Is there a woman in your life that you highly respect? A woman that is dedicated, hardworking and faith filled? For me it’s my mom and my wife Niki. Today we will look at a remarkable woman who can teach us all some great truths about how to live. Deborah is one of most interesting women in scripture. She was a judge, a prophet, a wife, mother, a warrior and a poet. As we continue in the book of Judges we will learn from her, her courage, faith and leadership.
Her story is told in Judges 4, and this is how she is introduced in Judges 4:4-5, “Deborah, the wife of Lapidoth, was a prophet who had become a judge in Israel. She would hold court under the Palm of Deborah (which was obviously named after her). . .and the Israelites came to her to settle their disputes.” Deborah lived in Israel in a time after Moses’ but a time before they had kings, so they would have a judge, someone who was very wise and was respected who would often sit out in front of the city at the city gate. Deborah sat under a palm tree and people would come to her and they would bring their disputes and their settlements and she would make a decision and whatever she said, they would live by.”
Deborah is the very first and only female judge recorded in the Bible. This is incredible because this was a male dominated society. Women in those times didn’t have the rights and weren’t respected as much as men were. So for her to become the judge, and to lead eventually the entire nation of Israel, she had to be a godly woman of great respect, of great wisdom and of great courage.
During Deborah’s time, the Israelites were being oppressed by a group of people called the Canaanites. The Canaanites had a military general named Sisera who had 900 iron chariots to oppress God’s people. God came to Deborah one day as she sat under her palm tree, judging the people. He told her to send the army to go meet Sisera. God told her—“I will bring victory if you do that.” So Deborah calls the commander of the Israelite army whose name was Barak. She calls him over and says—“God has told me that he will give us victory if you will go and meet Sisera.” And Barak, the military commander’s response to her was, “Yeah, that’s not a good idea! I don’t necessarily want to go by myself, but I’ll go if you go.” And Deborah says, “okay, I’ll go.” But then she tells him—“if I go and I lead the army, you are not going to get any of the glory from this battle. All the glory is going to be given to a woman.” They agree and Deborah helps lead the army into battle. Just as God said, He brought victory to the Israelite army and Deborah was held as a hero. And she went down in history for helping remove the Canaanites from oppressing the Israelites.
What made Deborah truly amazing was her faith, courage and her leadership. She was the first female judge in Israel. Even though she had no military training whatsoever, she was able to rally the general into battle. I believe, that she was fearful as she was out of our comfort zone and very uncertain, but she believed God and she stepped out anyway.
We may not be ruling a country. We might not be leading an army, but we face decisions, we face circumstances and things that happen every day, every week of our lives that require courage. They require us to step out, even though we are afraid and uncertain. By looking at Deborah’s example, we can learn what made her remarkable in the face of fear and difficulties.
Willingly believe God
6 One day she sent for Barak…. She said to him, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: Call out 10,000 warriors from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun at Mount Tabor. 7 And I will call out Sisera, commander of Jabin’s army, along with his chariots and warriors, to the Kishon River. There I will give you victory over him.” Judges 4:4-7
God comes to Deborah and tells her to send the army into battle to face her oppressors who are stronger than her people. God tells Deborah this in Judges 4:7. “I will give you victory.” Before Deborah could obey, before she could move forward, she had to believe what God told her. Notice this. The source of Deborah’s courage, it wasn’t her own ability, it wasn’t her own strength. The source of her courage was the belief that God would do what He said. It was the belief that God would bring victory. There was no doubt in my mind that Deborah was afraid of this oppressive enemy of 20 years but she moved forward anyway, because she believed God. What if Deborah hadn’t believed God? What if she hadn’t stepped forward and obeyed God? The Israelites had been in captivity for 20 years to the Canaanites. So if she hadn’t stepped forward, Barak, the army commander, he obviously wasn’t going to step forward, so the Israelites would have remained oppressed for many more years? Not only that, but we never would have heard of Deborah. If she hadn’t obeyed God in this instance, she might not have ever become famous, she might not ever have been written about in the Old Testament. But she did believe.
Do you believe God? Do you believe his Word? When we open God’s Word, God opens his mouth. God speaks through our conscience and Godly friends. Do you trust God with your life? So where is God asking you to believe Him? Is it in your job? Is in a relationship? Is it with your finances? Is it to forgive someone? To have a tough conversation? To share your faith with someone at work or someone in your family?
Wherever God is asking you to step out of your comfort zone and follow Him, your first step is to have to believe Him. The second step is:
Walk forward in spite of Fear
When you and I are in our comfort zone and God asks us to take a step out it is our fears that stop us. Our fears keep us from experiencing God’s best for our life because they keep us from following God and obeying Him. We may think that God may not want us to take the next step in our spiritual life because God doesn’t want us to experience stress or fear, so we avoid it. We think God doesn’t want us to serve because we don’t have time. “God may not want me to be baptized, that’s too much attention on me. And I’m sure that God doesn’t want me to tithe because I can’t afford it. And I don’t think God wants me to be in a Connect group or to even lead a Connect group.” Most of the time it isn’t God who is holding us back. It’s our own fears telling us that we aren’t good enough or that we aren’t ready or that it’s not worth the effort. We have to be able to distinguish the difference between God and our own fears. If you are waiting to do something, if you are hesitating to move forward because of the fear, that’s not God. But why doesn’t God make it easier and remove my fears for me? God is never going to remove our fears in order to make our life easy. Why? Because God wants to grow our faith. If we don’t have those fears that we have to confront and go through, then we are not going to grow our character. We are never going to have courage if we are never afraid. We are never going to get stronger if we don’t have to overcome difficulties in our lives. So God is going to use those to develop us. Deborah and Israel had their own intimidating fears. They were the Canaanites. In Judges 4:3, it says,
13 Sisera, who had 900 iron chariots, ruthlessly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years. Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help. Judges 4:1-3
We all have fears. And they differ depending on what God is asking us to do. One of the things that we get in trouble with is we will look at someone else’s life and their life looks perfect from the outside and we will think—“I wish I had their life and not my life, because I have all these problems.” That’s not true, because, when someone looks perfect on the outside, that just means they are putting up a wall, they are not being honest, because everyone has problems, everyone has hurts, everyone has things that they are ashamed of. We wouldn’t want to trade with anybody, because if we traded with someone we couldn’t handle their problems. God created us to have enough strength to handle the problems and the difficulties and the trials that come into our life. When we give our lives to Jesus we are given the strength and courage to defeat our own fears because He walks with us! So Believe God and Move Forward Despite our Fears. In the next post we will see two more characteristics that Deborah had that we can learn from.
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