Deborah: Women and Spiritual Leadership – Judges 4:1-4
So often in our nation we do indeed take for granted the freedoms that we have in our nation and Veteran's Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July, times like that, we specifically honor and remember the military because they have won and preserved our freedoms. And I don't think we really understand how much that has changed the way we live as individuals. Take some time to travel in a third world country somewhere, as I have, gone to the former Soviet Union and realize, just trying to teach basic concepts of doctrine, things that I don't know about today, I think we've lost so much of our Judeo-Christian heritage, it's been legally and wrongly removed from the classroom. One thing, you always run into people who say what religion do you want taught in the classroom if you don't allow the faith taught, some people argue that you shouldn't have faith taught because you don't teachers teaching doctrine and of course that's true. But you know you always teach somebody's values in a classroom. They're either going to be Biblical values or they're going to be pagan values and the question is, whose values are going to be taught.
And the idea that because the Supreme Court has removed the mention of God or any mention of prayer from the classroom is a tragedy in our nation because it is both a result and a contributing factor of the ongoing paganization of our nation because people are taught to compartmentalize, that they can learn all of these academic disciplines apart from God and that somehow their Christianity or their religious belief is just segmented out here in some other thing, that's what I do on Sunday morning if I do it at all, it apparently isn't relevant to anything else that I do in life, whether my work, or my hobbies, or my academic life. And that's a tragedy but there is some truth to the fact that we wouldn't want just anybody referencing God in a classroom because in a pluralistic society where you have places that are more urban you have an increasing number of mixed faith, Buddhist, Moslems, whatever in the classroom teaching, so it's indeed a crisis that our nation faces because what is in jeopardy is the entire Judeo-Christian heritage that our country was founded upon.
So the average school person today has very little understanding of Biblical concepts, which is really sad because it impoverishes them intellectually. One can hardly read a 19th century English or American poet or earlier and even many 20th century poets without understanding some of the Biblical illusions that are present in the literature. I was reading just a modern writer the other day, a fiction writer, a mystery novel, and there was just the allusion in there to the sufferings of Lot and I wonder how many people reading that today for a little entertainment would even understand what that allusion was to, because we're not allowed to even teach the Bible as literature in the secular classroom. And that continues to feed the decline. When I was over in Kazakhstan this last summer I realized just how difficult it is to communicate to teach across that cultural barrier where there is no frame of reference at all for many of the fundamental concepts that all of us understand and hold dear in relation to freedom in relation to government, in relation to moral absolutes. And when you get into a situation like that you suddenly realize how deeply indebted we are to a free society, where this an open expression and teaching of Biblical thought and Biblical ideas and that's what this nation is grounded upon. But as we see today our nation, our freedoms, are gradually being eroded and that is not because a certain political party or another political party is in power, it's not even due to the failures or successes of one or two or a group of individuals who are serving in a political sphere.
It is due to the negative volition and apostasy of our nation as a whole and we see parallels in the book of Judges, which is what we are studying, and we come to Judges 4 and we are focusing on the concept of leadership because the real subject of the entire midsection of the book, from Judges 3:7 through the end of Judges 17 is all related to the failure of leadership in Israel and there's a steady decline and deterioration and the first time this really comes into focus is in this shift into chapter 4 and we begin to see an interesting development in the theme of leadership.
We must remember that the writer of Judges is critiquing the society of Israel that existed subsequent to the conquest. He is writing from a historical vantage point, several hundred years later, probably not more than 300 years later, but he is writing under the kingship of Saul and he is demonstrating a principle and that is that the nation had a high level of freedom prior to the kingship, but when there was no physical king in Israel the people could not handle their freedoms. See, in order to handle freedom you have to have a sense of responsibility; they go hand in hand. When you have freedom without responsibility it's the same as freedom without authority because authority and responsibility go hand in hand together. And so what happened was the rejection of God as the authority in Israel led to a misunderstanding of the whole principle of leadership and responsibility that went along with that, and so the nation, having rejected God as the king, and not having a physical king who would impose a rigid order on the nation, the people deteriorated, not only into apostasy but also into spiritual anarchy and moral anarchy and the theme of Judges is that "everyone did what was right in their own eyes."
They rejected the rule of law which for them was instantiated in the Mosaic Law, and each person became a law unto themselves and we can certainly see parallels to that in our own contemporary culture. And as a result of that what happens when man in autonomy rejects the absolutes given by God in his arrogance he seeks to redefine the nature of creation. He seeks to redefine social order; he seeks to redefine key concepts such as law, such as authority and leadership, and this begins to have its impact throughout all of society because these things are integral to God's created order and as we have studied under the doctrine of leadership, leadership, authority and responsibility were all inaugurated before sin ever entered into human experience.
