Deborah was an unusual woman. Even today, she would be regarded as inspirational and unique. She was at the head of the nation and was regarded as the leader of the people. Deborah was a married woman and her husband Lappidoth is named but doesn’t feature in the story. Although there is no mention of any children, Deborah refers to herself as ‘a mother in Israel’. She was also a prophetess. A prophet or prophetess was the mouthpiece of God to His people –the bringer of God’s Word to the nation.
Deborah the Prophetess
Deborah holds court under a palm tree, in the hill country, between Bethel and Ramah. Conventionally justice would be distributed at the City Gate where the Elders of the town would meet. Deborah, however, demonstrates wisdom in choosing not to challenge convention. She is confident enough in her own role and position to establish herself elsewhere. And the people come out to visit her, to have their disputes settled.
The book of Judges records the time in Israel’s history, from the elders who outlived Joshua to the time of the monarchy. It is full of interesting and diverse characters who God raised up to lead the nation. The three leaders before Deborah all demonstrated their courage and strength with physical acts of bravery. They used their fighting and leadership skills to deliver the nation from their enemies. But in fact their leadership was not dependent on their physical strength alone, but on the strength of their commitment to God.
“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”2 Chronicles 16:9
Who was Barak in the Bible?
The people of Israel were being cruelly oppressed, by a king of Canaan, and they cried out to God for help. Deborah sent for Barak, a man from Kedesh in Naphtali. That is our introduction to Barak, we are told his name, the tribe to which he belonged, and the place where he lived. God had chosen Barak to gather ten thousand of the men of Naphtali and Zebulun, to go up against Israel’s current enemy. Barak was to lead the men up Mount Tabor and God promised that He would then lead Sisera, the commander of the opposing army, with his chariots and troops, to the Kishon river. There God would give them into Barak, and Israel’s hands.
In response to Deborah’s summons Barak came to her court and heared the message that she had for him. He was willing to accept his commission from God, but with one condition. He would only go up against the enemy, if Deborah would go with him. Because of his choice here, God states that the honour of defeating the enemy would be given to a woman.
God brings victory for Deborah and Barak
The mustering and assembling of such a large army took some time and did not go un-noticed. Deborah, Barak, and the Israelite army gathered on the slopes of Mount Tabor, strategically a good place, as there they were safe from chariot attack. Sisera realised that the Israelites were preparing for battle, that they were going on the offensive, so he gathered his chariots at the Valley of Jezreel alongside the Kishon river. He ‘cleverly’ chose the site of battle, where his chariots would have plenty of room to manoeuvre. This would give him the advantage over the foot soldiers of Israel. Deborah gave Barak the command to attack:
“Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?”Judges 4:14
As Barak advanced, the Lord – as King at the head of His army – routed Sisera and all his chariots. The Lord fought for Israel with a storm, which caused the River Kishon to flood the battle plain. This removed Sisera’s advantage and caused total panic amongst his men. Barak pursued the chariots and they were destroyed by the Israelites, bringing about a decisive victory.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
There is strength in collaboration, in being woven together, with God at the center.
Deborah recognised that she would not be able to raise up and lead an army, as the men would not accept her as their leader for battle.
Barak recognised that his faith, and leadership, would be bolstered by having God’s direction and guidance in the form of Deborah by his side. The men would also be reassured by having the presence of the prophetess with them.
They needed each other….
Deborah was willing to step out in faith, to leave the comfort zone of her court, and to come out from under the cover and protection of her palm tree. She was willing to be vulnerable, and to place herself in a position of potential danger. Deborah put her trust fully in God.
Barak was willing to summon his tribesmen for battle. He was willing to forgo honour and glory for himself, and to see the enemy defeated by whatever possible means.
“Barak of Naphtali. He could do nothing without her head, nor she without his hands; but both together made a complete deliverer, and effected a complete deliverance.”Matthew Henry
Deborah and Barak’s collaboration was successful, although the story did not end there, for God was at work weaving the separate strands together. God is interested in the whosoever, in those who are willing to be committed to Him, and He draws them into His plan and purpose. The honour of the victory was to be given to a woman – was this Deborah? (to be continued….)
What Characteristics of Deborah do we aspire to?
Faith is inherently fearless, as it is founded in believing and trusting in the goodness of God. But there is a tension that exists for faith needs to be demonstrated, to be accompanied by action, and that is often where fear creeps in.
The story of Deborah and Barak is primarily one of seeing people freed from oppression. God’s kingdom liberates, it does not discriminate, it looks for the ‘whosoever’ and is centered on a willingness to serve.
Our actions impact the lives of others everyday. We may not be involved in a physical battle, but there is a spiritual battle which is just as real. Our faith makes a difference when we choose to trust fully in God.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”Proverbs 9:10
Deborah showed her wisdom in where she chose to speak and act, by acknowledging the boundaries within her own community. She did not challenge the established order but instead revered the word of God and followed His principles – to show respect to the elderly and to those in positions of authority.
God will always honour our obedience. He will make a way for our gifting to operate and for our voice to be heard.
To be secure in our own identity. We are loved by God as an individual, and we are unique. He has plans and purposes for our lives which are for us alone. We need to know who we are in God, that we are loved and precious to Him. From the security of that place, our true identity, we can step out to be who He calls us to be. Our confidence does not come from our own abilities but rather from knowing the power and authority of God.
When we live our lives to please God, we have the confidence to be an original and not an imitation.Tweet
There is a time and a season for working together, for collaboration, to regain the ground that the enemy has taken. This could be in your family, workplace or community.
Our battles are spiritual and need to be fought with spiritual weapons, with prayer and the Word of God. Prayer partnerships are the essence of collaboration, of supporting and strengthening one another. As someone who has had a prayer partner for several years, I can say from my heart, that they are invaluable! Prayerfully consider, is there someone that God is prompting you to join with, to pray regularly over your home and family circumstances. ‘A cord of three strands is not quickly broken,’
“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”Psalm 27:13-14