He made the basin of bronze and its stand of bronze, from the mirrors of the ministering women who ministered in the entrance of the tent of meeting (Exodus 38:8 ESV).
Who were these women? How did they serve? This was clearly something that was perpetuated (1 Samuel 2:22), so what was it? I have no clue. It is easier to tell you what they didn’t do than what they did. We know that they were not priests, but there are endless other ministries they could’ve performed. There are roles and ministries that only men should do, notably that of elder or priest. There are also roles that only women should do, notably the high and honorable roles disparaged by our culture known as wife and mother. Also, there are many ministries that both can do. Complementarianism does not make less of women. It glories in men being men, women being women, and both being made in the image of God. In John Piper’s little book, What’s the Difference?, he lists 80 kinds of ministry open to women.
But all this is beside the point I want to make. The emphasis here is not that these women served, but that the women who served gave their polished bronze mirrors for the construction of the basin.
Imagine you’re a slave. You’ve had very little and feel worn for your hard service. You see the Egyptian women with their mirrors, concerned with their beauty. They’re silk and you’re burlap. But, because of Yahweh’s victory, Israel now has the mirrors, along with jewelry and fine fabrics. What do you expect them to do with them?
These women, specifically these women who serve at the tent, give up their mirrors. Egypt no longer cared to see herself for her glory was destroyed. Israel didn’t need to see herself for her glory was another. By giving up their mirrors and serving at the tabernacle, these women are saying they’d rather behold God’s glory than their own.
I have little doubt these were among the most beautiful women of Israel because of what they did.
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening (1 Peter 3:1–6 ESV).
Scriptures like there are only as hard to embrace as mirrors are hard to let go of. If you find these words hard, ask yourself, “Where’s my glory?” The example laid down for you by these women isn’t to be less beautiful, but more beautiful. Bask in Jesus’ light and you will radiate. Peter gives Sarah as an example here, a woman who was praised for her beauty.
Douglas Wilson once debated an atheist from Beverly Hills. One thing he accused the Christian faith of being was misogynistic, yet, at dinner one evening, he turned to one of Douglas’ friends and commented that he had never seen so many beautiful women as they had in their community. How is this so? Because Jesus’ beauty treatment for His bride is unsurpassed. Because Jesus commands husbands to love their wives into beauty, just as He does the church. Enthralled with His beauty, we need not be concerned for our own.