So it is not something that God put into the creative order or put into human society in order to control sin. It was there beforehand and man as a creature needs to function within the framework of leadership, authority and responsibility and that was all part of the first divine institution, and once paganism, which I define very technically as non-Biblical thinking…in all of us, everybody has a certain degree of pagan thinking in their soul because we have been brought up in a pagan society, we have inculcated pagan values through the movies we watch, through the literature we read, we're influenced even through the art that we appreciate and enjoy and through the music we listen to. All of that are expressions of the overall cultural worldview which is expressed in the Bible in terms of worldliness. This is from the Greek word kosmos which means an orderly system of thinking and it is antithetical to everything that God teaches. So we use terms like divine viewpoint versus human viewpoint, paganism versus Biblical thinking. There are all parallel concepts. So the Word of God clearly expresses God's view on human society and human relationships and how they should be ordered because they were built-in by virtue of the way He created us and in the initial creation prior to any sin. And we are going to focus on some of these problems, specifically in Judges because this chapter is…if not at the heart of a contemporary crisis it is certainly used as a source of support for a pagan concept in a contemporary situation.
So we need to look at this in some detail and fit that into a contemporary setting. First let's look at the first four verses. Judges 4:1, "Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, after Ehud died." Ehud was the previous judge; the use of the word LORD in all caps indicates that this is talking about Yahweh, YHWH is the Tetragrammaton, the sacred personal name of God in the Old Testament and it's always associated with the Mosaic Covenant that God initiated between Himself and the Jews and gave the Law to Israel at Mount Sinai, mediated through angels and given to Moses. So whenever you see this there is something in the background that reminds us that God has entered into a legal contractual relationship with Israel and that that is at stake. So they have violated that.
Notice that evil is defined contextually in terms of an absolute. It is not a relative; evil is not determined by social consensus. The majority rule does not determine what is right and what is wrong. There is no elite in society that comes along and determines what is right and wrong; there are absolutes and those are grounded in the person and character of God. So evil is always defined in terms of the absolutes of God. So "the sons of Israel," that is the Jews, "again did evil in the sight of the LORD," and in context we have seen that what this means is that they have gone into the idolatry of the Canaanites; they have gotten involved again in this third cycle with the idolatry of Baal worship which was the ancient fertility religions all associated with the Phallic cult and is comparable to today's health and wealth gospel, the prosperity thinking of modern society that is driven by a materialistic lust because what under girded the entire fertility worship in the ancient world, since it was an agricultural society, the idea was that somehow I'm going to manipulate and massage the gods so that they will give me good crops and I will have success every year and plenty of food and extra money and I will have prosperity. So it was just the ancient form of the prosperity type of thinking that is prevalent today, both in a secular world and has infiltrated Christianity under many forms, mostly within the charismatic camp.
Judges 4:2 says, "And the LORD sold them," and once again I want to remind you that when we looked at this in its context back in Judges 3 in the first cycle that the word for "sold" in the Hebrew is the same word used for selling someone into slavery. And back there we saw that the comment, several times by the writer of Judges, was that the Jews "served the Baalim and the Asherah" and that word for "serve" is also a word for slavery. Once you give yourselves over to sin you become a slave in your thinking and this is the same point that Paul explains so vividly in Romans 6 and that is that as a believer you are either serving the sin nature or you are a servant of righteousness. There's no neutrality, there's no middle line. And that when we sin as a believer we immediately make ourselves slaves of the sin nature.
But the unbeliever is born a slave of the sin nature, this was the point that Jesus was making to the Pharisees in his encounter in John 8, "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free." And they said but we're children of Abraham, we're already free. But they were in such arrogance that the Pharisees didn't realize that they were not only enslaved to their legalistic observation but they were enslaved to the Roman Empire, they were enslaved to their sin nature and Jesus was talking about the fact that it's only on the basis of truth that you can break the bonds of slavery to the sin nature and that begins at the cross by putting your faith alone in Christ alone, because Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins. And that's Paul's argument in the first four verses of Romans 6. There he states that because we have been identified as believers with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then that autocratic bondage, that tyranny of the sin nature, those chains have been broken. But you see, what happens in a pagan society is that the vast majority of the citizens of that culture are unbelievers and they are all in bondage to the sin nature.
So what happens in any culture, whether it's 17th century America or 20th century America, the point is whether it's now or an earlier society there's always a certain percentage of unbelievers. But what happens is when you have a certain critical mass of believers who are operating on doctrine they have not only broken the bondage of the sin nature positionally at salvation but as they pursue spiritual growth they are developing the thinking of free people. They understand the principole of Galatians 5:1 that it is for freedom that Christ has set us free and so they can have real freedom in the soul and you can't have freedom in a political environment or a social environment or a family environment or any environment whatever if you don't have capacity for freedom in the soul. So freedom essentially is a spiritual issue, it is not a political issue and it is not necessarily a military issue. Those are merely symptoms of the underlying condition.
Now in the Old Testament in Israel what you had was a term called the remnant and when the remnant was of sufficient size and that refers to the believers who are advancing to spiritual maturity in the Old Testament, then there would be freedom and prosperity in the nation, even though there might be 50, 60, 70% of the nation might all be involved in paganism there was a large enough remnant that by virtue of their spiritual growth there was blessing by association for the remainder of the nation.
