The story of Deborah continues with recounting the battle between Israel and Sisera. Israel wins the battle by God sending a rainstorm down- in the middle of the dry season- which throws off Sisera’s army and throws them into chaos and confusion. Israel annihilated the enemy and killed them all. All but one. Sisera- who left the battle on foot (presumably because his chariot of iron got stuck in the mud and was useless) and ended up slain by Jael in her tent. I believe that Jael deserves her own story, so I won’t give a lot of the details of that part here- but through the actions of both these women and Barak, victory is won to Israel and peace is restored in the land for 20 years.
In Deborah’s song in chapter 5, she describes herself as “a mother in Israel”. I just want to take a look at that for a moment because I believe that there is much there in the word ‘mother’.
We don’t know if Deborah was a mother or not. The bible does not talk about any children of hers. It’s easy to assume though that she was, but when the word mother is used here, it is not speaking of her being a mother of children. It is talking about her being a mother of Israel. The commentaries say that the title was given to her as one of honor, respect and prominence.
If I just ended with that, I think that gives some insight to the honor, respect and prominence that God has for the role of motherhood. I think that is a beautiful reminder that the work that we do as mothers is seen by the God of the universe and is valuable to Him. In the midst of the busy-ness of our unglamorous lives between diapers and cheerios and battles about bedtime and bathtime and mealtime, etc, etc it is so easy to forget that what we do, MATTERS. It matters to the Most High God.
I think there’s also something to think about though in this story in regards to the idea of a woman who was leading Israel and her calling herself a mother. What can we learn from this story about how women lead and how God feels about women in leadership?
Well, first- we find this story in the Bible with nothing in or around it written that suggests that God has a problem with a woman leading. In fact, she was the judge who was written about in the most positive light. This says to me (along with other examples elsewhere in the Bible) that God does not have a problem with women leaders. Some of you may be reading this and thinking that that is a super obvious conclusion. But others of you may be surprised by that. I am not personally surprised by it, but I feel as though this is an important thing for me to learn and understand at the season of life that I am currently in.
Second- there are a lot of words that come to mind when we hear the word ‘mother’. What do you think of? Well, to name a few; protector, hospitable, tender, kind, caring for needs, caring for the weak and oppressed, putting the needs of others before our own, seeking the good of others before our own, sacrificial, servant…
This is how Deborah describes her leadership of Israel. Men and women are both called to be leaders, but I believe that our leadership looks different. I believe the differences are good and the differences were created intentionally by God. So many of the stories in the Bible that highlight influential women, seem to begin with that woman simply serving those around her. Maybe through food or hospitality or wisdom. And as she rises to leadership, she does so because she has gained the trust and love of the people around her and she continues to be loved and trustworthy because she doesn’t forget the people she is serving. She speaks for those who cannot speak for themselves. She protects those who are defenseless. Just like a mother.
What would happen I wonder, if us women caught the heart of God for the weak, the poor, the defenseless and became mothers for our world? That is, I believe, what we were created to do. We are world changers.
Deborah was a great leader. We would all do great to learn from her and follow her lead and immulate her faith. No doubt in my mind about that. The way that she sacrificially loved and served her people on behalf of her God points towards the way that thousands of years later, the Ultimate Judge would come. He came because He loved. He came to serve and sacrifice himself in order to save the people who would continue to sin and make poor life choices because without Him, it’s impossible for us to make good ones. And that is ultimately what the story of Deborah is about. It’s about the true Hero who has come to save us all, and how when He comes, our lives change. And when our lives change He can work through even the smallest people to make the biggest changes.