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Posts tagged ‘Deborah’

Respond to Your Call to Influence.


 

group of women
(http://www.stockfreeimages.com)

The church has not always recognized the spiritual gifts of women. But God has fashioned them to be key players in His kingdom.

Let’s imagine for a moment what the world would be like without women. All the wonderful traits women are capable of providing with exuberance—gentleness, nurture, care, refined beauty—would be missing.

Men possess these same qualities but in smaller supply; women, on the other hand, overflow with them. Without women the world would look like an army base where everything’s painted white or gray and designed for efficiency at the expense of beauty. An awful sense of incompleteness would permeate the planet.

Women have many qualities unique to their gender, one of the grandest being the ability to host life. This privilege to shelter another life at such an intimate level has been granted exclusively to Eve and her daughters.

Women can nurture their newborns through the most intimate interaction between a female adult and a child: breastfeeding. The image of a baby being nursed by a loving mother is a picture of total dependency, perfect care and the most sublime transfer of nurture from one being to another.

Women are also the ones who predominantly shape the character of their children during their crucial early years. They plant tender gestures in the inner layer of a child’s malleable soul and watch as, like the seeds in a flowerbed, the spiritual seeds sprout, spreading beauty over the adult landscape in the form of noble deeds.

When were the seeds planted? During the nurturing years when a child spends most of his time with a woman: his mother!

Jesus’ First Teacher
It was a woman, young Mary, who first heard beating within her the heart of God Incarnate when she was pregnant with Jesus. It was her hands that first touched Jesus’ body and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes.

Think for a moment what this reflects: God Almighty, Creator and Preserver of the universe, took the form of a baby and became dependent on the care of one of His creatures. When God experienced human flesh, with all its limitations, who was there to meet His needs? A woman.

Jesus’ mother, Mary, was His first teacher and also later His first disciple. No other human knew Jesus as intimately as Mary did.

Ponder for a moment the scene at Calvary. While most of Jesus’ frightened disciples hid at a distance, Mary and a group of faithful women gathered at the foot of the cross. Despite the pain and suffering Jesus endured, His last earthly concern was for a woman—His mother.

He could not forget that she had taken care of Him when His earthly life began. And now, as His life was about to end, Jesus lovingly turned her over to the care of His beloved disciple (see John 19:26-27).

Women’s Hall of Fame
Throughout the Bible are inspiring testimonies of other brave and brilliant women who were not mere privates in God’s army but key players who were given pivotal assignments at strategic points and in crucial times.

Moses’ mother challenged the pharaoh’s genocidal decree when she preserved the life of the one who would eventually lead millions of Hebrews to freedom (see Ex. 2).

Rahab held the keys to the taking of Jericho. By turning them in the right direction she assured the fall of the fortress city (see Josh. 2).

Hannah cried out to God for Samuel to be born, and he went on to become the greatest prophet and judge Israel ever knew (see 1 Sam. 1).

Deborah was an illustrious judge and a proven prophetess who delivered Israel from the mighty chariots of Jabin, the oppressing king of Canaan. Another woman, Jael, helped to bring total destruction to Jabin and his leading general, Sisera (see Judges 4-5).

Esther courageously risked her life to save her nation, God’s people, when they were in danger of being exterminated.

Sarah was called “mother of nations” by God Himself (see Gen. 17:16) and is listed among the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11.

Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, instructed and guided Apollos, who had been preaching less-than-perfect theology (see Acts 18: 24-26). The fact that in most tranlations, Priscilla is listed first in this passage signifies the prominence of her role.

On the shoulders of these women—and countless more down through the ages—rested the fate of cities, tribes and nations.

Pillars of the Early Church
One of the main reasons Christianity spread so rapidly in the early years is because its message restored honor and self-worth to half the world’s population: women. Romans had such a low view of women that some men engaged in sex with other men. Jewish rabbis completely silenced women inside the synagogue, and pagans used them as temple prostitutes.

However, early church leaders dignified women by teaching that in Christ “there is neither male nor female” and we “are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28, NKJV). Women were also given positions of honor and leadership.

Priscilla, for instance, was part of the team that founded the church in Ephesus—site of the greatest power encounter recorded in the book of Acts. She was there, inside the crux of God’s power, when God dethroned Artemis and brought down the demonic socioeconomic structure that had controlled Ephesus.

Throughout the epistles women are unapologetically exalted as pillars of the faith. Paul identified two women as the headwaters of Timothy’s faith: his mother and his grandmother (see 2 Tim. 1:5). In Romans, a letter intended for wide circulation and public reading, Paul praised several women as people of faith and proven ministry (see Rom. 16:1-15).

The first European convert was a woman, Lydia, and hers was the first household to be baptized (see Acts 16:14-15). She was very assertive in her interaction with the apostles: “She begged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’ So she persuaded us” (v. 15).

Three centuries later, the driving force behind Constantine’s conversion and the subsequent Christianization of the Roman Empire was another woman, Helena, the emperor’s mother.

Extraordinary Sensitivity
Women have an extraordinary sensitivity to spiritual things. I am not saying that they are more godly than men, but I believe they are definitely more spiritual. This is why Jesus was able to reveal two of the most powerful truths in the gospels to women.