Now in the New Testament you have a similar concept and one which we call a pivot because a pivot is that fulcrum upon which the issues turn, and the pivot in the New Testament, it's also a military concept that on a line of protection, or a defensive line or offensive line, it may even happen in football as well, there is one person or one place that the entire movement shifts or turns and when that pivot breaks down then everything breaks down. So we use a term pivot because we're not a theocracy in the New Testament, in the Church Age, there is not a remnant concept because that is specifically related to an Old Testament concept, but there is still the principle that as goes the believer so goes the nation and there is blessing by association in any nation when there is a certain critical mass of positive believers who are advancing to spiritual maturity.
And they are going to impact their culture in a number of ways but it begins spiritually. It doesn't begin with how they go and vote at the voting booth although eventually that will be impacted as they go through spiritual reformation, as their mind is renovated eventually that means that they are going to start looking at all of the issues that come up before government, issues involving taxation, legislation, business, economics, they're going to learn to think about those things in Biblical terms and not just in terms of the culture surrounding them, and the will find themselves more and more at odds with the culture around them when that culture plunges deeper and deeper into paganism. And the result eventually is that when you get a culture where it is 99.9% pagan and only .01% less advancing believer there will be head-on clashes and it will start getting pretty nasty because the difference between the way a believer thinks and the way the culture around him thinks is going to be so antithetical that the unbelievers are going to be both convicted and challenged by the believer and react in arrogance, thinking they're self-righteousness but the believer will no longer be able to just accept or tolerate certain conditions and situations within that culture around them and so there will be harsh clashes. And that is eventually, I think, where our country is headed unless there is a shift in terms of positive volition.
Paganism is a very subtle sort of disease, if we might use that analogy; it is more than a disease really because it comes from the sin nature, it's a constitutional problem, but we'll use the analogy of a disease. And any disease, for example, some of you have already enjoyed this season's bout with the flu, others have that thrill to look forward to, but despite your situation you know that when you start getting sick some of you will manifest certain symptoms. Others of you will have the same disease and manifest other symptoms. So just because you have the flu doesn't mean that you're necessarily going to manifest every single symptom. It's going to be different. So you can have paganism in Africa and it will manifest itself with certain symptoms. You can have paganism in ancient Greece and that manifested itself differently but there were certain similarities and parallels. You can have paganism in Asia and that is going to be different from that in Africa or in Western Europe but it will still have certain similarities and parallels but yet the symptoms may differ. So when I start talking about symptoms, certain symptoms, I'm not necessarily saying that some of those things are evil in and of themselves, they are simply manifestations of the culture's orientation away from God.
Now all of this is by way of just introduction to help you understand, give you some framework for what we are going to address in these first four verses of Judges. So the Israelites, by virtue of the fact that they have started serving, enslaving themselves to the sin nature and this is exemplified in idolatry and rejection of God, that God in turn sells them to military conquest.
Judges 4:2, "And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin, king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor," this is up in the north of the land, "and the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim.  The sons of Israel cried to the LORD; for he" that is Sisera, "had nine hundred iron chariots," just a side point, the Jews did not have iron at this time because apparently there was a bit of a policy by the surrounding Canaanite nations to keep Israel disarmed. It sort of has a modern ring to it, the whole concept of disarmament. The way in which you exercise tyranny over the citizens in a nation or over surrounding nations is to prevent them from having the latest technological weaponry for personal protection. See, this means that…granted there are many problems that may ensue from people in a society having access, free and easy access to Uzi submachine guns, but the criminal element always has access to the latest technology, and when you prevent the every day citizen from having access to that technology then what you are saying is that you are putting them in a position where they can become tyrannized by those who do have access to the latest technology.
That happens not only within a nation but outside of a nation when another nation does not have a strong military, does not have and access the latest technological advances for weaponry, then they will be subservient to whoever does. This is why it's necessary for a nation to preserve its integrity and to preserve its freedom, that it must have a strong army that has the latest technological advances. You don't go through disarmament, you don't sit around like we've done the last 7 or 8 years and say well, since the cold war is over we can stop spending money on military weaponry because what's happened is we don't just have one enemy now we have a whole number of enemies ranged against of who are committing acts of war that we are afraid to call acts of war such as the attack on the Cole recently and the result of that is that we become weaker and weaker as a nation. And in fact the term I would use is that we become more and more effeminate as a nation and I use that word specifically because of the underlying themes that are going on in this particular passage.
Now immediately if you are here and you don't have a Biblical frame of reference you immediately are vibrating in your seat because you've absorbed a lot of postmodern thought about the roles of men and woman and if you're vibrating already, well I apologize, you're really going to be vibrating before we're done because what all of Judges indicates is that part of paganism is that there is man on his own starts to redefine roles and sex roles and the roles of men and of women and what happens in a pagan environment is that there is a rise of effeminacy and there is a rise of masculinity in women. So that men fail to exercise their God-given roles and responsibilities as leaders and women step into the gap.
