This week we continue our series on women of purpose in the Bible and look at the Old Testament prophet, Deborah. We never hear much about Deborah because she violated all the norms of Old Testament life. She was a woman who made her "name" not because of who she was married to, but because of her spiritual gift and wisdom:
Now Deborah, a prophet, 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 went up to her to have their disputes decided (Judges 4:4-5).
A WOMAN WAS LEADING ISRAEL
Deborah was leading Israel! Let that statement sink into your mind - a woman was leading the people of God! She was not doing so because she was queen or had inherited the role from her husband who had the role but then died. Her leadership emerged from the experience that the people had with her, for they recognized God was with her when she judged and spoke.
Israel was oppressed in Deborah's day by the Canaanites led by a man named Sisera. Deborah summoned the head of the Naphtali tribe, named Barak, and told him to assemble an army and march against Sisera's superior forces. If he did, God would grant him the victory. When Barak hesitated and insisted that Deborah go with him, Deborah agreed, but said,
“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 (Judges 4:9).
Just as Deborah had prophesied, Barak routed the enemies of Israel: "Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite" (Judges 4:17). It was then that Deborah's other prediction came true: Sisera was not slain by his rival warriors but by the woman he had fled to for protection:
But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died. Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead (Judges 4:21-22).
A BLOW TO THE HEAD
When Deborah assumed her God-given role, the Bible does not report it was because no man wanted the job. Deborah led because God chose her, knowing full well she was a female! What's more, when Deborah accepted her call, it made room for another woman to stand up and lead, and her name was Jael, who dealt with Sisera with one fatal blow to his head.
This story reminds me of what William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, once said when asked why he sent so many women into the slums of London to reach out to the lost: "Some of my best men are women!" This was certainly true in the case of Deborah and Jael, and it may be true for you, too. Perhaps you are a man and you have been stifling the gift of a woman or women with whom you live or are working.
If you are a woman, have you been stifling your own gift, trapped and restricted by your own erroneous philosophy that only men can lead in certain situations? If someone has a gift to lead or speak or write, who gave them that gift? Was God aware of their gender when He bestowed that gift? If God is not offended to give that gift and then see it used, then why should you, or anyone else for that matter, be offended when they express that gift? Why would God give a woman a gift, then not permit them to deploy it? That makes no sense.
The judges of Israel rose to leadership based on their gift and purpose, not based on their gender or family connections. God knows your sex when He calls you, whether male or female, and if He is comfortable with who you are to fulfill an assigned role, then you should be as well. There are some strongholds that are waiting for you to pick up a spiritual hammer and peg and deal the enemy of God's people a fatal blow to the head. If you happen to be a woman, you only need God's permission to do so. I suggest you get on with the work that God has given you to do, and follow in Deborah's - and Jael's - footsteps to play your part in setting God's people free. Have a blessed week!