Facing the Giants, Part 1: Listening to God
A reflection on the Life of Deborah
Deborah walked up the rocky hill to her usual sitting place under the tree. Sweat dripped down her forehead as she lifted her eyes to the people who had already formed a small crowd this early afternoon. Her heart was heavy, her mind exhausted. She had heard God’s voice again last night, this time with more power and urgency. It was an answer to the prayers of many.
She had been communing with God through prayer and quiet time for years, but now as judge for her people the quiet times are sought with more humility and reverence. God is the Sovereign, it is her job to listen and share. Her people in the north have been under captivity for decades and last night He gave her the answer; but she did worry that the general may not listen to her. She had sent for Barak in the morning and calculated that he would be here by the end of the week, if he came.
Deborah overheard the gossip in the village while doing her daily chores. She was not blind to the fact that the men in town didn’t always approve of her leadership. Many women were treated as possessions or worse and certainly none of them were asked for their opinions. She had learned how to battle the critic inside her head that liked to give her self-doubt. This made her time with the Almighty even more important and precious. He gave her a courage that allowed her to rise above man’s agenda.
Her foot slipped and she held her hands out to steady herself. Aliyah, her helper, came to her side quickly and grabbed her hand. “Are you hurt?”
“No child, thank you though,” she replied with a smile and gentle squeeze.
Aliyah smiled back and then walked ahead to get the seat ready for the judge. She placed the water jug that Josiah, the young stable boy, was carrying next to the chair. Her hands carefully dusted off the seating area and then placed the red cushion down that she carried up the hill. From the look of the crowd it would be a long afternoon.
Barak did arrive at the end of the week. He came into town with a handful of comrades, all looking worn out and weary. He asked the stable boy for refreshments and was led to the courtyard with the well. There were also watering areas for the horses. Josiah busied himself caring for the horses as the men gathered around the well tending to their own needs.
As the young boy was looking after the horses, he couldn’t help but take notice of the general and his companions. They were not talking quiet, and it sounded like there were a few conflicts in the group. He heard them dump water over their heads and shake the excess off. He turned to see two of them rubbing their sun kissed faces, the dust turning into muddy streaks as it mixed with the water.
“Can you look at my horses’ hind foot?” one of the men called to Josiah. “He was limping the last bit of the trip.”
Barak was led to Deborah’s place on the hill. He knew she was a judge but did not expect to see the crowd. It was dusk and she still had dozens of people waiting. He was baffled by this. Who is this woman that draws such a crowd?
The sun slipped into the horizon, faint pink and orange streaks bid it farewell. Aliyah lit the nearby torch. Six people were left to hear from the judge. Barak shifted uncomfortably; standing for hours after days of horseback riding straining his muscles further.
Deborah took notice of the movement and pitied him. She turned to the lingering few. “I’m sorry, but we are going to have to stop for the night. Please come back tomorrow morning. Shalom.”
The people were further encouraged to disperse safely home by Aliyah. She wanted to give the judge privacy with the general. She didn’t know what they were discussing but she knew it was important.
Barak and Deborah exchanged the normal courtesies as he walked toward her. She stood up, stretching slightly. It felt good to stand after the long hot day. She took a drink from the pitcher and then offered it to him. He nodded and smiled before refreshing himself.
The torch light danced on Barak’s face as Deborah looked at him and said “The Lord God commands you to go with the men of Naphtali and Zebulun to Mount Tabor. You will defeat Sisera and his army. It’s time to overthrow the Canaanites.”
Barak was startled by this instruction. His eyes widened and he pointed a finger at her. “I will only go if you go with me.”
Deborah straightened slightly and met his eyes. “I will certainly go with you. But because of your wish, the honor will not be yours. The Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.”
This story is based on Judges 4:4-10. I encourage you to read the rest of the chapter from the Bible. Deborah’s confidence came not in her own ability to command, it was from her dedicated time with the Lord. She listened for His voice and then took action. The discipline of spending time with God gave her the necessary skills to lead her people.
The inner critic, the voice of self-doubt, the reminder of fear when others are afraid are all barriers we still face today. How we chose to deal with these can change lives for the better or leave them stagnant. Our giant of the day may look different, be it a huge workload, a difficult relationship, or a big decision but we all have the power to choose how we will react to it. Take time each day and get quiet with God, study His word and pray. Seek God in all circumstances and like Deborah, your commitment to Him will prove stronger than fear’s grip.
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Beautifully written, thank you for sharing…That inner critic, our self talk…Sometimes my self talk is so unsettliing and unproductive, i just call out “Jesus.” Sometimes repetitively, as this quiets the negativity i am allowing to control my thoughts.
What a beautiful testimony! Jesus is truly a powerful, loving and merciful person to call on when the battle is raging in the mind. Keep up the good fight, dear one!!