Now the interesting thing is that in this passage there's no condemnation whatsoever on Deborah for filling the gap. All the condemnation is on Barak because he fails to fulfill his role of leadership, and the end of verse 3 says "and he oppressed the sons of Israel severely for twenty years." And then Judges 4:4, Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time."
By way of introduction I just want to point out a couple of things that we see in the first four verses. First of all, the cause of their collapse and their military oppression is their spiritual rejection of the authority of God in the life of the nation. The cause it not political, it's not military, it's not because they had bad military policy or they had a poor armament policy but they had an ultimate spiritual problem. Now the spiritual problem affected the way they looked at life and so that affects and changes their decision making and policy making and procedure making. That's exactly what happens in our nation, the more we become subject to pagan ways of looking at things the more that is going to affect the policies of your nation and the politics of our nation because they are going to start looking at things from a skewed view of reality.
Point number two, the result is spiritual slavery which produces a slave mentality which ultimately results in national enslavement, and a slave mentality is such that you expect someone else to take care of you. Someone else is going to provide security for you; someone else is going to take the responsibility for taking care of you in your senior years; someone else is going to take responsibility for your medical bills; someone else is going to take responsibility for your happiness; someone else is going to take responsibility when you're engaged in any kind of a misfortune so that you can take them to court and you can sue them and instead of just saying that the way life is, bad things happen, people make mistakes.
When I was growing up if you were a kid and you were swinging on a swing set everyone understood there was inherent problems with that and if you fell off and you cracked your head on the sidewalk, well that's what happens in life sometimes, people have accidents. But now we sue everybody because we don't want to accept responsibility for living in a dangerous world. It's someone else's responsibility to take care of us and wrap us in a cocoon of safety from cradle to tomb and that is because an inherent aspect of paganism is that there's no understanding of life after death, there's no security of salvation so its motivated by fear and we're afraid to get hurt, we're afraid to die so we're constantly trying to wrap ourselves up in some kind of security system so we'll live longer because once we die there's either nothing or who knows what's there but I need to stay alive so this fear motivates everything. All of this is a result of a spiritual enslavement of the soul. So as we see in many cases what we do is people go out and when they go to the voting booth they vote on single issue things. We're driven that way and the politicians appeal to the voters to vote on a single issue, but that's slave mentality. If you went to the polls and you pulled the lever on anybody because of one or two issues then you're operating like a pagan. We have to operate on principle and there's a whole framework in Scripture that provides the framework for judging and evaluating national leadership.
The first time I really ran into this was when I was right out of college and I was a teacher and it was a time when teachers weren't paid a whole lot, teachers have never been paid a whole lot and in Texas back then they were…they've always been around 38th or 39th in the nation but they were like that and so one of the candidates was driving hard on this whole issue of we need to raise teacher's salaries. He also had a number of other policies that were long-range problematic for the state. For one thing, it was going to put the state in debt in order to raise those salaries because there were some other infrastructure problems. Rather than looking at things holistically nearly every teacher I knew was going to pull the lever on this one candidate simply because I'm going to get a pay raise; how short-sighted, how self-centered. We never should vote on that basis. You have to vote on what's good for the whole, what's good long term, what's sound economic policy, what is sound political policy, you have to go vote on the basis of a framework based on principle, not a framework based on how somebody is going to take care of you personally. And once you get a nation that is going to the polls and pulling the lever on the basis of how the candidates are going to take care of them personally, whether it's providing a prescription drug program or scaring people with Mediscare, or Mediscare tactics or whatever it might be, it's single-issued, driving people to go vote on the basis of a single issue and that is slave mentality, expecting the government to take care of your needs and to be the solution for the problems.
That leads to point three, the third observation, the nation that comes into bondage spiritually because of idolatry, that this spiritual failure will manifest itself in terms of national priorities and those priorities then will dictate policies and decisions. That's how it works. And as a believer what happens is that kind of goes in reverse and finally as you begin to develop a little doctrine in the soul and begin to be able to look at things from a Biblical viewpoint, then that begins to shift your personal priorities, so that God becomes number one in your life and knowledge of Bible doctrine, application of doctrine becomes a number one priority in your life and that then begins to shape the decisions you make and the policies you set in life. Well, the reverse is true, and when you go into paganism it affects the policies, the decisions that a nation makes.
