Monday, April 25, 2011

Men, Obey God and Lead

When people talk about the role of women in the church—in particular in leadership positions—we frequently hear them mention Deborah. The argument is that since Deborah was a judge then women can be preachers. I don’t want to take anything away from Deborah because she is a very important figure in the history of the Jews, but I don’t believe we can extrapolate from what Deborah did that what Paul said with the inspiration of God is wrong. The Bible never says that everything Deborah did was right or was what God saw as ideal. It just says that is the way it was. Many who invoke the name of Deborah do so outside the context of her story, saying only that Deborah was a judge.

In Judges 4 (That in itself should tell us to be careful. The judges all had questionable natures.) we find Deborah under a palm tree, where the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. Clearly she was a respected woman, but in the narrative we see that this wasn’t supposed to be Deborah’s story at all. She sent for Barak the son of Abinoam. Notice what she said to him. “Hath no the Lord God of Israel commanded saying, ‘Go and draw near Mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun; and I will draw unto thee Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude to the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into thine hand’?”

If Barak had been doing what he was supposed to be doing, we might never have heard of Deborah. The Lord had already spoken to Barak and Barak hadn’t obeyed. Barak responded by saying, “I’ll go if you’ll go.”

Then we see the result of Barak not obeying God. Deborah said, “I will surely go with thee. Notwithstanding, the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honor, for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of woman.”

Barak was the man God had chosen to deliver Israel from their enemies. As the leader of the army, Barak would normally have the honor of killing the leader of the enemy’s army. But because Barak wasn’t doing what God told him to, God repeated his message through the mouth of a woman and then gave the honor of killing Sisera to a woman.

With Deborah at his side, Barak gathered the men and lead them to Mount Tabor. Sisera gathered his host and his 900 iron chariots and went up to put a stop to this. But for all of Sisera’s might, Israel had the upper hand and Sisera fled on foot. He ran to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite because there was peace between Heber and Sisera’s king. Jael hid him under a mantle. But when he asked for water, she gave him milk, so that he fell asleep in the her tent. While he slept she took a nail of the tent and with a hammer drove the nail through his temples, and fastened it into the ground. When Barak came looking for Sisera, Jael showed him what she had done.

I think what we see here is that God does use women to accomplish his work. But we also have a situation in which the man God chose wasn’t doing what God called him to do. It is difficult for us to say that this story proves that women preachers is okay because this story didn’t follow God’s ideal. One of the problems we see in some churches is that the men aren’t taking the leadership roles like they should. Too many men are willing to just let the women do it, much like Barak. Instead of these men leading their families in the worship of the Lord, they let their wives take the kids to church. This is sad because children follow the example of their fathers. A child that sees his father as having a heart for the Lord and being involved in Christian service will mimic that behavior when he is older. But if the child’s father has little involvement in church then it is unlikely the child will see the value of involvement, no matter how involved the mother is.

And to highlight how important of a leadership role the father has, it seems to me that even if the mother has little interest in God but the father treats church as important, the children will believe it is important also. It will be harder to instill those values than if both parents see God as important, but children look to their fathers to know what to value.