The Best Leadership Verse in the Bible?

“That the leaders led in Israel, that the people volunteered, O bless the Lord” (Judges 5:2).

Scripture gems show up in the unlikeliest of places.

Deborah became a hero by default. She describes herself as “a mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7). Earlier, she was identified as “a prophetess” and one who “judged Israel at that time” (4:4). She was thus a woman of great spirituality, excellent understanding and keen insight. People trusted her.

Deborah summoned Barak to her location. She had a disturbing question for this leader of Israel. “Hasn’t God called you to lead His army against these oppressive Canaanites?”

For over two decades, the murderous Canaanites had run over Israel and God’s people had been praying for Him to intervene.

Now the Lord told Deborah that He had called Barak, but he was reluctant to obey. He was not the first and certainly not the last to need prodding to obey God’s instruction, to answer His call.

The sheepish Barak told the woman of God, “I’ll go—but only if you’ll go with me” (4:8). Is he saying “I’ll go if you will hold my hand?” Like the great warrior needs his mama along? It appears that way.

We are tempted to blast the guy for his cowardice, but not having been in his situation, we should go easy on him.

Deborah responded, “All right, I’ll go with you. But when this is all over, a woman will get the glory and not you” (4:9). Barak had no problem with that. He just wanted to get this done!

When the day of battle arrived, once again Deborah had to prod her general. “Up! This is the day!” (4:14). And, leading his army of 10,000 Israeli troops, Barak marched out to meet the fearsome Sisera, commander of the Canaanites, with his 900 charioteers aboard their chariots of steel (see 4:3). (We’re not told that Deborah did any actual fighting; perhaps Barak just needed her on the scene, advising.)

The battle went well and the bad guys were routed (4:15). General Sisera ran for his life and ended up being nailed to the floor by Jael, identified only “the wife of Heber the Kenite” (4:17). She became the hero of the day, along with Deborah.

We think of Israel in Canaanland as a male-dominated society, and it was in a hundred ways. But Deborah was a prophetess and a judge, and clearly a songwriter, too, since Judges 5 is called “The Song of Deborah.” She was somebody.

Modern churchpeople must exercise caution in judging cultures foreign to ours when we have little idea of all the factors involved or limiting God as to whom He cannot call, will not use and dare not bless.

“How did you do it, Deborah? What was your secret? What advice do you have for the rest of us?” (Imagine the reporters interviewing her.)

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Joe McKeever
Joe McKeever has been a believer over 60 years, has been preaching the Gospel over 50 years, and has been writing and cartooning for Christian Publications over 40 years. He lives in New Orleans.