Week 4: Widows Indeed Cont’d
Day 1: Being A Dorcas – Acts 9:36-43
I first heard the story of Dorcas when I was eight or nine years old. I was amazed, not by the fact that she had been raised from the dead – although generally I suppose most people would consider that to be a pretty amazing part of the story. What grabbed my attention was the impact her life had on the widows in her community. That day in Sunday School I determined I would be like her when I grew up, and I was going to start then and there.
We went home from church, had our lunch and everyone went their various ways for afternoon naps. I must have been one of the first to wake up, because I remember making my way from my bedroom through the silent, old parsonage to the kitchen without anyone noticing. I was small enough that I still had to climb up on the counter tops to get dishes down from the cupboards. Even now I can remember the feeling of the counter’s edge pressing hard into my shins as I did so. My first “Dorcas” task would be to serve my dad in the only way that my little girl heart could think to serve him: I would make a salad.
I don’t remember everything I put in the salad. Lettuce, of course, but I only clearly remember two other ingredients. I had been in restaurants and seen croutons on the salads. I didn’t exactly understand the concept, but I did understand that they were made of bread. So, I crumbled bread over Dad’s salad. I had also seen that delicious, shimmery liquid that glistened on the lettuce of salads most times I ate them. Once again, I had no concept of vinegar and oil, only that it was a clear liquid. So, I set the bowl up on the counter, pulled myself up next to it and proceeded to lightly cover it with water from the tap.
My dad received it graciously.
Many years later, when I made my first trip to Kenya, I saw a much bigger picture of the widespread effects of the life of Dorcas. Since we were teaching the ladies there to sew, I thought it befitting to look at women in the Bible who also sewed. We started with the Proverbs 31 woman, but the story of Dorcas (or Tabitha) captivated us all.
We find her story in Acts 9: “Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did. And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.”
God used Dorcas in the world around her. Her actions had such an effect that two men were sent to call Peter to come without delay.
Can you picture the scene that met Peter as he stepped into that room? Women weeping, holding out clothing that had been made for them by the woman who lies dead on the bed. How could you not have compassion in that moment?
“But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord. And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner.”
God used Dorcas in her death. I mean, this is the amazing part of the story, right! Can you imagine the scene this time. Peter calls the saints and widows to come back, and they find him with Dorcas standing at his side! New tears may have fallen, but they would have been tears of joy! I can just see the smiles and the hugs and the praising the Lord that must have taken place in that moment.
God used Dorcas’ death in more than just that one way. He used it to get Peter to Joppa. Do you remember what happened in Joppa? It was in Joppa that Peter had the vision of the unclean animals. God told him no longer to call unclean that which God had cleansed. It was to Joppa that a man named Cornelius sent his servants and a soldier to fetch Peter and bring him to Caesarea. And it was at that meeting with Cornelius that Peter understood: With God there is no respect of persons. The door was opened to take the Gospel to the Gentiles – to us.
Am I saying that had Dorcas not lived the life she lived none of these other things would have happened? No. God could have and would have found another way. I am saying, however, that her obedience in this area of caring for the widows led to God using her life and her death in an amazing way, far more than she ever would have thought possible. Perhaps, far more than she even realized in her lifetime.
God wants to do the same through us. Oh, he may not use us by having us die and come back to life again, but He will use us if we will let Him. Sometimes widow care seems to get bumped to the bottom of the priorities list, but God does not see it as a low priority. He sees it as a great opportunity to bring glory to His name and to magnify His amazing love.
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