Learning from the OT Leaders : Deborah – A Judge, a Prophetess and a Warrior

Series: General | Title: Learning from the OT Leaders : Deborah – A Judge, a Prophetess and a Warrior | Sermon by: Pastor Balan Swaminathan | Location: House of Intercessory Prayer Ministries, Halifax, NS Canada | Date: Sunday February 25, 2018

Deborah – A Judge, a Prophetess and a Warrior

Another great leader from the Old Testament – a woman leader, Deborah.  A judge and a prophet of Israel.  Let us look at the history of what happened during that time.

  • Joshua was a servant; he was serving Moses for a long time.  He was also a powerful leader and a mighty warrior.
  • After the death of Moses, Joshua took over and he brought the children of Israel into the land of Canaan.  Moses was called to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt and Joshua was called to bring then into Canaan.
  • Joshua exhibited his military power as he was leading the army against the inhabitants of the land.  Think about Jericho, many great accomplishments were achieved by this great man of God, Joshua.
  • Following the death of Joshua, the Israelites found themselves without a leader.  Moses invested in the life of Joshua, but Joshua left the children of Israel without any leader.  It is really sad to know that there was no leader in the land (Judges 1 and 2).
  • The years of battle continued because the children of God were thrown into the blessed land but then they had inhabitants in the land.  The children of Israel continued to fight, there was much bloodshed that was required to further inherit the land.  There was a lack of leadership.  That was the time God raised Judges, they are very important in the plan of God.
  • Judges ruled the nation for a couple of years.  They are not like modern day judges, but they have more responsibility.
  • They were responsible for the moral life of people, military life and they had to exhort the people of God to follow God.
  • Judges had to lead them in the battle.  They had to rise people in God and ensure the battlefield is ready for battle at any point of time.  There is a lot of responsibility that was vested in the judges.

The Bible says there were around 12 to 15 judges, it all depends on how you count them.
Judges including Eli and Samuel were judging the nation for a short period of time.  If you look at the history and try to find out these years from 1350 to 1050 before Christ, that’s the period judges were ruling the nation.  That’s around 300 years.
Judges Chapter 4 and 5 describe the story of the Jewish leader – Deborah.  She is the only female judge mentioned in the book of Judges.  She was a woman who followed God and was greatly anointed and used by God.
Judges 4:1-10 When Ehud was dead, the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord.  So the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor.  The commander of his army was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheth Hagoyim.  And the children of Israel cried out to the Lord; for Jabin had nine hundred chariots of iron, and for twenty years he had harshly oppressed the children of Israel.  Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time.  And she would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of Ephraim.  And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.  Then 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; and 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’?”And Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!” So she said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. ” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh.  10 And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; he went up with ten thousand men under his command, and Deborah went up with him.

  • Deborah lived during a period of oppression by a Canaanite King Jabin, who oppressed the Israelites for 20 long years.
  • We first meet Deborah in Judges 4:4.  She is prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth.  She was judging Israel at that time.
  • Deborah had a shop that was set up under a tree in the mountains of Ephraim called the palm tree of Deborah.  The children of Israel came up there to her shop for judgement.  Judgement was a great issue in the land because millions of people are without a leader, without a written constitution, having no rules and law enforcement agencies.  You can imagine the fight going on every day.  They need judgement every day.
  • God led Deborah to summon Barak and this is what God told through Deborah to Barak – you need to gather 10,000 troops and battle against Jabin, the king of Canaan and his commander Sisera.
  • Victory is rest assured in the Word of God as Deborah is a prophetess and whatever she says comes true.
  • Barak did not agree to go by himself, he asked Deborah to come with him for him to go.
  • Deborah agreed to that but claimed that the victory will belong to the woman, it will not go for the man.
  • As planned the battle took place.  The armies of Jabin were totally destroyed by these 10,000 troops going under the leadership of Barak and Deborah.
  • Sisera ran out for his life, he was the only one who escaped.  He ran to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite.  She welcomes him and as he entered, she covered him with a blanket.  Sisera is fully covered and thought that she was trying to protect him.  Jael took him inside and Sisera asked for water and she gave him a bowl of milk.  Sisera started falling asleep.  The moment Sisera slept, Jael took a tent nail and drew the nail on his head to the ground.  He is dead.
  • Barak came running to the tent and was informed by Jail that Sisera died.  The whole army died and eventually King Jabin also died.  They took the victory; it came because of one woman – Deborah.

Judges chapter 5 is Deborah’s song of worship as she gained great victory on that day.

  • If we go through the lyrics, we see that they reveal more details about what really took place in the battle and how God intervened on behalf of His people.
  • At the end of chapter 5 verse 31 it concludes saying that they took a great victory over the Canaanites.  The Bible says there was no war for 40 long years.  It all happened because of one great leader – Deborah.

We are going to see couple of leadership qualities from the life of Deborah.

1. Leaders are just instruments in the hands of God, what matters is God’s power

Throughout the OT & NT we see men and women were used by God as weapons or instruments in His hands.  Man or woman, strong or weak, confident or hesitant, willing or unwilling, God used them as instruments to fulfill God’s purpose.

