No Asterisks

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.

Student Writers Month:
This month, The Park Forum welcomes college and seminary student writers pursuing ministry careers. However, one of our students had to drop the program and I (John) am filling in for her today. For more info about our yearly Student Writer program, see our website.

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: A Reading
So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.” — Mark 9.35

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Judges 4(Listen– 3:57)
Acts 8(Listen – 5:10)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
It is time to hear from you about the posts from the past eleven months (September 2020 – July 2021) that have challenged, comforted, and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Read more about Ladies First—Resurrection Appearances
“Firsts” are important in the scriptures. So we cannot imagine that it is a coincidence or a mistake that Jesus appears first to the women.

The Necessity of The Spirit

Acts 7.55
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

Reflection: The Necessity of The Spirit 
By John Tillman

We look ahead today reflecting on our readings for tomorrow and two extraordinarily different outcomes for two men led by the same Spirit…

Many times in Judges, the Israelites rebelled over the course of one generation and from the next generation a Judge would rise up to save them. But not the first Judge, Othniel. He had been there the whole time.

Othniel was already a great hero of Israel. He had every advantage and privilege available to him at that time. He was wealthy from his military conquests. He was part of an influential family. He was a seasoned military leader. He had a strong spiritual heritage, being from the family of Caleb, a mighty hero of faith. But despite this, Israel suffered and Othniel could not save them. Until God’s Spirit came on him.

Othniel was a great leader and a great warrior. But it was the Spirit of God, not Othniel or his skills that saved Israel. In Othniel’s day, the Spirit of The Lord coming on a leader was a rare, miraculous event. But in our case the miracle has already occurred. The main thing keeping us from accessing the Holy Spirit is…us.

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit and told the disciples that it is to our benefit that he leave and the Spirit come. But the benefit may not be something that looks like victory to the world. In Acts, we read of Stephen, who was filled with the Spirit and spoke with power. We like that part. Then he was stoned to death.

Othniel and Stephen are two men touched and led by the Spirit of God to very different outcomes. From the world’s point of view, one was a victor and one a victim. In many ways, the Kingdom perspective of their situations is the reverse.

Othniel seems to have won a great victory and Stephen seem to have lost everything, until you keep reading. 40 years later, Israel is back in the same predicament, tragically repeating the same mistakes over and over. But 40 years after Stephen’s death, the church he died for was spread across the known world by one of the very men who helped put him to death.

We need the Spirit in our lives not because our skills, our wealth, and our influence cannot accomplish things of significance, but because what is truly significant is often hidden, like a treasure buried in a field, and we must follow the Spirit, forsaking all else to find it.

Prayer: The Greeting
O Lord, I cry to you for help; in the morning my prayer comes before you. — Psalm 88.14

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Judges 2 (Listen – 3:19)
Acts 6 (Listen – 2:35)

Today’s Readings
Judges 3 (Listen – 4:30), Acts 7 (Listen – 8:49)
Judges 4 (Listen – 3:57), Acts 8 (Listen – 5:10)

Thank You!
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Readers’ Choice Submissions

It is once again time for us to seek out the voices of our readers and hear from you about posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Readers’ Choice posts will be republished during the month of August and periodically throughout the Fall.

Follow the link to fill out the form. Feel free to fill out the form multiple times for multiple submissions. Please limit your submissions to posts published this calendar year, between September of 2018 and today.

For any questions about The Park Forum, or to make suggestions of posts via email, contact John Tillman at

Why Do We Need the Leading of the Spirit?
The leading of the Spirit—O, how highly necessary is it! Who can be without it?

Read more about Spiritual Practice as EDC
The daily practices of prayer, reading the scriptures, meditation are tools that can connect us powerfully to the Holy Spirit, help us define who and whose we are, and allow us to walk with the confidence of our secure identity in Christ.

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