“ON EAGLES’ WINGS MINISTRIES”
“Did God Create A Man’s World?” August 2010 Part 10.
“And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, when Ehud was dead. And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles. And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel. And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.” Judges 4:1-5.
These studies have created great interest in the subject at hand, namely, the role of women in the world as God intended it to be. We used as a “marker” or a reference point, the words of Jesus when he said, “But from the beginning it was not so.” Matthew 19:8b. What does that single line from the Master suggest? We can safely assume that what was adopted by the masses other than what God had instituted at the beginning was not God’s best for us. We should know by now that one can get along in our walk with God. One can live a life that can be classified as merely “breaking even.” If you are a bread winner in your family and the one who takes care of all the monthly bills, and you are only breaking even, it means that you are living from paycheck to paycheck, with little or nothing tucked aside for a rainy day, or for emergencies of any type. There are those in the Christian pathway who are content to merely “get by.” But there are those who hunger and thirst for the best of God; not merely to be one of the seventy; and not merely one of the twelve; but one of the three who leaned on the bosom of Jesus Christ.
The women in scripture who were featured in our previous studies did not consciously set out to prove their dynamics to the men around them. They did not purposely determine within themselves to demonstrate to men what they were capable of achieving. I have not found in scripture where women consciously set themselves apart from men to prove their zest for life and the capacity to excel. They simply rose to the task at hand, and like a duck taking to the waters of a pond, they did what seemed natural to them at the time. If we were to step aside from the bible for a while and search out the exploits of women in human history, it would be mind boggling to see what they have achieved down through the centuries.
Apart from external accomplishments be it in politics, sports, or religion, women blending into that mix is intended to herald a bigger cause and teach a more sublime and spiritual lesson. Paul lived in an era and culture where women were looked upon as “second class citizens.” In fact Paul himself indicated that a woman’s rightful place is in the home, to have babies and be care givers. In his pastoral letter to Timothy, Paul said: “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some are already turned aside after Satan.” 1st Timothy 5:14,15. This is only one small aspect of Paul’s letters to individuals and to the churches.
In turning our attention to the greater role of women in general, the apostle painted a grandiose picture of her symbolic role in God’s grand design of things eternal. Let us begin here! “Husbands, love your wives, even (in the same way) as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. Let us see how to apply all of this to ourselves in our present situation. “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. Does this sound farfetched and rather outlandish? Paul steps back in and offer a balanced reasoning, making it easy to comprehend. “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” Ephesians 5:25-29,31-33. What Paul has laid out here is much, much more than a husband bossing his wife about, and treating her as an “object” for pleasure and menial tasks. If the husband sees his wife as an integral part of himself as Paul outlined just now, then there is no one to boss. There is no one to “rule over” because God’s ideal marriage does not come with a “ruler” and a “subject” or a “slave.” A husband is called upon to see his wife as his own body, flesh of his flesh and of his bones. Marriage as an institution initiated by God himself carries a greater meaning than we are being told. As the scripture just outlined for us, it is not merely a binding contract between a man and a woman standing before a member of the clergy and repeating vows. The love that is required to flow and interact between the husband and wife does not originate from a human fountain head. The man and wife are individuals chosen to demonstrate a Godly and heavenly love, always keeping Christ our example at the forefront. It is not about Tom and Mary! It is about Christ and the church. It is not about my body versus the body of my wife. Paul added this kernel of truth!
“The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.” 1st Corinthians 7:4.
The union in marriage is more than Tom marrying Mary and securing a homestead in the foothills of Montana, where they will raise their children and tend their cattle, gather eggs on the farm every morning, and send their children to an “Ivy League” private school. It is not about building a “Kennedy Dynasty” or a “Brown Dynasty.” Marriage is designed to demonstrate the union between Christ and his church. So cursing and insulting my wife, and my wife threatening to put my things outside on the street, are all counter-productive, and fails to reflect God’s divine purpose to begin with. In the lesson outlined by Paul, the wife does not need to go to great lengths to gain equality with her husband. Each person’s body belongs to the other, and they are equal in flesh and in body, even as it is between Christ and the church.