He told Martha that He is the resurrection and the life (see John 11:25-27). To the Samaritan woman Jesus explained that He is the living water (see John 4:7-15). These women were in a state of confusion when Jesus found them, but both were able to hear, understand and believe these profound truths.

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Take Women Out of the Box.


Taking Women Out of the Box
(© CamiloTorres iStockPhoto.com)

It’s time the American church stopped arguing about female roles and started empowering women for ministry.

The debate over whether God equips and calls women to serve in positions of spiritual leadershipis not over. In 2008, some of the same Christians who were delighted to see Sarah Palin run beside John McCain were also reluctant to welcome women to the pulpit on Sunday morning. And when Gospel Todaymagazine published an issue with women preachers on the cover, more than 100 Christian bookstores removed the magazine from their counters.

Clearly some Christians believe a woman can lead a country but not a church. But what does Scripture say? Does God’s Word make a distinction between a woman’s spiritual and secular leadership?

Consider Deborah, whose service as a judge and prophet influenced all of Israel. Her leadership and spiritual insight were so significant that the men of Israel refused to go into battle without her (Judg. 4:6-9). She is quoted in Scripture as saying, “Villagers in Israel would not fight; they held back until I, Deborah, arose, a mother in Israel” (5:7, TNIV). On a regular basis, as “a prophet … [who] 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 went up to her to have their disputes decided” (4:4-5, emphasis added).

Prophets, as a group, held high positions of leadership over God’s people. Whereas priests pleaded with God on behalf of the people, prophets were used by God to guide the entire nation, particularly its leaders—the priests and kings. Thus prophets such as Deborah and Huldah brought leadership, exhortation and correction to the highest levels of Israelite leaders: the kings, priests and other prophets.

God called Huldah as a prophet during the reign of King Josiah. When the Book of the Law was discovered (2 Chron. 34:14-33; 2 Kings 22), Josiah and his committee went directly to Huldah for advice rather than to either Zephaniah or Jeremiah—both male prophets during this time. Huldah called Israel to obey the Torah and led the nation to its most significant reform in nearly 100 years.

Unlike people today, those living in Old Testament times did not make a distinction between spiritual and secular leadership. For this reason, leaders such as Miriam, Ruth, Esther, Rahab, Jael and the women who were keepers of Jerusalem’s city gates influenced all of Israel. In spite of the patriarchal culture of the time, women led Israel’s army; judged disputes; exhorted and advised Israel’s prophets, priests and kings; declared the ways of God to the people; and brought major social and spiritual reforms.

Scriptural examples clearly show that God equips and calls women to leadership, despite the cultural expectations of ancient or modern people.

In the New Testament, Christ’s completed work on Calvary leveled the divisions and hierarchy among the people of God, as noted by the apostle Paul’s statement in Galatians 3:27-29: “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise” (NRSV).

Those who are clothed in Christ are no longer identified or limited by their ethnicity, class or gender. If God is our parent, and it is from Him that we receive our ultimate inheritance, then our sisters and brothers receive equally the same inheritance from God’s Spirit.

What do we receive from God? We inherit salvation—the forgiveness of sins. We also receive sanctification—the Spirit’s power to oppose sin, prejudice and oppression. After we become members of Christ’s body, the Spirit works to build unity and mutuality between those whom Christ has redeemed. He also gives each of us spiritual gifts for service (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:7-10; Eph. 4:11-12), which are not distributed according to gender, class or ethnicity.

Because the ground at the cross is level, the Spirit’s gifts do not come in gender-specific or ethnic-specific occupations. Thus, we find slaves, gentiles and women all serving as evangelists, apostles and teachers alongside Paul, spreading the gospel, building and leading house churches. This is the pattern spelled out in 1 Corinthians 12:28: “God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers” (TNIV). Here are a few examples:

Female apostle. Junia is a woman who was imprisoned along with Paul for working to spread the gospel. She was not only an apostle but also “prominent among the apostles” (Rom. 16:7, NRSV). It wasn’t until the Middle Ages, when prejudice against women became prominent, that anyone doubted Junia was a woman.

Female prophets. As in the Old Testament, prophets in the New Testament provided correction and encouragement to the church. The spiritual well-being of the church was strengthened by prophets (Acts 21:10-11; Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:28; 1 Cor. 14:1,24,29-32; Eph. 2:20; Eph. 4:11-13). Thus, Luke identifies leaders who were also prophets and teachers (Acts 13:1), and Paul suggests that prophets and apostles make known the mysteries of Christ (Eph 3:4-5).

Women such as Anna (Luke 2:36), Philip’s four prophesying daughters (Acts 21:9), the women who prophesied at Pentecost—the birth of the church (Acts 2:4-21)—and the women in Corinth (1 Cor. 11:4-5; 14:31) offered leadership to God’s kingdom as prophets.

Female teachers. Both Luke and Paul acknowledged a female teacher—Priscilla—who instructed one of the most gifted evangelists in the New Testament, Apollos. Well schooled in Scripture, Apollos lacked information, which Priscilla and her husband provided. Apollos received Priscilla’s instruction without reservation (Acts 18:26). Far from condemning her for having taught a man, Luke and Paul recognized Priscilla’s prominence in teaching Apollos.

