I have been thinking a lot about Deborah from the book of Judges lately. In fact, for about a year now this biblical story has been on my mind. I hear from a lot of women that they are longing for the men of the Church step up and not shy away from preaching and upholding the truth against the enemy within and without. So, after reading my bible I did a little bit of research on Deborah and leadership.
I really feel that we have reached a time similar to the story of Deborah. This is not a good place for the Church. I really feel that we women should be upholding the men up in prayer and support, those men who know the truth. I know of some very strong men in the Church today and I will continue to pray for these same men to remain true and faithful to Christ. I pray that the men that have become like Barak, that God convicts them and strengthen and counsel these men.
I have a theory as to why it seems that many men have become like Barak… one word. Feminism. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for equal education, job opportunities, pay equality, etc… but when it comes to leadership in
the Church men have this role. This may not go down well in this day and age, but it certainly is biblical.
There is much more I could say about this issue, but I am still working my way through it and want to understand it biblically. Deborah sat under a Palm tree she lived in the Mountains of Ephraim which I think holds significance. Ephraim, along with Manasseh were the only two sons born in Egypt to Jacob. Egypt is a midrash of the world, and we have come out of the world through the new birth. The Church is not meant to be part of the world but to be salt and light. I know there is something more to this as we have a very worldly Church in the West, so we have the Deborah’s and the Barak’s in a worldly church.
Ephraim’s descendants would be greater than Manasseh’s. Ephraim, although being the second son, received the greater blessing. Jesus is the Second Adam. The greater blessing for us is to be born in Christ, the second birth.
Manasseh and Ephraim represent the two dividends of galut: challenge and opportunity. In naming his first son Manasseh (“forgetting”), Joseph referred to his struggles in an alien environment, in an Egypt intent on eradicating all memory of home and roots. In his battle against forgetting and disconnection, the Jew in exile uncovers his deepest and strongest potentials. He brings to light reserves of commitment and determination never tapped in his days as a tranquil stream flowing along an unobstructed bed.
But exile is more than a stimulant for unrealized potential. It is also a resource. It is a dam to be overcome and then enlisted as an ally — an obstruction whose very mass enables the soul to achieve even more than the optimum of its own finer prowess. So after the Manasseh challenge is met, Ephraim is born — Ephraim, so named because “G-d has caused me to be fruitful (hifrani) in the land of my affliction.” The land of affliction itself is made to be fruitful and productive.
The story of Deborah and Barak does not advocate a general principle that women should lead men. And yet having said this, I would agree that our text does teach us about leadership. I would go even farther. I believe that Deborah did lead here. Indeed, I would say that Deborah led and that Barak followed. But there were definite limits as to how far Deborah was willing to go. I would also say that Deborah did not lead to the degree that Barak seems to have desired. She did not lead the Israelite army in war; Barak did. Deborah followed Barak into battle, as did the others (Judges 4:10). Deborah does give Barak the word to go to war in 4:14, but she is merely repeating what she had already said. Barak should have seen that it was the time to fight on his own, based upon what God had already said. Deborah plays a crucial role in this battle. She operates behind the scenes as much as she can. Barak’s reticence to lead and his insistence that Deborah go with him are portrayed as weakness on his part, for which he is rebuked. That a woman gets the glory is to be viewed as a divine rebuke, not a compliment.
I believe our text informs us that Deborah did have a leadership role at this point in Israel’s history. This is not portrayed as a good thing, to be imitated by women later in history. Barak is portrayed as a man of weakness, whose faith God strengthens. Deborah did lead, but only within certain limits. Deborah led, but in such a way as to promote male leadership, and thus to keep herself in a subordinate role. Deborah did not seek a prominent leadership role, and in fact she actively sought to avoid it. She made it clear that God had designated Barak as the leader, and that God was commanding him to lead.
Deborah did play a crucial leadership role in our text, but note the outcome of her leadership. From 4:23-24, we learn that this battle was a turning point in the relationship between Israel and the Canaanites, who dominated the Israelites for 20 years. In the “song of deliverance” in chapter 5 (verse 2), we see that because of Deborah’s ministry, the leaders assumed their leadership roles, and the workers followed them (not her). Deborah did not seek to overturn the way leadership was supposed to function, but affirmed it. Because of her ministry, God’s designated leaders did lead, and followers actively followed by volunteering for service. That is the way it is supposed to work. That is the way it did work when Deborah played out her role in Israel’s history.
Barak became the leader he was supposed to be, thanks in large part to the role that Deborah played. I would suggest that more often than not, when a man becomes the kind of leader that God wants him to be, there is a “Deborah” somewhere nearby, perhaps out of the spotlight, but very much standing behind the man, encouraging him and strengthening his faith in God. Many of the great deeds of faith performed by men find their roots in the godly actions and prayers of a woman—a wife, a mother, a daughter, a prayer warrior. I have often thought that whatever success I have ever experienced in my ministry was more related to the prayers of my wife than to my faithfulness or skills in ministry. Would that there were more Deborahs today.
Let me mention one last thing as I close. In those dark days of the judges, the leaders shrunk back, and there were few who were willing to follow. The bottom line was that there seemed to be no one to fight the enemy, the Canaanites. Through the ministry of this great woman, Deborah, leaders and followers emerged, and the battle was fought and won. Today, it is very little different than in Deborah’s day. There is a great deal that needs to be done in the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. There are Sunday School classes to be taught, new believers to be discipled, evangelism to be carried out, and on and on the needs go. And yet today there are all too few willing to step forward and assume leadership positions. And there are even fewer people who are willing to follow. In our church, as in most others, there are jobs that need to be done, and not enough people willing to do them. What has God called you to do? Has He called you to serve? Then volunteer, and be a supportive follower. Do what needs to be done! Are you called to lead? Then do it, trusting in God to work through your weakness in a way that makes you strong. [source]
Anyway… I would love to hear you thoughts on this. I would really like to explore this more, so please comment and put forth your ideas and thoughts on this.