A True Woman Joins the Battle
*This message was transcribed from Nancy's True Woman '10--Chattanooga message.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: As we come toward the offering of ourselves in a heart-felt commitment to the Lord at the close of this session, we’re praying that God will send out from this place thousands of women to live out the message of true biblical womanhood and to reproduce that message in the lives of those around us.
Now, I’m pretty sure there are some women here who are thinking, “Yes, the women on the platform, God can really use them to spread this message, but there’s nothing I can be or do that would be all that significant.”
Let me read fto you a quote that I hope will convince you otherwise. This is written by John Angell James. He was a British pastor and writer in the 1800s. It’s a fabulous book called Female Piety. Listen carefully to what he said:
Every fwoman [that’s every woman in this place] whether rich or poor, married or single, has a circle of influence within which, according to her character, she is exerting a certain amount of power for good or harm. Every woman, by her virtue or her vice, by her folly or her wisdom, by her levity or her dignity, is adding something to our national elevation or degradation. A community is not likely to be overthrown where woman fulfills her mission, for by the power of her noble heart over the hearts of others, she will raise that community from its ruins and restore it again to prosperity and joy.
That describes how God wants to use your life. I don’t care where you’re sitting, how young or old you are, how rich or poor, how few or many friends you think you have, God wants to use the power of His Spirit within you, giving you a noble heart to help raise our culture from the ruins and to restore it again to prosperity and joy.
Let me ask you to turn in your Bibles this morning to the book of Judges, in the Old Testament, Judges chapter 4. We’re going to dig into God’s Word and let the Word be what speaks to us and gives us our parting challenge and commission.
The scene takes place about 1200 B.C. It’s the account of a woman who fulfilled her God-given mission, and God used the noble heart of this woman as an instrument to raise her community from its ruins and to restore it again to prosperity and joy.
We’re going to look at the life of Deborah, an illustration of a true woman of God, a woman who exerted strong, godly influence in a way that was distinctively feminine and in a way that encouraged the men around her to be more godly and to provide godly leadership in an era that sorely needed it.
Now as we look at this woman, you’re going to see that unlike the caricature that many people have in their heads of a godly woman, this woman was not weak. She was not wimpy. She was valiant. She was courageous while, at the same time, being humble and womanly. It’s a balance that only the Spirit of God can give us.
Chapter 4 of the book of Judges tells us the story. It’s the account of how Deborah was instrumental—she was an instrument in God’s hands—in delivering Israel from the oppression of a powerful Canaanite regime.
Then chapter 5 is a poetic retelling of the story in the form of a victory hymn, a song of deliverance that was probably written by Deborah.
We’re going to focus most of our attention on chapter 4, but keep your finger in chapter 5 because I’m going to go back and forth a little bit. Chapter 5 provides a few details that we don’t get in chapter 4. So we’ll be looking at these two chapters, focusing on chapter 4.
Beginning in verses 1-3 of chapter 4, where the stage is set, we get the backdrop, the scene, the setting. It describes a cycle that is repeated at least seven times in the book of Judges. This cycle can be summarized in four words.
We see a cycle over and over again, first of human disobedience—people disobey God. Then we see that God brings discipline to His people. In response to that discipline, that chastening hand of God, God’s people come to a place of desperation, and they cry out to God in their desperation. In response to their humble, broken, repentant cry, God brings deliverance, salvation.
So we have disobedience, discipline, desperation, and deliverance.
Now look at verse 1, and you’ll see how this cycle plays out.
The people again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD after Ehud died.
So what do we see described here? The first part of that cycle: disobedience. Now, notice this was the people of Israel. These were not the pagans. These were God’s chosen, covenant people.
We tend to focus on the sins of unbelievers in our culture, but God is concerned about, not so much what happens in the White House, as what happens in our house, in the house of the Lord, in homes of believers. God is concerned about the purity and the sanctification of His people.
“The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.” This is a recurring pattern in their lives and, sadly, in our lives as well.
Now, what did they do that was so evil? Well, this was a period in the land of Israel of spiritual apostasy, moral decline. A sentence in the book of Judges that summarizes this whole era says, “Every man [and woman] did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6 & 21:25, KJV). Every man was a law to himself. Not submissive to divine authority, but every man his own authority.
Chapter 2 of Judges, verse 12, tells us,
They abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger.
