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My grandmother was a seamstress in a small town. She worked in the dry goods department of a large and popular, as well as the only, department store in town. After hours she sewed for the women of the community. She was respected for her attention to detail and the quality of her work. I thought of Mama as I read the story of Tabitha. Mama lived to be one hundred one years old. She was blessed with good health; she passed away because her body was just ready to stop. She was blessed to pass away in her sleep peacefully.
Acts 9:36-43 The Message
“Down the road a way in Joppa [Jaffa], there was a disciple named Tabitha, “Gazelle” in our language. She was well-known for doing good and helping out. During the time Peter was in the area she became sick and died. Her friends prepared her body for burial and put her in a cool room [in the Upper Room].
Some of the disciples had heard that Peter was visiting in nearby Lydda and sent two men to ask if he would be so kind as to come over. Peter got right up and went with them. They took him into the room where Tabitha’s body was laid out. Her old friends, most of them widows, were in the room mourning. They showed Peter pieces of clothing the Gazelle had made while she was with them. Peter put the widows all out of the room. He knelt and prayed. Then he spoke directly to the body: “Tabitha, get up.”
She opened her eyes. When she saw Peter, she sat up. He took her hand and helped her up. Then he called in the believers and widows, and presented her to them alive.
When this became known all over Joppa, many put their trust in the Master. Peter stayed on a long time in Joppa as a guest of Simon the Tanner.”
Tabitha is the only woman in the Bible described as a disciple. This is significant. Obviously she was revered as wise, kind, loving, good, and a faithful follower of Jesus.
Sewing was a special talent of hers; she graciously shared her talents with those in need of clothing. Sewing, doing good works, and helping others were part of her ministry.
The widows were weeping; widows in those days were left with little to no money and if a widow had no relatives, she had no home. In a way they were outcasts of social and financial society. Widows were in need of help of all kind. Tabitha was a woman to whom the widows turned for comfort and solace.
Isaiah 54:4-5 Living Bible
Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. The shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood will be remembered no more, for your Creator will be your “husband.” The Lord Almighty is his name; he is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth.
When Tabitha died the widows lost not only a friend, but a tower of strength and stability. They were devastated. They prepared her for burial and put her in the upper room.
I have read, and it makes sense, that the lower rooms were noisy; places with lots of hustle and bustle.
The widows took Tabitha to the Upper Room where it would have been quiet, more reverent, more suitable for a woman like Tabitha to lay before burial.
Peter was sent for; he had to walk far. Of course once he arrived he was surrounded by weeping and wailing women; not a place most men desire to be. Peter asked everyone to leave the room; a wise move. Peter got down on his knees and prayed. Never before and never again did Peter pray someone back to life. I can imagine the intensity of his prayers; the urgency of his voice; the determination to believe, to trust, to have faith, that God would indeed bring Tabitha back from death.
Peter told Tabitha to get up; she did; no words did she utter; Peter took her to her friends; that is when the quiet I am sure became loud praises and thanks to God Almighty!
Significant in this story is that Peter dared to stay with Simon the Tanner for a long time afterwards. Tanners dealt with dead animals, and therefore was an occupation that was considered unclean and dirty to the Jews. Simon was a social and religious outcast. A risky move for Peter; yet, he was following his Master’s teachings and practices in eating, and staying with undesirables and outcasts. I imagine, Peter, as a fisherman, also enjoyed his time in this port city of Joppa, [Jaffa].
Dear Lord, as a woman, I applaud Tabitha for her loving care and concern for those around her, especially the widows. Women helping other women has been our strength down through the ages. From the suffering during childbirth, to the many woes associated with motherhood, caring for homes, rearing children, keeping the family clothed and fed, women needed the support of others under the same weight of responsibilities and burdens. We still do.
It is no surprise that women relate intimately with other women. Our body functions require tutelage, instruction, from other women from our early teens. We bond over private pains of the body and of the heart. Tabitha’s ministry lovingly cared for the mind, body, and spirit, of the women of Joppa, [Jaffa].
Lord, may I learn to listen, serve, and comfort the women around me. Amen
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