Commentary by Walter Albritton


October 8, 2006


Caring Christian Leaders Will Defend the Oppressed


Judges 4


Key Verse: “If you will go with me, I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” And she said, “I will surely go with you.” – Judges 4:8-9


          Two questions emerge from today’s lesson: 1) What are we to think of Deborah, the prophetess and judge of Israel? And 2) What does Deborah’s story teach us about our ministry as Christians in today’s world?

          As to the first question, no one will argue that Deborah was a saint. She was a wise and powerful woman at a time when Israel had few if any strong male leaders. It may well be that God turned to Deborah because there were no capable men available.

          The biblical record reveals that God did use women both to save and to serve his people. Ruth and Esther are two well known examples of women God used to bless Israel. Miriam and Anna were prophetesses.

          God blessed Deborah with the wisdom to serve as a judge. People came to her seeking judgment in matters of dispute. She sat under a palm tree because it was not proper for a woman to be alone in a house with a man other than her husband. So she     sat in a public place to offer wise counsel based on her understanding of the Torah.

          Deborah must have gotten tired of hearing about the Israelites being oppressed by the Canaanites. Israel’s men did nothing to stop Sisera’s army from raiding their caravans and abducting their women to serve as concubines for Canaanite men. So Deborah took action.

          Her action was to obey God – and to do so without the counsel of men. She took the authority to give the Israelite army commander Barak a direct order from God. Even though Barak’s army had no weapons they were to attack the well-armed army of Jabin with the assurance that God would give them victory.

          Barak obviously had great respect for Deborah. He was ready to arrange the attack, despite the odds, but only if Deborah would go with him. She was willing but warned Barak that he would receive no glory for the victory. Instead the glory would belong to a woman.

          Deborah was right. The battle occurred during the rainy season. Sisera’s 900 iron chariots were stuck in the mud and thus useless to the Canaanite army. The Israelites showed no mercy, killing every soldier except Sisera the commander who escaped on foot.

          Sisera sought safety in the tent of a woman named Jael. She, however, deceived him. After feeding him and allowing him to sleep, she drove a tent peg through his head to kill him. This was the sad ending of a rather gruesome story.

          So what conclusions seem reasonable? Deborah is not a role model for Christians in today’s world. However, it remains true that she was an obedient servant of God. She did the best she could with what she had. She did not have the benefit of knowing all that we now know about God from the life and teaching of Christ.

          Lest we question God’s judgment in directing the execution of the Canaanite army, perhaps we should remember that we are not smarter than God. God is God and he is not subject to our opinions. None of us is wise enough to question God’s judgment. At that time in history God had a plan – to raise up a people who would be faithful to his covenant with them. The Canaanites were unbelievably evil and abhorrent to God.

          Clearly God has a different plan now. His plan is for us to be saved from our sins and transformed by his grace so that we become Christlike. For us the supreme example of how to live is Christ. Our actions should always honor Christ. For us to obey God now is to live under the Lordship of Christ to the extent that we can say with Paul, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

          Each of us must decide, as we listen to the Spirit, what it means for us to defend the oppressed in our culture and in our world. At times we may disagree on the particulars. Some believe the Spirit is saying we should not fight the terrorists in Iraq. I respect their right to believe that.

          Others of us believe the conflict in Iraq is a just war that must be fought to defeat the fanatic Muslim terrorists who intend to enslave the world to an insane brand of Islam. The world is now engaged in a life or death struggle between two world views – one represented by Christianity and the other by Osama bin Laden and his followers. The right to live as free people hangs in the balance.

          It behooves us all to search our souls and plead with the Spirit to show us clearly how to obey God. Expressing our opinions about the war in Iraq or the assassination of Osama bin Laden are not as important as doing practical things to help hurting people around us. Opinions do not feed hungry people, provide adequate housing for the poor, or wipe the tears of abused women and children.

          On the other hand, while some of us are content to pontificate, there are people working quietly to assist abused women and children find a safe place to live and work.  Still others, like the women who run Kate’s Closet Ministry, are outfitting women released from prison with the clothes they need in order to find work and get started in a new job. They give these women more than clothes; they offer them loving encouragement and prayer.

          Deborah heard God because she listened to God. She was close to God and wanted to please God by obeying him. That we should do also – listening to God and doing the small deeds of love and mercy that He tells us will honor our Lord Jesus.

          The oppressed need advocates, friends, legal and financial assistance, a caring smile, and a helping hand. When we offer ourselves to meet any of those needs, without fanfare, we are showing the world that Christians can make a difference. Such leadership does count because others will often follow our example and get involved in ministries to hurting people. + + + (Contact Walter at