So the people disobeyed God. They abandoned God. They pursued after false gods, the Baals, the Canaanite gods, and, as a result, God brought discipline, chastening to His people, divine judgment.
Verse 2 tells us of chapter 4,
The LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor.
So here we have a powerful Canaanite king who reigns in Hazor, which is the far northern part of Israel, about ten miles north of the Sea of Galilee, if you’re picturing your Bible map there.
Scripture says, “The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim”—which is a town also in the north of Israel. (You need to remember this because it’s going to be important when we see God raising up Deborah.) I’m going to come back to the first part of verse 3, but the end of verse 3 says this commander “had 900 chariots of iron and he oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for twenty years.”
So God in His mercy and love, wanting to restore His people, gave them up to be oppressed by their enemies. The chastening of hand of God—we’ve all experienced it, at least if you’re a child of God, you have—as God allows circumstances and people to come into our lives as His instruments to discipline us, to correct us, to show us where we have disobeyed.
This was a period of enormous social, political, economic upheaval and distress in the land of Israel. Turn if you would to chapter 5 for just a moment, beginning at verse 6, and you see a description in this chapter of what it was like in those days.
In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned, and travelers kept to the byways [or the side roads].
This was a day when travel was dangerous. So people stayed off the main highways and stayed in the backways.
The villagers ceased in Israel (verse 7).
The people had to leave their unwalled villages because it was a dangerous day and vigilantes and bandits and Canaanites oppressed them. They had to leave their unwalled villages and move into the walled cities.
When new gods were chosen [idolatry, worship of false gods] then war was in the gates (verse 8).
That’s the disciplining hand of God.
Was shield or spear to be seen among forty thousand in Israel? (verse 8).
God’s people were left defenseless. Either their weapons had been confiscated by the Canaanites, or the people didn’t have the courage or the will to use the weapons they did have.
So here’s a nation that’s given over to idolatry. They’re under the oppressive rule of the Canaanites, who are really just an instrument in God’s hands to bring His people to their senses. They’re outnumbered. They’re overwhelmed by the enemy. They’re vulnerable. They lack weapons. There’s fear. There’s low morale. There’s discouragement. The land is in a state of terror, fear, and chaos, and as we will see, as the story unfolds, one of the aspects of this era was that there was a lack of strong male leadership.
So we have the disobedience of God’s people; the discipline, the distress that God placed them under as a result, and that led ultimately to human desperation. God’s people finally got desperate. Now, it took intense discipline over prolonged period of time. How many years? Twenty years that the Canaanites oppressed them. It took that long for God to get the attention of His people. How long will it take for God to get our attention in our day as His people? Isn’t this an amazing demonstration of the long-suffering and mercy of God?
Divine discipline and chastisement is intended to humble us, to bring us to the end of ourselves, to make us desperate for God, to make us recognize our need for Him and turn our hearts toward Him. You see the merciful, redemptive hand of God and His heart because when His people cry out, God sends deliverance.
Then the people of the Lord cried out to the Lord for help (4:3).
That’s the desperation. They were desperate for God. They finally cried out, and now we see in verse 4 God sending a deliverer.
Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment (verses 4-5).
Now here’s a woman who, as the story unfolds in this desperate era, is faithfully serving the Lord, her family, and her people. She’s utilizing her God-given gifts. She’s fulfilling her calling. She’s living, not for self, but for others.
I don’t think it would be reading anything into this story to say that this woman was not looking for a bigger place or opportunity. She was content to fulfill what God had called her to do, where God had called her to do it in that season of her life.
We’re told three things about her. First that she was a prophetess. I won’t go into a lot of detail, but there are some differences between the Old Testament use of a prophetess and the New Testament sense of a prophetess. The thing that is clear here is that she was called and gifted by God to declare His Word to His people. She had a ministry of teaching, of warning and of encouraging in a way that was characteristic, particularly of Old Testament prophets.
We read that she was a wife, and I think it’s not insignificant that God inspired that little detail. This was her primary human relationship, and here’s a woman who served God and her people without neglecting her calling as a wife.
She was a judge. Judges in this era were those whom God raised up to rescue His people from their enemies. She was the fourth judge in Israel out of a series of judges. She was not self-appointed in this calling. She didn’t grow up as a little girl and say, “I think I’d like to be a judge.” God raised this woman up sovereignly, put His hand on her life, called her out, and she just said, “Yes, Lord. I will do what You have called me to do.”
