With all the talk about President Obama’s recent Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan, I thought we’d just go with the whole female judge thing here today on Trailblazer Tuesday. The media is touting Kagan as a sort of trailblazer – the first female dean of the Harvard Law School and the first female U.S. Solicitor General. While that may be impressive to some, I’m more impressed with our biblical trailblazer, Deborah.
Deborah’s story can be found in Judges 4 and 5. Since the nation is all abuzz with the talk of a third female sitting on our current Supreme Court, now might be a good time to read up on Deborah. She is identified in Judges 4:4 as “a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, …judging Israel at that time.” Funny how our liberal government likes to toot its own horn for being so open-minded, progressive and inclusive as to seat females on the highest court in the land. God put Deborah on the judge’s seat for Israel thousands of years ago and doesn’t seem to have even batted His holy eye at it. She was simply the one for the job, enough said.
And it was no easy job. She was called to judge a nation in rapid moral decline. Umm, sounds familiar. God’s people had begun a steady downward spiral since entering the land of promise under Joshua’s command. While they set up house and settled into their new land with integrity and godly obedience under Joshua’s watchful eye, their allegiance to God quickly faded once their hero was dead. They began a cycle of behavior that is notated throughout the book of Judges and explains at least part of their eventual demise.
The people would do what was right in their own eyes, but what was evil in the sight of the Lord. He would allow one of the nations the Israelites had failed to eliminate from the land to oppress His chosen people. The Phillistines, the Midianites, the Hivites, or some other ites would oppress Israel for some number of years, until finally God’s people would yell “uncle!” Actually they would cry out to the Lord, He would raise up a judge who would deliver them – either through their bravery or their wisdom – and once again the people of Israel would thrive. For a while. As long as the judge lived and ruled. But as soon as God’s judge would die, the people would return to their old ways. In fact, Judges 2:19 says they would act even more corruptly than the previous generation. Doesn’t this all sound so familiar, so current?
Deborah was one of those judges, one of those people chosen by God to keep things on the up and up. Like I said, I hope you’ll read her story in Judges 4 and 5 because I’m not going to go into all the details. Judges is one of those very readable books in the Bible. It reads like a good novel, full of ups and downs, intrigue, mayhem, and heroism.
So take the time to read Deborah’s account. You’ll find a strong woman, a reticent hero, a strange prediction, another brave and wiley woman, a gruesome but effective murder, and a song of celebration. You’ll quickly forget the name of the hesitant warrior (well maybe not, since it’s our current president’s name as well), but you’ll remember two strong women forever.
Yes, I’ll let you read the story for yourself, but I’ll tell you my take-home points on Deborah, today’s trailblazer.
- God was with Deborah. That’s a pretty big deal in our heroin’s day. The spirit of God didn’t just rest upon or indwell everyone. The Holy Spirit had not yet been sent to teach and guide and comfort and speak truth to every believer. But Deborah operated under God’s direct protection, inspiration, guidance, and trust. That says something about her because God chose to be with her.
- Deborah spoke truth…consistently. That’s why she’s called a prophet. She spoke God’s will, His direction, His Word, His plan at all times. That means she had to be listening to Him with keen ears. In a time when everyone else was doing what was right in their own eyes, Deborah was able to distinguish that which was truly right from that which just sounded good. We live in a similar culture, so the question is, “How good am I at speaking truth when everyone else is just saying what ‘sounds good’ to them?”
- People chose to come to Deborah for judgment. Judges 4:5 says, “the sons of Israel came up to her for judgment.” She didn’t “go around” telling people what to do. She had a reputation for wisdom and godliness that drew people – men – to her for advice. That’s amazing even in today’s culture of equality. Makes me consider the efforts of some businesses and our government to fill “quotas” in hiring and promotions. I think they call it “affirmative action,” but I wonder how affirming it can really feel to be hired just because you fill some arbitrary quota. Hiring someone because she is a woman is no less discriminatory that not hiring her because she’s a woman! I’m aware that we are still in the process of enlightening some people to the capabilities and equality of women, but that doesn’t mean we need to force women into places of leadership they cannot earn on their own. Deborah naturally rose to a place of prominence in the estimation of men. And isn’t that the best way to break through the proverbial glass ceiling, on your own merits?
- Deborah was not threatened or intimidated by men, but did not choose to threaten or intimidate them either. She yielded to a man, Barak, when God so ordained. She encouraged him to do the job God had called him to. She didn’t step in and say, “Move, get out of the way. I’ll just do this myself!” She encouraged Barak, accompanied him when he needed the extra push, and helped him achieve victory.
And here are three delightful nuggets we gain from Deborah and Barak’s song in Judges 5:
- Deborah awoke to the potential for change. Judges 5:12 says, “Awake, awake, Deborah; awake, awake, sing a song!” Obviously even Deborah realized that this battle between Barak and Sisera was not her idea. It had been a challenge for a nation that had grown complacent and victimized. She had to awaken her soul to embrace the idea of it. Is God calling us to awaken to anything today? Anything that we have been lulled to sleep over that deserves a second look?
- Deborah arose for the challenge. Judges 5:7 says, “The peasantry ceased, they ceased in Israel, until I, Deborah, arose, until I arose, a mother in Israel.” Deborah didn’t just sit around praying about things or thinking up good ideas. She got up from underneath the palm tree in the hill country of Ephraim where she usually sat and did something…something different, something challenging, something courageous. Is it time for us to get up and do something different? I’m the kind of person who could spend all of my time reading and studying the Bible. I don’t say that to brag; I’m just a student by nature. But if I spend all my time studying the Bible and neglect to get up and do the thing, I’m useless to the kingdom. I need to be sharing the gospel on the front lines, fighting the battles of the oppressed and poor, ministering God’s love to the hurt and rejected, and battling the prince of our world in the marketplace, in the voting booth, and among our children.
- Deborah awoke others. Judges 4:14 says, “And Deborah said to Barak, ‘Arise! For this is the day in which the Lord has given Sisera into your hands; behold, the Lord has gone out before you.’ So Barak went down…” And Judges 5:2 has Deborah saying, “Hear, O kings; give ear, O rulers!” This woman had earned the ear of men and she used that privilege to inspire them to action. And something about Deborah, beyond her words, must have motivated people to move. Wonder what that was?
- She supported those she awoke to action. Judges 5:9 says, “My heart goes out to the commanders of Israel, the volunteers among the people; Bless the Lord!” She sent men out to battle, but her heart went with them. She loved them, she appreciated their sacrifice, she supported them and probably prayed for them. A noble characteristic even for today’s Supreme Court Justices, wouldn’t you say?
Wow, I don’t usually like to write such long posts. (Stop snickering! That’s not nice….) But I’ve been watching the media highlight one strong woman on the news for the past two days and felt like I should give equal time to one of God’s strong females. There’s nothing wrong with being a strong woman. I do think there are some parameter’s for our strength as detailed in God’s Word, but I know God is not offended by strength in women as long as that strength is godly. And I think Deborah, wife of Lappidoth, judge of Israel, is a great example of a strong woman.
So, with this in mind, go and be strong in the Lord today!