  • Here we see Deborah being used in a mighty way.
  • She was a family woman – she was a wife of Lapidoth, but she was just an ordinary woman like anyone else.
  • But Bible says God filled her with the supernatural ability of prophecy.
  • Deborah was a woman of God she had a great power within her to foretell the future of the nation.  At that time God raised prophets and prophetess just to speak to the people, warning about their sinful nature and to prophesy about the things which are yet to happen in their nation so that people are led to God.  Deborah was filled with wisdom because you need wisdom for judgement.

Let us closely observe the daily life of Deborah.  She used to do a couple of things every day in her life.  Infact, she had three different offices, she was  a very busy personality.  Sometimes we think that we are very busy but think about Deborah.

  1. First office – Judge: The Bible says she comes and opens her shop every morning under the palm tree of Deborah, people are already in a line from early in the morning.
    Somebody’s cattle are taken away, house was broken into, jewelry is missing, children are missing, somebody fought with someone else, separated families – many such issues were being addressed.  Deborah was very committed; she was judging people from morning to evening.
  2. Second office – she was a prophetess.  She brought the Word of God to people; she was a very busy personality.  Deborah had a revelation from God, heard a Word from God, she called Barak and told him to fight with the king who had oppressed them for 20 long years.
  3. Thirdly – Deborah was a warrior.  She was willing to go to war against Sisera, when Barak said that he would not go if Deborah would not go with him.

She was a judge, a prophetess and a warrior.

  • There is no reason to doubt that she was an instrument in the hands of God.
  • She was not lazy, she was completely committed to her call, she was available to be used by God.
  • She was willing to take risks in her life.

When she did all the above, the power of God was seen.  Leaders are just instruments in the hands of God, but what matters is the power of God.  God will honor a leader when he or she is committed to the call.  We know that we are all called to lead, but when we remain committed to the call, God honors our commitment.  When God honors us, we will see supernatural things happening.  Even though leaders are ordinary people like Deborah – a family woman.  Accord to her word, the entire army of King Jabin was totally destroyed.

2. Leaders exhibit God’s tender care for His people

  • Deborah utilized all her ability to serve God and people.
  • She was not selfish; she was willing to use all her abilities to judge the people of Israel.
  • There was a great need for a judge among the people as they were suffering, they were going through great difficulty and pain.
  • Deborah was right there; she was caring for His people.  Her focus was on helping people, so that their lives will turn to God.  It’s the desire of any leader to turn people to God.  We see Deborah caring for her people from morning to evening.
  • At times people are oppressed without getting proper judgement.

Judges 5:7 Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel, Until I, Deborah, arose, Arose a mother in Israel.

Deborah arose as a mother for the children of Israel, she considered them as her own children.  She was there for her people, judging and guiding them to a better life.  Leaders exhibit God’s tender care for His people.  Today the world expects great leaders.  When we look at our present situation, if we go either to downtown around 10 or 11 at night, we see people out there in the streets, they are like orphans.  Although they have physical or biological parents, something is missing in their lives.

  • They are missing care and love physically
  • Those who are having no one to guide spiritually
  • Those who are not shown the way of eternity

Somebody to care for them like a mother.  Sometimes when we are so selfish, we don’t even care about what is going on in our next door.  We see Deborah caring for her people as her own children.  She was spiritually helping them to be nurtured and motivated.  There was nobody to show them eternity, truth and lead them in the ways of God.  But Deborah was right there.
If you consider yourself as a leader, what is important in your life is to care for others.  At times all of us are very selfish.  We don’t worry about others.  It’s a godly thing to care for others, God honors us.

  • Mother Teresa said, “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody is a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat”.
  • Jesus the good shepherd, a great leaders taught on how to care for the sheep.  John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”

  • Our God is a God who takes care of His people as a shepherd: Isaiah 40:11 He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young.

Do you know there are people who walk into the churches and nobody speaks to them or cares for them.  They just walk into the church and walk out.  There are churches in this country and city where people into the churches and nobody cares.  The question is, will you care for somebody who just walks into the church for the first time? Do you take time to go talk to them and lead them and guide them? Today there are a lot of people who have a lot of ability in them but they’re not able to come up because there is nobody to lead them or put them in the right direction.

God has called you as a leader, you have a responsibility, you cannot deny that.  You have a responsibility for your neighbor, for your city.  One thing is to pray another thing is to do.  Deborah was not just praying she was right out there doing.  We cannot lead if we cannot sacrifice.  God is looking for somebody who is willing to sacrifice.

There are millions out there who need a leader.

3. Deborah‘s life is a role model of Godly Faith, Wisdom, Boldness and Worship

Let us ask this question – what do you find in yourself? Do we find godly faith within us? Wisdom? Boldness? Are we able to worship God?

