“Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. [Judges 4:9]
Deborah was a prophetess in Israel. She was the only female judge mentioned in the Bible. The Israelites went to her when they needed disputes decided. She was extremely wise. Wife of Japidoth, she considered herself a mother to Israel. In this story, Deborah embraces a special leadership position. She hears the Lord tell her to tell Barak, an Israelite commander, to go to battle with their oppressors of 20 years, the Cannanites led by Jabin.
In Judges 4:9, Deborah is responding to Barak’s request that she accompany him as they go into battle. She agrees, explaining that this battle and its victory will look a little different than the usual battle. She will receive the honor from the Lord, because He chose to speak directly to her in this story. It goes without saying that it was not a common thing for women to hold significant leadership positions back in the day. But this story in Judges 4 communicates the heart of God and His ability to empower all of His children to expand His kingdom.
So under commander, Barak, and our fearless leader, Deborah, they take ten thousand men to Mount Tabor. And, spoiler alert… the Israelites win. Sisera, the commander of the Cannanites, got straight scared. He literally got off his chariot and fled by foot. All of his troops fell and Barak’s army won.
God Goes Before You
I think one of the coolest things about this story is Deborah’s confidence. When the two opposing armies stood face to face, right before battle, Deborah told Barak at the front lines, “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” (verse 14).
I can’t get over this declaration. Deborah believed with her whole heart that the Lord was going before ahead of them in battle. Her faith and confidence that God fought for them and with them is so so evident in this verse. She didn’t hesitate to say “Go!” because she knew the Lord’s faithfulness to show up, stay put, and and come through. The moment we fully believe that God always goes before us, no matter what we’re experiencing, is when we act from a place of confidence. It makes no sense for Deborah and Barak to be so confident in their army. And that’s because they aren’t dependent upon their army. They are confident in the Lord, and depend upon His strength only.
In chapter 5, Deborah and Barak sing a song about their victory over the Cannanites. In verse 7, Deborah said, “Villagers in Israel would not fight; they held back until I, Deborah, arose, until I arose, a mother in Israel.” Deborah understood that the Israelites were timid and needed a strong, steadfast leader. Deborah was strong and steadfast, and her character is no different than yours. Her confidence in the Lord is just wait the Israelites needed.
While writing this, I took a quick Instagram break (oops?) and stopped to read a post from Mike Maeshiro, a writer, speaker and “spirit coach,” as his Insta bio says. When I went out to Bethel Church in California with Wesley last year for spring break, our team had to privilege of learning from him. He’s super awesome. Anyway, his post said this:
“Every human being is brave. God doesn’t create cowards. We all come into this world trusting, hopeful, and brave.”
With so many voices telling us who we are and who we aren’t, we have to choose God’s voice over all the overs. Deborah knew God. She knew that He enabled her, gave her strength, and gave her boldness when she asked for it. Being a judge and prophetess, Deborah fully trusted that the Lord spoke to her, and would be with her at all times. Her choice to trust help lead the Israelites into 40 years of freedom from captivity. Deborah is just one example of a powerful leader. Each one of us is called to embrace the courage and bravery that Deborah embraced.
God, thank You for the story of Deborah and her leadership. Come and be the only one I trust. Help me to believe that I am confident, able and brave. I want to know You better so I can know me better. And thank You for being with me at the front lines of everything I face. Give me the strength to fight my battles with You, knowing that You always go before me. Amen.