Kingdom Women: Deborah--Prophet, Judge, Military Leader
Throughout the next year I will post an ongoing series on Kingdom Women—women God has used and is using in His great Kingdom endeavor. We will meet these women in God’s Word, in the early church, in the dark ages, in the past great missionary efforts and among today’s true followers of Jesus. I start with one of my favorites—Deborah.
My firstborn is named Deborah Ann—Debbie for short. For years I knew I would name my first daughter Deborah, after Deborah in the Book of Judges. Deborah has always been one of my favorite people in the Bible, and an amazing model to me.
Let’s look at her story.The period of the Judges in Israel’s history followed the strong leadership of Joshua and the taking of the Promised Land. But a new generation grew up that didn’t wholly follow the Lord. A series of “judges” ruled Israel over a period that was marked by intermittent “everyone doing what was right in their own eyes.” In approximately 20-year cycles, a judge ruled and kept peace, followed by flagrant falling away from God into deep sin and deep consequences. Repeat and repeat.
Enter Deborah—in Judges 4-5. Ehud, the left-handed Judge had died and once again the people “did evil in the sight of the Lord.” They were ruled by Jabin, king of Canaan, and Sisera, the commander of the armies of Jabin and his 900 chariots. Jabin and Sisera greatly mistreated the Israelites.
This is when God called Deborah, a wife and probably a mother, to “judge” or lead Israel. Apparently Deborah’s first calling was as a prophet. She had the gift of telling forth the Word of God and of foretelling the future that God revealed to her.
As a judge, she spent much of her day under the Palm of Deborah, settling disputes, judging as needed, and guiding the nation.Then she received another calling from God—as a military leader. The Lord revealed to her that He would give the armies of Sisera over to the nation of Israel. She called for Barak to lead 10,000 troops from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulin to River Kishon, where God would give them victory.
Barak knew the odds against his small army were impossible, so he said would go only if Deborah went with him. She agreed, but warned him that God would deliver Sisera to a woman, not to him.
So Deborah and Barak went to war together—Deborah listening to God’s instructions and Barak leading his men into battle. And did God have a surprise.
God Himself lured Sisera and his thousands of warriors and 900 chariots to the Kishon River. Then it began to rain. It poured. The river flooded and covered the plain. The chariots were mired in the mud, the soldiers tried to flee. Deborah said to Barak, “This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?”
Indeed He had. Every enemy warrior was killed—only Sisera escaped. He came to the tent of Jael, the wife of an ally. She invited him to rest in her tent and gave him warm milk. Then the exhausted general fell fast asleep.
But Jael was an ally of God, not Sisera. She took a hammer and pounded a tent peg through his temple, killing him. Just then Barak came searching for Sisera, and Jael handed his body to him.
Afterwards, Deborah and Barak together, just as they had been in the battle, sang a song of praise and worship to God. They acknowledged His favor and goodness in sending the rain, giving them victory and delivering them from Jabin and Sisera. They blessed Jael for her courage. They thanked God for all He had done for them.
There’s so much I love about this story, though I struggle with the violence. Here are three things I especially appreciate:
I love that Deborah received a calling from God and gifts to live out that calling.I love that she was clearly close to God, listening and obeying.
I love that she and Barak made a beautiful “blessed alliance”—a daughter and son of God Almighty partnering together to do His bidding.
Clearly, in naming my daughter Deborah, I have big dreams for Debbie--hopefully God's dreams for her. She is bright and gifted in many ways. I have no idea what all God will call her to do in her lifetime. Right now she is focusing her gifts and love and energy on her four young children and partnering with her husband in ministry—and I think she is amazing at it all. We have no idea what her next season of life will hold, but I’m sure God will continue to lead her into more of the “good works He has already prepared for her to do.”
And by the way, Deborah continued to lead the nation of Israel and there was peace for 40 years.
What about you? What do you learn from Deborah’s story?
C 2014 Judy Douglass
Related post: Kingdom Women: Telling Their Stories