| Click Now to Order
"Deborah, a woman who was a prophet and the wife of Lappidoth, was judging
Israel at that time." (HCSB)
In America, there are three branches of government: the executive, the
legislative and the judicial. This system of government allows for a division
of responsibility and a separation of powers between the three branches.
The legislative branch makes the laws, the executive branch ensures that
the laws are obeyed, while the judicial branch interprets the laws and
certifies that they are constitutional. This basic understanding of government
that we learned in 5th grade civics class colors the meaning of words like
"judge." So this morning, when I announce that we will be studying the
life of one of the judges from the Old Testament, we immediately think
of a wise person who settles disputes and interprets the law. Or if we've
been watching too much television lately, we might think of Judge Judy
slamming down her gavel and putting a rude, obnoxious neighbor in his place.
Or if you are old enough to remember another TV judge, you may be thinking
of Flip Wilson and his irreverent approach to the judiciary.
These images aren't really that helpful in understanding the work of
the Judges from the Old Testament. Yes, they settled disputes and interpreted
the law, but they did so much more than give rulings-they ruled. The judges
ruled Israel from the time of the conquest of Canaan until Saul was anointed
If you like reading Westerns like I do, then you will love the period
of the Judges, because it was the "wild, wild west" of the biblical narrative.
There were battles with the Moabites, the Philistines, the Amalekites and
the Ammonites. One of the judges, Samson, exercised great feats of strength.
He was a colorful character who used the jawbone of a donkey as a weapon
to defeat the Philistines and killed a lion with his bare hands, later
to return to it and eat honey out of its carcass. Of coursed, Samson had
a fatal flaw that eventually led to his downfall-his weakness toward the
ladies. Another of the judges, Gideon was the youngest son from the weakest
family in Manasseh, yet God used him to defeat the Midianites and the Amalekites.
Under God's direction, he whittled down the army from 22,000 to 300 troops
before they attacked and defeated the Midianites with trumpets, fire and
And then there was Deborah.
I know I am stating the obvious, but I want you to notice that Deborah
was a woman. Many people have the mistaken notion that God is a sexist.
Perhaps those with that view are confusing the cultural setting of the
Bible with its message. While the setting of much of the scripture is a
repressive cultural, the message of the scripture is liberating and shows
the value of all human life. We are all created in the image of God-men
and women alike. And there is another point of equality, we've all sinned
and fallen short of God's glory. Beyond those observations, Paul gives
the definitive word in Galatians 3:28 when he wrote, "There is neither
Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor
female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." ( KJV)
Deborah was one of the judges of Israel. Judges 4:5 says, "It was her
custom to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in
the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her for judgment."
But Deborah was more than just a judge. She is the only one of the judges
described as a prophetess. (ZPEB, v 1, p. 79) One commentary I read said,
"Whatever else the narrative will say about Deborah, the reader must remember
that she is first and foremost, if not exclusively, a prophet." (New American
God didn't choose Deborah for the job to be inclusive, he chose the
best person for the job and she excelled in it. She was a judge, but she
was also a prophet. Like Moses did before her, she spoke to the people
We know she was a judge and that she was a prophet because the text
tells us so, but it doesn't show us a lot of detail about her work beyond
an encounter she had with Barak, the General of Israel's army.
The times demanded a strong leader. The people of God were under captivity
in Canaan under Jabin the King of Canaan and Sisera his commander. Barak
and his army were doing nothing about the situation so Deborah summoned
him to her court and said to him,"Hasn't the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded
[you]: 'Go, deploy [the troops] on Mount Tabor, and take with you 10,000
men from the Naphtalites and Zebulunites?" (Judges 4:6 HCSB)
Deborah had a no nonsense approach with Barak-she called him out for
his laziness, fear and lack of trust in God and demanded that he account
for his inaction. She reminded him that God had already promised that He
would lure Sisera and his army into a location where Israel's army would
prevail against them. Barak agreed to go, but only if Deborah would go
Why would Barak hedge like this? He was the general; it was his duty
to lead the army into battle, not Deborah's. As a prophet, she spoke God's
word to His people and as a judge, she helped the people understand right
from wrong, but she wasn't a military leader. Why would Barak ask her to
Without getting too deep into speculation, I think it was because Barak
lacked confidence. He needed the support of the acknowledged leader of
Israel-Deborah. Now we could detour at this point and rant about Barak
being a weak man, but instead, I want to focus on the fact that Deborah
was a strong leader. She was the kind of leader that inspired confidence
in others and empowered them to fulfill their destinies. But Barak needed
more than an inspiring speech, he needed her presence. Napoleon Bonaparte
said "A leader is a dealer in hope." To some extent, Barak was borrowing
hope from Deborah.
Leaders must always be willing to back up their words. It is one thing
to say, "God will deliver you" and another to say, "I have so much confidence
in God's promise to deliver you that I will stand next to you as He does
it." Deborah had that kind of faith and confidence in God. She gladly agreed
to go into battle with Barak, but she warned him that his conquest would
be void of honor and that God would use a woman to defeat Sisera.
10,000 men followed Barak into battle while Sisera brought 900 iron
chariots to the theater of operation. Barak followed Deborah, and Deborah
followed God. When the time was right, Deborah told Barak to attack. When
the armies of the Lord descended upon Canaan's army, the Lord confused
the enemy and they fell victim to the sword. Everyone was destroyed except
for Sisera who left his chariot and fled on foot to find sanctuary in the
home of a friend. The friend's wife welcomed him into their tent, offered
him something to drink. He was exhausted and asked her to stand watch for
him while he got some sleep. As he drifted into sleep, little did he know
that he would never awake. Using a tent stake, she killed him in his sleep.
Meanwhile, Barak, filled with the confidence from the battle, lead a hunt
for Sisera. When Barak arrived at Heber's tent, the wife gave Barak the
dead body of the man he was looking for. As Deborah had prophesied, God
used a woman to defeat Sisera. Judges 4:23-24 says, "That day God subdued
Jabin king of Canaan before the Israelites. (24) The power of the Israelites
continued to increase against Jabin king of Canaan until they destroyed
Israel enjoyed peace under Deborah's rule after this conquest. She was
a judge, a prophet and a deliverer. She was used mightily by God for several
reasons. One she was FAITHFUL-day after day she sat beneath the Palm Tree
and passed out justice to those who sought it. She was faithful, and she
HAD FAITH. She believed that God was good for His word and she believe
that He would deliver His people. She was faithful, she had faith and she
INSPIRED CONFIDENCE in others. She was a true leader, one who wasn't afraid
to get into the middle of the fray.
How about you? Are you faithful? Do you have faith in your God? Are
you willing to use your influence to bring out the best in others? If so,
perhaps God will use you to accomplish His will, just like He used Deborah.