Moreover, Paul instructs the whole church at Colossae to “teach one another” (Col. 3:16), just as he tells the church at Corinth that he would rather each offer a few words of intelligible instruction than many words in a strange tongue (1 Cor.14:19).

Female evangelists and house-church leaders. There is no shortage of women evangelists or house-church leaders in Scripture. The church flourished because they welcomed the gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-12: “The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (NRSV).

Lydia was an evangelist, as well as a house-church and business leader (Acts 16:13-14,40). She launched the first church in Philippi, which was also the first church in Europe.

Paul loved this church. It was the only church that regularly contributed to Paul’s support and the only one from which Paul accepted help. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is perhaps the most tender and personal letter among his epistles.

Lydia was not the only female house-church leader or church planter. There was also Apphia, who oversaw the church in Colossae (Philem. 1-2). There was the “elect lady” mentioned in 2 John 1:1; Nympha (Col. 4:15); Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11); and Priscilla (Acts 18:26; Rom. 16:3). Priscilla’s authority in the early church is highlighted by Paul, who calls her his “co-worker” (Rom. 16:3), a term Paul uses to identify male leaders such as Mark, Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Clement, Aquila, Apollos and Luke. Moreover, her name is listed before her husband Aquila’s in four of the six times they are mentioned, suggesting that Priscilla was the more distinguished of the two.

Like house-church leaders, evangelists advanced the gospel. Paul said that women such as Tryphena, Tryphosa and Persis “worked hard in the Lord” (Rom. 16:12), a phrase Paul used to describe his own missionary efforts. Similarly, Euodia and Syntyche “struggled beside” Paul (Phil. 4:3) in the work of the gospel, and thus Paul affirms Euodia and Syntyche as leaders in the church at Philippi.

Other female evangelists include Jesus’ female disciples (Luke 24:9-10), the Samaritan woman who told the people of Sychar about Jesus the Messiah (John 4:39), and Mary Magdalene, whom Jesus told to “Go … to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (John 20:17, NIV).

Female deacons. Leadership was service and service was leadership in the early church, and those who served were also called deacons (1 Tim. 3:8-13). Female deacons ministered mostly to women, as it would have been scandalous for men in the ancient world to anoint women with oil, baptize women or visit ill women in their homes. Thus, female deacons anointed and baptized other women; they also taught women and children and visited the homes of female believers who were ill in order to bring them Communion.

Phoebe was a deacon who served the church of Cenchrea. She also delivered Paul’s letters to the church in Rome. Paul refers to Phoebe as prostates, or benefactor (Rom. 16:2), which literally means one who is in authority or one who presides over (as in Communion). Paul uses the verb form ofprostates in 1 Thessalonians 5:12, where it means “exercising leadership.”

The term deacon can be used to describe either a male or a female. (Deaconess did not come into use in the church until the third century.) Paul outlines for Timothy the qualifications for male and female deacons in Ephesus (1 Tim. 3:8-13), as well as sending him instructions on how to manage women in this church who were abusive or who were teaching heresy (2:11-15). As he did with the women in Corinth, whose freedom in Christ led to disruptive chatter (1 Cor. 14:34), Paul limited the authority of women at Ephesus when their freedom led to heresy and abuse.

Paul affirmed the authority and service of women when they promoted the gospel rather than heresy (Acts 18:26; Rom. 16:1-5,7,12-13,15); when their leadership was neither heretical nor abusive as it was in Ephesus (1 Tim. 2:11-12); and when they prayed and prophesied in public in ways that were not disruptive, either by their clothing or through their chatter (1 Cor. 11:4-5).

But in order to manage heresy, disruption and false teaching Paul did limit the expression of some women’s freedom in Christ (1 Tim. 2:11-15; 1 Cor. 14:34). Yet, in the absence of these problems, both women and men from all tribes and socioeconomic groups were given freedom to exercise their spiritual gifts as equal members of Christ’s body, in which there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female.

Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE/ SPIRITLED WOMAN.

Even the Weakest Can Still Build for Eternity.


But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . Matthew 6:20

Even the weakest Christian can build a lasting superstructure. You may say, “Well now, look here, I am not able to do this or that, and I just feel I must be the weakest Christian that ever lived.” It is worth remembering the Old Testament character Barak.

Barak was the equivalent of an Israeli general in the days of Judges. Deborah, a judge in Israel during that period, was told by the Lord that the time had come to defeat the enemy. So she turned to Barak and said, “Take ten thousand of your men and meet on Mount Nebo, and the Lord is going to deliver the enemy into your hand.”

Barak said, “No, I just do not think I want to do that. I’m not ready.” But then he said, “Deborah, if you’ll go with me, I’ll go.”

She said, “Well, now, just a minute; if I go, you are not going to get any glory; it will go to a woman.”

He said, “It’s all right.”

Now why did Barak do that? He did that because he wanted to see Israel win, but he was afraid they would not win by himself, and he asked for Deborah to go with him. And a woman, Jael, in fact, got the glory, and we have the song of Deborah in Judges 5:24; it is not about Barak. He felt like he was a nobody; nevertheless, in Hebrews 11, when the writer comes down the Old Testament, whom does he choose to mention as having faith? Barak. And I find that so encouraging—that the weakest Christian can do it. The reason Barak was given that glory was that he did not want the glory then.

