Women in the Word – Dorcas

Dorcas, whose name means  Gazelle; a small graceful and swift antelope known for its radiant, glowing eyes.  In the Book of Acts we learn that she was also known as Tabitha.  Dorcas is called ‘a certain disciple’ and is included in the numerous disciples of the New Testament.  In fact, she is the only woman specifically called a disciple.  She is, perhaps, best known as a famous dressmaker in the Bible.  Her example of philanthropical deeds has led to the forming of “Dorcas Societies”in many churches today.  Her regenerated heart was the source of her unselfish and charitable acts.  To be sure, the giving of gifts and the making of garments in and of themselves gain no merit with God.  God chooses our heart over our deeds.  God states in his Word that” all of our righteousness are as filthy rags.”

Dorcas lived in Joppa which was a beautiful city on the Mediterranean Coast.  Being a seacoast city, numerous husband and fathers were fishermen or manned the vessels.  Tragically, many  men never returned from the Sea and left behind  bereaved and destitute widows and orphans.  It was for these pitiful victims of shipwrecks and storms that Dorcas generously crafted and distributed cloaks and garments.  Her loving eyes saw a need and  her caring heart implemented the use of the gift that God had given her to minister to these poor and needy.

God had given Dorcas a talent and in return He laid it upon her heart to use this talent of dressmaking for God’s glory.  It appears that many poor women were blessed by her needle skills.    Her good works flowed from a heart that was grateful to God for His saving grace.  Her inward grace, given by God, was exemplified in her outward deeds.  For, sure it would seem that she did not give in to patting herself on the back and making the opportunity to remind people of what a wonderful person she was.  Her true humility for the ministry which God had given her was expressed in her countenance.

Perhaps as a child she sat at her mother’s knee and learned the art of needle skills at a young age.  For sure, the Lord gave her this ability for his glory and honor.   Dorcas may have been a woman of means because she was able to provide garments to many of the ladies in her village.  These were not just ordinary cast off garments made of worn cloth, but ones that the women took pride in wearing.  She knew what she could do and she did it.  The garments she cut out and sewed represented Christian faith in action.  “I was naked and ye clothed me”, said the Lord of those who clothed His poor and destitute people.

To each of us, God has given talents and abilities that can be used for his service.  There are numerous ministries which are available for women to be useful and productive.  One may not be learned in sewing, but perhaps your culinary skills would tantalize even the most weathered taste buds.  Many elderly women are apprehensive about driving and would eagerly accept an invitation to ride along to the grocery.   Yet, in spite of all of the available needs in this world there are still some that will state that they do not have any talents or skills which can be used in the service of others.  Ironically, this scenario presents itself in the Book of Exodus chapter 3.  Moses struggled with what he consider a lack of ability to obey the command that God had given him.

The Israelite people were still in bondage to Pharoah of Egypt and God wanted Moses to go down to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let the children of Israel go to the land which God had promised to them.  Moses begins his self diagnosed ineptness by asking God, “Who am I,” that I should go to Pharoah?”  It was true, Moses was probably not a household name; he most likely did not have any clout, so why would Pharoah listen to him?    God reminded Moses that he would go with him when he went before Pharoah.  Moses developed the cold feet syndrome and began arguing with God over his lack of ability in accomplishing this task.  He declared that he was not eloquent and  that he was slow of speech and of tongue.  God had to remind Moses that he made his mouth; “I will teach you what to say!”  Moses still begged and whined and by this time God was beginning to get a little bit annoyed with him.  So, God chose to tell Moses what to tell Aaron to say to Pharoah.  Sadly, this is often the case in the lives of God’s people today.  The one to whom God calls to serve, often leaves the task to another, rather than obeying God’s will for them.

Many are the ladies who refrain from going out on visitation because they have a” Moses mouth”.  But the Lord wants to use our mouth to spread his Gospel.  There are those women who prefer not to teach Sunday School because they do not think they know the Bible well enough.  And let’s not forget those gals who are just to shy to get involved in any ministry.  We are capable of drumming up any excuse imaginable to keep from using our talents for the Lord.  Well, you say, I have no talents.  Wrong!  If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God and he will giveth to all men and women liberally.  God will show you what talent he has given you to use for His glory.

It is amazing that Dorcas’ benevolent works are so well-known  that many people tend to forget that her life story had a very unusual chapter.  The seamstress of the widow and poor, died in the midst of her work.  Perhaps she had a needle in her hand as she drew her last breath.  Her passing was indeed a blow to the community. She died in the midst of a useful life and many of the same women whom she had clothed now came to her home to prepare her body with sweet-smelling ointments.  What were they going to do without her?  Would there be another to take up the ministry?

Being aware that the Apostle Peter was in the area, two members of the church that Dorcas attended went to summon him to come and visit her.  They had been acutely aware that he had exercised supernatural power and they were hoping that their beloved benefactor might live again.  When Peter arrived many of the ladies showed him the garments that Dorcas had made for them.   Once Peter was alone, he knelt down and prayed.  When he knew the will of the Lord, he spoke with power and authority “Tabitha, arise,” and her life returned.

This resurrection of Dorcas spread like the proverbial ‘wild fire’.    Not only were those who mourned her comforted, but of even greater note was that because of her returning to useful service again, many of the unbelieving Jews believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dorcas did not aspire to become a great leader.  She was content to stay in her own home and sew garments for the widows and the poor.  In spite of her humility, she became a great leader simply because she used the talent that God had given her to help others.

When the Lord calls us home, for what will we be remembered?  Some ladies are multifaceted in that they have been blessed with many talents, others only have a few or even one.  To whom much is given, much will be expected by the Lord.  There are so many missed opportunities to serve, and for these we shall give an account when we stand before Christ!  May we all strive to become a modern-day Dorcas!

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