Judges 4 and 5.
Israel had seen the death of Joshua and God had appointed judges to rule the Nation. The people had had 80 years of prosperity under the judges Ehud and Shamgar, but had not shown gratitude to the source of all good gifts, God, their Father (Psalm 136:5) but had grown away from Him to worship idols, Judges 5:8.
As a result King Jabin from Canaan who ruled from Hazor, an area North of the Sea of Galilee, had conquered and oppressed the people of Israel for 20 years. All the people had been in great bondage, not able to go out of their homes for fear of attack, Judges 5:7. The General, Sisera, had a large army of 100,000 men and nine hundred iron chariots, Judges 4:13. He certainly ‘ruled with a rod of iron’ and the people who had thought that they no longer needed God, had to experience His distance. When He withdrew their protection they became powerless over their enemies and their peace disappeared.
Deborah had been appointed by God to be the Judge in Israel at this time, and He also anointed her as a prophetess, Judges 4:4. She became the mediator between God and His people. She spoke to the people with great love, insight, knowledge of God and His ways and wisdom. God knew her character and she was just who He needed to save His people as they called on Him in their desperation.
She was a praiser, Judges 5:3.
She was very bold not at all fearful, Judges 4:6.
She had a very close relationship with the Living God, Judges 4:6-7.
She had amazing faith Judges 4:9.
She was genuinely concerned for the people Judges 4:9
She spoke to all sorts of people Judges 5:13-14.
She had righteous anger Judges 5:16-17.
She could be trusted, Judges 4:5.
She would see a job through to completion, Judges 4:24.
She had confidence in God’s purpose for the Nation, Judges 4:14.
She spoke as one having authority Judges 4:14
She encouraged people to obey God, Judges 4:7; Judges 4:14.
She did not seek glory for herself, Judges 4:9.
Deborah was a bold, confident leader which was not from her great abilities or natural wisdom, it was from her relationship with God and what she knew in her heart of her God, His character and His desire for His chosen children. Barak was the opposite of a good leader. Barak knew there was the same problem with oppression and King Jabin, but he did not choose to lift a fist to do his job for the best of his people.
He was fearful Judges 4:8.
He looked to men for security Judges 4:8.
He trusted more in human strength than in God, Judges 4:6-8.
He was self-centred, Judges 4:8.
He had to be pushed even when faced with a desperate need, Judges 4:14.
He focused on the problem, Judges 4:6
Deborah had a wonderful way with Barak who could have caused her and Israel so much trouble. She did not put herself over Barak but worked together with him for the good of the people and in obedience to the direction of God. She never doubted that the God who had saved His people so many times before, was going to do the same again. Her command to Barak was also an encouragement to see the war from God’s perspective and not from the number of soldiers fighting against them. She urged him to take up the challenge all he needed was to respond in faith, Judges 4:6-7. He knew God would be fighting for him if Deborah was with them, as he saw her as superior in faith and courage. Both Deborah and Barak worked together, neither trying to up stage the other, showing themselves better, but each encouraging the other and doing the job God had called them to do. Deborah remained responsible for all decisions (Judges 4:14) but Barak chose the ten thousand soldiers and led them down Mount Tabor. This is what all good leaders should aim at, where they serve those in their care and bring them to such a place of growth in their relationship with God that they come to depend on Him for themselves. While they both had an important part to play, God did the major part in the deliverance of His people. He caused the heavens to join in the fight and the river Kishon drowned many (Judges 5:23) and Sisera ran away but was killed by a woman, Jael, just as Deborah had prophesied, Judges 4:9; Judges 5:24-26. Barak’s obedience and success caused him to be named in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11:32-38 “Barak…..who through faith conquered kingdoms…….whose weakness was turned to strength and who became powerful in battle…..”
