BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For the week beginning Sunday September 23, 2012
FOLLOW THE LEADER
(Follow the leader who follows CHRIST JESUS)
(Judges 4 & 5)
The Prophetess Deborah is the only female Judge in Israel’s history. Her bold leadership encouraged and enabled Barak, her army’s General, to win a great victory over the Canaanite King Jabin of Hazor, and his army general, Sisera, who commanded a force consisting of 900 iron chariots.
The Old Testament account of Deborah’s life serves to illustrate the important truth that, what qualifies an individual for leadership, in the eyes of GOD, is not one’s sexual gender, but rather, it is one’s personal, experiential relationship with GOD, that makes one the most worthy to lead HIS people. Even in a male-oriented society, women with exceptional personal and spiritual qualities have often risen to leadership roles, and in Deborah’s case, her impact is only partly explained by her call as a Prophetess.
Judges 4:8-9 and Judges 5:6-9, suggests that there had been a total breakdown and void of male leadership in Israel, during this period of the era of the Judges. Deborah’s vigorous leadership was instrumental in repairing that breakdown, as she was able to instill pride and confidence back into Israel’s male population, during her forty-year residence as judge.
The esteem, in which Deborah was held, is reflected in Judges 4:8-9, where we find Barak refusing to face their enemies, even though GOD had directed him to, unless Deborah herself, went with him. This type of reaction by Barak demonstrates the dominant role that Deborah had achieved in Israel’s society in those days.
Deborah’s acceptance as leader in ancient Israel, came at a time when such roles were not extended to women, however, her example shows that GOD uses those individuals who are pleasing to HIM, regardless of race, gender, economic status, or even, national origin. This story of Deborah serves to remind us men that, if we don’t step into, and accept our GOD-given roles as leaders in our society, then GOD, can, and will, replace us with our female counterparts on certain occasions.
This unique and powerful story takes place in the hill country of Ephraim, between Ramah (this is the Ramah that is a city of the tribe of Benjamin) and Bethal, (which means “house of GOD”). In Judges 4, taking up at verse 4, Deborah, the wife of Lappidoth (where was he?), summons Barak from his home in Kedesh of Naphtali and informs him that GOD had commanded him to assemble 10,000 men from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun to go to war. And, even though GOD promises him victory over King Jabin and Sisera, he still refuses to go to war unless Deborah goes with him. Deborah agrees to go with him, but tells him that, because of his wimpy decision not to go without her, all of the honor for this victory would ultimately go to a woman.
The Israelites went on to defeat Sisera and his army of 900 chariots, killing all of his soldiers, after GOD had confounded them with earthquakes and rain storms, causing their chariots to get stuck in the mud. Sisera, however, escaped and ran to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber, the Kenite, who was alone at that time. Her husband, Heber, had moved away from the rest of his tribe, and had pitched a tent by the Oak of Zaanannim near Kedesh (Judges 4:11). Heber had been known by Sisera, to be on friendly terms with King Jabin, and so he decided to seek refuge there. Heber’s wife Jael, however, had something different in mind.
Jael invited Sisera into her tent and began to show him warm and polite hospitality. Sisera asked his gracious hostess for some water, and she kindly gives him milk instead. The milk caused Sisera to fall asleep more quickly from his exhaustion, and after he had fallen asleep she took a hammer and a tent stake, and drove it through his temple.
When Barak and his army of men arrived, Jael showed them that she has already slain Sisera. However, without knowing it, she had fulfilled the prophecy of Deborah, where she told Barak that, because of his disobedience to GOD’s command, “the glory of victory would go to a woman”. And so, on that day, GOD released the Israelites from 20 years of ruthless oppression at the hands of Sisera. The Israelites went on to become stronger and stronger, and ultimately, destroyed King Jabin and his army completely.
When GOD is your ally, you don’t need anyone else to help you fight and win your battles, and, when GOD gives you instructions, you don’t need to try to change, or, tweak them. You don’t even, necessarily, need to totally understand them, nor, try and figure them out completely before you begin to act. It is a person’s faith that moves GOD to action, and so, you only need to trust GOD, completely.
The reason GOD allows us to go through, seemingly, hopeless situations, is to show us how powerful HE is, and how impotent we are without HIM. Barak went on to become a man of great faith in the years that followed, and this is verified in Hebrews 11:32. Ironically, this story begins and ends with men hiding behind the skirt tails of a woman, as first we see Barak hiding behind Deborah, and in the end, we see Sisera hiding behind Jael.
Judges chapter 4 is clearly a story, where the woman takes the lead. Israel, found itself under oppression, because no man was willing to step up and follow GOD completely, or stand up for their own country and families. It has been often said, that, “some things we bring upon ourselves” because of our fear, neglect or ignorance. Israel’s men had grown so far away GOD spiritually, that, HIS natural order and intention for them had actually taken a “satanic flip-flop” (the opposite of GOD) in society. Men no longer wanted to fulfill their role as family, civic, and church leaders, and so, women had to, in order to survive. Sound familiar?
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website