Summary: Deborah and Jael might make you rethink your idea of a woman of godly character.
[Grateful for JD Greaar's sermon series "Broken Saviors" for much of the outline for this sermon]
Good morning. Please turn in your Bibles to Judges 4.
I have a friend from my high school youth group named Melissa. She’s brilliant—got her doctorate in English literature, has been a high school English teacher, is a published poet, and is just a really fun person to know.
Anyway, I saw a post from her on Facebook a few weeks ago that showed a picture of a book called “Great Women of the Christian Faith,” which was first published in 1959. Melissa had been flipping through this book, which is filled with the biographies of Christian women from the second century all the way up to the twentieth century. It’s got Catherine of Siena, Joan of Arc, Teresea of Avila, Martin Luther’s Wife, Lottie Moon—its really a cool collection.
But then Melissa got to this page [transition], which says, “Material on pages 198-203 deleted, since personality not suitable for this compilation.
And my friend Melissa was like, “Wow! What kind of scandal did there have to be for a woman to be deleted from an anthology of “Great Women of the Christian Faith?” Did she show too much ankle while she was campaigning for women to be allowed to vote? Did she argue for drums in the worship service? Did she PLAY drums in the worship service? What was it about her personality that was deemed unsuitable?
So I got a little obsessed with trying to get to the bottom of this literary mystery. I ordered the book. Then I ordered an earlier edition of the book, thinking that maybe it would have the disputed pages in it. But it turned out to have the same disclaimer. So that’s twenty bucks I’m not gonna get back.
Meanwhile, because Melissa is much smarter than I am, she contacted the publisher to see if she could get any insight into who got edited out. And it turns out that it was Emma Hale Smith, the wife of Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism. So someone realized pretty early on that the wife of the founder of Mormonism probably didn’t belong in a book about women of the Christian faith.
So, mystery solved. But it made me wonder—how many women, if you are being honest, wonder if your personality isn’t compatible with how most people picture a godly, Christian woman?
Maybe you went to a women’s Bible study somewhere, and you were really pumped about digging deep into God’s Word, and instead the “Bible study” seemed to be mostly about matching window treatments with throw pillows.
Or you’re a leader in the business world, who supervises a lot of people. Or you’re a high ranking officer in the military. But you come to church and you hear verses like “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission, and if she has any questions, she should ask her husband at home” (1 Tim. 2:11). And you’re like “Huh?” God gave me a brain. He gave me leadership skills. Am I just supposed to check them at the door on Sunday mornings?
Or you’re single. Or you don’t have children. Or divorced. And you look at church and all the programming seems to be geared to stay-at-home moms with 2.5 kids who all drive minivans. And you wonder, “Is my personality suited for this compilation?”
Well, this morning, as we continue our study in the book of Judges, we’re going to look at two women—Deborah and Jael, that honestly might surprise you that they weren’t edited out of the pages of Scripture, because they for sure don’t line up with how we typically think about women of godly character.
And I know we are only a couple of weeks away from Mother’s day, and some of you might have expected me to skip Deborah and just save her story for Mother’s day. But the more I read and studied, the more I realized that there’s as much or not more in Judges 4-5 that’s directed to men as there is toward women. So men, don’t zone out. There is plenty in here for you, too. That’s why I’m calling this sermon, “Listen Up, Boys and Girls. It’s a call to lead.
So allow me to read the full story of Judge Deborah. I’m not going to make you stand up for it, because it’s actually pretty long. This is Judges 4.
4 And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD after Ehud died. 2 And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim. 3 Then the people of Israel cried out to the LORD for help, for he had 900 chariots of iron and he oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for twenty years.