The idea that any family is just one generation away from decline needs no other example than the children of Israel. When Deborah rose to prominence as a prophetess and judge, the rebellious generation of Israelites that fled Egypt had died in the wilderness. A new generation traveled with Moses to the plains of Moab, and he taught them how to follow the Lord. Everything appeared to be in place for their conquest of the Promised Land as God’s holy people. But Judges 2:11-12 records, “Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals; and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt.”
Deborah's Counsel for Today
What happened? The Israelites failed to train their children in the Lord’s ways (Proverbs 22:6). God proved His love and faithfulness throughout their history, but the miraculous accounts of His provision had faded from the nation’s collective conscience. Because of Israel’s disobedience, the Lord allowed them to suffer at the hands of the Canaanites.
Frustrated by Israel’s sin and Canaan’s oppression, Deborah worked out a plan to deliver her nation. At the Lord’s prompting, she called for an army of Israelites to come together and defeat a Canaanite army of nine hundred chariots with attendant horses and soldiers. Though they didn’t have a single spear or shield, the Israelites rallied under Deborah’s leadership and conquered Canaan’s powerful army in the Lord’s Name.
In this humanly impossible circumstance, “God did a very unusual thing. He did not raise up a great warrior, an Othniel or a Shamgar or an Ehud. Instead… He chose a woman to be the deliverer of His people. Naturally speaking, it was the last place Israel would look for help. But she was God’s answer to their need.”1 And from Deborah’s example, God shows us how to stand up against the forces of wickedness with dedication and confidence.
Deborah was devoted to God.
Judges 4:4 says, “Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time.” She is one of several women in the Bible who were prophetesses. The Scriptures weren’t complete in biblical times, so God called prophets and prophetesses to give the people His messages. Deborah accepted her responsibilities with enthusiasm. In Judges 5, she describes the joy of leadership when God’s people are responsive. Notice verse 2: “When leaders lead in Israel, when the people willingly offer themselves, bless the Lord!” As a woman of high resolve and commitment, Deborah devoted herself to God.
Deborah was devoted to her family.
Deborah’s husband was named Lapidoth, which means “lightning flashes.” Scripture doesn’t give us any other details about Lapidoth, but I do not doubt that he was Deborah’s ideal counterpart. In this situation, God appointed a powerful woman, and He provided an equally forceful man to support her divine assignment. Because of their teamwork and commitment to the Lord, they accomplished great things.
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Beyond her marriage to Lapidoth, Deborah refers to herself as “a mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7). While this points to her esteemed role in Israel, it does not necessarily mean that she had biological children. The people of Israel were her children, and Deborah’s deep commitment to God gave her a deep passion for His family.
Deborah was devoted to her country.
The Bible tells us that Deborah lived somewhere between Bethel and Ramah in the hill country of Ephraim, and there under a palm tree, she held court. When people came to her with their issues, she would preside over their disputes. As Deborah heard complaints of Jabin and Sisera’s oppression, her heart filled with anger and concern for her nation. The situation got so bad that she assumed the role of a military leader and rallied the people against God’s enemies.
When no one else would take a stand, Deborah arose. That was her commitment. Now observe her confidence.
Deborah knew the Israelites would need to meet King Jabin’s army in battle, so she sent for a man named Barak and asked him to help deliver Israel from its enemies. Although Deborah requested Barak’s assistance, she did not draw her confidence from him. Ultimately, her strength came from the Lord.
Deborah was confident in God’s Word.
Judges 4:6 tells us, “She sent and called for Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, ‘Has not the Lord God of Israel commanded, “Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor; take with you ten thousand men of the sons of Naphtali and of the sons of Zebulun.”’” So, she asked Barak to join her. In effect, she told him, “We can do this because God has told us this is what we should do.”
Deborah was confident in God’s will.
In her speech to Barak, Deborah said, “Has not the Lord God of Israel commanded… ‘Against you I will deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand’?” (Judges 4:6, 7) In the next verse, Barak replied, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!”
Some have interpreted Barak’s response as a sign of weakness, and it may have been. But it also may have been a sign of wisdom. Knowing that God had given Deborah His blessing, Barak wasn’t willing to enter the battle without her. Whatever the reason for Barak’s reply, we can be sure that Deborah placed her confidence in Almighty God.
Deborah was confident in God’s work.
After Deborah pledged to accompany him, Barak recruited ten thousand men to meet Sisera’s nine hundred chariots. As they prepared for battle, Deborah gave a brief motivational speech. “‘Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the Lord gone out before you?’ So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him” (Judges 4:14).
Knowing the outcome was settled in heaven, Deborah spoke as if Israel had already secured the victory. The Israelites did not need to fear death. Centuries later, the apostle Paul echoed the same kind of resolve when describing our eternal security: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) Such boldness stems from an unshakable faith in God’s goodness and power.
Deborah was confident in God’s way.
How could ten thousand foot soldiers defeat an army of nine hundred chariots and thousands more soldiers? They could not! God went before them. Judges 4:15 says, “And the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army with the edge of the sword before Barak.” And in the song of Deborah, we read, “Lord, when You went out from Seir, when You marched from the field of Edom, the earth trembled and the heavens poured, the clouds also poured water; the mountains gushed before the Lord, this Sinai, before the Lord God of Israel” (Judges 5:4-5).
Almighty God fought the battle as only He could. Extensive portions of the Kishon River dry up seasonally, and at that particular time, the Kishon River was empty. But when Sisera’s soldiers and chariots entered the dry river bed, the Lord unleashed earthquakes and flash floods to stop the army’s advance—chariot wheels don’t spin well in mud. As the soldiers attempted to flee, the Israelites chased them down. Under Deborah and Barak’s leadership, God freed Israel from persecution.
Deborah’s Counsel for Today
Are you facing a mountain too high to climb? An enemy too strong to beat? Pain too much to bear? With God, one person can overcome all odds. When we’re up against the seemingly impossible, we are in a perfect position to watch God’s glorious power at work as we trust and obey Him. In the words of Peter, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
Courage is not the absence of fear but resolving to trust and obey God in the face of our fears. Deborah’s leadership, practical solutions, and motherly instincts embodied virtuous Christian living. Orchestrating a stunning victory over the Canaanites wasn’t even her greatest accomplishment. More importantly, Deborah called her people back to God. Judges 5:31 expresses her legacy: “‘Let those who love Him be like the sun when it comes out in full strength.’ So the land had rest for forty years.”
What Deborah did in her generation, we must be willing to do in ours. The Enemy presses against our career, against our marriage, against our health, against our greatest weakness. Wherever he advances, we stand with our Bible in hand and our faith secure. We live moment by moment in the truth that “the God of peace will crush Satan under [our] feet shortly” (Romans 16:20).
As believers in Jesus Christ, we are all warring against the forces of darkness. In Ephesians 6:10-11, Paul counsels us, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” That’s how we move forward in victory. No matter who we are in this world, we can stand up against our Enemy, as Deborah did, as people with a divine calling, a steadfast commitment, a courageous heart, and a confident faith.
1Gary Inrig, Hearts of Iron, Feet of Clay (Chicago: Moody Press, 1979), 58-59.