Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Deborah's Cast of Characters - the 4th Judge

When I initially came across the Judge Deborah (pronounced Deb-oh-rah), my heart jumped with joy because she was the first woman identified as a leader in the Bible. I innately knew women could lead, speak, and teach; seeing her example reinforced this. In Christian circles as a child, Deborah is not often spoken of, and as a female, you may grow up with the mistaken impression that a woman's role is limited. If memory serves me correctly, I believe it was from my mother that I first heard of this female judge.

So by now the people of Israel are like a record stuck in groove - rest, disobedience, deliverance, rest. Israel was now the captive of King Jabin of Hazor - a Canaanite King; his captain was Sisera who was a harsh taskmaster that worked the Israelites very hard for 20 years. Of course, the Israelites could not take it anymore and begged God for deliverance at which point, God sent Deborah - a wife and a prophet. She was recognized as a  leader because the Israelites would go to her for judgment (i.e. leadership and decision-making).

The story starts in Judges 4, with Deborah sending for Barak and telling him, "The Lord will give you victory over Sisera." She told him to gather 10,000 men to defeat King Jabin. Barak didn't question her leading, though he was hesitant. He said he would do it but only if Deborah came with him. She replied, "Certainly I will go with you. . . . But because of the course, you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” In this statement, Deborah recognized how women were viewed by men and used it as a motivator for Barak. By the way, she wasn't necessarily referring to herself, but Barak didn't know that. Why would a soldier want a woman to come with him to battle? She was a wife and a prophet, not a warrior. Maybe Barak had some reservations about her passing on God's instruction and needed her there as reinforcement. This mindset (i.e. Barak's way of thinking) is more common for women in leadership to deal with than men.

The story continues with Barak's troops defeating all of King Jabin's men with the exception of Sisera. Sisera ran and hid in the tent of a Hebrew woman - Jael. Jael knew who Sisera was - he was the enemy who had oppressed her people for twenty years. Jael misjudged her and thought he was safe. In knowing her enemy, she acted counter to what he expected - she was kind yet cunning. She threw a mantle over him and gave him milk, though he asked for water. He fell asleep after drinking the milk - and then she used the opportunity that presented itself to kill Sisera in a most brutal fashion. She drove a tent spike through his temple; she nailed him to the ground.

When Barak comes looking for Sisera, Jael shows him her conquest - "I will show you who you are looking for." She knew what she had done, she knew that she played a vital role in the defeat of Jabin without anyone telling her, because she knew who the enemy was and that it had to be defeated. Eventually, Israel with God's help subdued and defeated King Jabin.

God subdued Jabin; the Israelites prevailed against him and they had rest for 40 years.

 Because of this amazing supernatural victory - Deborah's heart is full and we have her song, her praise and acknowledgment to God in Judges 5.  Deborah's song is representative of the feeling you get when you have been used by God to do something amazing and in its aftermath, you want to tell everyone, you want to shout from the rooftops, you're giddy with glee, and your endorphins are at an all-time high; this encapsulates Deborah's song.

What can we learn from Deborah?

  • She had a relationship with God; she was called a Prophet. God spoke directly to her and through her. Her job was to listen and obey. She could say with certainty to Barak, "This is what the Lord commands you....."
  • She was obedient - she acted as a facilitator; she didn't know how their deliverance was going to play out. She just knew it was the right time and communicated this to Barak.
  • She was willing to suffer the shame based on the social structure at the time of being a woman so that God's word could be accomplished. God's promise and God's word was greater than who she was.
  • She rehearsed God's goodness - In her song, she re-tells how God delivered Israel. 
  • She was devoid of pride - she celebrated Barak and Jael and the role of the Almighty's hand in defeating King Jabin and Sisera. She acknowledged that it was God who raised her up, " a mother to Israel." (Judges 5:7)
  • She was euphoric in her praise - When God does something good in your life, express it.

Lord, may all your enemies die like Sisera! But may those who love you rise like the sun in all its power! Judges 5:31

If you love the Lord, may you too rise like the sun in all its power, even as a woman.


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  1. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have heard Deborah singing her song? Such a beautiful, full-throated proclamation of Truth!

  2. Hi Nylse, thanks for sharing Deborah's story in such vivid detail. She really was an inspiring woman who's story continues to empower women today.
    By the way, Happy International Women's Day!


  3. I loved reading about Deborah's story! I also appreciated the lessons that we can learn from her. Great post!

  4. One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament. Judge Deborah - one of my Biblical heroes. Neighbors at Debbie Kitterman's today.

  5. These O.T. recounts never grow old, do they? Always something we can learn from our distant brothers and sisters in time. What bravery Deborah demonstrated--wonder what was going through her mind at the time? Surely there were nerves, but her obedience made Kingdom difference. -- Thanks for sharing your heart with #ChasingCommunity, Nylse. ((hug))

  6. Nylse -
    I just love how God showed both these women as strong leaders willing to obey God and get things done. It is so sad that some believe women's roles in the church or other places is to be less than or limited. I believe God created us all to do His work, and He calls both men and women to lead. Scripture points to it. thanks for bringing the story of Deborah alive today and linking up to #TuneInThursday

  7. Nylse, thank you so much for this moving retelling of the story of Deborah! What a woman.

    Thank you for commenting on my post, "Confession of a recovering racist." As saddened and ashamed as I am of the racism in our country's past, I'm even more saddened by the current state of affairs. Surely, surely, surely no one still believes that any race is superior to any other. And yet many of us still need to search our hearts and get rid of any lingering racism present there. And you make a very good point: those of us who benefit most from the current power structures in our country need to examine our hearts the most. We need to make sure our thinking is aligned with God's will, and we need to repent of every way in which it is not.

    God bless you, sister! Thank you for all the ways you impart grace.


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