Excerpted from When God Says “Well Done!” (Christian Focus Publications Ltd., 1993).

By R. T. KENDALL.

Should Women Be in Ministry or Not?.


woman leader
(© Theodor38/ StockFreeImages.com)

I am a little nervous as my fingers hit the keyboard. Seeing what kind of firestorm was unleashed from blogs by Lee Grady and Jennifer LeClaire, both excellent writers—do I really dare add my two cents on women in ministry?

Ahhh, why not?

Government vs. Ministry
Is it possible that both camps are right to some degree? We must separate governmental authority from ministry gifts. For the most part, men are called to govern (eldership), but women can teach, preach, prophesy, etc. (see Eph. 4 regarding spiritual gifts). Yes, there are exceptions like Deborah. But Deborah is one of a handful of women used at that level of governmental authority. It is the exception, not the rule.

It would hard for a woman to be the husband of one wife (although Ellen seems happy:-)), however that is not a qualification to preach and teach or do miracles, but to sit on the elders’ board (see 1 Tim. 3), which is the primary governing body in a local congregation (at least in the New Testament). Yes, there can be exceptions, but the rule is that God calls men to govern.

It does appear that the Scriptures here and in Titus 1 are saying that an elder is to be one who leads his household, and Scripture gives that role of leadership to men. It cannot just be a cultural limitation for the time, since it is found in most cultures of the world and ratified in the patterns of Biblical leadership. However, the Bible greatly elevates women and their potential roles. Women are equally created in God’s image; that is quite a gain from most cultures. Hence, the Bible’s view of men governing should not hold back women from ministering.

As those who have a high view of biblical inspiration, we cannot think that Paul’s prescriptive teaching yielded to demeaning women. Role distinctions are clear in Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 3, and 1 Peter 3. We would be foolish to not recognize the God-ordained differences between men and women.

We are quick to blast homosexuality because two men can’t make a baby—it is not natural, we say. Valid argument, but God also did not create men with the ability to breastfeed. Men and women are different. That is a good thing! We complement each other. I am so happy to be married to someone who doesn’t look like me and act like me, but to a beautiful woman, who keeps me from making foolish mistakes because she is not like me.

What About Galatians 3:28?
Good question, and as a Messianic Jew who still believes Israel is called and chosen, I am well versed in explaining this often misunderstood passage.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor is there male nore female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

This passage is dealing with our standing in the Messiah, ability to approach God and the availability of salvation. When it comes to eternal life, God’s love for us and our status before him, there is no difference between men and women. In context, he was not talking about women in ministry, but the fact that Gentiles do not have to keep Torah (Jewish Law) in order to receive salvation. Just as the Jews are still called to live as Jews (see Rom. 3:1-3, 11:29) men and women have different roles.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a biblical scholar to see that God made us different. I know I am treading on thin ice here, but for the most part, wouldn’t you agree that the average male has more ability to govern than the average female? More of a tendency to the rational (which is sometimes a problem!). And wouldn’t you agree that the average female is far more merciful, loving and caring than the average male? Far more sensitive to the needs of others? I know there are exceptions, but by and large, this holds true.

The healthiest churches that I have witnessed are not ones led by women, or dominating men, or a power couple, but ones led by a team of male elders, who value their wives’ input. This is the New Testament pattern.

What about Priscilla?
Let’s assume, though scripture is not clear, that Priscilla was an apostolic leader. Let’s assume that she led a team of men. If that is true, then she is the one example of a woman holding governing authority in the New Testament. And what that says to me is, like Deborah, there are rare exceptions, but that is not the rule.

I just taught in a Filipino Bible school in Tel Aviv. The leadership is all female. The students are all female, except for one man. They are migrant workers in Israel. God is using the female pastor in mighty way, as there are very few Filipino males in Israel. She is a Deborah.

Covering and Protecting
Having said that, in our congregation, which is led by a senior leader and team of elders, we love it when our women preach, prophesy and teach. We have a woman on the regular preaching rotation and she may be the finest teacher in all of Israel. But she is not an elder.

One of the roles of eldership is to cover our women when they minister, to protect them from spiritual warfare. I understand that very statement can be seen as condescending to women, but I don’t mean it that way. I know my wife, who is a strong-willed Israeli—nobody’s pushover, is grateful when I lay hands on her and chase away the enemy, and as her husband I have the authority to do so.

Jesus the Radical
We fail to understand how radical Jesus was in regard to women. In His time, women were greatly devalued—much like they are today in many Islamic nations. When he stood against the Pharisees at the Temple as they sought to goad him into stoning the women caught in adultery, that was radical!When the Holy Spirit moved Paul to write passages that would speak of a husband having genuine affection for his wife, and laying down his life in love for her, that was radical!

It was not the norm for a husband in those days to regard his wife in this way—as someone to be cherished, protected, someone for whom he would be willing to die. You have no idea how radical this teaching was. Asking a man to express unconditional love and affection for his wife was unheard of. Western culture has Yeshua to thank for this shift. Without the teachings of the New Covenant, the West would never have become as civilized as it is.

