Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Woman Named Deborah

Do you ever read about the sketchy details given about a bible character and then let your imagination go, trying to fill in the blanks?
I do…
One such character is Deborah. She is only mentioned in Judges 4 and 5, but she has a very prominent place in history - she is the only woman who was ever a judge of Israel.
As well as being a judge, she is also named as a prophetess.

I searched the meagre facts we are given about her and reading deeply between the lines and following the path of logical conclusions as well as giving my active imagination some extra leash-length, this is how I visualize the woman named Deborah.

From the time she was a very young child, Deborah’s parents recognized that she was an unusual child. They often exchanged glances behind her back wondering what would become of this daughter of theirs.

She seemed to have ‘another world’ sense about her. From the time she was old enough to wander off by herself she would disappear for hours at a time – finally coming back home with a serene glow on her face. Her mother did not need to ask her where she had been. She knew what the answer would be.
“I was on the mountain listening to God.”

It did not take long for her siblings and the neighbourhood children to realize that if they needed advice or a mediator to solve their childish quarrels, Deborah was the one to ask. Her answers were wise beyond her years and she had an innate ability to cut to the heart of a matter and was a keen discerner of human nature.
As she grew older the adults too would seek her out to ask her advice and would be in awe of her council.
And so it came about that she found herself in the unsought for position as Judge of Israel.

Her parents had struggled with what to do about suitors for this independent daughter of theirs. Who would want to marry a girl who obviously knew her own mind and did not appear to need or want a husband ?
The problem was solved when Lapidoth asked for her hand. He was a quiet gentle man who was willing to live in the shadow of his wife. He was content to be her support and covering and love her for who she was, knowing that she would never fit into a conventional wife role.

It would not have been politically correct for a woman to be alone in her tent with another man, so Deborah solved the problem by sitting outside under a palm tree from where she judged the cases brought before her. The tree, of course, came to be known as The Palm Tree of Deborah.
She not only judged fairly with the wisdom of God, she also judged with a heart of compassion….referring to herself as a ‘mother of Israel’. (Judges 5:7)

Before the time she sat as judge and prophetess over Israel, Israel had lived in rebellion before God and God had for the past twenty years placed them under the dominance and oppression of Jabin, the king of Canaan.
The people lived in constant fear and the freeways were deserted. If the people needed to go anywhere they crept along the back paths, hoping they would not be seen.
Their social life was almost non-existent; they hid in the relative safety of their homes. (Judges 5:6,7)

But then Deborah sat as judge and prophetess and encouraged them with the word of God.
The people began to cry out to God to save them, and God’s ears are ever open to hear, wanting to rescue His people.

One day Deborah called for Berak and informed him that God had commanded him to gather together the men of Israel and march against Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army.
Berak was understandably nervous about challenging an army that had nine hundred chariots of iron. But something in him must have believed that Deborah had heard from God.
Just to make sure, though, he had a condition.
“I will do as you say, but only if you will go with me!”
Deborah’s sharp eyes looking into his made him drop his gaze in embarrassment. But she replied in a quiet voice.
“I will go with you…. But don’t think you will receive any honour from winning this battle. It will be a woman who will be given credit for the victory.”

I imagine Deborah going home that evening and telling Lapidoth that she is accompanying Barak into battle against Sisera in the morning.
I’m sure Lapidoth’s heart restricted with anxiety and fear for his wife’s safety but he searched her face and quietly asked, “Are you sure you have heard the voice of God?”
“Yes,” was Deborah’s reply. And Lapidoth gave her his blessing, “Then go … and go with God. I will await your safe return.”

Barak and his army were of course victorious over the mighty army of Sisera, but Sisera seeing his army being crushed before the Israeli footmen, ran.
He fled to the tent of Jael, whose husband – though he was an Israeli – had made friends with King Jabin. Jael saw her opportunity – perhaps she had never been in favour of her husband’s friendship with the enemy - and pretending to have Sisera's best interests at heart, gave him a drink of milk and covered him up so he could sleep.
He never knew how she betrayed him – never guessing that she would kill him even as he slept!

And so the word of God through Deborah was fulfilled and Israel once again lived in peace and freedom.

I have never had been in sympathy with the Women’s Liberation movement nor those who feel that women are subservient to men. History proves that women have stood in prominent places especially when they were called of God to do so.
God truly is no respecter of persons and will use a man or a woman to fulfill His purposes.
I have always been content to be a woman respecting the differences between the sexes as a God-given order – and therefore good! But I love to study the lives of woman who have had the courage to step ‘outside the box’ society built for them.
When God calls a woman to a specific purpose no mortal man can stand in her way!!

And how inspiring these women are who shine through the corridors of time to encourage us to dare to do exploits for our God!!

"I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me." (Phil. 4:13)


Carolanne said...

I like your "visual" thoughts on Deborah. Very well done!

Lovella said...

You make it come to life. . .and then leave us wanting more.

Thoughts on Life and Millinery. said...

Jael is my favorite woman in the Bible, probably because if my name was to be translated into Hebrew, Jael would be the closest you could come to Jill. I loved how she had a gracious heart even to her enemies as she feed milk and "cookies and provided a comfy blanket, and at the same time she did not hesitate to do what needed to be done to assure the safety and peace of her people. What a woman. I do not think I have ever heard a sermon on her though!

Julie said...

You are right, Jill...I don't think I have either. Maybe people don't quite know what to do with her....
Does she not remind you of your Hannah Dustin?

Thoughts on Life and Millinery. said...

Julie-she sure does. Judges 5:24 says "Most blessed among women is Jael" and four lines are dedicated to her praise. Interesting that even in the midst of praising her, her rold as a wife is mention, in a manner that honors her husband.
Anyone "most blessed" ought to have a sermon or two about her I would think. Maybe I was on vacation those Sundays!