“When leaders lead, others will follow” is the theme of the book of Judges in the Bible. I can still remember the impact this realization had upon me as a young woman when I studied Judges with a group of women. I recall not being super excited about the book the leader had chosen. But as I studied, my heart began to burst with excitement as I pondered how God might use me in my generation –– as he had used the judges in theirs.
Before Israel had kings to rule over them, God appointed judges and prophets to speak to the people on His behalf. When the judge was a godly influence, he would lead Israel to repentance and victory over their enemies. I found it baffling to learn how often God would respond in mercy when He heard the cries of oppressed Israel. Even though the Lord, through their enemies, would bring judgment upon their rebellious nation, He’d also raise up judges to guide them to become courageous warriors.
After Judge Ehud had personally assassinated the wicked king of Moab, he proclaimed to Israel, “Follow me, for the Lord has delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand”. Under his courageous leadership Israel’s army killed about 10,000 Moabites. As a result Israel enjoyed 80 years of rest (see Judges 3). But sadly, Judges chapter 4 reveals how after Ehud died, the children of Israel began to follow after false gods. So God gave them over to Jabin, King of Canaan, who harshly oppressed them for twenty years. This was not the first time that Israel would rebel against God after their godly leader died. And unfortunately, it would not be the last.
But God . . . I love that statement, don’t you? So many times in Scripture God shows up when His people cry out for help. In this case, Israel was paralyzed by fear of Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army who boasted 900 iron chariots. So, God rose up an unlikely judge, prophetess and hero of the faith –– a woman named Deborah.
Who Was Deborah?
Deborah was the wife of Lappidoth and possibly a mother. Although some theologians think that when she’s called “a mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7) it’s describing her as a godly matriarch.
Every day, Deborah could be found seated under the “Palm Trees of Deborah” determining causes and controversies while judging the people according to the laws of God. I can only imagine how many disputes this wise and godly woman must have resolved. If you’re a parent who spends your days helping your kids discern and resolve their conflicts in a godly manner, you may be able to relate to a typical day in the life of Deborah. Can I get a witness?
Deborah was an uncommon leader because she was a woman. God called her to a prominent position as a prophetess and judge at a time in history when He commonly appointed men to those positions. Deborah is in good company with a few other women prophetesses in the Bible: Moses’ sister Miriam in Exodus 15:20; Huldah in 2 Kings 22:15; Anna in Luke 2:36 and Phillip’s daughters in Acts 21:8-9.
What Did Deborah Do?
On an ordinary day while conducting her duties as judge, Deborah delivered God’s message to Barak to take 10,000 men to battle against Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army. Deborah’s prophecy continued, “And I [God] will deliver him into your hand” (Judges 4:7).
If you’re not a history buff, hang with me because this is where things get good. Barak, who should have been a mighty warrior ready for battle, basically told Deborah, “Yeah girl, I’m not going into battle unless you come with me.”
Don’t you love it? The guy had faith to believe that God spoke to him through Deborah. Barak even had confidence to trust God’s promise for victory. In fact, Barak is recognized for his faith in Hebrews 11:32. But his faith would be bolstered to go forth against insurmountable odds if Deborah agreed to join him. Without hesitation Deborah courageously agreed to go.
According to an article from Shepherd Press, “Deborah was not caught up in the fear of her day. She took God at His word. So when she was given the message to give to Barak to attack Sisera, she didn’t flinch. Even though Sisera had a formidable army that featured 900 chariots made of iron, she delivered God’s message to Barak with confidence: ‘Has not the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you?’ (Judges 4:6)”
Although Deborah didn’t engage in battle, her presence bolstered Barak’s courage to fight victoriously for the Lord. If you’ve not read the story of Barak and Deborah you’re really missing out. In a nutshell God showed up in miraculous ways to help Barak’s army obliterate Jabin’s army. And in a really cool turn of events, when Sisera flees for his life he takes refuge in the tent of a woman named Jail, who ends up driving a tent spike through his temple while he slept. This fulfilled Deborah’s prophecy to Barak which stated that because of his faltering courage “there will be no glory for you…for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman” (Judges 4:9).
