I very rarely feel a “rant” is due. But, today, I’ve got a big one on my heart. I can’t even let it go until I say something.
I’m pretty much over the argument that God called Deborah into leadership because there were no men that were able/willing. That God settled on Deborah because of what was available, she was the best option.
Sit with me as I explain why I struggle with this thought process.
Let’s start before we meet Deborah. Israel had this habit of going wayward, getting themselves into trouble, then crying out for God to save them from their peril. Repeatedly. So in Judges, we see this pattern repeated and as an answer God raised up a Judge to lead them. As soon as the Judge would die, Israel would fall off track again, a new judge would be raised.
This is where we meet Deborah, in Judges 4. In a nutshell, it is said that she was leading Israel, and held court under the Palm of Deborah. Israelites would go to her to settle their disputes. At this time Israelites were once again doing evil in the eyes of the Lord, and had been handed over to Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. For twenty years they were under his oppression, and they cried out for the Lord to deliver them. God answered through Deborah, as she called Barak son of Abinoam and delivered the following message:
“The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. 7 I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’” Judges 4:6-7
Barak, who knew the Lord’s favor was on Deborah, basically responded that he would only go if Deborah went with him. Because of Barak’s lack of faith/doubting ways, Deborah told him that she would go with him, but the Lord would deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman. The honor would not go to Barak. And by the end of Judges 4, this is exactly what happened.
It is pretty clear here that Deborah is a leading force for God among his people. She was speaking for God before Barak refused to go without her accompanying him. Yet, when people refer to Deborah as a leader the implication is that she was leading because there were no men available or at least willing to do it. Based on Judges 4, we can see how one could come to that conclusion… when Barak refuses to go unless Deborah goes with him.
In Judges 5, there is another reason this argument takes hold, which is found in verse 7. In the Song of Deborah, she and Barak indicate that the roads were abandoned and villagers refused to fight until she arose.
However, if we leave our argument there… we are ignoring that throughout Judges we are told that God called up or rose up new leaders, when Israel cried out. We ignore Judges 5:8 that indicates that God chose new leaders. Deborah was a leader because God chose her for the task. He did not settle on her.
To indicate that God called her up, rose her up, chose her because no men were available basically means that God settled for what He had available to Him at the time. I can not reconcile that action as part of God’s character or against the rest of Scripture. In fact, to even suggest that God has to settle would mean that God’s power is limited. Which there is nothing in the scriptures to support that His power has limitations, nor that He has ever settled for second best. Stay with me through these next four points.
In the beginning when God created Adam, he realized it was not good for man to be alone. He created Eve from Adam’s rib to be his ezer, helper. God is a CREATOR. If God needed a man to be present at the time of Judges 4 to lead His people, he didn’t need to settle on Deborah. He could could have created man. Either by ensuring a woman birthed the right man, or by creating a new man out of the dust. God didn’t need to settle for someone else, when He could create a better option.
When God appeared to Moses with the call to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses immediately tried to dodge the call. He questioned if he was the right guy for the job, and God set him straight. God doesn’t accept NO for an answer. We not only see this with Moses, but consider Jonah. He not only refused God, but actually ran from God. Where did he end up? By way of the belly of a whale, Jonah ended up right where God wanted him to go. If there was a man available during Judges 4, that was a better option than Deborah, God would not have accepted no as an answer.
Sometimes, when God needs a thing done… the person who is called is not present. When God called Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem, for the rebuilding, he was currently serving under the king. Nehemiah had to travel from one place to another. Esther is another example of a person who was in one place and had to be positioned into another to do God’s work. Our God can command the waves and storms with his very voice. If He can move mountains, He can move people. If God felt that Deborah was a second best choice, but there was a man who was better fit to lead, He would have moved that man into place. He could have brought any man, from any distance, and at any time to be there for the right moment to lead.
Nothing is off limits to God. God could have created a man, not accepted unwillingness as an answer, or moved a man into leadership. He could have also resurrected anyone from history to lead. He could have raised from the dead any number of people who served Him well to lead or at least provide guidance to a leader during this time. He is a God of resurrection. He could have resurrected a previous judge, prophet, etc. The options that God had for leading Israel in Judges 4 were not limited, but were actually limitless.
God didn’t need Deborah to lead because there were not other suitable options. God chose Deborah to lead because it was part of His call on her life since before she was born. Her leadership was part of His plan. Barak’s response didn’t surprise God. He had already prepared the way so that Jael would be there too.
Scripture tells us that He knew us before we were in our mother’s wombs, the number of our days, the hairs on our head. Deborah, like Esther, was raised up and called for such a time as this.
None of this piece is intended to discount male leadership. Not at all. Instead, however, it is to bring light to the fact that it is within God’s character to call up Deborahs. We should not be quick to dismiss a woman with leadership skills, who feels called to leadership (there are various ways women can lead). Instead, we need to meet with them. Listen to what they have to say and offer. Use discernment about their position within your church.
But don’t discount her, or her gifting. You never know when the Lord will deliver another Deborah for such a time as this…
… in your ministry.
… in your church.
… in your community.