So what happens, we see in our own nation that it has affected policies and decisions in relationship to the military, being motivated by a lot of fear…see once you forget that Jesus Christ is in control of history and that Jesus Christ controls the environment, Colossians 1:16-17, every molecule is held together by Jesus Christ, once you understand those things then there is no environmental threat because Jesus Christ is in control and there's nothing any corporation can do that's going to change the ozone layer and wipe out the earth because of too many hydro fluorocarbons in the upper atmosphere. That's just absolutely absurd. There are always going to be meteorological shifts in the ebb and flow of cooling and warming but guess what folks, if you don't have a divine viewpoint framework of flood geology you can't understand it because these cycles are still the after effects of the meteorological consequences of the Noahic flood. But of course if you haven't studied that and you've rejected what the Bible says about a worldwide universal flood at the time of Noah, then you don't have a frame of reference then you go into science and you operate on an evolutionary frame of reference, then you're going to from the get go, because your frame of reference is wrong misinterpret the scientific data.
We've always had these changes, you go back to about the 14th or 15th century when the Vikings were sending out their missionaries with Eric the Red and Leif Erickson and others, and if you didn't know that that's what they were doing, they were involved in foreign missions at the time and they carried a missionary with them on all of their trips, and when they went out they came to one particular area, they noticed that it was covered with lush green forests. And they called it Greenland. Now Greenland today is not covered with lush green forests, so obviously the environment in the 14th-15th century was a bit warmer up in northern latitudes than it is today. My, my, it must have been all of those carbon emissions from those diesel engines they had on their Viking war boats.
We let all these things, like this latest thing that some idiot scientist came up with that in the next 50 years the average temperature of the earth is going to increase 7 degrees. Folks, if that's true and you really believe that's true then we'd better start evacuating all of our cities because almost every major city in this country is located within about 30 miles of the ocean and that means that they're all going to be under water in 50 years. And the fact that you see them using that kind of a study to scare everybody to vote for them, for their economic policy, and yet they don't get engaged in any kind of serious policy in relationship to moving people shows that they really don't even believe their own data, they're just using it as a scare tactic to get people to vote for their particular program. So what we see here is a nation that comes into spiritual bondage loses touch with reality and no longer has a frame of reference for evaluating anything so it changes their perspective on life which then changes their priorities and their policies.
Then the fourth observation is that the only solution to any problem in life is the divine solution and God has already provided the divine solution here for Israel in a leader by the name of Deborah, a woman. This is unique and the fact that she is a woman is specifically emphasized in the text. Now the question that we have to ask when we come to this is to address a specific problem and that is to ask the question: what is the significance of Deborah's judgeship in relationship to spiritual leadership? Throughout the Scripture doesn't it appear like spiritual leadership is vested in the male, not in the female and yet here God seems to be giving spiritual leadership to Deborah.
Furthermore, Deborah judgeship is frequently used as support in a contemporary argument for the view that women should be allowed to be pastors and to fill the pulpit. So this is a major issue today. Nearly every major denomination, most of them liberals, have all fought and lost this battle and they're all ordaining women and one of the more conservative denominations down south has made it a plank of their annual platform to take a stand against the ordination of women. As a result of that stand their state denomination body in the great state of Texas, and their state body has always been a little more wacko liberal than the major denomination, decided this last week that they weren't going to give their state money to the national convention any more because they were not going to allow women to be ordained. This is a major issue in many, many situations. And you can see it when you get out and drive along and you go by some church and they'll say Pastors Bill and Suzie Smith, and that is a very subtle way in which they're getting around it, oh it's a team think, you know, we have the husband and wife, it's a team, but it's really a co-pastor and you're elevating a woman to a position of leadership and of course what happens in the argument and in the debate is there is a turning to different examples in Scripture, Deborah being on of them, that God authorized, elevated a woman to a position of leadership so why can't we have a woman pastor and we need to really look at that because it is a major issue that needs to be addressed.
So in the last two weeks as part of our framework for that I have taken the time to develop the biblical doctrine or leadership. I want to review this; I'm going to fly through this rapidly but I need to bring everybody back to the same sheet of music. Those of you who are new can pick up a copy of the tape and get these notes down in more detail if you're interested.
First of all, we have to remember in the overall structure of Judges that there is a deterioration going on from one cycle to the next and that means that when we come to evaluate these leaders we must realize that this is less than the ideal. You can't elevate Samson, Jephthah, Gideon or Deborah to a position of ideal leadership and we have to remember that because the theme of the book of negative, it's not positive.
So the doctrine of leadership: first of all we have to remember that it is related to the first divine institution which is human responsibility. Responsibility means that a person holds a specific duty, office or trust. Now I'm going to relate this to certain duties, offices and trust, i.e. husbands, fathers, pastors, that's the office we are going to be relating this to. A person holds a specific duty, office or trust, and is answerable and accountable for decisions and actions in relation to that duty, office and trust. So you may wear three or four different hats; you may be a mom which makes you a parent so you've got one hat of authority; you may be a wife which means you wear another hat of subordination; you may be in a position of responsibility at the office which means you're in another sphere of leadership and you have to maintain the distinction. The same thing with men, everybody is in different spheres. Everybody is under authority at some place but what I'm getting at here is when we evaluate this issue we have to look at the authority in terms of its role and its place within an overall framework. Otherwise we're going to just get off into all kinds of tangential issues that are unrelated and distractions.