She was raised up by God for such a time as this, and the people sought her out to settle their differences and to get counsel and wisdom that was grounded in the heart and ways of God.
Deborah lived in southern Israel, near Jerusalem, far away from the Canaanite’s strongholds in the northern part of the country. But she was aware of what was going on, and she was ready, available, and concerned when God called her to do something about it. Verse 6:
She sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali [which was a town in the far north] and said to him, “Has not the LORD, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulun. [These were the northern tribes.] And I [the Lord that is] will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops, and I [this is still the message of the Lord—I, the Lord] will give him into your hand’?” (verses 6-7).
Deborah first heard from the Lord herself, and then she sent for Barak and told him the message from the Lord. She was just a messenger, and isn’t that what we have been called to be—messengers, listening to God’s Word and then speaking when and where and to whom He instructs us?
He was to gather 10,000 men from the nearby tribes and call them to Mount Tabor, which was located at the juncture of those three northern tribes—Naphtali, Zebulun, and Issachar—a safe place, that mount was, from which to attack the Canaanite chariots below.
God promised, and gave to Barak His promise through Deborah that He would draw Sisera and the Canaanite forces into battle, and that God would give them into Barak’s hands. Deborah didn’t know any better than just to believe what God had said. She believed that God was powerful; that He was sovereign; that He would do what He had promised; and that God would win the battle. You don’t see any doubt here. You don’t see any fear. You just see a woman who is confident because she knows the Word and the promises of God.
By the way, I think that’s why people looked to her for answers because they knew here was a woman who had wisdom greater than her own, a wisdom that comes only from the Lord. How we need today women who know the Word of God, who believe the promises of God. If we were that kind of true woman, don’t you think others would be seeking us out and say, “Help me. I need to know how to deal with this situation in my life.” Not looking to us for our wisdom, but looking to us for wisdom we can point to from the Word of God. Well, verse 8:
Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” And she said, “I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman” (verses 8-9).
Now, we’re not told why Barak insisted that Deborah go with him. I think that probably he just wanted assurance of God’s presence, that God was going with the troops into battle. What we do know is that Deborah agreed willingly to go, but she told Barak the honor of the victory, humanly speaking (of course, it was God who was going to get the victory), but humanly speaking, the honor would not go to Barak but to a woman.
Now, she’s not speaking of herself here. She’s speaking of another woman, prophetically, of Jael’s role, and we’ll come to that in a few moments.
Now, continuing in verse 9: “Then Deborah arose.” That word will come back in chapter 6, and I believe God is calling for true women of God today to be willing to rise up. “Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh”—out of her comfort zone; out of her home. Remember, she lived where? In the south. Where was the battle? In the north, far away from her home.
She could have stayed behind where it was safe, on the sidelines, uninvolved. For her to go with Barak and these troops was to march into the face of danger, harm’s way, the battle. But she went because she was a woman of faith, a woman of courage, and a woman who believed the promises of God. She had no choice but to get involved because God had a call on her life. Here’s a woman who had a heart for God, a heart for His people, and a heart for His redemptive purposes to be fulfilled in her generation.
You don’t see her pondering, thinking, debating—“Will I? Won’t I? Can I?” We don’t see this sobbing, cowering woman. You see a woman who is strong in the strength of the Lord and goes in the grace of God. She arises and goes up with Barak.
God uses human instruments to fulfill His kingdom purposes. But, you know, He rarely uses the people that you would most expect. In this case, God chose and used unconventional means to defeat the enemy and to deliver His people.
You say, “How so?”
Well, these 10,000 troops, these were foot soldiers. They were infantry men. What hope did they have against this well-equipped army of the Canaanites that had 900 chariots with iron wheels? It was hopeless. They’d been oppressed by these Canaanites for twenty years, and God uses this infantry army against the well-equipped, the technologically advanced Canaanite army. And God uses women—Deborah and Jael. Not your typical warriors, but in God’s providence, He chose the weak, the foolish to confound the wise and the great, and often that is the way it is.
