“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 Beth–el in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.” – Judges 4:4-5
In the time before Kings, Israel was ruled by Judges. These judges acted as decision makers for the people, as head general over the armies, as protectors and deliverers, and as a proxy King. They were not like the judicial judges of today, but were more akin to Chieftains, tribal leaders of the fledgling nation.
A quick read through the book of judges will reveal two things. The first thing you might notice is a cycle of sin, which led to God removing His favor and protection, which led to the Israelite’s being conquered and oppressed, which led to them repenting and crying out, which led to God returning to them and raising up a deliverer (a judge), which led to deliverance and blessings, which led to them going back to sin, which started the cycle over again.
The second thing you might notice is that as things got progressively more wicked among the Israelite’s, so did it among the judges. Though God, in His faithfulness, still worked to bring about His promises with what He had available, nearly all the judges were wicked, corrupt, ungodly people themselves. Showing forth the very sad state of God’s people and the depths of God’s power to see His promises fulfilled.
The reason for this cycle of wickedness and corruption is expressed in the final verse of the book of judges which states: “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” You see, Israel was never meant to have a fleshly King, God was meant to be King over Israel and the judges His prophets and generals. However, though the people acknowledged God, they did not acknowledge Him as King, they did not seek Him, and they did not obey Him. Therefore, relying on their own wisdom (or lack thereof), sin abounded because God was not acknowledged as King and decision maker over the people’s lives in Israel, they all did what was right in their own eyes. Laying aside God’s righteousness (what God says is right) for their own righteousness (what they thought was right), wickedness and sin waxed worse and worse. For though they claimed to believe in God, they did not take the time to get to know who He really was. Because of this, they did not know His character nor did they seek, believe, or obey His words. So that many times they ended up in sin, idolatry, and even devil worship thinking they were still serving God.
“For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” – Romans 10:2-3
“Also, that the soul be without knowledge, it is not good; and he that hasteth with his feet sinneth.” – Proverbs 19:2
“And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord.” – 2 Chronicles 12:14
However, during this time, a rare exception to this trend arose and her name was Debra. Debra was a good judge, a Godly ruler, a great general, and above all, a woman of prayer. She did not go out trying to make her way in the world, or force her will on the people. Instead she sat on her mountain under a tree and prayed, and as she met with the Lord there, the people came to meet with her. Not to hear her wisdom, but to hear the Lord’s.
You see, scripture records that Debra was a prophet. This means that she sought and heard from the Lord daily. Therefor, her wisdom was not her own and the people knew it, her judgments were not her own and the people knew it, her rule was not of her own hand and the people knew it, it was God’s through her. Therefore, when the people sought God’s wisdom, judgments, words, and decisions, they sought her.
We see this in the following verses where Barak, a great general comes to her for orders and then refuses to go to battle unless she goes with them. She was a woman of great faith and prayer, talking with God and ministering His words to the people of Israel, however, though Barak had faith in her and in her faith, he showed a lack of faith in God. He believed that God was with Debra but doubted that God was with Israel. He believed in God but doubted what He said. Because of this lack of faith, he lost his chance of honor though the victory was still assured.
“And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedesh–naphtali, 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. And 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 honour; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.” – Judges 4:6-9
So what made Debra so different from Barak, the Israelites, and even the other judges? She sought the Lord and believed what He said. It really is that simple. Though all Israel believed in God at that time, only Debra actually believed God. She had enough faith in who He was to also have faith in what He said. Therefore, she found favor in His sight and He met with her and talked with her as she sat under that tree on that hill, an archetype of the cross of Calvary. So the moral of the story is this. God is no respecter of persons but He is a respecter of faith, not just in who He is, but also in what He says. In short, God chooses to trust those who choose to trust Him.
“I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” – John 5:30