All kinds of things have been preempted by the current pandemic. Today’s notable interruption was our annual, regional church conference (Assemblies of God Network Council). Our in-person gathering would have included rich fellowship with co-laborers, plus inspirational worship and workshops. But it was not to be, and our network leaders did a masterful job of adapting and conducting all the business and even an ordination service by video conference. We are grateful for solid, insightful leaders to navigate the challenges.
“Surreal” is the word my friend used to describe these days, but we understand that resilient people have weathered much more through the ages. The Prophetess Deborah, in her victory song, described a period of Israel’s history as lifeless.. After twenty years under the oppression of the Canaanite King Jabin and his cruel general, Sisera, Deborah said, “Village life in Israel had ceased…”
In a predominantly backslidden culture, Deborah stood out as a wise and God-fearing leader, to whom people flocked for advice and help. As Israel’s fourth judge, she was anointed with prophetic gifts, which enabled her to hear messages from God and to communicate his will to the people.
The Bible records that she “sent for Barak” and outlined God’s battle plan to defeat Sisera. Deborah accompanied Barak and, together, they recruited ten thousand men from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun. Their advance began with Deborah’s famous charge: “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands.” Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” (4:14)
Read the entire account in Judges, chapter four, including the gory details of Sisera’s demise at the hands of Jael, another female character in this dramatic story. The poetic fifth chapter that follows is the song of Deborah and Barak, praising God for his mercy and righteous acts on behalf of Israel.
Deborah marveled that God used her in bringing about this military victory. “Village life in Israel ceased, ceased until I, Deborah, arose, arose a mother in Israel.” It’s interesting that Deborah referred to herself, not as judge or prophet, but mother! (Side note: It may be the now home-schooling mothers, extra-motivated to return to some normalcy, who will rise to solve the current pandemic!)
Kidding aside, there are important lessons in Deborah’s story:
- Don’t shrink back from challenges “Get up!” “Go!” (4:14; 5:7)
- Continually seek God’s guidance and the path He has prepared. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you? (4:14)
- Recognize God will respond when you obey. At Barak’s advance, the Lord routed Sisera . . . (4:15)
- Appreciate those who are going with you! “My heart is with Israel’s princes, with the willing volunteers among the people. Praise the Lord!” (5:9)
Not many are called to lead an army, but many are called to lead a family or to influence co-workers and peers. There are examples all around of every-day but resilient friends who are courageously serving beyond their comfort zones. (Like our neighbor, a nurse, who collected gifts on her front porch. The parents of a newborn in her care had to forego their baby shower when quarantined, so the nurse put out a call for help from strangers.)
When it seems that “village life has ceased”, it takes a “Deborah”, and she just may look like YOU!