The more I read the Old Testament closely, the more I love Paul. The more I’m like hey Paul, I see you and I get you. And that’s pretty amazing because ignorant and unstable people have at times made me want to hate Paul (2 Peter 3:15-18).
I’ve had some real LOL moments with Paul recently, in fact. As I’ve already written about, I was awake in the middle of the night and decided to read the story of Absalom, and it suddenly hit me that in all likelihood, when Paul talks about nature and hair, he’s talking about that tree that Absalom got all tangled up in (1 Cor. 11:14). I started laughing so hard because wow does God have such a good sense of humour.
And then today, I suddenly realized while reading about the death of Jezebel what Paul is talking about in 1 Tim. 2:9-10, when he talks about braided hair and costly garments. Paul has Jezebel in mind! Of course! Remember her? That greedy, murderous wife of Ahab who painted her eyes and made her hair all fancy and then looked out the window, right before being thrown to her bloody death and being devoured by dogs. The horror of that is hard to read. It made me slow down and sent my brain into overtime.
But Paul isn’t thinking about just the woman that was Jezebel. Of course not. Oh goodness, it’s so much more than that. So much more. It always is.
Just look what the prophet Jeremiah says, about the devastation of Judah, chosen people of God,
And you, O desolate one, what will you do?
Although you dress in scarlet,
Although you decorate yourself with ornaments of gold,
Although you enlarge your eyes with paint,
In vain you make yourself beautiful.
Your lovers despise you;
They seek your life.
And then read the prophet Ezekiel, who prophecies judgement on God’s rebellious people,
“Furthermore, they have even sent for men who come from afar, to whom a messenger was sent; and lo, they came—
for whom you bathed, painted your eyes
and decorated yourselves with ornaments;
As always, Paul does not have his eye on rules! rules! rules! Neither does he have a low view of women! No! No! Definitely No!
Remember, we who died and rose with Christ are no longer in bondage to the law but resting in the Covenant of Grace. And Paul knows the Old Testament. He knows the prophets. He possesses the mind of Christ. And so of course Paul has no interest in banning specific clothes but rather in addressing those who want the blessings of royal garments without the person and work of Christ. Paul is concerned about those who hold the things of this world in their hearts, rather than the things of the world to come. In all, it is the heart that is God’s concern.
But there’s more. In addressing women, Paul has his eye on preserving the significance and necessity of woman as an eschatological symbol of the church’s union with Christ. Isaiah lays the groundwork for this, speaking of the wedding garments of the Bride of Christ.
I will rejoice greatly in the Lord,
My soul will exult in my God;
For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,
He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
In this time of exile on the earth, we have no need to puff ourselves up with the senseless symbols of privilege that this world offers. When we meet Christ again, the wedding garments that we will wear are not ones we ourselves have made or bring with us but those garments that are given to us. Those garments that are already ours. We who are seated with Christ in the heavenly places are wrapped not in our good works but in His robes of righteousness.
And in this regard, says Paul, it is women who are to lead the way.
I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.