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“Women of the Bible: Deborah”

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

If you like a story about a strong leader; if you like a story about the good guys defeating the bad guys; if you like a story about someone driving a peg through someone’s head; then, you will like the story of Deborah, a great prophet, judge, and leader.

Today, we are continuing our series called “The Women of the Bible,” and we are going to learn about Deborah, and we’ll learn about a bonus woman as well.

Deborah’s story is set in the context of the period of the judges of Israel, which was after the time of Moses and Joshua, and before the time of the kings of Israel.

It was during the time of the judges that the people of Israel often turned away from the Lord and did their own thing. The Bible says, “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”

So, when the people of Israel sinned against God, God would bring judgment, then the people would repent, then God would deliver them. He often accomplished this work through leaders called “judges.”

So, today, we’re going to learn about the only female judge: Deborah.

Join me in prayer as we begin to learn about this fascinating biblical hero.


We’re going to learn today that Deborah was a leader.

There has been some confusion in the church world about whether or not God created women to be leaders.

Let me just clear that up for you: women can be leaders, and God created and called some women to be leaders.

Now, we clearly know from Scripture that women are not to fulfill certain roles; just as men are not to fulfill certain roles. Women are not to be husbands, fathers, or pastors, in particular; but they can be leaders.

Just a couple of examples of women who led in the Bible are Esther and Deborah; both about whom we will learn in this sermon series.

So, men, women, and children alike: let’s learn about Deborah, the judge and leader.

First, . . .

‌I. Deborah was a respected leader.

Deborah was known by the people of Israel and she was respected first and foremost as a prophetess.

Listen to Judges 4:1-5.

1 The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord after Ehud had died. 2 So the Lord sold them to King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera who lived in Harosheth of the Nations. 3 Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord, because Jabin had nine hundred iron chariots, and he harshly oppressed them twenty years.

4 Deborah, a prophetess and the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. 5 She would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to settle disputes

We learn that Deborah had her own palm tree (that’s pretty cool). She would sit under that tree, and people would come to her to hear from the Lord regarding disputes they had with one another.

Really, Deborah is fulfilling two roles: that of a prophet, and that of a judge.

Some of the judges that we learn about were military heroes, but this was not initially the case with Deborah. Deborah was fulfilling the role that was more in line with the men who were set up by Moses to help take care of the people of Israel because the work had become too burdensome for him to do by himself. This original function of judges was very similar to the New Testament function of a deacon.

However, we’re going to see that Deborah went far beyond that.

So, the people respected Deborah; they came to her to hear from the Lord and to hear her wisdom regarding disputes.

We also see that she was respected by those in power.

Look at verses 6-8:

6 She summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “Hasn’t the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go, deploy the troops on Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men from the Naphtalites and Zebulunites? 7 Then I will lure Sisera commander of Jabin’s army, his chariots, and his infantry at the Wadi Kishon to fight against you, and I will hand him over to you.’ ”

8 Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go. But if you will not go with me, I will not go.”

We see two indicators in this passage that Barak, this military leader, respected Deborah.

First, he came and listened to her. He didn’t dismiss her. Rather, Barak listened to Deborah because he respected her leadership.

Second, we also see that Barak says that he will only go down into battle if Deborah goes with him. That’s something, isn’t it? A male military leader will only go to battle if a female prophet and judge will accompany him.

Barak was willing to risk his life, and the lives of his troops because he respected Deborah as a leader.

So, Deborah was a respected leader.

Second, we see that . . .

‌II. Deborah was a ready leader

Deborah was hanging out under her own palm tree, delivering prophecies and settling disputes, doing what she does, when all of a sudden opportunity came her way that required action.

Those of you in this room who are leading in any way, whether it be in your family, in your marriage, in your place of work, in our community, or in our church; you need to catch this reality: a leader is ready for action.

Deborah was ready! Listen to these two ways that Deborah was ready:

First, look at verses 6-7. It says, “6 She summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, ‘Hasn’t the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go, deploy the troops on Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men from the Naphtalites and Zebulunites? 7 Then I will lure Sisera commander of Jabin’s army, his chariots, and his infantry at the Wadi Kishon to fight against you, and I will hand him over to you.’”

As a prophet of the Lord, Deborah was ready and she responded when the Lord gave her a message to deliver to Barak.

Listen, men did not usually listen to women in those days. Military leaders did not always listen to prophets in those days. Nevertheless, Deborah was ready and she delivered her message.

Here’s a second way that Deborah was ready. Look at verses 8 and 9:

8 Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go. But if you will not go with me, I will not go.” 9 “I will gladly go with you,” she said, “but you will receive no honor on the road you are about to take, because the Lord will sell Sisera to a woman.” So Deborah got up and went with Barak to Kedesh.

For whatever reason, Barak didn’t want to go into battle without Deborah. Perhaps he felt that by her going with him, the prophecy would come true. Or, perhaps he was scared and he believed the Lord would protect Deborah, so he wanted to stay close to her.

We need to remember that at this point in the story, Deborah was not the kind of Old Testament judge who was a military leader. However, Deborah was ready. She said to Barak, “I will gladly go with you.”

She did warn him that it may hurt his reputation that the Lord would use a woman to bring victory to Israel, rather than him.

By the way, this does not mean that she was saying women were weak or they couldn’t lead. However, Deborah knew full well that other men may think that it was dishonorable that Barak had to rely on Deborah to help bring victory.

Deborah never said it was wrong for her to lead. However, when Barak would not lead on his own, Deborah was ready to lead!