"Answerable" implies that there is someone in authority over the person to whom the responsible party is obligated. So leadership is always going to be related to authority and being answerable to that authority.
Second, "accountability" suggests that there are positive and negative decisions in relation to that duty or trust which is the assigned responsibility. Leadership is going to be in relationship to that sphere of authority. If you're a father you have a leadership responsibility toward your children; you have a leadership responsibility toward your wife; you have a leadership responsibility in relationship to the spiritual welfare of the home, that leadership entails, because a leader cannot function without authority. If you have a leader and you don't give him authority, if you have a pastor and you don't give that pastor the authority to lead, just forget it. I've been in that situation as a pastor and you can't go anywhere; leadership demands responsibility and authority to achieve the task. So accountability indicates that there are negative consequences. I want to emphasize that. There are negative consequences for failure in those realms of leadership.
Third, authority implies a chain of command but don't think chain of command means impersonal or that it destroys personal relationships. Remember there is a chain of command in the Godhead and yet Jesus says I and the Father are one. The most intimate relationship in the universe is also within the frame of a chain of command. So don't think chain of command, military, tyranny, somebody just telling me what to do, bossing me around, that's a false construct.
And then "obligation" means that there is the existence of a formal contract, that is we always have some kind of a covenant with God, in this case we're operating within the framework of the New Covenant blessings to the Church and that binds us legally or morally to a certain realm of action. That's why when God comes along and starts telling husbands and wives and pastors what to do it's always in the context of the relationship with God. Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church; wives are to be submissive to your husbands as to the Lord; pastors are under shepherds. I mean, it doesn't stop with the pastor; the pastor is under the authority of the chief shepherd. Every authority relationship, every leadership relationship is further defined within another authority relationship. So nobody, no human being is at the top of the chain, it always comes back to God and it always comes back to understanding that Trinitarian relationship.
Second, the existence of authority demands the operation of leadership so if God has given you, delegated to you a certain responsibility as a parent, as a father, as a husband, as a church leader, then that means that you have to exercise leadership within that arena and the exercise of that leadership is going to be related to properly understanding your biblically defined goal because we're going to see leadership means going from point A to point B and you've got to know where point B is, where does God say you're supposed to be taking those you're leading.
The third point is that leadership always operates within the framework of authority; I think I've established that.
The fourth point was that authority in the family demands parental leadership. Authority in marriage demands the leadership of the husband. Authority in the military, business, government, church and other organizations demands the exercise of leadership. So if you have anybody over which you have authority you need to be leading.
Point five, leadership therefore is directed towards the achievement of some responsibility, goal or obligation placed upon man by God. So whatever the sphere is you'd better be defining your leadership in terms of where God says you're supposed to be going.
Sixth, we saw the definition, therefore leadership is the authority, ability and capacity to direct, guide, lead, motivate in any organization to move the members of that organization, i.e. your wife, your family, your children, the church, whatever, to move the members of that organization to their biblically defined goals. See, for a pastor my mandate is to move you to spiritual maturity. It's not my job to make the church grow. Jesus Christ says I will build My church; He told Peter you feed the sheep. See what happens today is we have pastors who think somehow God's going to feed the sheep and my job is to make the church grow. That's called the modern church growth movement and that's why they have great numbers because they don't scare anybody away because they don't teach the truth, everybody can just come together and feel good. But that's another subject.
Point seven, leadership, therefore, is related to different goals and responsibilities of the different spheres of responsibility in life. So different spheres of responsibility, marriage, family, work, church, different spheres of responsibility entail different goals and different leaders but everybody is in some level of authority relationship.
Point eight, crisis occurs when the fulfillment of that obligation becomes challenged or threatened and we have challenges or threats to our leadership as parents, husbands, moms, all the time.
Point nine, leadership is then called into play in a special way in the midst of that crisis and the only way to have stability in the midst of that crisis is through doctrine in your soul.
Point ten, it is only doctrine in the soul that provides capacity for objective thinking, real or genuine understanding of the issues in life and therefore the basis for making good decision from a position of strength. And ultimately that's what good sound Biblical leadership is all about, is making decisions from a position of strength which is defined biblically as under the filling of the Holy Spirit, and in accord with Bible doctrine. We're not talking about leadership, some kind of leadership seminar you might go to wherever you work, some real estate company, advisors, or whatever it might be, because their operating totally within a secular framework. We're bringing in the Biblical viewpoint here.
Point eleven, in contrast human viewpoint solutions may provide temporary, even long-term temporary solutions that appear successful. See, the problem we get into as Americans, we love pragmatism, if it works it must be right. I have 10,000 members in my church and 5,000 people walk the aisle every week so what I'm doing must be right; obviously God's behind it, right? Wrong! Noah preached for 120 years and didn't have a single convert, that didn't mean God wasn't behind it. You can't judge spiritual things by the value system of a pagan society that's operating on numbers as the sign of quality.