Why would God do that? So God can get all the glory. Because when people look at what God’s doing among true women, they’re going to know those women didn’t have that. God chooses those who are weak, needy, helpless, dependent upon Him. And as we go from this place, we go in no strength of our own, no wisdom of our own, no might of our own, but in the grace and in the strength and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now the period of the judges was a season where there was a vacuum of male leadership among God’s people. The men were scared, and as a result, they were inactive. They were passive. I see in Deborah a model of a woman who fulfills her feminine nature and calling and is used by God to promote male leadership among God’s people.
There’s no evidence throughout this story that Deborah ever aspired to have her name and her story written up as we’re reading it today, that she aspired or set herself up to lead this battle or the people of God. Her heart, as we read the text, was not to lead but to serve. She came as a servant.
You see in chapter 5, verse 7—if you would turn there for a moment—her perception of herself. You see her heart as she expresses in this victory hymn at the end of the battle. She sees herself as—what? A mother—a mother.
The villagers ceased in Israel; they ceased to be until I arose; I, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel.
Isn’t that interesting? She didn’t describe or define herself as a prophetess, a judge, a ruler, a leader but simply as a mother in Israel.
Now we don’t know whether she had biological children of her own. The Scripture doesn’t tell us. But what we do know is that she had a mother’s heart. She had a mothering, protecting, nurturing instinct, a heart to bear and nurture life.
That’s what gave her courage. That’s what gave her compassion. That’s what motivated her—the mother’s heart. She was not driven by a desire for power, for control, for position, for influence, for recognition. She was driven to be a mother and to see God use her to bear and nurture and sustain life.
John Piper has said that “at the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition or inclination, a bent, to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.”
In other words, you do that one way in the context of your marriage to nurture and receive your husband’s strength and leadership. You do it a different way in the context of your local church with pastors and elders and spiritual leaders. You do it yet differently in the work place with worthy men. But in different ways, as it’s appropriate, at the heart of mature femininity is that bent, that disposition, that desire, that inclination to receive and nurture and affirm strength and leadership from worthy men.
That’s exactly what we see Deborah doing. I don’t know a better model of that in all of the Scripture. She acted in such a way as to lift up male leadership. She didn’t command Barak. She didn’t tell him what to do. She simply delivered a message from the Lord. “Has not the Lord, the God of Israel commanded you?”
She’s not threatening him. She’s not saying, “Here’s what you need to do.” She’s not being directive. She’s just relaying a message. She nurtures leadership in Barak, who, like all the other men in the day—and the women for that matter—he’s scared. She provides an opportunity for him to fulfill his God-given calling as a leader, a protector, a defender.
We see Deborah in a responsive, helper role. She was willing to go with Barak into the battle, but at his initiative and his appeal. She says, “I will surely go with you.” It’s just such a great picture of a woman being a responder, a helper.
She’s delighted to see men rising up and taking leadership, and she’s not threatened by that. She is not a woman with a chip on her shoulder. “I am woman; hear me roar.” That’s not Deborah. When men are inspired to lead, she is delighted at that.
Look in chapter 5, verse 2 at this praise hymn at the end of the battle:
That the leaders took the lead in Israel, that the people offered themselves willingly, bless the LORD!
This is the song of Deborah: “Thank You, Lord, for raising up godly men to be leaders for such a time as this.” Look at verse 9:
My heart goes out to the commanders of Israel who offered themselves willingly among the people.
She’s expressing gratitude, affirming these men for stepping up to the plate and taking leadership. You don’t see her demeaning them. You don’t see her lashing out at all these passive men. No male bashing! A true woman does not put down men.
I want to tell you, I know there are a lot of women in this room who have been hurt and wronged and sinned against in some very painful ways by some men in your life. It’s a fallen world, and we need to acknowledge that. We are sinners who are sinned against by other sinners, but the solution is not for us to go on the warpath and point out the sins of others.
The point of us is for us to become redeemed sinners ourselves who then participate with God in His great redemptive work, believing God to transform the hearts of men and then affirming them and encouraging them and expressing gratitude and appreciation when they do serve in godly ways, when they fulfill their biblical manhood.
So Deborah is a woman of faith. She’s a woman of courage. And the legacy of her life is that through her encouragement and influence, the men of her day became men. They came forward to accept responsibility to fight against evil and to defend their wives and children.
Deborah wasn’t looking to get the credit for the outcome of the battle. She wasn’t looking to be the hero of the story. I think that was the furthest thing from her mind.
