Deborah – A Mother of Israel
Deborah is one of the most courageous and inspirational women in the Bible, who has achieved a great victory over the evil one, just by the strength gathered from God alone. She was a woman gifted with multitasking by divine grace. She was God-fearing, always understood the will of God, communed with God and carried out the plan of God. She was a judge, a poetess, a prophetess and a worshipper of God. “A gracious woman retains honor,” said Solomon and is true in the case of Deborah (Prov.11:16). She was a woman of discernment. As a judge, she found time to listen to the worries and problems of the children of Israel. She sensed the attack of Canaanites on Israel. She called herself as a Mother of Israel. She had a great concern about the agony and affliction of Israel during those days. She herself identified as a Mother to them, then a Judge or a leader or a queen. The country was griped with anarchy; nobody dared to walk through the high ways and the village life was ceased. When Deborah took the matter to the Lord, He revealed His plans and purposes to her.
Deborah and her prophecy
The Lord God revealed four strategic facts to her.
1. God would go before them; they were not alone in the battle. With much boldness and confidence, she told Barak that God was with them (4:6).
2. Lord revealed to her about the place of battle at the valley of Mount Tabor near Kishon River. She told Barak, “Has not The Lord God of Israel commanded, “Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor” (4:7).
3. Deborah proclaimed and prophesied saying “I will deliver him (Sisera) into your hand”.
But all these words of prophecy could not make Barak confident. He kept on saying “If you will go with me, I will go. If you will not go, I will not go”.
4. To alert Barak, a man of little faith, prophetess Deborah had to reveal the finale of the prophecy. Sisera will be killed by a woman (4:9). “The Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman”.
Throughout the word of God, we can see how God used weaker vessels like Deborah for the glory of God. Deborah’s words could encourage and develop confidence and faith in Barak march forward without turning back. We need such Deborahs in our assemblies and families to understand the will of God and to guide the youngsters to the right track from their hide-outs. She was just a mother of Israel who saved many lives from the jaw of death. The value and influence of godly mothers are so precious and incalculable.
Deborah a woman of determination
In the days of Deborah, Canaan was a city-state which was ruled by King Jabin. Canaan was heavily armed whereas children of Israel were unarmed. But Deborah and Barak, trusting in the Lord, got up ready to fight against the Canaanites. Powerless children of Israel became powerful. Initially, the army of Israel was only ten thousand. God moved the heart of the people and it went up to forty thousand. Yet, the army of Israel was nothing before the powerful Canaanites. It was really a formidable array of strength for the children of Israel. They became all the more confident because Deborah encouraged them saying, “Has not the Lord gone before you” (Jud.4:13). Throughout their wilderness journey, God had gone before them and guided them (Exo.13:21). The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light (Deut.31:8) And the Lord is the one who goes before us, He will be with us. What a comfort for each one of us to know that, we do not have to wade through the billows and waves of this life alone. When untimely darkness comes, remember our God goes before us to shed light in our path. A child of God must always pray, “Oh, God you may go before me.”
Reaction of the Tribes of Israel
In response to the clarion call of Barak, the tribes of Ephraim and Benjamin rushed to the valley to face the enemies. Issachar also joined to fight with Sisera’s army. Special commendation was given to Zebulun and Naphthali who jeopardized their lives to the point of death.
There were four tribes who did not join with Israel. The tribe of Reuben stayed at home. Manasseh also sought the comfort zone, since Gilead was safe and secure. Dan stayed in ships and Asher continued on the sea shore. Humanly speaking, the chance of victory was very slim. These tribes must have never imagined a victory but a sure defeat. They failed to see the unseen army of The Lord of Host behind Israel; “the very stars and rivers were fighting against Sisera”. The sudden wind and cloud burst were all part of heaven’s plan to defeat Israel’s enemies.
When we listen to the Lord’s still voice and go ahead, there may be people like Reuben, Asher, Manasseh and Dan who discourage us. If we wait to get the support of all, we may probably never get a chance to serve the Lord. Hold onto God alone, look unto the Lord alone. There may be roaring Red Sea in front of us, the rushing army of Pharaoh behind us but let our ears be open to the still small voice of the Lord. Non co-operation of the tribes could not dwindle Deborah’s determination.
Deborah: a poetess
Barak became all the more courageous and led the army down from Mount Tabor to the valley. God expected Barak just to follow Him as He was going before Barak’s army. The rest was done by the Lord. We read, the Lord routed Sisera and his chariots. To know God’s great work of deliverance and victory we need to go through the song of Deborah. The stars from heaven fought against Sisera; the Lord’s army fought for Israel against Sisera. The Canaanites depended on their 900 iron Chariots, but the children of God did not trust in chariots and horses Ps 20:7. They trusted in the Name of the Lord which is a strong fortress and refuge in times of trouble.
Beyond anyone’s imagination God did wonders through His creation. God sent a fierce rain and storm (Jud.5:21, 22). There was a cloud burst followed by a torrential downpour, the river Kishon became flooded and started overflowing. The battle field was turned into a sea of mud. Deborah sang “The Lord came down for me against the mighty. The earth trembled and the heavens poured water. The mountains gushed before the Lord.”
The murky muddy sea bed hindered the mobility of Canaanite chariots and horses favoring the Israelites to pursue the Canaanites. They attacked them and slaughtered them and finally wiped them out. This incident reminds me what God had done to Pharaoh and his army of chariots in the Red Sea.
This great incident happened in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo. Megiddo was a pass between Jezreel and Sharon. Megiddo was a scene of several battles recorded in the scriptures.
1. Deborah’s victory 2. Gideon’s victory (Jug.6:33) 3. Saul’s defeat (1 Sam 31:1) 4. The death of King Josiah in a battle (2 King23:28) 5. And more over the last great battle of this age will be fought here at Armageddon (means Mount of Megiddo). At that time our Lord will appear in glory on the mount of Olives and deliver His people Israel in a miraculous way (Rev.16:16; Mat 24:29-31).
Lord is our reward
The Lord records and rewards us for everything we do to Him. To Abraham He said, ” fear not I am thy….. exceedingly great reward.” (Gen.15:1). Enoch realized that the Lord “is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Heb11:6).
Many years later the Lord rewarded Zebulun and Naphthali for their faithfulness. When both these tribes were living in darkness, Lord Jesus Christ the light of the world went to them and dwelt among them. “The land of Zebulun, and the land of Nephthali, …..The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death, light is sprung up” (Mat.4:14- 15).
Deborah: a worshipper
Once the battle was over prose became poetry. Deborah and Barak were overwhelmed by seeing the mighty hand of Lord and started praising God in poetic words. It was a victory celebration of out- pouring of her joy in the form of praising God. She sang “I will sing to the Lord: I will sing praises to the Lord, the God of Israel “.
Deborah and Barak trusted only the unfailing promises of God who is rich in mercy.
Like Miriam Deborah too could not suppress her joy of deliverance. Miriam the first prophetess with her friends started singing and praising God. Deborah too praised and thank God for His great work. Along with Psalmist we can also sing over the great work of redemption done on the cross of Calvary. “Bless The Lord O my soul and forget not all His benefits” Ps103:2. “I will sing to The Lord as long as I live” Ps 104:33. Let it be our desire also to sing to the Lord as long as we live.