Why Is Deborah Important in the Bible?
In the song Deborah composed after the battle, she gives us an incredible insight as to what happened when God awakened her from her comfortable existence. She exclaims, “Awake, awake, Deborah!” (see Judges 5:7-12).
With all of the turmoil in the world these days, we can relate to Deborah as a role model who lived in troubled times. After twenty years of oppression, while most of her people cowered in fear, God awakened within her a zeal to do something. As Deborah awoke, she arose as a leader to awaken others to stand up and fight.
When leaders lead, others will follow.
Think of it, on an ordinary day The Lord awakened Deborah to take action that would require courage and faith. Could today be the ordinary day that God is waking you from your own slumber to do through you more than you ever dreamed or imagined for His Kingdom and His glory?
Don’t shrink back and think that God uses other people. Be inspired to realize that God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. He wants to awaken you to all that He has planned for you.
The great preacher D.L. Moody was an ordinary man whose zeal was awakened when he heard the British revivalist Henry Varley say, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him.”
The words cut straight to Moody’s young heart. According to this article from Christianity Today, Moody recalled, “Those were the words sent to my soul through you from the Living God…By God’s help. I aim to be that man.” Varley’s words woke up the great preacher, D.L. Moody, whose ministry continues long after his death. I pray God awakens you to do the same.
The Apostle Paul said: “You became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit so that you became examples to all…who believe” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7). Paul led by example. And in turn those who followed became an example to others. See how it works? When leaders lead, others will follow.
Realize that God didn’t save you so you could live comfortably until you one day go to heaven. He saved you to lead others to love and follow Christ. Before the foundations of this world, God prepared specific plans He wants to accomplish through your obedient life –– your life!
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
Imagine, the Maker of heaven and earth knew you before creation, and He has things He wants to do through you that will awaken sinners to their need for a Savior, lead others to wholehearted devotion to Jesus, and bring glory to Christ as you live, as “blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life…” (Philippians 2:15-16).
Are you living in a way that you can say like Paul, “I urge you, imitate me” (1 Corinthians 4:16)?
Obeying God’s Call
One ordinary day, 20 years ago The Lord called my husband, Steve, to pastor a small church in California’s Central Valley. At a time when we were comfortably enjoying a sweet season of ministry in a church we helped plant in Texas, God began to tug at Steve’s heart to accept the position in California. I wish I could say I was immediately on board, but to be honest the idea of uprooting our kids frightened me because they were all doing very well in Texas.
When Steve was ready to lead our family to follow God’s call, he needed me to rise to the occasion, in spite of my apprehension. As we talked and prayed, the Spirit gave me an undeniable unction to obey God’s call.
Although I was afraid, God gave me courage to follow Steve all the way to California. As we pulled into the town where our church was located, I began to cry and sort of panic. I thought, What are we doing? This church has been without a leader for two years. They’re down to very few members and this city is so dark with drugs and despair. How can we make a difference? What about our children? And then suddenly, a Bible verse that I’d memorized interrupted my thoughts and gave me courage:
Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
To this day I get chills when I recall how God encouraged me with His Word, and looking back on the past twenty years we can recount all the ways God has strengthened us. Steve’s been a godly leader who awakens others to know and serve Christ. God’s certainly done exceedingly and abundantly more than we could have imagined in helping us proclaim Christ and make disciples.
We could have stayed in Texas where we were comfortable, and we would have continued ministering in our church. But oh what we would have missed. Stepping out in faith is never easy –– or practical. But when the Spirit gives you the zeal to lead others to follow Christ, He promises to be with you and to do through you more than you can imagine for His Kingdom and His glory. When leaders lead, others will follow.