Point twelve, paganism always attacks the divine institutions. This is the point, if you don't get anything else, it's going to attack the divine institutions, it's going to attack human responsibility. You're not really, dad, you're not the one responsible, the mom is, you know, she's more sensitive spiritually, so let her teach the kids. That's just human viewpoint hogwash. It's really worse than that but I'll use that word this morning. You know, it's the father's responsibility to train up the children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. It's not your job to slough it off onto the mom. The Bible puts the spiritual leadership squarely on the shoulders of the father. And yet what happens in our society, because of paganism it's put on the mom and in my first church I had men who would come and say you know, I never heard this before, I always thought Christianity was just for women, because you know my dad never went to church, it was just my mom. That's the idea, and in my first church, which was much more of an interdenominational type of church, we had a real problem because there was a vast number of women there whose husbands didn't come, and that's a feminization of the church, and it's all a result of just this overall pagan environment that we live and breathe in.
Point thirteen, when paganism alters the concepts of leadership in a culture, it changes the nature of leadership in every sphere, individual, marriage, family, church, government and work and what happens is that we're all so immersed in this pagan way of thinking that we're swimming in it and we don't even know we're surrounded by it because it's our environment that what happens is that when we make decisions that we think are right and we think they're even Biblical, they're wrong because we haven't really completely reformed our thinking. You know, when Jephthah sacrificed his daughter, and we'll get there in Judges 10, when Jephthah sacrificed his daughter thinking that it honored God, he wasn't aware that he was doing something wrong because he was so immersed in the pagan thought of his culture. And that's what happens today, because Christians are afraid to delve very deeply into the Word and really challenge their thinking because God, I might have to change everything, I might have been wrong all these years. Yeah, you probably were. You know, we all were. That's what the Bible says is, we have to renew our thinking, that's the challenge of Christianity and it's only for the courageous and the brave who are not arrogant.
That sets the context. "Deborah is a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, judging Israel at the time." Now what's interesting is the way the Hebrew text sets this up because there's a word left out in the English translation. In the Hebrew starts off with the phrase, "Now Deborah," it's what's called the Vav disjunctive in the Hebrew which means that we're setting up a minor contrast between what went before, and so the contrast is between the problem of verses 1-3 and the solution of verse 4, which is God's solution. In the Hebrew, the second word after "Deborah" is the word "isha," this word, "ish" is the word for man, when you put the feminine ending on it is the word for woman. In the Garden of Eden you have the creation up till the end of chapter 3 the man was called Adam and the woman was called Isha, it is not until after the fall that Adam renames her, Chavvah which means Eve, the mother of life.
So her name initially was Isha; Isha means woman, so it starts off in the Hebrew, "Now Deborah, a woman," you don't have that in your English. See, the writer of the Hebrew text is emphasizing, now look, this is what I want you to pay attention to here, that this is a woman. I don't want you to miss the point here that we've got a woman in this leadership position because… what he's going to make the point in contrast is because the men don't have the guts to step up to the plate. And that's a symbol of what's happening in pagan society is there is in paganism you always see a move towards matriarchy away from male leadership. That has a modern ring to it, doesn't it? She is a woman, and then it says "a prophetess," the noun is nebi, the root from prophet, with a feminine singular ending; she is then called "the wife of Lapidoth," so in 3 different words, and it says "was judging" and that's the qal feminine singular participle, if shaphat, which means to judge, you have four words there all of which are emphasizing the fact that this is a woman, pay attention, something different is happening here, we have a woman judging. In all of the other passages, and there's four other passages we'll see where there is a prophetess in the Old Testament, they don't insert that word "isha." It just talks about them being a prophetess, but here the writer inserts isha because he wants us to pay attention to the fact that something unusual is happening here because this is a woman who is functioning in this role and that is odd or unusual to say the least, and is significant to the point that he is making in the text.
Now we're told that she is judging, this is a qal participle indicating that towards the end of this 20 year period she is already operating in a judging atmosphere. Now we saw at the beginning of our study of Judges that the Hebrew word translated "judge" comes from the root verb, shaphat, and the shaphatim, that's the noun form, the judges, functioned in a role that wasn't like what we think of as a judge. When we think of a judge we think of a magistrate who rules in a court and he adjudicates between decisions or he oversees the prosecution of criminals. That was not, let me put it this way, that was not the sole function of a shaphatim, that was a minor part of the shaphatim's role, of the judge's role, but it wasn't the whole thing. We've seen that as part of the judge role they also have a military function, they're a commander, they raised an army, they defeated the enemies of Israel, and they led the nation spiritually. So it's a broad term and I think the very best meaning for us is they're a deliverer. It's a deliverer, that's their function, is to deliver and they did it in different ways and you have to look at each individual case to see how they did it.
