The narratives of the Old Testament are a rich resource for God’s people. We have been looking at Deborah in the book of Judges. Even though the events of Deborah’s life took place over 3,000 years ago, God has things for us to learn from her story. Here are some of the qualities that all of us, and women in particular, can learn from the narrative concerning Deborah.
Trust in God’s Word
Deborah trusted in the word of God. She understood that God alone is able to do what he says he will do. So when God said that Barak and Israel would defeat the Canaanite army, Deborah believed God. She did not need to have her trust in God confirmed by the responses of others. So when Barak wavered and said that she had to go with him or he would not go, she did not falter or begin to doubt God’s ability to fulfill his word. But Deborah did challenge Barak with his lack of faith and told him he was not trusting God as he should.
Young women today must also know the Word of God and be confident of it. There are significant cultural and relational pressures placed upon young women today. Culturally, sex is assumed to be an important part of dating relationships. Marriage is often seen as merely one option among several, so decisions about college and career don’t focus on how these choices will impact a marriage. (This problem is not exclusive to women–young men are also impacted by these same cultural pressures.) Decision making is commonly seen as a kind of group effort, where opinions are sought from many sources and the goal is to find a consensus of “conventional wisdom.” However, it is infrequent for decisions, particularly those having to do with relationships, to be based upon a solid conviction concerning God’s Word. This is something that needs to change. No, the battle may not be with an army of threatening Canaanites. But there is still an enemy which is formidable and can be defeated only by the power of God and his word. A vital gift that we can give to our daughters is the skill and confidence to use God’s Word practically to address the issues of life that they will face each day. Forming a tenacious trust in the Word of God is one key way to follow Deborah’s example.
Respecting the Order of God and the Role of Men
Deborah did not lost sight of the rightful place of men to lead. In Judges 4:9 we read:
And she said, “I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman…” (ESV)
“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)
Deborah reminds Barak that his path is not a good one. Barak was looking to Deborah for strength instead of God. Deborah does not falter, but points him back to God as she confronts him with is lack of faith. As a sister in Christ, a young woman must also respectfully challenge men to put God first when they seek her approval for an action rather than relying on God’s Word. For example, in determining what is appropriate behavior in a relationship, a young man should not seek first to find out what a young woman will allow. Whether the behavior has to do with what movie to see or what places to go, setting the proper boundaries for physical contact, or determining the direction of the relationship, the Word of God needs to be the determining factor, with the man taking leadership. I am not talking about issues of preference here, but issues that have to do with honoring God in relationships. In this context, it is appropriate for women to ask how God is being honored in the choices that are being made. This concern can be offered in the form of a loving challenge to put God first. A man who is truly interested in putting God first will welcome such a challenge. If he does not, then a valuable lesson will have been learned about his commitment, or lack thereof, to Christ.
Deborah’s response to Barak indicates that she is encouraging him to do things differently and to honor God instead of seeking her approval first. Deborah also continued to be respectful of God’s order after the battle was won. Scripture tells us that she composed the song of victory with Barak, rather than looking down on him and shutting him out.
Deborah showed great courage. The men around her were not responding with courage. As indicated in an earlier post, if her prophetic words had not come true, she could have been killed by God’s people. The armies of Sisera were powerful. The nation was being oppressed and intimidated. Yet Deborah had the courage to believe what God said, even if the circumstances around her were less than encouraging. Both women and men need courage today to stand against the cultural assault on biblical truth.
May Deborah encourage our daughters to place God first and to pray for male leadership that truly embraces and follows the ways of God.