How Is God Calling You?
Hebrews 11 recognizes God’s heroes of the faith, which incidentally includes Barak. The heroes recorded were simply ordinary people who God raised up in their generation. Reading their stories inspires me to wake up to do whatever God wants to do through my life, in my time –– how about you? After the author of Hebrews celebrates God’s heroes, he inspires us to awaken from our own apathy:
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
The same God who inspired Deborah, is calling you to arise and do His will. And when God calls you to His purpose, He’ll give you the unction to go forth. Consider Philippians 2:13: “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
God doesn’t expect you to come up with what you’d like to do for Him. Instead, He puts within you an irresistible desire to do those plans He’s purposed for you. And then if you pay attention, you’ll see God giving you opportunities to do those things. Consider this quote from the biography, “Life of DL Moody,” “The more we use the means and opportunities we have, the more will our ability and our opportunities be increased.”
Deborah is a role model of one who woke up and took action. As she accomplished her everyday task as a judge, God called Deborah to increased opportunity to lead others to wake up and serve The Lord.
Consider your own life. Have you pondered how God might be calling you to wake up to lead others toward righteousness? If you’re a parent, it’s easy to lose site of the value God places on your everyday task of parenting. Ponder this quote from my book, “Moms Raising Sons to Be Men:”
“What kind of legacy are you leaving? Psalm 127:3-5 helps provide some perspective here: ‘Children are a heritage from the LORD…Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.’
Have you viewed your children as arrows? Your [child] is an arrow you keep in your quiver for a short time. While he is entrusted to you, you must lead him …to wake up to shoot straight and true…when he is ready to be launched toward the target of God’s purpose for his life…
In history the influence of mothers [and fathers] has shaped nations, trained leaders, nurtured artists, and encouraged ordinary men [and women] to accomplish extraordinary feats. This is your time in history.”
Whether you’re a man or a woman, mother or not, in the same way that God used Deborah in her generation, He’s calling you to arise and courageously lead others to fight in God’s army. The god of this world, Satan, is blinding the eyes of people. It’s time to wake up and realize that we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities of darkness who come to steal, kill and destroy (see Ephesians 6:12, John 10:10).
Deborah’s final legacy reads, “So the land rested for forty years” (Judges 5:31). Her courageous life brought peace to her people. Today, the way to peace is found in leading people to Christ and stirring in Christians to do the same. Let this be your legacy. The battle belongs to the Lord. The captain of the hosts is Jesus and He is the One who will give you His courage to lead, because when leaders lead, others will follow.
Rhonda Stoppe is the NO REGRETS WOMAN. With more than 30 years of experience helping women build no regrets lives. I could have listened to Rhonda talk all night, is what women say about Rhonda’s enthusiastic, humorous, transparent teaching, and zeal as an evangelist. She’s committed to fulfill the Titus 2:4 commission by mentoring, teaching and writing books that are inspiring, grounded in Scripture and easy to read –– like you're visiting with a friend over coffee. Rhonda is the author of 6 books and appears on numerous radio programs including: Focus on the Family, Family Life Today and Dr. James Dobson’s FamilyTalk, and hosts The No Regrets Hour. She’s an evangelist and speaker at women’s events, College Women’s Chapel, Pastor’s Wives Conferences, MOPs and Homeschool Conventions. Sharing the gospel at her NoRegretsWoman Conference is her sweet spot.
Rhonda is a regular contributor for Crosswalk and many other magazines.Rhonda ministers alongside her husband Steve, who for 20 years has pastored First Baptist Church of Patterson, California. They live out their own Real Life Romance writing books and speaking at their No Regrets Marriage Conferences, but their favorite ministry is their family. They have four grown children and 10 grandchildren. To learn more about Rhonda’s speaking topics, watch her teaching, and to book Rhonda for your next event visit: NoRegretsWoman.com. Watch Rhonda teaching this inspiring evangelism training video.
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