Bible character study: Dorcas (Tabitha)

Acts 9: 36-43 (New Living Translation)

 

36 There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas). She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor. 37 About this time she became ill and died. Her body was washed for burial and laid in an upstairs room. 38 But the believers had heard that Peter was nearby at Lydda, so they sent two men to beg him, “Please come as soon as possible!”

39 So Peter returned with them; and as soon as he arrived, they took him to the upstairs room. The room was filled with widows who were weeping and showing him the coats and other clothes Dorcas had made for them. 40 But Peter asked them all to leave the room; then he knelt and prayed. Turning to the body he said, “Get up, Tabitha.” And she opened her eyes! When she saw Peter, she sat up! 41 He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then he called in the widows and all the believers, and he presented her to them alive.

42 The news spread through the whole town, and many believed in the Lord. 43 And Peter stayed a long time in Joppa, living with Simon, a tanner of hides.

 

When I was thinking about which Bible character to feature for the ‘Love’ edition, the first person that came to mind was Dorcas (after Christ, obviously). Keeping with the theme of Love being sacrificial, and all about giving, I thought we could take a few minutes to look at the life of this amazing woman that is talked about in the book of Acts. A few things to note about Dorcas:

1. ‘She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor.’

 

In James 1:27, the Bible says that ‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.’

It appears that Dorcas knew exactly what God wanted of her, as a believer, and she gave her life to it. One of the ways she helped the poor and widows was by making clothes for them. As I read this, it challenged me; sometimes we think that we have to do something great, or travel afar and become missionaries to make a difference in people’s lives. But, this woman just used her hands. It reminds me of a woman I read about that knitted woollen hats for premature babies to keep them warm. All God asks of us is that we use what we’ve got, no matter how small.

2. ‘About this time she became ill and died’.

You know, none of us are immune to sickness and death. Despite being a believer and someone that did good things for people, Dorcas still went through what every normal person goes through. But thankfully, her story didn’t end there. If you’re going through a tough time today, remember that ‘there is nothing new under the sun’. You will come through it in Jesus name.

 

3. ‘But the believers had heard that Peter was nearby at Lydda, so they sent two men to beg him, “Please come as soon as possible!”’

 Your good deeds will always speak for you. Dorcas died but people didn’t want her life to just end like that. She had helped so many people and changed so many lives that when she needed help, the believers stepped in and got her the ultimate help. Talk about friends indeed!

 

4. When Dorcas was raised from the dead, ‘The news spread through the whole town, and many believed in the Lord’. There was more to the story than Dorcas rising from the dead (as if that was not enough in itself!) God used that miracle to bring many people into the kingdom. Sometimes things happen in our lives that we don’t understand, and we question God, ‘why me?’ But what if He wants to use our story, YOUR story to bring people to Him?

I pray that God gives us the grace to keep trusting Him even when things don't make sense in our lives, and to believe that somehow, He will use the difficult aspects of our story for His glory.

 

Fun fact:
The name Dorcas is a Greek translation of the Aramaic name Tabitha, meaning ‘gazelle’. One species of gazelle is now known as the Dorcas gazelle (Source: Wikipedia).