If you take the time to read the book of Judges, a common theme begins to show itself quickly. “And the people of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord…” (Judges 2:11, 37, 4:1…). This scenario is followed by years of oppression by Israel’s enemies. After a period of years “the people of Israel cry out to the Lord, and the Lord raised up for them a deliverer…” (Judges 3:9, 15; 6:6…). In Judges 4, God raises up the fourth judge after Joshua’s death, Deborah, the first and only woman judge. During Deborah’s time as judge or “prophetess…she would sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment.” (Judges 4:4, 5). At the same time, the Israelites were being oppressed by Jabin, the king of Canaan. The Israelites grew weary of their oppression and sought to rid themselves of the enemies that oppressed them. As the Israelites began to choose God over idols and serve Him with their whole hearts, God would deliver them from the oppression of their enemies through a judge. This cycle of idolatry followed by deliverance is a common theme seen in the book of Judges. Since they were not following God, they needed wise council from someone who knew God and could direct them toward a relationship with God. Deborah’s reputation was spread far and wide throughout the country of Israel as the Hebrews would seek Deborah for her wisdom and assist them in providing solutions to the problems they had. Her reputation is also seen in Judges 5:7 “I, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel.” This was a title of honor and respect. The Israelites would seek Deborah’s wise council to help them correct the wrongs in their lives related to their worship and relationship with God.
How did Deborah attain to such a position of authority as a woman in the 12th century BC? First and foremost, God ordained that Deborah be in this position of authority. Second, she was persistent in developing her relationship with God. A person cannot give wise council pertaining to the things of God without having a relationship with God. A person cannot give wise council to families and individuals day-in and day-out that provides needed and positive change in lives without having a solid walk with God. A person’s reputation in a land full of apostasy means only one thing: Deborah was closely communicating with God, and the children of Israel saw by her life and the wisdom she bestowed on others that the hand of God was with her. When Deborah spoke to the Israelites, they knew she was speaking for God. A prophetess or judge was a mouthpiece for God. After years of oppression from Jabin, King of Canaan, the people knew they needed to change their ways and follow God since the “evil they did in the sight of the Lord” (Judges 4:1) caused oppression not freedom.
The same thought process exists today in our society that did so many years ago in the time of Deborah. As a society we are called the “me generation.” Life is all about me and what I want, not about what others want or what God wants. So many have turned their backs on God only to find their lives full of confusion, or there is always a sense of something missing and not being able to find it. What is missing from so many who claim to have all the freedoms they desire? So many today are missing that intimate and personal relationship with God.
The contrast between Deborah and the children of Israel shows the need for a relationship with God and a willingness to follows His Biblical decrees. The Israelites were enticed away from following God and His decrees by the bondage of idol worship, only they did not see it as bondage rather they thought they were choosing who to serve based on their freedom to choose. Each time the country moved away from following God and turned to idols, the oppression began. So today in the midst of our desire to have the freedom to choose, how often are the choices we make based on our desires rather than God’s directives? Deborah, a lone woman in her country, made a reputation for herself amongst all the Israelites to follow God and be God’s spokeswoman.
- After you have read Judges 4, 5, what characteristics of Deborah do you see?
- Are these characteristics that you see admirable and worthy to emulate?
- What must Deborah have done daily in order in order for the events of Judges 4:5 to take place?
- After reading Judges 5:7, write down how Deborah attained this title.
- We all have a sphere of influence in our lives. Some spheres are great and others are small, but we all have a sphere. What changes in your life need to take place so your sphere of influence more closely resembles Deborah’s?
- Deborah did not wake up one day and decide to be judge. No position of influence, no matter how great or small, happens overnight. A positive impact on other’s lives takes determination and faithfulness. Determine now to make the changes you wrote down in question #5 and determine to be faithful, no matter how difficult the task. Are you willing to take this challenge? If so when will you start?