That being said, if God wanted women carrying governmental authority in the congregation, then He would have led Paul to write that. God was not afraid of offending the culture.

Conclusion

  • God loves and values men and women equally.
  • Men and women have different roles and giftings.
  • Women can and should minister.
  • However, they should do so under the covering of a board of elders.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

Ron Cantor is the director of Messiah’s Mandate International in Israel, a Messianic Ministry dedicated to taking the message of Jesus from Israel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Ron also travels internationally teaching on the Jewish Roots of the New Testament. He serves on the pastoral team of Tiferet Yeshua, a Hebrew-speaking congregation in Tel Aviv. His newest book, Identity Theft, will be released on April 16th. Follow him at @RonSCantor on Twitter.

Deborah—Leadership Model.


[To learn more about the annual Evangelical Sunday School Lesson Commentary, visit www.pathwaybookstore.com.]

INTRODUCTION

Deborah provides a picture of leadership that wasn’t normally seen in the society of her time. Very few women in Scripture rose to positions of national leadership. Deborah stands out due to both her spiritual and civil leadership. She was the only woman who served as a judge during those extended years of turmoil.

For the most part, the Book of Judges reflects a negative picture of God‘s people drifting away spiritually and then eventually experiencing God’s judgment. This comes through His allowing other nations to come in and dominate their existence. At times they pillaged Israel‘s crops, as seen in the account of Gideon and the Midianites. Other people, such as the neighboring Philistines, dominated the nearby areas of Israel. Each time the Israelites woke up spiritually and repented, God provided leaders who made a difference in their situation.

Apparently the oppression of the Israelites wasn’t always throughout the entire area of Canaan at the same time. Likewise, the reigns of the judges overlapped in time. For that reason, we should not add up the time periods of each judge and assume that number represents the entire era of the judges.

This lesson focusing on Deborah’s leadership is a contemporary topic. Our society is currently in a second cycle of leadership emphasis within about a 25-year period. Leadership first came to the forefront in the early ’80s. A number of books on leadership were written. Some Christian titles highlighted the leadership principles found in Nehemiah’s actions in building the walls of Jerusalem. The current emphasis on leadership often draws from secular sources drawing from business concepts and principles.

It is rare to hear anyone project Deborah as an example of spiritual and civil leadership to follow. However, as will be seen in the following pages, Deborah’s actions and attitude deserve careful attention.

I. WISE AND AVAILABLE (Judges 4:4-7)

A. Service as a Judge (vv. 4, 5)

4. And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.

5. And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.

Because of the sins of the people, they were under the oppression of Jabin. He ruled over the northern portion of Canaan with Hazor being his capital city. The name Jabin may be a title likeCaesarPharaoh, or the Philistine Abimelech. The military power of this enemy of Israel was significant. He had 900 iron chariots under the command of Sisera (v. 3). Such a force would be very difficult, if not impossible, to defeat under normal circumstances.

The domination over Israel may be seen in verse 2, where Sisera’s base of operation is noted.Harosheth means “woodcutting.” Some have surmised the possibility of Sisera’s forcing the inhabitants to serve as woodcutters. Regardless of the specifics, the length of time is definite. For 20 years God’s people bowed under Jabin’s oppression. Surely it must have appeared unending to them.

Then we read of Deborah’s coming to the position as a judge in Israel. As can be seen in verse 1, after the death of Ehud the people had drifted into sin with its resulting consequences. Deborah faces a difficult challenge. We have no record of the circumstances or scenario in which God brought her to the judgeship; this was a divine appointment. One can only wonder what her thoughts were when God initiated this action.

Let’s pause to look specifically at her task. In the Hebrew language the title judge indicates someone who will bring others into a right relationship. This points to the spiritual dimension even though the specific tasks were of a civil nature. The three basic functions were administration, the settlement of disputes, and military leadership. However, these tasks must not provide a picture of having sovereign authority over a geographical area. There appears to be a sense of limitation in terms of being like a king or governor.

The description of Deborah in verses 4 and 5 provides a brief picture of this, the only woman chosen to be a judge in Israel. It begins with her spiritual position as a prophetess. This distinguishes her from all the other judges. None of them were given this designation. It also speaks of her spiritual character. We also see she was a married woman with the responsibilities of being a wife. Since her age is not given, we cannot state what phase of family life she might have been experiencing.

Her location for fulfilling her duties as a judge is very specific. The cities of Ramah and Bethel were about four miles apart on a line north of Jerusalem. This is the same area where the prophet Samuel later judged Israel (1 Samuel 7:16). Deborah held court under a palm tree.

B. Messenger of the Lord (vv. 6, 7)

6. And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedesh-naphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?.

7. And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand.

In these verses we see the prophetic ministry of Deborah operating within her position as a judge of the area. The directives and results did not originate from the sharp mind of a military or civil leader. They stemmed from the Lord himself speaking through the mouth of the prophetess.

We know little about Barak, but he was God’s chosen military leader for the task at hand. He lived in the city of Kedesh within the tribal lands of Naphtali. His father’s name is given. But other than that bit of information, we can only make assumptions. Some have suggested his abilities and reputations as a warrior/leader had traveled southward, thus making him known to Deborah. This may or may not be true. Keep in mind that God can simply direct us to the right person even though we have no prior knowledge.

