For the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Body of Christ
Women and the Church
The Old Testament doesn't show the Church directly, but it does so allegorically through several women mentioned in its pages.
The woman, in her role as bride and wife, presents the Holy Spirit with a very appropriate profile for a spiritual type of the Church, since it is the bride of Christ. Each one of them represents a different aspect of the Church, embracing its complete history, from its election until the consummation of its glory with Christ. This shows us that the Church was in the heart of God from the beginning. In fact, this was one of the mysteries that had to be given to know along with the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We will take a succinct look at the spiritual history of the Church in the light of the types of seven women of the Old Testament.
Eve, the eternal purpose
The first woman, before the fall, shows us the place that the church occupies in the eternal purpose of God. When God created Adam, He saw that it was not good for him to be alone, which is the reason why He created a suitable helper for him. This is the first allegory -a beautiful figure-of the intimate and perfect relationship between Christ and the Church. Before the shades of sin appear, God created ("edified") Eve from Adam's open side, foreshadowing the way in which God would have to take the Church from Christ's wounded side on the cross of Calvary.
Eve was taken out of Adam. The Church is taken out of Christ. The analogy is perfect. Anything that doesn't come from Christ can't be part of the Church. In this way, the Church is not what men see as such, but that which has intimately proceeded from Christ, sharing His very nature.
Eve was Adam's suitable helper. The Church is Christ's suitable helper, in all that pertains to governing over creation, a purpose which up till now has not been completely finished. The beautiful scene in Genesis 2 will be completed in its perfection on the day when Christ has His immaculate bride, as is announced in Revelation 19. From Genesis 2 to Revelation 19 there is a great jump in man's history, but it is only a sigh in eternity. Finally God will have the Eve without sin that His last Adam deserves. The eternal purpose of God will have been completed.
Asenath, chosen from among the world
Joseph is one of the most perfect types of Christ, and his wife, Asenath, is one of the most perfect types of the Church in a very specific way: she is taken out of the world. Asenath was a gentile woman. She was the "daughter of Potiphera priest of On" (Gen.41:45). On was the center of sun worship among the Egyptians. Therefore, Asenath came from both a pagan city and a pagan people. Likewise, God has provided a wife for Christ from among the gentiles.
Ruth, redeemed by a price
In the book of Ruth, Boaz represents Christ. "Boaz" means "in him there is strength", and is a man "powerful in wealth" (2:1). Ruth, on the other hand, is a gentile, a sorrowful and suffering woman who is received by Boaz with mercy. Here we see the Church, in her condition in the world, at the moment of being presented to her Lover. The steward (the Holy Spirit), takes her before Boaz who welcomes her and provides food for her.
Then, the moment of the great manifestation of love arrives when Boaz redeems Ruth. In the book of Ruth the use of the word 'redemption' is reiterated. Elimelech, the relative of Ruth's previous husband, was not willing to do it (who else could pay the high price for her salvation?), but Boaz was. According to the law of Israel, it was necessary to fulfill three conditions to be able to redeem: 1) to have the right to redeem. Only a relative could do it. For that reason the Lord had to partake of flesh and blood, because he could only redeem the Church as a man. 2) to have the means to do it. Just like Boaz, the Lord was rich (2 Cor.8:9), but he gave up all that He had (Matt.13:46) to redeem the Church. 3) to be willing to redeem. Christ's love led Him to redeem us (Rom. 5:6-8).
And so, Boaz (Christ) fulfills these three conditions, and for it he doesn't only buy his relative's estate, but also Ruth, and he doesn't make her his slave, but his wife. Now, all the wealth of Boaz belongs to her. The richer man honors a poor stranger, giving her his name and his inheritance. Ruth shows us the redemption of the Church in a very beautiful way. The Church was found by Christ in that state of helplessness and poverty, but He redeemed her with His precious blood, to make her His wife.
Zipporah, a woman in the desert
Zipporah was daughter of Reuel (or Jethro), priest of Midian. Moses took her as a wife during his exile in the desert. That arid desert represents what this earth was like for our Lord during His ministry. They were the days of His humiliation where he didn't find shade to rest under. Here He found the Church, lost among those depressed crowds that were like sheep without a shepherd.
