Scripture Focus: Judges 4.4-6
4 Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. 5 She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. 6 She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor.
*I love the NIV in general, however, one of its disagreements with other translations is to render the same Hebrew word translated as “judge” everywhere else, as “lead” in Deborah’s case from Judges 4.4.
Readers’ Choice Month is Coming:
This August, The Park Forum will look back on our readers’ selections of devotionals from the past 12 months that were the most meaningful and helpful to you. This month is all about hearing from you and thanking you for your readership.
Today’s devotional was a Readers’ Choice selection from last year. Last year, reader, Deborah said “This commentary is both beautifully written and filled with TRUTH! You blessed me this morning! Deborah, who appreciates her name even more now.” And, reader, Jason said, “We all need to hear this again. Good word.”
Please fill out this form or email us about devotionals from this past year that were special to you. You don’t need to have a long comment (although you can) but we’d love to hear from you.
Reflection: No Asterisks
By John Tillman
Deborah’s judgeship doesn’t deserve an asterisk.
Some claim Deborah’s judgeship is a punishment for Israel, not a blessing. They claim God only used Deborah because Barak (and every other male Israelite) was too “weak” to stand up. This interpretation insults Deborah, Barak, and all Israel, based on assumptions that are extrabiblical and unsupported by the text.
Deborah summons Barak and he comes. She commands him into battle and he goes. She goes with him to battle and they conquer. Then, they jointly lead the nation in a prophetic song of worship. “Princes” of Israel volunteer to serve under her leadership and are praised. She initiates a generation of peace and prosperity.
The biblical writers make no apologies or explanations for Deborah. There is no scriptural asterisk indicating Deborah’s judgeship is the last resort of a desperate God who couldn’t find a man to do the job.
God did not “settle” for Deborah. He chose her.
Deborah’s story is also not one of feminist triumphalism or superiority. We might like to imagine Deborah riding into battle as Éowyn did in the conclusion of The Lord of the Rings, slaying the Witch King, shouting “I am no man!” However, God did not defeat Sisera on a technicality and Deborah’s prophecy is not fulfilled by her killing the villain. That honor goes to another woman, of lower status, Jael. Jael’s hand drove the spike but it was Deborah’s raised fist that began the battle.
God planned to use women to crush evil from the beginning. God promised Eve her seed would crush the head of the serpent. So it is not a fluke that women would be involved in crushing the heads of evil men. These women are simply reflecting the birth pangs of the reality of God’s promise.
Deborah’s leadership is not a fluke or a technicality. God no more “settled” for her than he “settled” for the sinfulness of Samson, or the rashness of Jepthah, or the doubts and low standing of Gideon.
So what does this mean?
We may doubt our place in God’s work. We also may have our place in God’s work doubted by others. However, our gender, our race, our background, or our nationality do not disqualify us from fulfilling God’s purposes. God didn’t settle for you. He called and chose you.
For the humble whom God raises up to lead, all asterisks are removed.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
You are my hope, O Lord God, my confidence since I was young. — Psalm 71.5
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.
Judges 4 (Listen 3:57)
1 Timothy 5 (Listen 3:22)