Women are gentle. Women are soft spoken. Women are mothers. Women are homemakers. Women are submissive. Women are….
I’ve heard a lot of those. Sometimes the world tells me who I am and sometimes the church does it too. I’ve become fascinated lately by whom Jesus says I am. Does He want me to hold my tongue? Does Jesus really place only men in leadership roles? Does He not want me to teach? Do I need to be a mom and wife first and foremost?
A lot of these questions get a, “yes and no answer.” It’s not as simple as we would like. There’s no one size fits all definition to who a female should be. Should we be kind? Yes. Should we show gentleness and compassion? Yes. Should control our words? Yes. But we are also called to be bold, to be brave, to do radical things for Jesus.
I started studying Deborah’s life in response to my confusion. Deborah doesn’t get much press now a days but she was crazy. Picture this with me: The people of Israel are sinning. They have fallen once again. A Canaanite king is ruling over them and oppressing the people of Israel. It has been this way for twenty years so the people are calling out for help. They have already had a few judges rescue them in their time of need so if I was living in that day, I’d be looking for another man to come out of the woodworks. Maybe another Ehud, who murdered the foreign king in his chambers, would come. Or maybe an Othniel who rode out and crushed a Mesopotamian king, “in his hand.”
Instead, this female appears on the scene. She sits under a palm tree near where she lived with her husband. Deborah had the gift of prophesy and the people came to her to be judged. She was charged with the spiritual welfare of God’s nation. It is important to note that she judged both men and women here. She was given the authority to do so from the Lord.
She sends for a man named Barak and straight up tells him to take ten thousand men and go attack Sisera, who was a general in the Canaanite king’s army. She tells him to go and the Lord will give them into his hands. His response is curious. He says he will go if she goes but, if not he’s staying home. While the Bible doesn’t state his intentions, he seems to be scared. He doesn’t want to do this without Deborah’s help. She agrees but tells him that the glory of this battle ultimately won’t be his but will be a woman’s.
She goes with him and tells Barak the very day to lead out the army. He does so and every man of Sisera’s army dies. Every man. The Lord was faithful to move in this battle. Sisera runs however. As Barak chases him, Sisera stops to hide in a tent. Jael and her husband Heber were tent dwellers and she tricked Sisera into coming in. Her family had been at peace with the Canaanite king so he trusted her. She lures him in, gives him the best of what she has, and then, when he slept, she drove a tent peg through his head. Yes, a tent peg. Barak shows up and Sisera is already dead.
This story sounds insane. Can you image if this happened today? People would flip. I love how God chooses to use his people, particularly women, to complete His tasks. There are many examples of this in the Bible to learn from but from Deborah’s life we can glean quiet a few things.
- Women can be leaders.
This is such a hotly debated issue. God clearly ordains females to leadership roles as displayed here. I have no desire to start a debate about the role of woman in church leadership. Honestly, you’re going to have to study and form an opinion for yourself there. What I do know is that God values women immensely. He cherishes them and sets them up for success. He gives them leadership in whatever format. You see, Deborah ruled all of Israel spiritually and acted as a general in battle. She was involved in military decisions, political ones, and spiritual. This woman was fierce. She handled it all.
No one seems surprised by this either. There’s not mention of Barak distrusting her or Israel rejecting her based on gender. God called and gifted her so she ruled.
Judges 5:2 says, “That the leaders took the lead in Israel, that the people offered themselves willingly, bless the Lord!” Deborah and Barak sang that together. They both were leaders. They both followed the Lord’s will and they did it together.
- God uses married women in amazing ways.
This seems like a weird point but I’ve noticed married women being left out from certain roles or opportunities because of the cultural idea that family comes first. And it does. But that truth applies equally to men and women. We are to love and care for those around us in diligence. Women have no specific calling to staying behind that men do not. Deborah was married to a man named Lappidoth. Not much is known about him or if they had children together. However, Judges 5:7 says Deborah arose as a “mother of Israel.” Whether she biologically mothered or not, she took care of, tended to, and protected God’s nation as mothers do for their own families.
- Women are capable of extreme strength.
I’m thinking about Jael here. She was brave. Can you imagine? This powerful general comes to your home for refuge. Most likely, he was physically much stronger than Jael. He was battle-tested and in a place of high authority. Jael doesn’t seem to quiver or fear the violence that is about to happen. She knows the Lord’s will and straight up kills the guy. She is clever and strong.
I’m in no way suggesting that murder is a regular part of a females every day life however, there is a concept that women are weak. That men need to do the hard, dirty, or rough jobs. Sometimes that’s nice. I love it when my brothers in Christ take the lead or are willing to serve women in that way. But at our core? Women are not weak, soft creatures. Jesus didn’t call any of us to a weak way of living but rather a meek way. Meek means strength under control. That word is used to describe Jesus actually as well.
Maybe God hasn’t called you to be a general. I haven’t received that calling yet. But I know that God has big, scary, not safe plans for me and each of you. Maybe you’re tasked with the spiritual welfare of your children. Maybe God intends for you to be bold on your campus for His name. Maybe He’s calling you across the ocean to a far away place. Maybe you are to stop and help the homeless person you see on the side of the road.
God calls each one of us to care for the broken and struggling. He calls men and women alike. This equal calling in no way disqualifies or limits men. Instead, it opens the door for more voices, more helping hands, more minds to work together to glorify God. This is so beautiful. God has the most amazing design for us in creating both males and females uniquely.
How has God called you? How do you think Deborah’s story applies to your life? I so hope this encourages you and God uses her life to impact yours.