Zipporah was daughter of a midianite, a descendant of Abraham and Keturah. In this, we also see that the church here on earth doesn't have a very honorable past to exhibit. Zipporah was the wife taken from the world, in the time of Moses' humiliation. So too the Church today is the partner of a rejected Christ, yet with whom it shares in intimacy, joys that are denied to the world.
Abigail, a military partner
Abigail knew David as the one who "fights the battles of Jehovah" (1 Sam. 25:28), and was the one who accompanied David throughout all of his long time as anointed but persecuted king. Saul wanted to kill him, and David had to escape time and again, with Abigail, through caves and mountains, and even through foreign lands. David fought the battles of God, but he didn't do it alone: Abigail was with him. Finally, when David was anointed king in Hebron, she also participated in his exaltation.
The Church has also been the military partner of the persecuted but triumphant Warrior, in these long centuries. And it will be even more so in the times which are to come, when the Lord rises up to take the kingdoms of this world. Pursued together with Him, and rejected, inexorably the church will participate in the joys and future honors, when its Lord reigns over all the earth.
Achsah, the inheritance of the Church
Achsah was the daughter of Caleb, the old warrior who took possession of Canaan. She was given as a prize to Othniel, for the taking of Kiriath-sepher. Othniel was the cousin of Achsah, because he was the son of Kenaz, brother of Caleb. When Achsah left her father's house to go with her husband, he persuaded her to ask for springs of water, as well as the land that she had received.
Othniel represents the Lord Jesus Christ who receives a wife of the same blood, as a prize for His victory. The Father gave her an inheritance to enjoy with her Husband, and her inheritance consists of springs of water, up in the heavens and below in the earth. She possesses the heavenly resources, and administers them on the earth. There is a heavenly source, but to it, another source is connected on the earth. The rivers of the water of life (that is to say, the Word) of God are in the Church, since she has Christ who can give drink to those who are thirsty.
Rebecca, the Church led to Christ
Genesis 24 gives us a beautiful allegory of Christ and the Church. In it we see Abraham concerned with providing a wife for his son Isaac. Isaac is the son of his affections and only heir, perfect in his position as son, but incomplete in his solitude. Abraham sends the steward of his house (a type of the Holy Spirit) in search of the wife, to a distant country, yet not of foreign blood, because she was of the same family.
Eliezer, the steward, is able to prepare Rebecca's heart in favor of his young master. Ten camels loaded with gifts, dresses and jewels, give testimony to Rebecca of her pretender's wealth. Then, when it is time to leave, Rebecca doesn't allow the journey to be postponed; her heart is already bound to the distant Lover.
It is here where the Church is especially typified by Rebecca. The family affections try to retain her, but Rebecca doesn't consent. There is no time to lose. "Then Rebecca and her maidens got up, and mounted the camels, and they followed the man…" (Gén.24:61). The journey seems so long because of her longing to arrive. Eliezer speaks to her of the lover, and that is the voice of the Holy Spirit which speaks of Christ's sweetness to the Church. She wants to hurry (isn't the Church the one that yearns for the encounter with the Lover in the air?). The distance reduces. Isaac goes out for a walk in the countryside to be nearer to her. Likewise Christ. And the Church, which is nearer to Him every day, also looks to the horizon to see the Lover come to meet her. Oh, there is so little time to go!
Finally, the meeting takes place. Then Isaac "Took Rebecca as a wife, and loved her." The Church is introduced into the eternal joys of the lover.
The Scriptures give us so many delicate pictures about the Church. The Old Testament, so severe in many aspects, is abounding in heavenly notes when it speaks in allegory of the beloved of the Lover. And what can we say of the Shulammite, the lover in the Song of Songs? We would lack space to speak about her.
For the time being these small points are enough to demonstrate how intimate the place that the Church occupies in Christ's heart is; what a beautiful thing it is, how chosen and Holy, how loved and desired it is by our Lord. Thus we won't sin by reducing it to a mere human condition, nor will we look at it from the shallowness of our heart.