Although I was as “PK” (preacher’s kid) with seminary educated parents, had been to countless Christian camps, conferences, revivals, prayer meetings, Vacation Bible Schools and experienced infinite missionary encounters, I was 32 years old before I read that twilight zone of a Bible verse. But then again, let’s be honest about it…we all tend to spend more time in the NEW Testament, don’t we? The Old Testament setting and stories leading up to that verse seemed all too familiar for me at the time. Perhaps my mind was drifting as I read the pages. The culture was patriarchal, women were property, defined by the men with whom they were associated, and everything in the story seemed to go as I had learned to anticipate. But then I read Judges, chapter 4, verse 4. And there it was…right there in plain sight: “Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time.”
WHAT? Surely there was an explanation! How did THAT happen? Had my mind drifted off after the last Judge? Had all the men died or gone off to fight some remote war and left the girls in charge? What had I missed leading up to this verse? The context clues I had depended on for help all these years seemed to fail me!
Want to know exactly how it happened? GOD.
God used Deborah’s willing heart as she sought him continually for wisdom and guidance. Deborah faithfully spoke what God told her and she acted on his instructions. She trusted him with her life and her career. And God empowered Deborah as a prophetess and as leader of Israel. Through his sovereignty, God placed Deborah as Judge, partnered her with Barak to lead the Israelites into battle, ensured victory over their oppressors, and gave his people peace for 40 years. I dare say 40 years of peace is an outstanding scorecard of Deborah’s leadership! The Israelites had been oppressed for 20 years before God raised Deborah as their leader!
Deborah’s story is packed full with lessons for us as women and leaders today! She was one of the most powerful, successful female leaders in history. Deborah’s story illustrates that God can accomplish incredible things through people who pursue a relationship with Him and are willing to act on what he calls them to do. Deborah’s relationship with God is a model for us to follow. She trusted his sovereignty through her continual prayerful dialogue with him about her work, her role, and the people she served. Deborah’s story inspires us to relentlessly pursue our “bigger picture goal” with wisdom, strategy, and focus without allowing circumstances, people, or culture to inhibit our God-given talent and purpose.
So here’s our J4 challenge… if Deborah could be a such successful leader in the context of the Old Testament days, then surely we can be successful leaders in America today.
The secret for us - just as it was her secret to a position of power and long term success - is pursuing a relationship with God, trusting in his sovereignty over our careers, and courageously pursuing what God leads us to do.
To God be the glory!