Summary: Deborah was one of the great "she-roes" of God. What was it about her that made her a heroine in the book of Judges and what is it about her faith that got God's attention?
Someone once said that “It is important for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!" - Maya Angelou
To that person's mind the term “she-roes” was a unique and eye-catching way to talk about heroines.
And I like that word.
In the Bible there are many heroes, but there aren't that many “she-roes”. But of those “she-roes” that are in Scripture, one of the most impressive is this woman we've read about this morning: her name is Deborah.
Now Deborah’s only mentioned in these two chapters (Judges 4 and 5) but hers is a powerful story. In these two chapters we’re actually told quite a bit about her. And amongst the things we’re told is that she’s:
• A prophetess - Judges 4:4
• A judge who “used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment.” Judges 4:5
• A woman who was used by God - Judges 4:6
• She described herself as “a mother in Israel” – Judges 5:7
• And the entire chapter of Judges 5 is dedicated to a song of praise she sang to honor the power of God in conquering Israel’s enemy.
Now, Deborah was an extremely unique judge.
She was different than any of the other judges mentioned in this book about “Judges.”
For example, unlike several of the other judges in the book of judges, there’s not a single word of condemnation about Deborah. The Bible speaks nothing but praise for her faith and actions in her service of her God.
2ndly, unlike several of the other judges in the book of judges she isn't called by God to go to war as a military commander. I mean, she does go to battle beside Barak, but she wasn't called to lead the army to war. She went as an encouragement to Barak.
And 3rd - she’s the only judge in the book of Judges that behaves even close to what we’d call a judge. All the other judges seem to be called to go to war… but not her. She’s called a judge because she acts like what we’d think of as a judge. People come to her to have her arbitrate their disagreements with one another.
ILLUS: Now, when you think of a judge, what images come to mind?
A court room.
A judge dressed in black robes.
And there’s usually a bailiff or a deputy, who’s armed with a gun or Taser, and is charged with keeping order in the court.
Judges in our culture are those who can pass judgment, and have the power to impose penalties, and even to punish people by sending them to prison.
But that’s not quite how things worked back then.
In the days of the Old Testament, “judges” were more like “arbitrators”. There were no police or prisons to enforce their rulings. Often times the leading men of the city would serve as these arbitrators. And you wouldn't find them in a beautiful court room. Instead, you'd find them down at the city gates. That’s where they “held court”.
People who needed their disagreements settled would go to the city gates because that was where they’d most likely find the wise men of the community.
Now, by contrast Deborah didn't need to go the gate of the city.
She sat under her own palm tree.
Judges 4:5 tells us “She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment.” (ESV)
Deborah was one of the most famous of the judges of her day.
In our culture, many of us couldn't begin to give the name of a judge in their city, but we could give the name of an advice counselor in the local newspaper. In my day it was Ann Landers, and her sister who’s by-line was “Dear Abby.”
Just as people would flock to Deborah for her advice, people in our day flock to send their letters to the “Dear Abby’s” of our culture to have them arbitrate disagreements between them. They serve the same function as the “judges” of the Old Testament.
So Deborah was a judge in Israel.
But she wasn't only a judge… she was also a prophetess.
When you think of a prophet in the Old Testament who do you think of?
Isaiah or Jeremiah or Daniel?
These Old Testament prophets were well-known because of books of prophecy they wrote. Or they were known because they would make declarations of a future event (like Isaiah, who’s known as the “Messianic” prophet because of the many futuristic descriptions of the coming of Jesus). Or these prophets were well known because they would give long sermons in which they would declare the judgment of God upon the people of Israel.