Rethinking Deborah, Rethinking God’s Leaders
Judges 4: 1-10 (NIV) Deborah
1Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, now that Ehud was dead. 2 So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Sisera, the commander of his army, was based in Harosheth Haggoyim. 3 Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help.
4 Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading[a] Israel at that time. 5 She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. 6 She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. 7 I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’”
8 Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.” 9 “Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “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.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 There Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali, and ten thousand men went up under his command. Deborah also went up with him.
Although I knew of the prophet Deborah while growing up, I must confess that I did not truly know her. Nevertheless, several years ago, while studying the more popular character Samson, I was reintroduced to Deborah. This time we actually spent time with each other. I met a married woman who was described as the sole judge of Israel. A married woman whose husband was neither the king or commander of the army was the unquestionable spiritual leader of the Israelites. Indeed in just a few words, Judges 4 gives an amazing portrayal of respect, authority and anointing to the prophet Deborah. It was Deborah who summoned Barak and not vice versa. It was Deborah who told Barak how God would deliver the victory. Moreover please note that Barak would not summon the army nor go into the battle without the presence of Deborah. Notice that Barak still fully followed Deborah’s leadership even after being told that, after the Lord, the first human honored for the victory would be a woman.
For all of our supposed advancement and wisdom, we 21st century Christians still often struggle with respecting the anointing and authority of God’s chosen leaders regardless of their sex, age, race or socioeconomic status.
Nevertheless, let us reflect on the life and ministry of the prophet Deborah and expand our expectations of what God can do with whomever God chooses. If the Bible shows a married woman effectively and faithfully leading God’s people during times of war and peace, then why can’t women (married or single) lead God’s people today?
I stress this point because if the Israelites, Barak, the men of Napthtali and Zebulun, or Jael had doubted Deborah’s authority then the victory might have been lost. Thus all of Israel could have remained in oppression if they had refused to be led by a “non-traditional” leader.
My friends “tradition and traditional” are human concepts- not Godly doctrine. If we are going to truly experience the freedom that God has for us, we can not be afraid to follow the spiritual leaders God sends our way. No matter who they may be.