Godly faith:

  • Deborah spoke prophetically to Barak and said God will give Sisera in your hands, go for the battle.  This woman of God put all her faith in God, expecting that to happen.  She believed and she agreed with God, Lord if you have spoken to me that will happen.  She was a woman of faith.  But being a woman, she had so much wisdom to judge the people of Israel day in and day out.  Boldness – she was a very bold leader.
  • When Barak said that he cannot go by himself, Deborah was right there to go with him.
  •  A mighty woman of God with such great boldness.


Judging people requires a lot of wisdom. Every decision is going to be important. Every word is important.  God wants us to have wisdom as we lead.

Proverbs 4:5-7 Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. 6 Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. 7 Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.

They were oppressed for 20 years, Deborah rose like a lion and she went and fought with Sisera and his army and brought victory, the land was filled with great joy and peace for 40 long years.

Deborah’s worship is filled in Judges Chapter 5.
Judges 5:2-3 “When leaders lead in Israel, When the people willingly offer themselves, Bless the Lord! “Hear, O kings! Give ear, O princes! I, even I, will sing to the Lord;  I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel.  When she worshiped God:
Judges 40:31 “Thus let all Your enemies perish, O Lord!  But let those who love Him be like the sun When it comes out in full strength. ”

Bible says, So the land had rest for forty years.

4. Women are called, your calling comes through your involvement

Deborah’s calling came through her involvement in the community.

  • Deborah’s passion was His people, she had a compassion to listen to the complains of the people.  Its very hard to listen to people, but we have to – as a leader God wants us to listen to the people.  Deborah was really good, from morning to evening she was listening to her people.
  • Her heart was just with her people, those who are going through injustice and she wanted to bring justice in their lives.
  • We need to ask this question as leaders – Lord, where is my heart, what am I trying to do Lord?

Calling of Women into the leadership

As a woman how do you know if you are called into leadership? How do you discern God’s call in your life? We know that God has been talking to women.  Women are oppressed in churches today, saying that they need to be quiet, that they cannot speak – only men are called.  It’s a deception.  There are churches today in the city where the women cannot lead.  So we need to be careful.  This is what they quote,

  • God created Eve as a helper to Adam.  That is true.  They say that women are not to lead, they have to support their husband.  Yes, they are supposed to support their husband and encourage them but that does not mean that they should not lead.
  • On the other hand people quote this scripture from 1 Corinthians 14:34 Let your women keep silent in the churches for they are not permitted to speak.  They wrongly quote this scripture.
    Paul was taking in a different context where at that time in Corinth women were totally uneducated and when they come to church, they were running and talking.  Paul was annoyed by the things that were happening and said that women are not supposed to speak in church.  So he wanted them to ask any doubts to their husbands.  God cannot use women in the church is a lie.
  •  It is time to come out of your thinking.  God cannot use you if you limit yourself.

If we look throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament we see great leaders.
Deborah being used by God as a leader

  1. Ruth a great woman of God. Noami’s husband died and Ruth married Boaz and they had son named Obed whose son is Jesse and whose son is David.  In that same lineage Jesus came.  A great leader Ruth!
  2. Esther – God brought her to bring escape from the hands of the spies
  3. Rahab – God used Rahab to protect the spies. Rahab was blessed, and her household was spared certain death.
  4. Hu(o)ldah the prophetess, God used Huldah to bring God’s Word to the High Priest and to the King of the Nation.
  5. In the NT during the ministry of Jesus, the Samaritan woman was commissioned to preach Jesus in her village, Mary Magdalene was commissioned to preach the resurrection of Jesus to the other disciples
  6. Other Godly women who lead, preached and taught are
  7. Priscilla instructs Apollos – Acts 18:24-26,
  8. Paul sends greeting to the apostles Mary and Junia. – Romans 16:6-7
  9. Phoebe (Feebee)  is named as a deacon in the church. – Romans 16:1
  10. Lydia is named as a powerful influential woman in the community, Acts 16:14-1

God used women in many different ways in the Old and the New Testament.
Deborah’s calling came through her involvement.

  • She was not sitting at home with her talents and gifts.
  • She was sitting in a public place where she could be used by God.
  • I am talking to women – If God has given you a talent or passion to pray, a gift to minister, don’t sit inside your house. You need to come out to be used by God.Husbands,
  • Don’t shut your wives inside, release them for the will of God.
  • I come across men, who don’t do anything for God and who don’t allow their spouses to do anything.
  • Encourage, motivate them to minister to others.
  • If they are willing to study theology, send them to Bible schools
  • If they are willing to participate in a particular ministry, encourage them to go for it.
  • God’s calling and anointing is common for everyone irrespective of their gender

Deborah would have never thought that God would use her in such a way, she fought against a mighty King Jabin and won victory.  Deborah found her calling to go in war with Jabin through her involvement in the community.

There is so much potential within you, you are called to lead, Deborah was not just a judge, she had the gift of prophesy, she was not just a leader, she was a warrior.

God wants you to know that and come out of what is holding you today.


  1. Leaders are just instruments in the hands of God, what matters is God’s power
  2. Leaders exhibit God’s tender care for His people
  3. Deborah‘s life is a role model of Godly Faith, Wisdom, Boldness and Worship
  4. Women are called, your calling comes through your involvement

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