Now what's happening here is that it said that she is judging Israel at the time and there was a palm tree that she would sit under, and people would come to her, in verse 5, and they would bring various cases to her to make decisions. So that indicates that her role of judgeship is not in terms of military and it's not in terms of spiritual leadership. She is adjudicating in matters of conflict in the nation, and this brings to mind Deuteronomy 17:8 which states that if any case where God is part of the Law, it says to Israel "if any case is too difficult for you to decide between one kind of homicide or another, between one kind of lawsuit or another, between one kind of assault or another, being cases of dispute in your courts, then you shall arise, and go up to the place which the Lord your God chooses." So God has elevated, because of the lack of any alternative, Deborah to the position of judge.
Now I'm not taking anything away from Deborah. This is not saying well, you know, she's operating in an illegitimate manner. God has clearly raised her up and put her in this position. But He's done that because there's no alternative. Remember at the end of Judges 3:31 God raised up a Gentile by the name of Shamgar, who was a mercenary in Pharaoh's army to defeat the southeastern threat of the Philistines. He's not even a believer. Because there's a vacuum of leadership God often utilizes other means to deliver people which are not the standard, not the ideal. This is not to take away from Shamgar's function of military destruction of those 600 Philistines and it's not to take away from Deborah's judgeship and her godly character and her spiritual maturity. But it is to recognize the fact that the reason God had to go with both of those leaders was because there was a lack of male leadership in Israel.
So the people are coming to her and she is fulfilling her role as a judge. But there's also another interesting description of her here that we have to spend some time looking at, and that is the fact that she is called a prophetess. She is called a prophetess, and we have to ask several questions which I think we'll not get to until… we'll nail them down briefly but then we'll come back and look at them again next week.
What exactly is the role and the nature of the prophet, that's the first question. See, the underlying issue is you have some people come along and say well prophesying is the same as preaching so if they can be a prophet they can be a preacher. Second, what is the authority of the prophet? Third, how many women are there in Scripture who are said to be prophetesses? Fourth, is this a normative role or an unusual role? Fifth, is there something negative about Deborah taking the role of the judge? Those are the questions we need to ask and then come back and ask the last question, what is the implication of this for the role of women in ministry in the Church Age. That one we'll have to save until next time.
So the first one, the role and nature of the prophet is that first of all we must distinguish between the office of prophet and the gift of prophecy. The office of prophet does not begin until Samuel; Samuel is still a couple hundred years away in terms of our chronology. He doesn't come in until the end of the Judges period. So the office of prophet is not established but we do have the gift of prophecy and we know that that goes back to at least Moses if not earlier.
We must distinguish between the office of prophet and the gift of prophecy. The office of prophet does not take a formal position until the time of Samuel. So all we have here with Deborah is the gift of prophecy. Now what is the gift of prophecy? The gift of prophecy is merely the reception of divine revelation and the communication of that divine revelation. God gives a certain amount of information to the prophet and then the prophet communicates that to people. In that sense the prophet is nothing more than a conduit of divine revelation. As Dr. Harold Hohner puts it, "prophecy is neither skill nor aptitude nor talent; it is the actual speaking forth of words given by the Spirit in a particular situation and ceases when the word's cease." Now that's a great definition. Prophecy, therefore, is limited to the articulation of a specific message and the words are given by God. The precise words, it's not anything more than that. God makes a statement and the prophet comes along and merely repeats what God has told them. Now that's important, it differs from priesthood in that the function of the priest is to bring people before God; the prophet reveals God's Word to man, the priest brings people before God and no women were ever priests.
Also it differs from teaching in that teaching involves the intelligible exposition, interpretation and explanation of what the revelation of God means. Therefore the prophet's authority derives from God; the authority is God, "Thus saith the Lord," it's not me. The authority of the teacher is that I'm standing up here teaching you what the Word says and I am explaining it and interpreting it so the authority lies, it's still in the Word but it's also in my position as a teacher and someone in authority but the prophet is merely a passive mouthpiece to God. The authority does not reside in the gift of prophet. You see that in the New Testament because of the gift of prophet was under that of apostle and teacher and every prophecy had to be judged on the basis of already canonized Scripture. A prophecy, even in the New Testament was not automatically elevated to the same level of Scripture that had already been revealed. So it has a secondary level of authority; it is not of the same level as an apostle or a pastor or a teacher. So that answers the second question about authority of the prophet and that is it's not in him but it's in the Word whereas with the teacher it's in his office.
There are four women in the Old Testament who are prophetesses and there are the sons of Philip and Anna in the New Testament so this is not a majority function; it seems to be rather unusual but it doesn't always indicate a leadership crisis, but it does here because in Isaiah 3:12 God says, "Oh My people, their oppressors are children and women rule over them." So in that expression it is clear that the fact that a woman is in a position of rulership indicates that the people are spiritually immature or spiritual failures and that this is not the ideal standard or the Biblical standard for leadership. Now I'm going to say some more things about these and evaluate it a little more next time but that's the opening introduction and next time we're going to look at what the New Testament says about the role of women in ministry.