Once Barak arrived, notice the specifics of Deborah’s message for him. There are no generalities which could lead to insecurity or to wrong actions. She lays out God’s plan for him. Victory is guaranteed. Barak simply needs to fulfill it.

Notice the specifics. Deborah begins by identifying the source of her message. It is not self-generated. These words come from the Lord God of Israel. The direction Barak is to take is toward Mount Tabor. This mountain is distinct because of its flat top with a circumference of nearly one mile. It could serve as a fortified stronghold or as an excellent lookout post. The instructions further state the size of the fighting force and from which tribes they are to come. Since the regions being oppressed are Naphtali and Zebulun, it’s only logical they should be the ones to participate in the deliverance.

In order for Barak to muster a force this size, it would appear he was known to the men of this region and trusted. After all, it would seem to be suicidal for a ground force to go against the mobilized chariots of Jabin. Of course, if Barak announced the promise of God in verse 7, the people would be foolish not to accept God’s wanting to work on their behalf.

Deborah gave the specific plan of the Lord. Sisera would be lured into a situation which would bring about his defeat. In order to attack Barak’s forces, the enemy chariots would need to cross the plain through which the river Kishon flowed. In the original language of these scriptures, the word for river literally means “torrent bed.” The Kishon would flow when flash flooding took place.

The message of the Lord clearly states this location to be where victory would take place. This victory would not be due to their superior forces. It would come from God’s giving Sisera and his mighty forces into Israel’s hands.

Think about putting yourself in Barak’s shoes. There is a double trust issue here. He had to trust Deborah to be a true prophetess. And he must believe God would fulfill His word regardless of how impossible the task might appear.

In this case, God gave very specific directions and the results that would follow. Most of us do not experience this type of guidance in our life decisions. Yet, God is still directing us. Our faith should be no less than if everything were spelled out.

II. SUBMISSION TO GOD’S PLAN (Judges 4:8-24)

A. Personal Availability (vv. 8-13)

8. And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.

9. And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding, the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.

10. And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet: and Deborah went up with him.

11. Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh.

12. And they shewed Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam was gone up to mount Tabor.

13. And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon.

Barak’s response to Deborah’s message indicates he accepted the plan. But he did not want to do it by himself. As we feel at times, he wanted the comfort of another human with him before fulfilling God’s guaranteed plan. Moses did the same thing when God appeared to him in the desert (Exodus 3-4). He came up with various excuses until God said Aaron, his brother, was on the way and would be his spokesperson. Though having been given verbal assurance and a miraculous demonstration, Moses resisted until he had a family member with him.

Barak made Deborah’s presence with him to be the deciding issue as to whether or not he would fulfill God’s plan. Without hesitation or rebuke of Barak, Deborah agreed to accompany him. She did, however, point out there would be no personal honor in the victory for him. In spite of his being the leader and gathering the forces, there would be no acclaiming his name after Sisera’s defeat. This did not seem to bother Barak. We can only speculate as to why he accepted this so readily. Probably the might of the enemy loomed before him. Or, it could be he valued the defeat of the enemy above his own personal acclaim.

In response to Barak’s call for a military force, 10,000 men joined him. The engagement was not long in coming. Hearing of the gathering of rebel forces, Sisera activated his chariots and soldiers.

Here the family of Heber the Kenite enters the narrative (v. 11). Normally the nomadic Kenites lived in the wilderness south of Judah. Heber, an independent person, moved his family to the north. They were camped in a plain near Kedesh. When Sisera and his forces came where the family camped, they showed him the path that Barak’s forces had taken up the mountain. Exactly as Deborah stated, Sisera moved his forces to the river of Kishon (v. 13).

B. Proper Timing (vv. 14-16)

14. And Deborah said unto Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the Lord hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the Lord gone out before thee? So Barak went down from mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him.

15. And the Lord discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet.

16. But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left.

When God says “now,” timing is everything. In verse 14, Deborah gives the signal. Today is the day of deliverance. In complete obedience, Barak leads his force down the mountain to meet the enemy. Their victory is overwhelming. It’s not because of their tactics or fighting skill. Rather, God enters the battle and Sisera’s forces are utterly confused and destroyed. According to Judges 5:21, it appears God sends a flash flood which turns the plain into a muddy quagmire. The chariots are rendered useless.

Barak’s army kills all of Sisera’s forces. Only the leader escapes after abandoning his chariot. He literally runs for his life, hoping to find some shelter of escape. Deborah’s prophetic announcement to Barak is fulfilled exactly as stated.

C. Misplaced Trust (vv. 17-24)

(Judges 4:17-22 is not included in the printed text.)

23. So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel.

24. And the hand of the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.

Looking for a safe haven, Sisera comes to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. She invites him to come in and find safety. To enable him to rest, Jael covers him with a quilt or rug and gives Sisera milk when he requests a drink of water. Assuming his hostess will redirect anyone looking for him, Sisera goes to sleep. He never wakes again due to Jael’s brutally killing him.