As we have seen in previous studies, many women of olden times made tremendous contributions to our own history as their acts of bravery, reverence, and faith have filled the pages of history. The shaping of our world and the contributions made by women is not confined to the religious field only. In the 2008 presidential election here in the United States, as then candidate Hillary Clinton began making huge strides forward, members of the media kept asking, “Is American ready for a woman president?” Frankly, it is a shame that such question should have been asked in the first place. What is so alarming about having a woman president? Back in the 15th century B.C. there was Hatshepsut, Queen of Egypt. She was a powerful political person long before she assumed the title of Pharaoh. Her beautiful temple at Dier el-Bahri still stands west of Thebes. In the 14th century there was Nefertiti, Queen of Egypt the powerful wife of Akhenaton. In about 69 to 30 B.C. there was Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. This woman was highly educated and possessed an impressive intellect, being a student of philosophy and international relations. There was Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of England and France, 1122-1202. We see Isabella of Castile, Queen of Spain, 1451-1504 and Mary Queen of Scots 1542-1587. We see Amina, Nigerian Queen, 1560-1610 who headed the northern Nigerian Hausa city-state of Zaria. She was a great military leader and she brought most of the other Hausaland city-states into her orbit. She opened up trade routes to the south, enriching Zaria’s economy with gold, slaves and cola nuts. There is Mbande Nzinga, Angolan Queen, 1582-1663. Standing tall is Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, 1727-1796. There is Queen Liliuokalani, Monarch of Hawaii, 1838-1917. There is Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel, 1898-1978, and Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, 1917-1984.
Time and space will not permit us to walk through the corridor of time and as it were, probe through the galleries of great women on display. But throughout human history there have been times when women stepped to the forefront to devise a new course for events of national proportion and significance. They have established thrones, ruled nations, built cities and economies, formulated new laws, and it could be said that some of these great women have set the world on a new course from which we are probably reaping the benefits today. For the most part, the ministry is being dominated by men and the subject of women usually comes to the forefront on “Ladies Day” That Sunday has the ladies in charge and they invite their own speakers, and determine among themselves how the entire day should be spent. As far as I can remember, when men speak about women from the pulpit it is usually about Dorcas and the coats and garments she made when she was alive. Acts 9:39. What is amazing to me is the fact that in spite of so many male ministers with degrees, such as “Doctor of Divinity” when it comes to the order and structure of the local church, women are treated as less than men. During my first visit to southern California I ministered at a church where the pastor was from the old school. His wife had oversight over the women in the entire southern district--something like a “State Mother.” She was permitted to stand on the floor in front of the rostrum and minister, but was not allowed up on the rostrum itself. No female speaker was permitted to minister from atop the rostrum and behind the pulpit. One is left to wonder how we allow ourselves to be caught into such man-made, unscriptural practices. In a recent news clip on television it was reported that more women are now earning degrees than men, and there are currently some powerful women making waves and turning the tide of life in these United States. When we think of female names in the bible certain names come to the forefront. Among my children, there is Ruth and Deborah; the boys are David, Andrew, Joseph and Paul. My second daughter’s name is Diane but her middle name is Veronica and this is a bible name found in the Apocrypha--not included in the KJV. The name Deborah is usually linked to the nurse in the home of Isaac and Rebekah. The name Deborah means a “bee” and is emblematic of industry, patience and usefulness, a beautifully appropriate name for a maidservant or nursemaid. As a bee symbolizes constant activity, industrious diligence and care, God endowed Deborah with the grace and will to live as a devoted and faithful nurse.
As Rebekah’s nurse she accompanied her mistress to her new home after her marriage to Isaac. When Esau and Jacob were born Deborah stepped in to take care of them. When Rebekah had no more need for a nurse, she did not dismiss Deborah. She remained in the family and was held in very high esteem. She became an indispensable treasure in that ancient patriarchal circle. Some writers believe that Deborah died at almost 100 years old and was lamented for as one of the family, and great honor was paid to her at her death. She was buried beneath Bethel under an oak tree whose name Jacob called Allon-bachuth which means “Oak of weeping.” Through her faith in God, she had transformed the bonds of servitude into those of love, and earned the devotion and gratitude of those whom she had so long and loyally served being a testament in itself.