Men and women: for those of us whom God has called to lead, we must be ready to lead!

Deborah was not only a ready leader, . . .

‌III. Deborah was a reliable leader.

Deborah got the job done. She delivered the word of the Lord to Barak, and she rode out with the army of the Lord to battle.

And, we see that the Lord kept His word and He brought victory.

Listen to Judges 4, verses 14-16:

14 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the Lord has handed Sisera over to you. Hasn’t the Lord gone before you?” So Barak came down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him.

15 The Lord threw Sisera, all his charioteers, and all his army into a panic before Barak’s assault. Sisera left his chariot and fled on foot. 16 Barak pursued the chariots and the army as far as Harosheth of the Nations, and the whole army of Sisera fell by the sword; not a single man was left.

Our reliable God brought victory through a reliable leader.

Brothers and sisters, God has called some of you to lead: men and women, young and old; God is calling some of you to lead.

Listen, our world needs reliable leaders. Our country needs reliable leaders. Our churches need reliable leaders. Our specific church needs reliable leaders.

If God is calling you to leadership, seek to be someone who is trustworthy, who takes action, who has integrity, who is godly, who is brave, and who is reliable; like Deborah was reliable.

By the way, I can’t leave this story without telling you about another woman in this story. Her name is Jael. Look at verses 17-22:

17 Meanwhile, Sisera had fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was peace between King Jabin of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite. 18 Jael went out to greet Sisera and said to him, “Come in, my lord. Come in with me. Don’t be afraid.” So he went into her tent, and she covered him with a blanket. 19 He said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink for I am thirsty.” She opened a container of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him again. 20 Then he said to her, “Stand at the entrance to the tent. If a man comes and asks you, ‘Is there a man here?’ say, ‘No.’ ” 21 While he was sleeping from exhaustion, Heber’s wife, Jael, took a tent peg, grabbed a hammer, and went silently to Sisera. She hammered the peg into his temple and drove it into the ground, and he died.

22 When Barak arrived in pursuit of Sisera, Jael went out to greet him and said to him, “Come and I will show you the man you are looking for.” So he went in with her, and there was Sisera lying dead with a tent peg through his temple!

You better believe that Jael was reliable also. She got the job done, didn’t she? She must have been one brave and strong woman.

Here’s what’s amazing: Do you remember the prophecy delivered by Deborah? She said in Judges 4:9, “I will gladly go with you, but you will receive no honor on the road you are about to take, because the Lord will sell Sisera to a woman.”

At first reading, many would probably think that Deborah was talking about herself. However, whether or not Deborah even realized it, she was talking about Jael. The Lord delivered the evil leader Sisera into the hands of a simple tent-dwelling woman named Jael, when she drove a tent peg through his head.

Deborah was reliable, Jael was reliable, and any leader who wants to be used by God should seek to be respected, ready, and reliable.

Let this bottom line summarize all that God is teaching us through this story:

‌Bottom Line: The story of Deborah teaches us that God uses human leaders for divine purposes.

We see this reality time and again throughout the Bible.

God used Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, God used David to lead as a powerful king, God used Esther to spare the Jews from extermination, God used Ezra and Nehemiah to bring the people back to the law of God and the land of God, God used Joshua to bring conquest to the promised land, God used the apostles to start the early church, God used Paul to take the gospel to the Gentile world, God uses pastors to lead His Church today, and God used Deborah to give direction to the people of Israel and lead them to deliverance from their sin and the terror of Jabin’s army.

God uses human leaders to accomplish divine purposes. He did so then, and He does so today.

Challenge yourself this week in the following ways:

‌Weekly Challenge #1 – Consider if God is calling you to be a leader.

God is still using leaders today to accomplish His purposes.

Perhaps He is already using you. There are so many people who lead in different ways in this church. Praise God for that reality!

Additionally, I believe God is calling others to step up as leaders. Men and women; young and old. God might be calling you to lead.

If God is calling you to lead, pursue that call. Pray through it. Speak to one of our pastors about it. Ask someone else what they think about it.

If God is calling, be ready to lead, as Deborah was ready to lead.

‌Weekly Challenge #2 – Thank someone for leading well.

Listen, not all of us are called to lead, and that’s ok.

You’re not a better Christian if you are a leader, you’re not more mature, and you’re not necessarily stronger. You can be a faithful disciple without being a leader.

However, we should all be grateful for the leaders whom God has called and placed in our lives.

So, spend some time this week showing gratitude to the leaders in your life.

Thank a city leader, thank a teacher or administrator at your school, thank your spouse for how they lead in different ways, thank a coach or influencer in your life, thank your parents, thank a government official.

Take some time and thank someone who is leading well.

(Gospel presentation)

Deborah was respected, but there is no one worthy of more respect than Jesus.

We read in Philippians 2:10-11 “ . . . at the name of Jesus every knee will bow— in heaven and on earth and under the earth— and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Deborah was ready, but there was no one more ready than Jesus.

Concerning Jesus, we read in Philippians 2:8, “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross.”

Deborah was reliable, but there is no one more reliable than Jesus.

Before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed this to God the Father, in Luke 22:42, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me—nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

The book of Judges shows us how desperately we need a Savior. Time and again, people turned away from God, then judgement came, then God provided a savior. However, in the book of Judges, it was always a temporary savior. We need a permanent Savior.

Deborah was a great leader. Other judges, kings, prophets were great people. However, they all simply paved the way for the greatest leader, the greatest prophet, the greatest judge, the greatest king, the greatest savior: Jesus Christ.

(closing prayer)

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