Editor’s Note: Today we’re reading and/or listening to Psalm 147:5, Jeremiah 32:17-27, and Matthew 8:23-27 as part of our look at the life of Deborah. After you read, we offer you this post by Jasmine Timm, our second post on this remarkable woman of faith. We hope you are encouraged today!
By Jasmine Timm
I grew up as a swimmer, and my favorite part about the sport was competing. I loved the adrenaline rush of pushing my body to its limits, only to emerge from the water to see my time on the scoreboard. I was good at swimming, and although I had my share of victories, there was something I cared about more. I had a coach whom I loved and every time I finished a race, I looked forward to going over to him and hearing what he had to say about my performance. When I won, he was ecstatic for me. But even when I didn’t, I still sensed his approval of me. Even the constructive criticism I received was a joy because I was confident that my coach believed in me, enjoyed me, and wanted me to succeed. Although I loved competing, it really was my greatest joy to hear my coach say, “Well done, Jasmine!”
In Judges 4, we are introduced to two figures, Deborah and Barak, who very well could have ended up competing with one another. We don’t know much about either Deborah or Barak. But we can gather that Barak was meant to serve in some type of leadership role and he was failing (Judges 4:6), and we can gather that Deborah had been appointed by God to be the judge of Israel at that time (Judges 4:4). In an encounter between the two, Deborah calls out Barak for not doing what God had called him to do in leading Israel in battle. Barak seems to know his shortcomings, and he asks Deborah to accompany him. She does not grumble or berate Barak for asking her to do his job, but readily accompanies him (Judges 4:9). She also does not complain about the men around her, the ones who have failed so terribly to lead the nation of Israel. Instead, she willingly serves where she is needed. Deborah is willing to do whatever is necessary to accomplish what God would want for His people. Although she acknowledges that God will indeed give the glory to a woman and not Barak, we can sense, based on what we read later on in Judges 5, that she is not motivated by spite or pride.
Although Judges 5 reflects on the events we read of in chapter 4 and how Deborah, Barak, and Jael succeeded in defeating Sisera and the Caananites, the poem is overwhelmingly focused on the LORD and His great acts. God is mentioned 15 times throughout the poem, which tells us something about Deborah’s heart. She was content to do whatever was necessary to please God, and she wanted God Himself to receive glory. It was her greatest joy to serve God and receive His approval, not man’s. She was certainly aware of how God used her and the role she played in delivering Israel (Judges 5:7), but she does not seem impressed with herself. In fact, she highlights the noble work of others several times in the poem, and throughout the song, we can hear the heartbeat of her joy: God Himself. She is impressed with God. What is remarkable about Deborah is that she appears to be motivated by confidence in her standing with God. She is eager to please Him, and she is content to be His vessel in whatever task He calls her to.
Judges 5 is not the only time these events are recounted. If we flip forward in our Bibles to Hebrews 11, we read once again of Barak; however, Deborah is not mentioned in the Hebrews Hall of Fame. I am baffled that Barak is listed as a great hero of the faith instead of Deborah. If I were Deborah, I think I would be irritated by the lack of recognition and that someone like Barak, who only succeeded because of my leadership, was highlighted instead of me. Pretty ugly, right? But I have a hunch that Deborah would not think this way. In Judges, she consistently showed herself to be someone who was willing to highlight God and help in whatever way was necessary to glorify Him. I imagine even now, as Deborah stands in the presence of our great God, that she is not wishing she received more recognition. I bet she is fully content to be able to finally stand before her Savior, singing with all the saints about the greatness of His glory and knowing now more than ever that pleasing Him is the greatest honor she could ever receive.
Just as Deborah was content to be pleasing to God, we are afforded great joy and freedom as we recall how God is pleased with us in Christ. We participate in Christ’s blessings and are able to receive what should be His alone, but that which He shares with us, God’s approval. In Christ, our Creator is pleased with us. Because of Christ’s work on our behalf, God says to us, “Well done!” (Matthew 25:23) and “I will rejoice over you with gladness” (Zephaniah 3:17). In knowing that we have God’s approval, we are granted great contentment, and through our contentment, God is glorified. When we relish God’s acceptance and approval of us, we demonstrate something powerful to the world and communicate that God Himself is a greater treasure than any other thing. Having His approval is better than any accolade or accomplishment in any sphere of life. Knowing we are loved by Him propels us to live contended, faithful lives that serve to honor Him.
As we learn from Deborah, there is something about knowing we have God’s approval that liberates us from the relentless pursuit of needing to be recognized. It’s not that we need to take the backseat and become as small as possible so the men around us can steal the glory. Rather, when we are delighted to give God the ultimate glory because we know He delights in us through His Son, we are freed from needing to prove ourselves to anyone else. Just as my swim coach freely expressed his approval of me, God is always beckoning us to remember how fully He approves of us in Christ. Knowing my swim coach was delighted in me was a greater reward than any success I had in the pool. How much more of a treasure it is to be rejoiced over by our Creator! When we know we are accepted and loved, we are free to have joy in all that we do, even when we are not recognized for it. And how much freer will we be knowing that God Himself sees us and is pleased with us. May it be our greatest joy and motivator to know that one day we will stand before our Creator and hear Him say, “Well done!” To Him be the glory in all that we do.