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The other day, I read a blog post about a call for God's daughters to be brazen.
I literally stumbled over the word. And then circled back.
Hmmm...doesn't that equate to "hussy?" Or maybe "bold or brash?"
In my mind, I flashed upon a few current day celebrities who might seem to fit that bill.
But then I read further as the author of the post shared the word's definition:
without shame; unrestrained by convention or propriety; Nervy; Bold-faced; Audacious; Shameless
I had the shameless part right, but not much else. And not even in the correct context.
Somehow in my mind, the word brazen had taken on a negative connotation. It had become the anathema of the Proverbs 31 woman who was quiet, diligent and humble and had her stuff together.
It rattled around in my brain with another word that has been haunting me lately: Seditious. (But that is a post for another day.)
As I read further about how the author longed to add color to her "beige life," to embrace boldness and be unrestrained and walk in freedom, it made me think about a woman in the Bible I had recently studied.
Her name is Achsah (pronounced Ak-saw) and she was the daughter of Caleb, who is celebrated among the great men of valor in the Old Testament. Caleb was one of only two survivors from the original generation of Israelites who left Egypt to go to the land God has promised his people. The reason for his survival was that he had great faith in God's deliverance. (The other guys? Not so much.)
So, as a result I am really familiar with Caleb.
But, I had never heard of Achsah. Well, to be honest, I don't remember Achsah. I have read through the Bible many times and the book of Joshua as well. But I must have read right over her paragraph in the scripture and not registered how amazing she was.
Until a few weeks ago.
In Joshua 15, we find the Israelites at the end of their campaign to take over the Promised Land. After 40 years of wandering in the desert waiting for the unbelieving generation to die off, after the death of Moses, after likely several years of battle, it was time to settle into the land and start building a life and future. And so we find that Joshua has given Caleb the specific land he requested before all the warring began:
"...and Caleb said, 'I will give my daughter Achsah as a wife to the one who strikes down and captures Kiriath-sepher.' So Othniel son of Caleb's brother, Kenaz, captured it, and Caleb gave his daughter Achsah to him as a wife.
When she arrived, she persuaded Othniel to ask her father for a field. As she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, 'What do you want?'
She replied, 'Give me a blessing. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me the springs of water also.' So he gave her the upper and lower springs." (Joshua 15:16-19)
A few things stand out here. First off, Achsah's cousin is the lucky winner of her hand. I am swallowing down the modern-day ick factor because I know that this was common practice in those days. It's likely that these two grew up together and perhaps even fell in love along the way.
In my mind, I like to temper the part of the story where Caleb offers up his daughter like pirate's booty to the man who captures the city with my own inner mental video of Othniel going all ninja-warrior in preparation to win the hand of his lady love.
And because Caleb is a pretty amazing guy in the Old Testament, I'd like to think that there was a wink-wink factor in this contest and he didn't just dangle his daughter like a prize to the biggest brute out there.
There is evidence to support this notion. The Hebrew definition for Achsah can be translated as "anklet" (connotation of bangle bracelets shaking or rattling), "adorned," or "bursting the veil." Since we know that it was common practice to choose a name that would describe the child, this tells me that Achsah was both treasured and a bit of a fire-cracker. So secondly, I think she was probably the apple of her daddy's eye.
This is also borne out in verse 19 when she asks her father to also give her the blessing of the springs of water (essentially water rights) -- "since you have given me land in the Negev."
It doesn't say that Caleb gave her husband land in the Negev. Othniel was given the prize of Achsah. Achsah was given land of her own -- which was a pretty big deal in this patriarchial society.
So we know she was favored and adored by her father. And we can also see that she likely knew that she had her father wrapped around her little ankle....I mean finger.
However, it wasn't the best land that Caleb owned. The Negev is a desert plain between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea. Without the ownership of these springs, this land would likely be unuseable or highly expensive to irrigate.
Hence Achsah's approach to her father and her brazen request:
"Please sir, I want some more." (in true Oliver Twist fashion)
And Caleb granted her request -- both the upper and lower springs. (vs 19)
That's what I would call unrestrained by convention or propriety; nervy; bold-faced; audacious and yes...even shameless.
But I believe that Achsah knew that Caleb was likely to grant her request. Because she knew her father. She knew what she meant to him.
And Caleb complies... not with just one spring, but two springs. And I'd like to think he did with a twinkle in his eye as he marveled over his gutsy, beautiful daughter.
These springs watered the land that would make Othniel and Achsah prosperous and likely helped seal the deal in the choice of Othniel as the first judge of Israel.
And it came to be because a daughter dared to ask her father for more, believing that it was his heart to give her what she requested.
W. Mackintosh MacKay penned an essay called, "The Discontented Bride" about this passage:
"There is, of course, a divine discontent all of us should foster. Dissastified with our growth in sanctity of life, we should constantly pray, 'more holiness give me,' and as the bride's father graciously granted his daughter's request, so our Heavenly Father will answer our yearning for the life more abundant."
First, I'd like to address the issue of "discontent." My first thoughts when I read this essay was, "of course a man would read through this story and slap the label of 'discontented bride' on Achsah. If it were Caleb's son, I doubt commentaries would label him as the 'discontented groom.' Why do women who boldy ask for things get labels with negative connotations?"
I do think it's an unfortunate common occurence. But, beyond that, I think MacKay is on to something. There is always more. And because of who we are and whose we are, we have access and dare I say, the authority to boldly make our requests known.
Personally, I think Achsah approached her father not out of a spirit of discontent, but out of the knowledge that she was favored and adored.
And that perspective changes everything.
Ephesians 3:12 explains:
"Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God's presence." (NLT)
And this is every woman's challenge, I believe. To not let people (Christian or otherwise) label us as discontented or pushy or conniving simple because we see the need for more "living water" in our lives.
However, there is one label I will proudly wear: Shameless
Because not only has Jesus removed all of my shame; but He has called me to walk in freedom and set other captives free of theirs.
My fellow daughters....may we never be constrained by convention or propriety. But may we walk boldly and even audaciously into our destinies -- into our own "promised lands."
And yes...may we be brazen!
Post-script: There is so much more that I could pull out of this story. I have pages of notes from this one paragraph and a few others in later chapters. I feel like God opened up my mind to a revelation of His Father heart for His daughters. I'm not sure if it will become another blog post or even the book I've always dreamed of writing. But it's a BIG story that needs telling. Stay tuned...