Deborah was the first prominent woman prophet in a leadership position mentioned in the Bible. Her story is quite extraordinary.
4 Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading 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,”——- (Judges 4)
To begin with, Deborah was a woman and she was leading the entire nation of Israel. At a time when it would have been extremely unusual for a woman in any culture to lead a nation, we see God’s hand upon her, enabling her to rise to lead his people. Israel was a functioning theocracy where the people were tuned to acknowledge the leadership of God for their lives and their nation. And so when the spirit of God rested upon a person, leadership was acknowledged without conflict. The fact that she was a woman mattered little. In fact so tuned was Israel to the notion of God-consciousness and God-leadership that even when they were doing evil and hence subject to slavery by Jabin as in the time of Deborah, they sought God’s leadership in their collective lives.
Contrast that scenario with that of several present day churches. Qualifications for leadership are many; connections to important people matter, several are the traditions that need to be maintained and there is much emphasis on the secular output of leaders. But sadly lacking is the one thing that really matters- the indwelling presence of the spirit of the Lord, who alone enables a person to rise above the worldly tremulousness and disperse the mind of the Lord to the people. If that is the deplorable state of today’s Christian leadership, the people in the church are more to blame than the leaders themselves because a secular church seeks secular leaders whereas a spiritually minded church will seek spiritual leaders.
Deborah’s counsel was sought by the Israelites and they found it appropriate to settle their disputes with her because they acknowledged the sovereignty of God and so honored a person who was equipped by the same Lord with wisdom to illuminate matters in their daily lives. How does a present day Christian find solutions and answers to their daily life questions? Perhaps through the internet, traditions or else with counsel from friends and elders. But darkness will abound unless God’s mind illuminates our lives through the word of God and through people equipped by the Lord to accomplish that.
The specificity of the instructions that Deborah receives from the Lord as a message for Barak reveals her oneness with the mind of God. The courage that she demonstrated in accompanying Barak and his much smaller and weaker army as they faced Sisera’s superior army could not have been possible without faith in the living God who she knew would come good on his promise. Her song of praise to the Lord reflects a woman who valued worship of the Lord above all else.
In her own words in Judges 5:7,
“Village life in Israel ceased,
ceased until I, Deborah arose,
arose a mother in Israel “
From several centuries ago, today Deborah still inspires men and women alike to arouse our communities and accomplish great things through the Lord.
- REDIRECTING PASSION
- UNASSUMING LEADERSHIP