In times of crisis, God raises up leaders for His people. The pattern of the book of Judges is that when the people cried out to God, the Lord raised up a leader called a judge. In this book, judges functioned in three ways. First, the judges functioned as military leaders to deliver the people from the enemy. Second, they served as religious leaders (Judges 4:4). Third, they served as legal decision makers in the settling of disputes (Judges 4:5). Deborah exemplified the second and third roles. Deborah rallied the militia but she did not serve as the military leader. Her name means “bee.” With the varied roles she exercised, no doubt she was as busy as a bee.
Besides serving as a judge in legal disputes and prophetess, Deborah modeled appropriate leadership in time of crisis. The title comes from Judges 5:1, 9. What leadership qualities characterized the life of Deborah?
First, a leader understands the situation (Judges 4:1-3). Deborah understood the unique threat of her day. First, the threat was due to local enemies rather than international. The other oppressors of the people of God were foreign invaders. In contrast, the oppressor Jabin was a Canaanite—a people group about which the Israelites failed to follow God’s leadership. Second, the oppressors formed a coalition or alliance against Israel. Sisera served as commander of the Canaanite forces. The commander’s name was Phoenician—the famed Sea People—recently arrived in Palestine. Third, the biblical text highlighted the numeric and strategic strength of the enemy. The enemy possessed chariots, a strategic weapon that gave the enemy a mobile advantage over the
Israelite foot militia. What does your church know about the strongholds of the enemy in your location?
Second, a leader enlists qualified assistants (Judges 4:6-7). Deborah enlisted Barak, a man noted in Hebrews 11:32 for his faith. Many chide Barak for refusing to go up against the enemy without Deborah’s presence. Deborah rebuked him for his attitude. His hesitancy perhaps reflects the common understanding that the presence of a spiritual leader was critical in battle. At the opportune moment in the battle, Barak moved against the enemy in a decisive fashion. His name means “lightening” and his attack was a lightening attack against a larger force with technological superiority. Perhaps Hebrews included Barak among the legends of faith because of his willingness to engage a superior enemy. Good leaders identify qualified assistants and enlist them to come alongside to help the people of God.
Barak’s action demonstrated faith in God. God provided the victory, rather than a brilliant military strategy or numeric strength. God caused the enemy to be confused (Judges 4:15) and sent a deluge of water to hinder the mobility of the chariots (Judges 5:4).
Who are you discipling for a future position of leadership? What future leaders have you identified to engage the enemy in battle?
Third, a leader celebrates victories with the people of God (Judges 5). Some leaders never pause to celebrate before launching the next battle or the next crisis arises. The Song of Deborah celebrates three aspects of the victory. First, the Song celebrated the voluntary spirit of the people of God (v. 2). I like the NIV translation of verse two: “when the people willingly offer themselves.” Leader, do you recognize the volunteer leaders and celebrate their role. Second, the Song celebrates God as the champion of Israel (vv. 4-5). Leaders recognize the battle belongs to the Lord. Deborah and Barak refused to exalt themselves in the eyes of the people. They exalted the true source of victory. Third, the Song celebrates the righteous actions of God (v. 11). Our worship should be a celebration of God’s mighty actions in history on behalf of His people.
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