Lessons from the Life of Deborah, Judges 4-5

“Deborah, the wife of Lappidoth, was a prophet who was judging Israel at that time. She would sit under the Palm of Deborah, between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites would go to her for judgment.”

– Judges 4:4-5

I have often wondered about how a woman was able to claim a spot among the Judges mentioned in the bible. This was a role often dominated by men. Was it mere coincidence or an integral part of God’s plan for his people? 

This was an era in history when men held leadership and sensitive key roles in a nation, but one woman shows up and displays uncommon courage and great leadership skills. 

Deborah’s story is unique being that she is the only female judge mentioned in the bible. She is also one of the five women in the bible mentioned as prophets in the Old Testament. 

Deborah’s resume included poet, prophetess, song writer, singer and warrior. Her story shows us that women can thrive in positions of leadership when given the opportunity.

Deborah Judges 4-6

Background on Deborah the Female Judge

Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders.

– Judges 2:16

In the Old Testament, God appointed Judges to rule over his people prior to when kings took the helm of leadership. God used these Judges to save the Israelites from the hands of their enemies and point them back to him.

Deborah is one of those judges who is brought to light during a dark period in Israel’s history. The nation of Israel was in national distress and were being ruthlessly oppressed by their enemies.

Under the courageous leadership of the previous Judge Ehud, Israel had enjoyed relative peace. Immediately after his death, the children of Israel rebelled and began to follow other gods. So, God turned them over to their enemies.

As at the time Deborah became a Judge, Israel’s oppressor was Jabin, King of Hazor, a Canaanite king who had a mean general named Sisera. The people of Israel lived in fear of Sisera, commander of Jabin’s army who boasted of a collection of 900 iron chariots. And for twenty years, the Israelites were greatly oppressed by King Jabin. It was at this point they cried out to God.

What the Bible Says about Deborah

Deborah is first introduced to us as the wife of Lappidoth in Judges Chapter 4. It was obvious that she was not limited by her role as a wife. She was a very busy woman who held a highly placed leadership position as Judge of a nation. 

She can also be said to be one of the most influential women in the bible.T he bible says that under her leadership, Israel enjoyed 40 years of peace. We can read about her life in the book of Judges chapters 4 and 5 respectively.

Deborah, the wife of Lappidoth, was a prophet who was judging Israel at that time. She would sit under the Palm of Deborah, between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites would go to her for judgment. 

– Judges 4:4

She would sit under the Palm of Deborah and hold court sessions. This was where the Israelites would go to her to settle disputes and for judgment. She was also a woman with a prophetic gift over her life and who clearly heard the voice of God.

The bible does not spell out clearly if Deborah was a mother with children. But in Judges 5:7, we see her boldly declare these words: “There were few people left in the villages of Israel – until I Deborah arose as a mother for Israel.” She obviously did not just view herself just as a mother of biological children, but called herself ‘mother of a nation’.

One part of her story that cannot be ignored is how she bolstered Barak’s courage to go the war against Israel’s enemies. Judges 4:6-7: “One day she sent for Barak son of Abinoam, who lived in Kedesh in the land of Naphtali. She said to him, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: Call out 10,000 warriors from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun at Mount Tabor. And I will call out Sisera, commander of Jabin’s army, along with his chariots and warriors, to the Kishon River. There I will give you victory over him.”

She was fearless in delivering God’s message and was confident of Israel’s victory. Deborah shows us what uncommon courage looks like and how to trust fearlessly in God’s word.

psalm 31:30 esv

What Lessons Can We Learn from Deborah

The story of Deborah quickly points us to the fact that God can use ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. And as I read her story, I can see clearly how God calls, qualifies, and enables us to accomplish his will on the earth. 

Deborah is no different from you and I today as a woman. God simply chose to put the spotlight on her to accomplish his purpose on the earth. It is also interesting to see how God swings the tables and chooses a woman to lead his people at that time.

Perhaps, God could see something in her that others could not see. And her identity as a woman did not stop God from using her. So, what are those lessons that you can draw from Deborah’s life and apply to your own life today as a Christian woman and mother?

1. Her Courage and Bravery

Israel as a nation had a history of male dominated leadership. And it was quite odd to find a woman step into leadership roles. However, Deborah chooses to carve her name in history as a female leader with exceptional qualities and values

You can see Deborah’s courage as we see her stand up to embrace her calling. In Judges 5:7 – “There were few people left in the villages of Israel until Deborah arose as a mother for Israel. She arose from her comfort zone to step into her role as a leader, prophetess and warrior.

We also see her bravery come to play as she agrees to go to war with Barak. The patriarchal society at that time could have been her limitation and given her a strong reason to step back in fear. But Deborah chooses to arise and step into God’s purpose for her life.

In the world today, women are still relegated to the background in many parts of the world. Even in the church, we can say that the odds are sometimes still skewed against women as we see mostly men hold leadership positions. 

