I have the privilege of contributing to He Reads Truth, a website of whose purpose is “To help men become who we were made to be, by doing what we were made to do, by the power and provision that God has given us to do it, for the glory of Jesus Christ.” They do this by providing scripture reading plans accompanied by reflections that can be accessed for free online or purchased as print books. For those of you looking to engage scripture in a fresh way, these studies/plans will refresh your soul and engage your mind.
What follows is one of the pieces I wrote for the Judges reading plan. You can find the full plan HERE.
Day 4: Deborah Judges Israel
Judges 4–5, Job 19:25–27, Psalm 68:7–10
There’s about a foot of distance between our head and our heart. And there’s only about four to six feet between our heads and our feet. But it takes so long for obedience to go that distance! Too often I understand God’s commands and priorities in my head, but I fail to feel their importance. I may know what God has spoken, but I’m slow to put it into practice.
Sometimes this is a problem with the way I think about leadership too. I can wrongly think that the person who is the most articulate--the one who seems to hear God’s voice most clearly--is a great leader. But true leadership doesn’t just hear and speak. It puts words and faith into action (James 2:14-26). Barak didn’t have any issues with understanding God’s command to deploy Israel’s troops. He and Deborah both heard God speak (ch. 4, v. 6). But what held Barak back from true leadership was his lack of courage. He wasn’t brave enough to act.
I have sympathy for Barak. It’s hard to step out in faith when circumstances are stacked against us. From a merely human perspective, Barak’s mission was doomed to failure. God told Barak to deploy his troops on Mount Tabor, but the mount was exposed, bordered only by the Kishon river basin, which was dried up most of the year. If he’d deployed his army there, Sisera’s chariots could easily surround them and cut off their escape. This was a suicide mission. No wonder Barak found God’s command so hard to obey!
But in spite of the odds, Deborah and Jael boldly trusted God. Their courageous leadership succeeded where Barak’s petered out (ch. 4, v. 9).
Deborah boldly summoned Barak. She reminded him about God’s promise of victory. And, when he continued to cower, she bravely went into battle with him (ch. 4, vv. 6-10). God honored her faith and fought for the Israelites. From chapter five, we learn that the Lord poured down rain, causing flash floods that trapped the enemy chariots (ch. 5, v. 4). As a result, God threw Sisera and all his charioteers into a panic before Barak’s assault (ch. 4, v. 15-16).
Then, as the enemy Sisera fled on foot, Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, offered him a place to rest. Inviting the general into her tent was a risk. Sisera had hoped to carry off Israelite women after the battle--“a girl or two for each warrior” (ch. 5, v. 30). He could easily have taken advantage of Jael sexually before he fell asleep. But God honored Jael’s courage (and quick thinking!) by delivering Sisera’s life into her hands (ch. 4, vv. 17-22; ch. 5, vv. 24-27).
Where can we find courage like Deborah’s and Jael’s? Where do we find the kind of obedient faith that is willing to go to risky, vulnerable places in obedience to God’s call? This kind of leadership only comes from looking to the invulnerable God who made himself vulnerable for us. God’s own courageous mission teaches us courageous leadership. The Father loved the world and sent the Son. The Father and Son send the Spirit. The Spirit forms us as his church and calls us to courageously participate in his mission to the world. Even when we languish in courage, God promises to sends his Holy Spirit like abundant rain. He revives us, so that we can leave behind what hinders, step out, and boldly obey his Word (Psalm 68:9).