Deborah, a prophetess and judge of Israel who was not afraid to lead in spiritual matters and hold the leaders of Israel accountable for what God had called them to do. However, Deborah was also willing to follow God into battle. She not only was willing to lead the people spiritually, but also to step out and physically stand with the people as they faced their battle with the enemy. Today we’re going to see how Deborah went from a prophetess and judge sitting under a palm tree to a warrior and victorious leader of Israel.
After Deborah confronted Barak about his God-given assignment and lack of follow through, Barak was still unsure if God would go with him into battle. He still doubted the promises of God. He was still afraid.
Remember that Barak did not have the personal relationship to trust God’s heart and step forward in faith. So he acted on what he did believe and could trust: Deborah’s spiritual authority. He told Deborah that he would obey God, but only if she, the prophetess and judge of Israel, would go with him. Deborah agreed; but she warned Barak that because of his unbelief, someone else would receive the credit of defeating the enemy. Let’s see how the Bible tells the story.
“Barak said to her, ‘If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.’ And she said, ‘I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.’ Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. And Barak called out Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh. And 10,000 men went up at his heels, and Deborah went up with him.”
Those unwilling to step out in faith will not credit what God does through them. Deborah told Barak that the glory of the enemy’s death would be given to a woman; a blow to the ego and pride of many in a masculine dominant culture. However, I have to commend Barak for not letting that ruffle him. He had committed to action on his assignment with Deborah by his side, so he got to work.
Barak had many resources available to him. He was obviously held in high regard by his countrymen because he had no problem raising an army of 10,000 men. However, notice that the men who responded to Barak’s call were only from two tribes, Zebulun and Naphtali. The other northern tribes were unwilling to join their lot with their brothers and seek the victory God promised. Therefore, they missed out on seeing God’s miracles in action and are later given negative reviews by their victorious, exultant countrymen.
On the other hand, Deborah knew from God how the battle would go and was unafraid to join and lead the Israelites into battle. Even though she was a woman, she did not shrink back from her role in God’s story, but stepped forward with faith and confidence. And because of her spiritual leadership, she gave Barak and the entire army the courage to face the enemy.
This is the role of spiritual leaders. They give people courage to face the enemy. Their faith and trust in God emboldens and encourages others to follow God’s call and step forward in faith. These unsure individuals may not personally have the faith and trust to confront an army, but with a spiritually mature leader by their side, they are willing.
But does that mean that the spiritually mature individuals should forever join themselves to less trusting, believing people? No! Rather, spiritual leaders are called to come alongside others to encourage people in a specific situation so that they can see and experience the power of God in their lives. They are to help people see and answer God’s call on their lives and experience the blessing and power of intimate relationship with their Creator and Savior.
Deborah joined Barak for the battle to give him the courage and assurance he needed to fight the enemy. However, she did not stand beside him for life. After the victory, she returned home and continued being faithful in her ministry as prophetess and judge of Israel. It was up to Barak to learn from their time together and decide whether his faith would grow from the experience or whether he would remain unchanged.
So what can we learn from Deborah about the role of spiritual leaders and mature individuals and how we interact with others?
We cannot babysit everyone through life. We must be faithful to pursue God and run the race that is set before us. Along the way we will come across individuals who need encouragement and faith building; however, we cannot permanently link ourselves with these people lest we lose our purpose and forward momentum towards Christ. Therefore, we minister, encourage, exhort, and build up those God brings into our lives, but we must remember that each person has to decide for themselves if they want to pursue a relationship with God and receive the power that comes with it. We cannot make that decision for others, but can only be faithful to the opportunities God brings into our lives and trust Him with the results.
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