But the question is, how can you as a woman and mother step out in courage into that place that God is calling you into? There are many sectors in society that need your unique qualities and leadership skills as a Christian woman to bring about change in those sectors. But until you step out of your fears and limitations, nothing will change. Will you choose courage today?

 2. Her Obedience to God

Obedience can be hard sometimes especially when what God is asking you to do seems terrifying. And the thing about obedience is that lives, destinies and perhaps a nation’s deliverance can be tied to your obedience.

It is interesting to note that one woman’s story was tied to Deborah’s obedience. A woman named Jael is etched forever in history as she comes alive in Deborah’s story. Jael steps into her purpose to fulfil prophecy. Judges 4:9 :“I will go with you. But you will receive no honor in this venture, for the Lord’s victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman.” Jael becomes the heroine of this story because by her hands, Israel’s enemy was defeated. 

Is there something God is telling you to do? One woman’s healing, deliverance and faith can be tied to your obedience to God’s voice and word.

3. Her Heart as a Mother

Deborah called herself a mother in Israel. She viewed the lens of motherhood beyond just birthing your own biological children. Deborah was not just a mother in Israel but a mother over Israel. We see those motherly instincts and qualities like wisdom, discernment, humility, and love come to play in her life. And in a way, we can say that she stood firmly as a protector over God’s people.

How often do you look out for opportunities to be a mother to struggling, weak and less privileged children around you? Are you fighting causes and enacting laws to protect children who are a very vulnerable part of our society? Are you willing to invest a fraction of your time to nurture, lead and leave a lasting impact in the lives of such children? Have you ever considered fostering or adoption?

Indeed, there is so much that God has blessed you with as a mother. Consider today how you can begin to bless younger women and mothers with the wisdom and knowledge acquired on your own motherhood journey. You can start a small mom’s group, a prayer circle for moms or a bible study group where you can build up, encourage, and lift other women up today.

4. Her Wisdom and Guidance

Deborah was a woman who possessed great wisdom and the gift of discernment. This we see in how she settled disputes, gave counsel and judgment in her place of duty. Imagine the number of people that came to see her every single day. It could only have taken someone with wisdom, knowledge, a great deal of patience and an ability to listen intently to have excelled in that role.

I also like how Deborah offered to go to war with Barak. In that moment, she was a solid support system and guide for God’s people.

 Another unique thing about Deborah was her ability to discern and hear the voice of God. And as a prophetess, she boldly declared what God had spoken to her in her quiet moments with him. God also gave her insight and strategic battle plans.

It was with the words that God spoke that they confidently went to battle with. She inspired Barak to raise an army and went with him to battle guiding him with God’s word and counsel.

elisabeth elliot quote woman

Questions to Ponder from Deborah’s Life

As I reflect on the life of Deborah, I am humbled at how much one woman can teach us in contemporary times today through her life and leadership. She ditched the excuse of living in patriarchal times and the idea that a woman cannot excel in a leadership position. And she excelled.

Here are some questions that come to mind as I think about Deborah and what we can learn from her.

1.  Are you limiting yourself as a Christian woman in today’s world? Think about the gifts, strengths, talents and abilities God has deposited in you as his child.

2. What is holding you back from doing those things God has called you to do? Is it your fears, failures, mistakes, a false identity or your past? Identify these things and ask God to fill your heart with courage today to leave them behind and walk into a new life, dream and purpose.

3. How are you training yourself to hear the voice of God? Do you seek God’s face for counsel, direction and guidance in your life and decision making?

4. Who is that ‘Jael’ ( woman) in your story that God wants to use you to awaken, inspire and encourage today?

5. How are you influencing your children’s lives as a mother? Deborah’s influence brought peace and stability to a nation.

6. Today, as a Christian woman and mother, can you answer these questions – What kind of support system am I to those around me? Are you raising your children with the world’s wisdom or God’s wisdom? What kind of guide am I to my family? A wise guide or a foolish guide. Am I through my actions bringing healing, hope, victory, deliverance and salvation to my lineage? Deborah through her wisdom and guidance brought peace and healing to an entire nation.

Closing Prayer

Lord, give us the courage to step boldly into our calling. Strip us from every fear and limitation that seeks to hold us back from walking in your purpose for our lives.

I ask that you fill our hearts with wisdom from above and open our ears to hear your voice when you speak. Open our eyes to see the gifts, strengths and abilities that you have deposited within us. And help us to harness those giftings for the advancement of your kingdom here on earth. May we be godly women and mothers whose influence will transform lives, generations, and nations. We pray also for grace to obey when God calls and speaks. Amen!

Guest Blogger Bio.

Ufuoma Fijabi is a Christian blogger and writer. When she is not working or playing the role of mom, you can find her writing on her blog www.oneinspiredmum.com where she shares God-inspired articles that focus on motherhood, faith, hope, and spirituality. She hopes to inspire, encourage, support and build up faith in the heart of mothers and women through her writings. She also loves to learn from other people’s stories and get lost in the words of a good book. She is wife to an amazing man and mom to two children. She currently lives in Lagos, Nigeria with her family.

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