Jael’s actions are debatable. On the one hand, Sisera knows the custom of never going into a woman’s tent without her husband being there. Anyone who does can be killed. On the other hand, Jael’s action of inviting him to come in without fear covers her intention. She doesn’t hesitate to commit cold-blooded murder after having offered hospitality, which always included protection.

The end of the story results in Jael’s receiving the honor of having overcome the enemy leader. “Though predicted by Deborah, the act was the result of divine foreknowledge, not of divine appointment or action” (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown). When Barak finally catches up with Sisera, it’s by Jael’s coming out to meet him and showing him the body.

III. HUMBLE AND GRATEFUL (Judges 5:1-31)

A. Song of Praise (vv. 1-5)

1. Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying,

2. Praise ye the Lord for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves.

3. Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel.

4. Lord, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water.

5. The mountains melted from before the Lord, even that Sinai from before the Lord God of Israel.

When reading through the Book of Judges, this is one chapter which we could easily bypass in favor of reading about the next judge. In doing so, we miss a poetic description of the preceding events as they recap God’s deliverance. Also, failure to spend some time in this chapter robs us of reading one of the masterpieces of Hebrew poetry.

The “Song of Deborah” begins with the historical past. She calls for a remembrance of God’s marvelous manifestations. It goes back to Mount Sinai where God demonstrated His power and spoke verbally to them. Then it covers the overall journey to Edom. This part of history includes God’s punishment for sin as well as His provision. It also points to God’s revelation of Himself.

It is easy to think of the specific events referred to here and miss the key point—praise. Deborah and Barak knew what their response needed to be. God deserved all the honor and glory. The tremendous victory over superior forces came through divine intervention. In themselves, Barak and his foot soldiers could never have accomplished such a feat.

B. Years of Peace (vv. 6-31)

(Judges 5:6-30 is not included in the printed text.)

31. So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might. And the land had rest forty years.

To fully appreciate the present, it is important to review the past. As Deborah continues her song or war ballad, as some call it, she reviews selected events of the past. The dire conditions that brought about the need for deliverance arose from the people’s turning from God and selecting other gods (v. 8). Not only had they become defenseless spiritually, but also militarily. They had no weapons with which to defend themselves.

Hope came only when a new spirit gripped the people. They, the leaders and the people, turned to the Lord (v. 9). Though verse 7 speaks mainly of Deborah, it does emphasize the role that spiritual women play in bringing individuals, families, and even nations back to their rightful relationship with God.

Deborah’s song recounted how the forces of select Israel tribes were gathered and how the Lord came to fight their battle (vv. 13, 14, 18). Listed are the tribes who did not help their brothers in this encounter because they weren’t asked to participate (vv. 16, 17). She sang about the death of Sisera at the hand of Jael, recounting with specifics the manner of the death (vv. 24-27). Normally the Bedouin women pitched the family tent. Tent pegs and mallets would be familiar tools to Jael.

To emphasize the misery that came upon the Lord’s enemies, Deborah’s song includes a picture of Sisera’s mother anxiously awaiting the return of her son. Attempting to reassure, those women around her suggested the dividing of the plunder was the reason for the delayed return (vv. 28-30). But later we know she would find the true reason. Her anxiety then would turn into mourning.

Verse 31 provides a contrast between those who serve the Lord and those who are His enemies. While the enemies perish, His servants will live in strength. The key is loving God and Him alone. Though the enemies of the Lord and His people appear to be triumphant, it is only temporary. There comes a point when they will be destroyed. Sometimes we do not live to see it. Nevertheless, it will take place.

As a result of Israel’s turning back to God and following Him, they enjoyed an extended period of peace. We do not know how much of this Deborah saw, since her lifespan isn’t part of the narrative. Yet, it really doesn’t matter. Her leadership in a time of crisis benefited the people of the area for 40 years. What a legacy!

CONCLUSION

The distinctive of Deborah’s work as a judge stands firmly in the battle event. As a woman she would not be expected to be on the battlefield. However, she did not allow cultural norms to hinder her leadership and thereby enabled others to bring victory to God’s people.

GOLDEN TEXT CHALLENGE

“THEN SANG DEBORAH AND BARAK . . . PRAISE YE THE LORD FOR THE AVENGING OF ISRAEL, WHEN THE PEOPLE WILLINGLY OFFERED THEMSELVES” (Judges 5:1, 2).

Verse 2 calls for praise to be given to the Lord. Israel, especially the northern section, had been under severe oppression for 20 years. No doubt, the only songs the people could sing were filled with frustration and mourning. Now, however, they had cause for rejoicing in the Lord. In the same way, the first response of the believer when surveying the redemption and deliverance of God should be one of praise.

The reason for praise is given next. The Lord had avenged Israel. The Hebrew word for avenge in this verse actually meant “to break or set loose by delivering from oppression.” Deliverance from the oppression and bondage of the enemy is always cause for praise to the Lord.

The timing of their release is also given in verse 2. They were set free when they “willingly offered themselves.” There are a number of words in Hebrew translated offer, presenting varied insights into the concept of giving an offering. The particular Hebrew word used here for offeringemphasized the freewill nature of giving. In this verse it means the people “freely urged and gave themselves” to the Lord.

God responds to a freewill offering of ourselves. A child of God might be able to give many things to the Lord. However, God desires the believer to freely give himself or herself to the Lord. Faith brought on by manipulation and coercion is not a substitute for a genuine, voluntary giving of oneself.

