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God’s People, part 31: Deborah

Read Judges 4-5

“Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Matthew 12:32 NRSV)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

DeborahPart 31: Deborah. Deborah is both a familiar Biblical name to many people, as well as an obscure character. I would wager that most people, while recognizing her name, don’t really remember who she was or what she did. It is also what drives me crazy about those in Christianity who would like to keep women in their pretty little boxes, put nicely in their place within the church, as is if they are nothing more than second-rate members of the church that are meant to “compliment” men by being subservient to their every whim and wish.

To support such a view on women, such Christians skip over (almost literally) 98% of the Bible in order to hone in on a few (and I mean only a few) passages that the Apostle Paul most likely didn’t write (1 Timothy 2:11-15, Ephesians 5:22-24, and 1 Corinthians 14:33b-36, which is really suspect given the context surrounding it). By honing in on those verses they, of course, skip over all of the other passages where Paul celebrates women leaders in the church (one even named an apostle), call for their equality in Christ, and lists himself as a benefactor of women contributors and supporters of his ministry (e.g., Romans 16:1-7; 1 Corinthians 1:10-11; 12:12-13; Philippians 4:2-3; Galatians 3:27-28).

While there are many verses that are not kind to women in the Bible and, honestly, there are many verses that are not kind to men, children, and animals too, there is no doubt that certain women were leaders. Deborah is among them and she wasn’t just a leader but a prophet as well. In fact, though I previously said, these judges were not “penal judges”, like we have in our court systems, it seems that this Deborah did act in such away, making judgments on disputes between people.

Most importantly, though, is that she was a prophet and that her prophecy led to Barak (I am sure this name sounds familiar) having victory over the Canaanites. What’s more, while the Canaanites were defeated, the victory did not go to the Israelite general Barak, but to A WOMAN who drove a tent peg through the head of the Canaanite general. Brutal, I know; however, it is important to name it and claim it that it was a woman, as prophesied by Deborah, who brought victory to Barak and the Israelites.

Following this, Deborah broke into one of the most epic war songs found in the Bible, making her among the Psalmists as well. Deborah led Barak in a song that gave the victory and the glory back to God. She was quite a woman, for sure. While her tale does not inform us of her “shortcomings”, no doubt Deborah had them as we all do. With that said, we Christians can certainly ascertain our own shortcomings while reading of Deborah.

How have we, as Christians, been Spirit blasphemers? How have we as Christians denied the work of the Holy Spirit as a result of our cultural and personal biases? How have we passed the Holy Spirit by because we could not see past gender, race, age, ability, sexual identity, or anything that we label people by? The challenge for us is to remove the LOG from our eyes so that we can clearly see the speck in our sisters’ and brothers’ eyes. If we do, we just might find out that, at least in some cases, what we initially saw as a “speck” might actually be the work of the Holy Spirit.

Did you know that American President Barack Obama was named after the Israelite general Barak, who sought guidance from Deborah? Think about the resistance our former president initially received over his name/ethnicity/religious affiliation/place of birth and what that says about our sinful (if not evil) biases, as well as our own Biblical ignorance.

Lord, forgive me for I have sinned against you and against heaven. I am not worthy of being called your child. Yet, you have redeemed me and set a feast before me to celebrate my return. Help me so that, in all that I do, I bring honor and glory to your name, just as your daughter Deborah did!