Unlikely Heroes – Deborah (Gateway Austin)

At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued our series called “Unlikely Heroes.” I shared some of the following thoughts at the South Campus:

Would you consider yourself a leader?  Should you be a leader?  Leadership means using your influence in the life of another person.  You may lead thousands or you may lead one.  Who do you lead?

Some of us may lead naturally.  Others of us may be leading and unaware of our level of influence. Others of us may need to lead and have chosen not to do so.

During the time of the judges, it was a lawless and evil time. As a result, God was bringing order out of the chaos. He introduced the law through Moses – basic human interaction needs to include honesty, respect for other people (no murder, no adultery, no stealing). It was during that time that God introduced the concept of “innocent before proven guilty” by creating places of refuge for those who were accused of crimes. All around the people of Israel, tribes and nations would sacrifice their own children to their gods, and they would seek to take over the land of their neighboring tribes. When they did, looting, rape, killing, and taking children into captivity was commonplace.

“With no leadership, people experience chaos” Judges 17:6

The people of Israel had a cycle of falling away, experiencing the consequences of falling away (discipline), asking for forgiveness, and then deliverance. (Judges 2:16-23)

God uses leaders to rescue others. Who has been a hero to you?  Someone in your family, a teacher, a mentor, a friend, a boss?

I used to think I was a reluctant leader but really I was a rebellious Christ-follower.  Many of us were created to do more than we are doing.  Our lack of confidence, apathy towards others, selfishness, among other things keep us from stepping into moments where we can help.

There are moments in our lives, when we need a hero.  Sometimes, as we are looking around for others, others are looking to us.

Deborah, the wife of Lappidoth, was a prophet who had become a judge in Israel… One day she sent for Barak… She said to him, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: Assemble ten thousand warriors from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun at Mount Tabor. I will lure Sisera, commander of Jabin’s army, along with his chariots and warriors, to the Kishon River. There I will give you victory over him.”

Barak told her, “I will go, but only if you go with me!”

“Very well,” she replied, “I will go with you. But since you have made this choice, you will receive no honor. For the LORD’s victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman.” – Judges 4:4-9, NIV

Ten thousand men weren’t enough for Barak. He needed one woman to feel safe.

Now 3000 years ago a woman led the people, at a time when women were seen more like property.  Men had multiple wives. Scriptures filled with examples of how God empowers women. In fact, there is a trajectory of opportunity, respect, and freedom for women that begins in the Old Testament. We see women leading in the early church in the New Testament (Priscilla, Lydia, Junia, and Phoebe). If you look throughout history, nations influenced by Christianity have always valued women – to the point where education and leadership are considered the norm. It is hard to believe that in our world right now, there are still countries that forbid women from an education, from driving, or even from showing their face.

God raises the status of the marginalized.  Deborah’s influence grew because she was wise and listened to and followed God.

When are we like Barak?  Unwilling to go where God wants us to go unless He meets some of our conditions.  Negotiating with God doesn’t work well since we are acknowledging we don’t trust Him.

Deborah saw herself as a prophetess and not a warrior, but circumstances required stepping out of her comfort zone.

Barak finally defends his people, and the Israelites win. The evil Sisera escaped into the tent of a woman named Jael. Sisera was cruel and treated women as property or objects (Judges 4:3 and 5:28-30). More than likely, had Sisera won, Jael would have been take hostage and become enslaved, raped, or killed. Now he was asking for milk to drink and for a potential victim to help him hide. Instead Jael picked up a tent peg and drove it through his temple into the ground which killed Sisera.

“’Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked?’ declares the Sovereign LORD.  ‘Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?’” – Ezekiel 18:23

Sometimes violence precedes peace (judges 5:31).

The people of Israel were victorious because “the people volunteered with abandon…. (Judges 5:2, The Message)

How different would the world be if we all stepped up to make a difference?!

What does God want you to do? How does he want you to serve?

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