To learn more about the annual Evangelical Sunday School Lesson Commentary, visitwww.pathwaybookstore.com.

By Jerald Daffe

Deborah – Israel’s Only Female Judge.


Deborah, Judge and Prophetess

Deborah prepares to go to war against Sisera and his army.

Photo: Getty Images

Profile of Deborah, Wise Woman of God

Deborah was both a prophetess and ruler of the people of ancient Israel, the only woman among the twelve judges. She held court under the Palm Tree of Deborah in the hill country of Ephraim, deciding the people’s disputes.All was not well, however. The Israelites had been disobeying God, so God allowed Jabin, a king of Canaan, to oppress them. Jabin’s general was named Sisera, and he intimidated the Hebrews with 900 iron chariots, powerful tools of war that struck terror into the hearts of foot soldiers.

Deborah, acting on guidance from God, sent for the warrior Barak, telling him the Lord had commanded Barak to gather 10,000 men from the tribes of Zebulun and Napthtali and lead them to Mount Tabor. Deborah promised to lure Sisera and his chariots into the Kishon Valley, where Barak would defeat them.

Instead of fully trusting God, Barak refused to go unless Deborah accompanied him to inspire the troops. She gave in but prophesied that the credit for the victory would go not to Barak but to a woman.

The two armies clashed at the foot of Mount Tabor. The Lord sent rain and the River Kishon swept away some of General Sisera’s men. His heavy iron chariots got bogged down in mud, rendering them ineffective. Barak chased the retreating enemy to Harosheth Haggoyim, where the Jews slaughtered them. Not a man of Jabin’s army was left alive.

In the confusion of the battle, Sisera had deserted his army and ran to the camp of Heber the Kenite, near Kedesh. Heber and King Jabin were allies. As Sisera staggered in, Heber’s wife,Jael, welcomed him into her tent.

The exhausted Sisera asked for water, but instead Jael gave him curdled milk, a drink that would make him drowsy. Sisera then asked Jael to stand guard at the tent’s door and turn away any pursuers.

When Sisera fell asleep, Jael sneaked in, carrying a long, sharp tent peg and a hammer. She drove the peg through the general’s temple into the ground, killing him. In a while, Barak arrived. Jael took him into the tent and showed him the body of Sisera.

After the victory, Barak and Deborah sang a hymn of praise to God found in Judges 5, called the Song of Deborah. From that point on, the Israelites grew stronger until they destroyed King Jabin. Thanks to Deborah’s faith, the land enjoyed peace for 40 years.

Accomplishments of Deborah:

Deborah served as a wise judge, obeying God’s commands. In a time of crisis, she trusted Jehovahand took steps to defeat King Jabin, Israel’s oppressor.

Strengths of Deborah:

She followed God faithfully, acting with integrity in her duties. Her boldness came from relying on God, not herself. In a male-dominated culture, Deborah did not let her power go to her head but exercised authority as God guided her.

Life Lessons:

Your strength comes from the Lord, not yourself. Like Deborah, you can have victory in life’s worst times if you cling tightly to God.

Hometown:

In Canaan, possibly near Ramah and Bethel.

Referenced in the Bible:

Judges 4 and 5.

Occupation:

Judge, prophetess.

Family Tree:

Husband – Lappidoth

Key Verses:

Judges 4:9
“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.” (NIV)

Judges 5:31
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. (NIV)

• Old Testament People of the Bible (Index)
• New Testament People of the Bible (Index)

By Jack Zavada.

Jack Zavada, a career writer and guest contributor for About.com, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack’s Bio Page.

Even the Weakest Can Still Build for Eternity.


But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . Matthew 6:20

Even the weakest Christian can build a lasting superstructure.

You   may say, “Well now, look here, I am not able to do this or that, and I   just feel I must be the weakest Christian that ever lived.”

It is worth  remembering the Old Testament character Barak.

Barak was the  equivalent of an Israeli general in the days of Judges.

Deborah, a judge  in Israel during that period, was told by the Lord that the time had  come to defeat the enemy.

So she turned to Barak and said, “Take ten  thousand of your men and meet on Mount Nebo, and the Lord is going to  deliver the enemy into your hand.”

Barak said, “No, I just do not think I want to do that.

I’m not  ready.” But then he said, “Deborah, if you’ll go with me, I’ll go.”

She said, “Well, now, just a minute; if I go, you are not going to get any glory; it will go to a woman.”

He said, “It’s all right.”

Now why did Barak do that?.

He did that because he wanted to see Israel win, but he was afraid they would not  win by himself, and he asked for Deborah to go with him.

And a woman,  Jael, in fact, got the glory, and we have the song of Deborah in Judges 5:24; it is not about Barak.

He felt like he was a nobody; nevertheless, in Hebrews 11,  when the writer comes down the Old Testament, whom does he choose to  mention as having faith?.

Barak. And I find that so encouraging—that the  weakest Christian can do it.

The reason Barak was given that glory was  that he did not want the glory then.

Excerpted from When God Says “Well Done!” (Christian Focus Publications Ltd., 1993).

By R. T. KENDALL.

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