Deborah: God’s Woman for Her Time
We are going to talk about a famous woman. Because of that, I could not pass up the opportunity to share 3 special stories about women that I uncovered this week doing my research:
“By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you'll become happy. If you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher. “(Socrates)
Years ago, in the Midwest, a farmer and his wife were lying in bed during a storm when the funnel of a tornado suddenly lifted the roof right off the house and sucked their bed away with them still in it. The wife began to cry, and the farmer called to her that it was no time to cry. She called back that she was so happy, she could not help it--it was the first time they had been out together in 20 years! (R. Kent Hughes in Disciplines of a Godly Man. Men of Integrity, Vol. 2, no. 3.)
The perfect man met the perfect woman, and they got married. One Christmas Eve, they were driving down the highway and noticed a man stranded by the side of the road. This was no ordinary man. It was Santa Claus!
Being the perfect people they were, they offered Santa a ride because he was in a hurry to get his toys delivered. Alas, the roads were slippery, and there was a terrible car crash. Two of the three people were killed. Do you know who survived?
The perfect woman. Everyone knows Santa Claus and the perfect man don't really exist. (Ann Landers, Wake Up and Smell The Coffee, New York: Villard, 1996)
We have much to learn from Bible characters. The way they lived their lives and how they responded to God has much to teach us about God in our lives today. I believe that interacting with the Bible helps us learn lessons about how we relate to God in our everyday lives. Let’s begin with a little background on Deborah:
Some of you will remember that God established Israel as a people through Abraham. Israel was to follow after the one God, and to share the knowledge of Him to the other nations. They went through periods of tremendous disobedience to God as well as times of obedience. One period of disobedience was after the death of Moses and then his apprentice Joshua. Around 1500 B.C., the people of Israel went into a time of the Judges; these were people who were recognized as wise and discerning. One way to think about the timeline is that first there were the dynamic galvanizing leaders (Moses, Joshua), then there were the judges (14), and then the great prophet (Samuel), and then the era of the kings and United Israel (Saul, David, Solomon). Our particular story is set in the Northern part of the tribes of Israel. About 200 years following the release from captivity in Egypt, the people of Israel were once again in trouble.
“After Ehud died, the Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the LORD. So the LORD sold them into the hands of Jabin, a king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth Haggoyim. Because he had nine hundred iron chariots and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the LORD for help. Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites came to her to have their disputes decided. 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 the way to Mount Tabor. I will lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands." (Judges 4:1-7)
God’s people in disobedience
Let’s make 4 observations about how God worked with His people during a time of their disobedience:
God allowed them to be disciplined
This is a hard concept for us. How could a loving God allow His own people to be disciplined? God disciplined His people because they were doing evil in His sight.
The people turned to God
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)
The result of that discipline is that the people chose life. They chose to follow God and learn from their wrong choices. That is always the purpose of discipline...to “disciple”. Whereas punishment is punitive, discipline is always restorative.
God sent them a spiritual leader
Deborah, during the time of one of the judges, was clearly the best “man” for the job of leading the people of God back to where they needed to be. Her heart was consecrated to Christ and she followed Him faithfully.
God’s gift for that time was a Godly woman
Some of you have had praying mothers or grandmothers. God uses men and women!
The story of Deborah
“Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”“Very well,” Deborah said, “I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh, where he summoned Zebulun and Naphtali. Ten thousand men followed him, and Deborah also went with him. Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the LORD has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the LORD gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, followed by ten thousand men. At Barak’s advance, the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera abandoned his chariot and fled on foot.” (Judges 4: 8-10,14-15)
Deborah understood the principles of obedience
Just like Bob Dylan’s song, you gotta serve somebody. It is clear that Deborah understood that blessing would come to the one who obeyed the Lord. Joshua, an earlier leader in the nation of Israel, has a famous saying in Joshua 24:15 when he tells the people that “as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”.
Deborah rallied others to God’s calling
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Deborah was passionate about God’s ability to move beyond the visible. She trusted God’s calling to take them beyond their current reality.
Deborah rallied the people to worship God
"On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song: “When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves—praise the LORD! “Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers! I will sing to the LORD, I will sing; I will make music to the LORD, the God of Israel. Village life in Israel ceased, ceased until I, Deborah, arose, arose a mother in Israel.” (Judges 5:1-3,7)
Deborah called the people to work for God’s plan
“You who ride on white donkeys, sitting on your saddle blankets, and you who walk along the road, consider the voice of the singers at the watering places. They recite the righteous acts of the LORD, the righteous acts of His warriors in Israel. “Then the people of the LORD went down to the city gates. “So may all your enemies perish O LORD! But may they who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength. Then the land had peace forty years.” (Judges 5:10-11,31)
Life Lessons from Deborah
1) Recognize God’s discipline: Hebrews 12:11
2) Respond to God’s deliverance: I Corinthians 10:13
3) Rally others to God’s dreams: Ephesians 3:20,21
4) Rejoice in God’s direction: Jeremiah 29:11