Welcome! I’m so glad you’re joining us for this fourteen-week Bible study based on Girls’ Love Letters from God. If you have time, you may wish to keep a journal to record your responses to the questions. Please DO leave comments, responses or questions on this post so that we can learn from and encourage one another.
Deborah: The Strong Girl
Read: Judges 4:1-16
In 1939 a motivational poster was produced by a British company to boost the morale of its citizens as they faced news of impending war. On a bright red background, five words in capital letters stood out clearly, and proclaimed a bold message to the world: KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.
It’s a message that the heroine of our Bible story, Deborah, would have worn as a billboard around her neck. Except that in her case, I’ve a feeling it would say: KEEP CALM AND MARCH ON.
Let’s set the scene:
Joshua, the successor of Moses, has just led the Israelites through forty years of misery in the desert and has, at long last, arrived at the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Except that this land is also flowing with oppressors and enemies on every side. Add to this Israel’s rejection of God, and you have a recipe for disaster.
For the next 325 years, Israel would be subject to slavery, foreign rule and injustice. The book of Judges spans the careers of 12 rulers whose roles were to govern Israel and deliver her citizens from oppression. Only ONE of those judges was a woman. And that’s where our Deborah comes in.
Deborah was the fourth, and only female judge in Israel’s history. And if ever there was a strong girl, it’s this one.
Like many modern women, Deborah held several important roles, and obviously managed her responsibilities well. As well as being a judge, she was also a wife, a prophet, and a musician.
In Deborah’s role as judge:
She held court under Deborah’s Palm between Ramah and Bethel in the hills of Ephraim. The People of Israel went to her in matters of justice. Judges 4: 5
Picture the scene: here’s Deborah, sitting calmly under a tree named after her, hearing and settling disputes among thousands of unhappy, restless Israelites. There’s a big bully in the wings. His name is Sisera, a cruel king who has been oppressing the Israelites for twenty years. One day, Deborah decides that the time is right to face this intimidator, and summons Barak, the leader of her army. Much to his disdain, Deborah tells him:
It has become clear that God, the God of Israel, commands you: Go to Mount Tabor and prepare for battle. Judges 4: 6
What happens next is almost comical. Here’s Barak, an army general, who splutters:
“If you go with me, I’ll go. But if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.” Judges 4: 8
I can almost hear his knees knocking, and actually, the poor guy has good reason: Sisera’s army is not only larger than Barak’s, but he’s also in possession of nine hundred chariots made of iron. But still, I can’t help thinking that Barak is a wimp of a commander. On the other hand, Deborah is no wimp.
She stands up, holds Barak’s trembling hand, and marches right alongside him, with ten thousand men up to Mount Tabor, where, like all happy endings, God ensures their victory. Deborah stands on the mountain top, her hair blowing in the breeze, and boldly declares:
“Charge! This very day God has given you victory over Sisera. Isn’t God marching before you?” Judges 4: 14
Barak emerges victorious, the Israelites are liberated, and under Deborah’s leadership, the land enjoys peace for over forty years.
Friends, I don’t know about you, but I am so not like Deborah!
Deborah has a place, under that palm tree, where she faithfully meets with God every single day.
Deborah knows God so very well, and hears God’s voice so distinctly, that she can say, without doubt: it has become clear to me….
Deborah proclaims, in the face of overwhelming odds, God is marching before you…
Deborah doesn’t just keep calm and carry on, Deborah keeps calm and marches on, straight into the face of injustice and oppression and all the bullies in the world.
Then there’s me.
And this is my prayer:
God of the poor, and the least, and the lost, who sent Jesus into the world to preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, and to set the oppressed free… PLEASE help me do my part. Amen.
Since Deborah’s story challenges me so much, I thought it only fair to honestly answer my own questions. Please do comment, as you feel led, on what your responses might be.
Questions for Reflection
- What, about Deborah’s story, challenges you the most?
Deborah’s commitment to the oppressed and her courage in marching out with Barak really challenges me. Deborah didn’t just stay calm. She acted! If I’m truly a disciple of Jesus, then his mission needs to be my mission too, and I need to ACT!
- How are you working to change the world now, and where might God be calling you to more action?
I sponsor a child in Bangladesh through Compassion International, but I can do that without ever leaving the comfort of my own home! I know God is calling me to do more for the children in my church community, and that’s where I need to act.
- Do you faithfully meet with God every single day? If not, why not?
I try to meet with God every day but the reality is that I probably manage it 5 days out of 7, and even when I do manage it, I’m so easily distracted. My phone gets in the way. My laziness gets in the way. I know I should get up earlier, but I don’t.
- What is God revealing to you through this story?
Before I set out to write this blog post, I really didn’t know what I was going to say about it. It fell right in the middle of the presidential inauguration, with all the divisiveness that went with it, and the very day I pen these words, I know that many, many women are peacefully marching on Washington DC to raise their voices in support of those who are marginalized, poor, and oppressed. Regardless of where we each stand on the political spectrum, I have to admire these strong women for marching for what they believe in, like Deborah did. I need that courage.
- Re-read Deborah’s Story and Rahab’s Story. List the similarities and differences in these two women. Which of their characteristics would you like to emulate?
- Who are the strong women in your life who have helped shape who you are? Write a letter thanking them for their influence on you.