We now turn our attention to another Deborah of whom little has been said over the many centuries of church history. This lady was a judge in Israel for forty years; which is equal to five two-term United States presidents or ten single term presidents. She was also an author and a prophetess with great achievements under her belt. We said recently that in every situation that required someone special to step into the gap, God has always found a man or a woman and Deborah certainly stepped up to the plate (as they say in base ball) and did what had to be done. Although we know nothing of the early history of this prophetess and judge in Israel, perhaps her parents had learned about the beauty and excellence of Deborah the nurse who served Rebekah, and gave their little girl the name Deborah The name Deborah means “a bee” and as such, this prophetess had honey for her friends and a fatal sting for the enemies of Israel. It is confirmed by science that the ancient belief that of all the animal kingdom, the bee ranks among the highest in intelligence.
No genealogy of this outstanding female judge and patriot is available, and the only personal account we have about her is that she was “the wife of Lapidoth” (Judges 4: 4) whose name is the only thing the bible offers. Their home was between Bethel and Ramah in the hill country of Ephraim. Listen to something that sounds strange to us in our present culture. “And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.” Judges 4:5. This was a time of distress in Israel for Jabin king of Canaan that reigned in Hazor launched war against Israel. In desperation, the Israelites came to Deborah under the palm tree that bore her name, not only for her judgment, but also for a message from the Lord as to their well being.
“And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedeshnaphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun? And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand. But Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go. And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honor; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kadesh. And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon. And the Lord discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet.” Judges 4:6-15. In her prophecy Deborah informed Barak that he would not be given credit in the defeat of Sisera for he shall be delivered into the hands of a woman. In his hasty flight on foot, Sisera came to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite. She went out to meet Sisera and invited him to come in and rest a while. She covered him with a mantle and gave him drink from a bottle of milk. While the man slept, Jael took a nail and a hammer and plunged the nail into one temple so that his head was fastened to the bed upon which he was asleep and he died. Thus Deborah’s prophecy came to pass as the Lord had spoken. This episode highlights two brave women whom the Lord used to accomplish a task that needed to be dealt with. It is thought that the entire chapter of Judges 5 is a composition of praise that Deborah shared with Barak as a result of their victory over Jabin and Sisera. Deborah is one of several females in scripture distinguished as being endowed with the prophetic gift, which means the ability to discern the mind and purpose of God and declare it to others. As prophet, she dispensed God’s words to Israel from under her palm tree, and as judge she donned her sword and rushed into battle. Knowing the odds they were facing Barak could not willingly accept the challenge from this formidable foe without having a prophetess and a judge by his side. The army of Barak numbered about 10,000 men, while Sisera commanded 100,000 fighters, and had 900 iron chariots.
When the eventful moment of battle came, the dauntless spirit of Deborah did not quail. She stood on the basis of God’s word spoken by prophecy and “the stars in their courses fought against Sisera. The prose and poem of Judges 4 and 5 are associated with the same historic event, and reveal that Deborah could not only prophesy, rule and fight, but also write. The easiest way to describe this woman is that she was well balanced and multi-gifted in the various facets of her life, that speak volumes even for us in this our day. When a thought is not fully expounded in scripture there are usually conjectures, suppositions, and probabilities thrown into the many methods used to glean what we deem to be the truth. As touching the family life of Deborah, little or nothing is said about her husband Lapidoth. Some speculate that he was a “hen-peck” man while others suggest that may be he saw the quality of leadership in his wife and was content to play a supporting role. Some speculate that perhaps Deborah played the role as the one wearing the trousers in the family. Back in the early 1980s I visited a church in Childersburg, Alabama, that lies about a third of the way between Birmingham and Montgomery. The church had a very large membership considering the composition of this small town. The pastor was a female while her husband did the heavy lifting chores. He was content to see to the upkeep of the property, the church buses, the soda machines, and other factors that impact the smooth running of the church.
With God a female does not have be a certain preordained fixture and a male automatically fits into what we deem to be masculine. We should always be mindful of the fact that the Holy Spirit anoints vessels without differentiating between sexes. A vessel that makes itself available for service in the Lord’s army is selected and set aside for a specific task without considering gender. We are told that many are called but few are chosen, and beyond that you and I are at a loss as to why God uses one vessel over another. We must always bear in mind the fact that whatever a person possesses as a part of his makeup he did not create or design it himself. The potter on his wheel fashioned each vessel based upon his own wish, his own will, and his own design--as it pleased him.
