Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel. -Judges 4:4 (NIV)
I woke up this morning to the news that former President Jimmy Carter is disassociating himself with the Southern Baptist Convention because of the church's stance on the equality of women. You can read about it here. Then I opened up the Bible for today's assigned texts and read about Deborah.
In what becomes a familiar pattern throughout the book of Judges, the Israelites turn away from the Lord and engage in evil. God hands them over to the hands of oppressing nations and kings. The Israelites cry out to the Lord for help and God sends a judge and/or prophet to rescue them. The judge and/or prophet dies and the Israelites begin the cycle again, turning away from God and toward evil.
Deborah is the only woman mentioned in Judges who serves as judge over the Israelites. Apparently neither God nor Israel has any problem with Deborah being in such a leadership position, even as a military leader of the Israelites. Deborah sends for Barak and informs him that God has commanded that he go up against Sisera, leader of the army oppressing the Israelites, and defeat them. Barak resists, saying that the only way he'll lead a command against the opposition is if Deborah goes with him. She agrees to go, but tells Barak that because he refuses to go without her, he will not receive the credit for the victory. Instead, a woman will receive the credit. One might be tempted to conclude that Deborah is talking about herself but she is actually talking about Jael. I invite you to read the rest of the story for yourself although I caution you that it's one of the more violent and graphic stories in all of scripture.
I am not surprised that God could and would use a woman like Deborah in such an important leadership position. In my own life, the best teachers and examples that I've had about what it means to be a faithful follower of Christ have been women. It has always pained me when individuals and groups suggest that women are incapable of being leaders, especially when I see evidence that they have been especially gifted and called by God.
I realize that not everyone reading this devotional may agree about the role of women in leadership. But my prayer is that today God would grant you the grace to see beyond gender to the unique and wonderful way that God equips people for leadership. God can use any person for any reason because God is God.