there. She marries a man named Salmon, and will give birth eventually to someone named Boaz, and from Boaz will come Jesse, and from Jesse will come King David.
Ann: Boaz was married to Ruth. Yes.
Nana: To Ruth, exactly, another non-Israelite, a Moabite. All the way to the Lord Jesus, so Rahab is actually in the ancestral line of Jesus, of Jesus Himself. I love her story because it doesn’t seem like she has much to offer.
Nana: In the sense that she’s a prostitute. She lies, right? What does she have to offer? But in Rahab we see that God saves us, not because of our works. He saves us really because of saving faith, so she has saving faith, and that’s how everyone comes to Jesus.
Ann: It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’ve been, what you’ve done.
Nana: Doesn’t matter. Yes. I came with my good grades and all of that, and God said, “None of those is—” The saving grace that He by His Spirit enables you to have is what brings you to Himself, so no one can boast before Him. Rahab shows us that.
Dave: Yes, and it also shows us out of your coming to faith, an entire legacy is changed—
Dave: —all the way, obviously, to Jesus. You sort of think, “I’ve messed up my life. I gave my life to Jesus. It ends there.” No, it begins there, because you’re going to impact generations to come. What a name in the lineage of Jesus. What a story.
Ann: It’s so hopeful. It’s so hopeful.
So Nana, as we finish up this day, and even as we hit these important women. What do you want women to walk away with? You’re a mom. You have two daughters and a son. I’m listening to you and I’m thinking, “Aaahhh, as a woman and especially with daughters, I would want my daughters to know God can use you.” What do you feel like as we end? What do you hope women will feel?
Nana: One of my daughters asked this question. I have two very different daughters. One is introverted. The other one is very extroverted, and she asks good questions. She has asked, “How come the Bible seems to be so much about men?” This is my nine-year-old. She’s asked me that question.
Dave: Nine-year-old. Wow.
Nana: Yes. And that’s unfortunate, because I think there are people who think that, that the Bible is mostly just about men. We do a disservice when we only, especially in the Old Testament, teach the narratives just on the men. We can learn a lot from those. They are in the Bible. They are important for us to learn.
Nana: But I think we need to dig and see this is the Word and the story God has given us, and if it includes women, what are we missing from that story when we don’t teach the narratives of women? And what are we telling the church and even our children when we don’t teach the narratives of women? So the story that God is telling includes women. It includes Shiphrah and Puah and Leah and Rahab. What do we miss about God when we miss the story of Rahab?
Dave: Is that what you told your daughter?
Nana: Yes. Well, I wrote this book, too.
Dave: It isn’t just a story.
Nana: I wrote this book for her.
Ann: You can tell that Nana is a professor. You’re a great teacher. If you were to summarize your life, if years from now someone took a look at your life, what would you hope they would find and say about you?
Shelby: We’re going to hear Nana’s answer in just a minute. I’m Shelby Abbott and you’ve been listening to an incredible conversation with Dave and Ann Wilson and Nana Dolce on FamilyLife Today.
The narratives about women are there; God wants to teach us through the stories of women, yes of course in the New Testament, but also in the Old Testament. I personally want to unpack those stories with my 11- and 9-year-old daughters, and honestly, I’m going to get this book for my girls. Maybe I’ll go through it with them and maybe they’ll read it on their own.
Nana Dolce has written a book called The Seed of the Woman: Thirty Narratives that Point to Jesus. This book traces the Gospel storyline through the narratives of women, from the Garden of Eden all the way up to the birth of Christ. It’s a thoroughly biblical and encouraging book that opens up the women’s lives and uncovers deep truths that shape our daily life and our faith.
We want to give you a copy of this book when you partner financially with us today to help more families hear more conversations like the one you just heard. It’s our thanks to you when you partner online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329. Now that gift can be a one-time gift, or it can be a recurring monthly gift.
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Alright, let’s find out what Nana hopes someone would say about her years from now in the future.
Nana: I hope that I’m a woman whose story is pointing to Jesus. We have thirty women here, but the story doesn’t end with Mary. It continues into the New Testament, and all those women Jesus interacted with. It goes into the First Century Church. And all those amazing women, even when you read church history, Perpetua. There are all of these amazing women, all the way down to church history. We mentioned Rosa Parks, we mentioned Harriet Tubman. All of these are women of faith.
When it comes down to Nana Dolce in 2023, I hope that I’m living my life in a way that is pointing others to Jesus, that I am a woman who believes that God is faithful, keeps His Word, so I can live today trusting that His promises come true, and that my everyday life reflects that truth.
Shelby: Tomorrow on FamilyLife Today Dave and Ann Wilson are joined by Laurel Slade-Waggoner. She’s going to talk about something that maybe we don’t talk about very much in the church, and that’s what it’s like to be married or be influenced or controlled by a narcissistic person. That’s a touchy subject, but we’re going to dive into it tomorrow.
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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