The Body of Christ is full of people who want, above most other things, to be ‘in a position’, to ‘have a ministry’ or ‘feel called’. We think that those in position are closer to God, more pleasing to Him and more blessed. The real passion in our heart in the beginning is to be closer and closer to God. We believe that by doing something for God we are going to be a better Christian. This is so far from the Truth. We can grow in our ministry and start to really feel we are ‘somebody’, and the blessing of God is really shining down on us. Then we find that we can do what has to be done, be it music, preaching, teaching, walking in the gifts, without having spent very much time in prayer, privately, with God. We can then move over into presumption. Presuming we know what the Holy Spirit wants to say, we just do our own thing to keep up the show. Slowly we get more deceived until we believe the nice remarks, our own press reports, Galatians 6:3. Even the results of the meetings are encouraging, we believe the formula gets results, so why change the formula? We fail to see that the Word spoken will always bring results, as it is seed, and seed planted in the right soil will germinate, Mark 4:8. That is the result of the gifting.
True fruit in a person’s life has to be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, Galatians 5:22. All these are the result of the freedom of the Holy Spirit in their lives and this cannot be counterfeited especially in the home. Jesus told us that we would know people by their fruit (Matthew 7:16) and in these times of great deception (2 Timothy 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:3) we cannot look at a person’s performance, but make sure that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is shining through them, especially if we are considering following their teachings, or putting ourselves under their authority as our Leader. Remember pride is the greatest deceiver and something we often don’t even realise we are in and so find it so easy to receive the great delusion that is “me! me ! and only me! I am OK!” The only answer is humility as “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” James 4:6. God’s opposition often does not show in the open for some time, as with all sin, God gives us plenty of time to see for ourselves how our relationship with Him is being affected by our sin, and so repent and put it right.
Many people in leadership today, especially well known people, have a tremendous burden on them to perform on every occasion and we were never created to take so much acclaim. For people to always be on show is more than humans can cope with, not only physically but also spiritually. God in His wisdom gave the five fold ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13) for the building up of His Body, so no one person has to shoulder excess responsibility, Matthew 11:28-30. Ordinary people have to be so careful that we do not idolise people in senior positions, either the people, or their positions.
Deborah obviously overcame these problems of pride and deception by spending her time in God’s presence, so none of the Wisdom and advice that she gave was from her own ideas but was all from her own walk with God. She knew she was one under authority, knowing that there is one final authority, Almighty God Himself. The closer she walked with God by His amazing grace, the less she wanted to touch the glory, so God used her to save His people, Israel. They then had forty years of peace.
No.13 – Deborah – a wise leader. – Challenge Questions
Read the notes about ‘Deborah’.
- What do you think about her relationship with the people?
- What do you think about her leadership qualities? a) Choose three points that you are already doing. Write them down and praise God for them. b) Look at three points that you do not practice. Write them down and pray about obeying them in your life.
- Are you aware of any areas of deception in your life today? Do you know any leader who is deceiving the people? If so stop and pray for them now.
- Is there anyone in your life that you are aware of that is looking to you for leadership? In your home, work or Church? Consider if you are the leader that God wants to be to them. Write down changes here.
Read Acts 16:6-15; Acts 16:40
- Look at a map and see the strategic place that Philippi is in relationship to trade for Lydia’s business. Describe why you think Philippi is a good place.
- What was her business? (Acts 16:14-15) Who were her best customers?
- Do you think she was a leader in the area? Write your reasons for your answer.
- Where did she go on the Sabbath, and whom did she worship? (Acts 16:13-14)
9. a) Who came to visit Lydia and her friends? b) What did God do to her and what did she do herself? (Acts 16:13-15)
- What public confession of her faith did she make?
- Who else was involved in her public profession?
- How did Lydia show that her new relationship with God was real? How much pressure did she put on the men to respond positively to her invitation?
- Do you think that hospitality is a good opportunity to share Jesus? In what way?
- What do you think would be the effect on Lydia’s business of her new faith in Jesus Christ? Why?
- Read Philippians 1:3-11 and Philippians 4:3. What was Paul thankful to God for in the Philippian Church and what did he pray for regarding them?
- Sum up what you have learnt about Lydia in one short sentence. Which area of her life do you find most challenging?