Strong women in the Bible: How to be like Deborah

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When thinking about strong and courageous women in the Bible, many will include Deborah (Judges 4 & 5). Deborah’s character definitely inspires and brings hope to Christian women in all walks of life, including women in ministry or aspiring to be in ministry. Mainly because she is a brave, respected female judge in a male-dominated culture. So, what is the key to Deborah’s success? And how can you be like her?

Woman holding out a lantern in the dark and looking at it - Strong women in the Bible: How to be like Deborah

Although we have limited information about Deborah, Judges 4 and 5 give us plenty of clues about her personality. Let’s look at 4 of those clues:

She is a woman of light

Deborah is introduced as a prophetess and as the wife of Lappidoth. So we know that she heard the voice of God, and that must have enabled her to judge wisely and in accordance with God’s righteous will.

But here is where it gets even more interesting: Lappidoth means “light” or “torch”. And that means that the sentence can also be translated to that she was a woman of Light, or the wife of Light, or even a woman from Light. So, Light may not have been an earthly man or a place on earth, but it could have been a way of saying that she was led by the Light of God, as God is Light (John 1:9, 8:12).

When you think about it, the circumstances under which Deborah ruled Israel, were far from ideal. The obvious factor that made her job difficult was the fact that she was an executor of judgment in a culture where men thought it was a disgrace if a woman would humble them (Judges 4:9, 9:54). We’ll look more into that later.

A more imminent problem was that she was ruling Israel in a time in which the people were oppressed cruelly. So, there was no peace and no freedom, and yet, she didn’t hide. No, she sat out in the open under a palm tree, which might even have stood on a hill. I think that is interesting because it seems that she did not feel vulnerable at all. The fact that she went up into battle with Barak proves that she was not afraid to die or to be captured.

Her trust in God and in what He had shown her was so great, that she saw no other outcome than the one He had shown her. She had no doubt that God would follow through on His promise.

And with her attitude, she did what Jesus said all of us should do “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.” (Matthew 5:13-15, ESV)

She arose as a mother

In her song, she says that she arose as a mother in Israel (Judges 5:7). And good mothers have special traits: from a loving heart, they correct, instruct, teach, judge, encourage, protect, and so much more.

And that was precisely what she did. As a judge, she taught, corrected, instructed, warned, and then she rose from her seat to encourage, motivate, and protect her people in need as they went into war. All by the Word of God.

All of us can arise as mothers to people in need. With a loving heart, we can spread the Word of God and so correct, warn, teach, encourage, motivate, protect, and so much more.

She gives glory to God

I’ve noticed something extraordinary about the way Deborah speaks. Being a prophet, in her commands, she only states what the Lord is saying: “The Lord has commanded you […]”, “The Lord will sell […]”, “Does not the Lord […]?” (Judges 4:6, 9, 14)

This gives her words a tremendous amount of authority. That is also the reason why being a female judge in a male-dominated world is not an issue. Or at least, it shouldn’t be. Because when you look at it that way, it is not about her, but about God. And God can speak through anything and anybody. Deborah doesn’t make her commands about her power, but about God’s power.

Therefore be very wary of spiritual leaders who by their words and actions demonstrate that you should listen to them because they are the authority, for then they haven’t understood their role in God’s Kingdom, and they will build sandcastles instead of houses on rock. It is true that all authority has been placed over us by God, and that we should subject to that (Romans 13:1). But if a ruler lords it over you, they are not Christ-like (Matthew 20:25-28) and it is unwise for Christians to follow people who don’t bring them closer to Jesus. You might end up glorifying them instead of God, which makes them… well, idols.

Deborah clearly sees that God is in the lead and that is why she gave glory to God for the obedience of the people and the leaders of Israel instead of praising the people (or herself) for what they did.

She sang that trusting in idols opened the door for the enemy, for war. There is only one God we should follow. Choosing other “gods” will disarm a person and there will be no peace and no victory over enemies. Why? Because God is the only One Who brings victory and peace.

And peace is what they got, as, after their obedience, the people had peace for 40 years until they turned to evil again.

She is like a bee

Did you know that the meaning of the name Deborah is “bee”? I don’t think that that is a coincidence. I truly believe in the providence of God over our names. That is why this blog goes by my own name.

A bee on apple blossom - Bee-ing like Christ

I had to study bees for a project one time, and I found out some remarkable stuff about these tiny creatures. So I see some interesting parallels.

  • By spreading pollen, bees help trees to be fruitful. Deborah, by her actions, helped God’s people to be fruitful. And so should we.
  • Bees zealously produce honey for food, and honey is one of the symbols often used to describe the sweetness of God’s Word. Deborah also lived on God’s Word, and so should we.
  • Although they fly solo, everything they do is for the colony. All of them have an important job. In the colony they operate as one, they serve each other, and communicate with each other. Deborah bravely went into battle with her colony, the people of Israel. The people might have served her, but now she selflessly served them so that they could be free. We too are one body, the Body of Christ, and we should operate in unity, communicating with each other and serving each other.

I could go on for a while, but I think you get my point.

You are called to the frontline too

Just like Deborah, we live in times of war, spiritual warfare. Many of God’s people aren’t free yet, and they need your help. This help can come in many forms, and only you and God know in which tactical position you will fight for His glory.

The good news is that your fight can be as successful as Deborah’s, as long as you:

  • Fully trust in God’s Word and live by It. If He says “Up!” then arise! There is no need to be afraid, as God will always keep His promises. You will see each and every promise come to pass.
  • Don’t hide yourself when circumstances are tough, but spread the light. Light is all the more powerful when it is dark.
  • Use the Word of God the way a good mother would. To teach and rebuke. To encourage and warn. And all the other ways in which God’s love does its work.
  • Let God speak through you. And give glory to God, Who is always in control, and Who is the bringer of victory and peace.
  • Consume the Word of God, and selflessly serve each other as members of the Body of Christ, so that all of us can bear good fruit.

So, go up with me into battle, pray and share the Word, and help to free lionesses in captivity all over the world!