Deborah Encourages Barak: Can Women Lead?

Shared on June 9, 2024

There is a misguided thought that God doesn’t use women and that women cannot be leaders. Join Pastor McCrary for this week’s lesson as the story of Deborah shows that women can be fearless leaders that inspire others.


In our lesson last week, we saw that God created woman to be more than just for marriage, sex, and childbirth.  God created woman to be comparable to man and not inferior.  God created both man and woman to live together and to flourish together.  Erasing the notion that God only uses certain men, we turn our attention to Deborah.

The Great Motivator

Our lesson opens during the period of time where Deborah served as both a prophetess and judge of Israel (Judg. 4:4).  Deborah is a unique person in scripture as she’s the only woman to be a judge and prophetess of Israel.  Prophets, we should remember, relayed God’s message to Israel after hearing from Him.  The judges were raised up by God after Joshua to help lead Israel against their oppressors.

When I think of Deborah, I think of one who was a great motivator.  At that period of time, the children of Israel needed a great motivator.  Scripture shows us that Israel was living under the oppression of Jabin, the king of Canaan (Judg. 4:2).  Jabin had over nine hundred chariots – his army – and oppressed Israel for twenty years (Judg. 4:3).

Deborah rebukes Barak

We are told that Deborah sent for Barak and spoke to him about not following God’s command (Judg. 4:6-7).  Barak had been commanded by God to deploy his troops at Mount Tabor to stand against Jabin’s army.  Even more than that is that the Lord had promised to Barak the defeat of Jabin’s army.  

Even though victory had been guaranteed, Barak had not moved!  Barak sent word back to Deborah saying, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go (Judg. 4:8)!”  Barak said this thinking that Deborah wouldn’t go with him to stand against Jabin’s army.  Deborah, being a woman, in his mind, would’ve been afraid to stand against Jabin’s mighty army.

So, he would definitely be surprised when Deborah responded, “I will surely go with you (Judg. 4:9).”  Again, he would be surprised because women aren’t supposed to be “strong”, right?  I hope that you don’t answer “right” with that question.  Women were created to be just as strong as men.  To think differently is a foolish mindset.

This, again, reminds me of what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:27.  Paul wrote that God chooses to use the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise.  He also wrote that God chooses to use the weak things to put to shame that which is mighty.  

Deborah, the perceived weak one, showed no fear of Jabin and his army.  She told Barak there would be no glory for him if she went with him.  So, Barak, in a manner of speaking, would be “put to shame”.  To this day, when Barak is brought up, we often teach of him being a fearful coward. 

Deborah’s strength

I honestly feel bad calling Barak a coward because there are several times on this journey where we have been like him.  In those moment when we lack the faith to move forward, it is good that we have someone to push us forward.  Paul wrote, “We then who are strong out to be with the scruples of the weak (Rom. 15:1).”  Brothers and sisters in Christ should help to bear with and uplift one another.

So, why was Deborah not fearful of Jabin’s army whereas Barak was fearful?  Deborah was a woman that was full of faith in the Lord.  Does this mean she never had moments of weakness?  Absolutely not.  Even those who are incredibly strong of faith have moments of stress and anxiety.  Yet, those that are strong of faith learn how to push forward by faith through fear and anxiety.

Barak, on the other hand, was cowering in fear because he was weak in faith.  We have to be very cautious when it comes to fear.  You see, fear, the right kind, helps to actually motivate us.  For example, the fear of suffering from poor health motivates some of us to have better health.  However, we have to be cautious of letting fear turn into doubt because doubt can paralyze us.  Barak was paralyzed in fear and it kept him from obeying God’s command of him.

Motivating to push forward

So, Deborah’s rebuke would turn into encouragement for Barak.  She and he went up with ten thousand men to stand against Jabin and his army (Judg. 4:10).  When this was reported to the commander of Jabin’s army, he gathered together the nine hundred chariots to face them  (Judg. 4:12-13).  If we put ourselves into Barak’s shoes, you have to imagine this was the moment he was dreading, right?  

Now, let’s take  a look at what a good helper does in these moments.  Deborah looked to Barak and said, “Up!  For this is the day in which the Lord has delivered Sisera into your hand (Judg. 4:14).”  Sisera was the commander of Jabin’s nine hundred chariots.  If Barak was dreading this moment, his great motivator, Deborah was there to encourage him to move.

We are told that Barak and his ten thousand moved from their position and by God’s hands, they routed Jabin’s army (Judg. 4:15).  Sisera tried to flee from the inevitable but he eventually fell like the rest of Jabin’s army (Judg. 4:16).  In scripture outside of what’s covered in our lesson, we see the recording of his fall and Jabin’s fall.

Something that most of us forget at times is something we should not forget:  all things are possible with God.  For Barak, it was good that Deborah was there to be his helper so that he could see this truth.  The role of helping to encourage and motivate others is a role that anybody can fill.  Yes, the Lord will use anybody to help uplift and encourage you.

Something that people must get over today is this thought that God will only use “certain” people.  We are the prejudice ones, not the Lord.  We are the ones that stereotypes, not the Lord. 

To speak on something I mentioned last week and earlier in this lesson is that I love that we see a woman being used in the capacity of a leader by God.  Yes, women can do more than have babies!  Women can do more than get married and be a housewife.  Again, Deborah was a woman the Lord used as a prophetess and as a military leader.  

Don’t you ever be a person that doubts what someone can do just because of their sex.  If you doubt what another is able to do, you should understand that you’re doubting the Lord.  Are you one to doubt the Lord?  I certainly hope not!  So, I hope a lesson like today’s lesson changes the minds of those who thinks in such a shortsighted capacity.

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