Deborah was the fifth of the “Judges” in Israel, raised up by God to deliver his people from the bondage their idolatry had created, and faithful in both word and deed she fulfilled her role as “Judge” at a time when men tried to do what he deemed to be right in his own eyes. Considering that in her day women in Israel were placed in a subordinate role, Deborah’s prominence as a ruler is somewhat remarkable. All Israel was under her jurisdiction, and from the palm tree bearing her name, and elsewhere, called “the sanctuary of the palm” she dispensed righteousness, justice, and mercy. This lady had to do more than stepping forward as a “Judge” or a prophetess. Her personal confidence in God and her vision for the deliverance of her people from under the influence of the Canaanites, would not accomplish much without the response of her people, with a willingness to advocate and embrace change. They were dejected and afraid, for their spirits had been broken and all hope of deliverance had vanished. It was against this backdrop that Deborah walked to the forefront and like a brave captain in a violent storm stepped up to the “controls” to bring the ship safely into port. She did more than prophesy; she aroused the nation from its lethargy and despair. She developed a fearless and unwavering devotion to the emancipation of her people, and she kindled in them a determination to free themselves from their wretched bondage and degradation. Day after day, she excited those who gathered to hear her words of divine wisdom with the certainty of deliverance from a heathen foe if only they would bestir themselves from their folly and their fear. Day after day, Deborah judged her people sitting under the palm tree that bore her name, where she heard disputes, quarrels, crimes and various offences. When we consider that she did this for forty years, this achievement is mind boggling.
As we said before her tenure spanned the tenure of 10 single-term presidents, or 5 double-term presidents. But her daily deliberations and judgments among her people was unlike the daily activities of the President of the United States meeting with his cabinet and deliberating over certain crucial issues. In this setting the President gets feedbacks and suggestions from each person around the table, based upon each person’s research, contacts, and briefings. Deborah on the other hand, sits alone in her seat of authority with no one prodding and offering tit-bits of suggestions. She works alone, drawing from the gift within, and pulling on the source without. No one questions her authority, possibly because her work was tried and tested and proved to be from God. Can you step back in time just for a moment and picture this lady sitting under a palm tree and judging all Israel? It is somewhat strange (but admirable) that she did not establish her own meeting place with her name over the entrance door, where she placed her gifts on display, and over time began to throw her weight about. Based upon what the scriptures say about Deborah, she operated as a humble servant of the God of Israel.
In the song that she composed that both she and Barak sang together she said; “In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael (she slew Sisera by driving a nail into his temple that pinned him to the furniture that he died) the highways were unoccupied, and the travelers walked through byways. The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel. My heart is toward the governors of Israel that offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless ye the Lord.” Judges 5:6,7,9. One account has this to say about Deborah. “Deborah is a unique character in the bible. She is the only woman to be a Judge of Israel. Her story takes place between the years 1209 and 1169 B.C. She was a prophetess and Judge of Israel, the equivalent of king. How she came to be chosen for this position is not recorded but it is evident in her story that her leadership was honored. As Judge, she was also leader of the army of Israel. The first thing that becomes obvious about the story of Deborah is how much it is like the story of Christ. Over and over again in the Old Testament, we see the Israelites ending up oppressed, often as a consequence of their own actions. And over and over again, we see God send a deliverer to rescue the Israelites. God seems to enjoy sending deliverers that the people would not expect. They certainly couldn’t have expected a woman to deliver them from the Canaanites. Jesus was not the Messiah that the Pharisees expected either. But both deliverers got the job done.
Let us consider the case of Barak a little closer. Deborah told him prophetically that Israel will win the conflict with Jabin and his captain Sisera. But when it was time to march off to war, Barak halted and said plainly that if Deborah does not go with him, he won’t go either. Two points of interest can be observed here! One seems to be that Barak had complete faith in the judgment and words of Deborah, and that Deborah was a courageous and faithful woman. Basically, her story is largely about success against all odds. Though everything about the times and the culture was against Deborah serving as the leader of a nation, she did. Though her army was vastly outnumbered, they won. Though her enemy tried to hide among sympathizers, one he believed to be on his side killed him anyway. It is easy to get caught up by circumstances that stick to us like leaches in the Amazon jungle, insomuch, sometimes like Peter we see the waves rather than seeing Jesus almost a stone’s throw away. Perhaps we would not be far wrong in assuming that over years of personal conviction, sacrifice, and undying faith, Deborah had learned to look beyond the things that are seen, and tap into the unseen. She embarked upon a journey that no other woman in her day dared to travel and she succeeded.
Royce O. Kennedy