In Hebrews chapter 11, we have that great hall of faith where 14 Old Testament men are listed and two Old Testament women—Sarah and Rahab. Then we read in verse 32 of Hebrews chapter 11: “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice.”
Now, if Deborah were a modern-day woman reading that passage, she might have gotten really bent out of shape that Barak’s name was there and hers wasn’t. “What’s his name doing there? He was a wimp until I came and told him what God wanted him to do. He was one of those passive males. I’m the one who arose.” You don’t see that heart.
I think Deborah would have been thrilled for Barak to reach that place of faith and to be listed in that hall of faith as a man of great faith. He certainly didn’t start out that way, but Deborah would have been thrilled that, though she, too, had faith, in the end, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it was Barak’s faith that God noted and recognized. I think that would have thrilled Deborah, don’t you?
Well, when we come to chapter 4 verse 12, we come to the actual battle, the battle of Barak and the 10,000 foot soldiers, with Deborah along for moral support, against the Canaanite forces.
When Sisera was told that Barak the son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, Sisera called out all his chariots, 900 chariots of iron, and all the men who were with him, from Harosheth-hagoyim to the river Kishon. And Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which the LORD has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the LORD go out before you?” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with 10,000 men following him (verses 12-14).
Barak is in a life-threatening, dangerous position, but Deborah encourages him with the promises of God. She inspires him to move forward in faith. You see here how the power of a woman’s words can inspire courage in the heart of fearful men.
Listen, when your husband goes out into his day, whatever that entails, whatever that means, he’s going into a dangerous place. He’s going into a dangerous world.
- Do your words encourage and inspire him with hope and the fact that he really can be God’s man because God is with him and God is going to win the victory through him?
- Or do your words demean and make him timid and fearful to step out into that world?
- Do you set him up for success or for failure?
It’s not just your husband. It’s your pastor, your elders, other men. Are you pointing out their failures? Are you making them feel insecure and weak and dominated and demeaned? Or are you making them feel, “God is with me”?
Oh, ladies, I have seen the power of my words to pull men down, to deflate them, to discourage them, to dishearten them, to make them wearier than they already are in the battle. Occasionally, I’ve seen God just breathe fresh life and strength into the heart of the men I serve with. When I take the place of a Deborah, I become an encourager, a woman of wisdom, encouraging them, “God is with you. God is going to win the battle through you.”
And indeed that’s what happened. Look at verse 15:
The LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army before Barak by the edge of the sword. And Sisera got down from his chariot and fled away on foot. And Barak pursued the chariots and the army to Harosheth-hagoyim, and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not a man was left (verses 15-16).
Who’s the hero in this story? It’s not Deborah. It’s not Barak. It’s God! He’s the champion! Who routed Sisera? God did it. “The Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots.” Verse 23 tells us:
On that day God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan before the people of Israel.
Ladies, God is the champion of the story that He’s writing through us, and He is the victorious, conquering, reigning King. He’s the one who’s coming on that white horse. He will be victorious, and His enemies will be defeated. We go into battle in the confidence that it’s a battle He has and will win. The battle is the Lord’s. (Applause)
God used human means in that battle. He used Barak. He used those Israelite infantry men who fought hard. But God also sent supernatural, divine intervention to help win the battle.
Look for just a moment . . . I wish we could take time to really dig into this. We do have an entire series available in the resource center where I walked verse by verse through this story over a period of several weeks. “The Life of Deborah.” That’s available if you’d like to dig into this further. But look at verse 20 of chapter 5, and see how God sent supernatural aid and intervention.
From heaven the stars fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera. The torrent Kishon swept them away, the ancient torrent, the torrent Kishon (verses 20-21).
This was poetic language, but think about it for a moment: It appears, as you put all this passage together, and also an account that we have by the Jewish historian Josephus, affirms and gives us some more details. It appears that God sent a violent thunderstorm as those 10,000 troops swooped down from the top of Mount Tabor. You know the iron chariots couldn’t get up to that mountain, so they swooped down the mountain to the chariots of the Canaanites in the valley below. God sent this thunderstorm with lightning and hail and a torrential downpour, sleet, and this Kishon river, at the foot of the mountain, which is usually just a tiny stream, flooded. All of a sudden the Canaanite chariot wheels, which they thought were their strength, God stuck in the mud and the flood waters. The enemy was thrown into confusion, into panic, and the Canaanites tried in vain to escape on foot.
Keep in mind, Baal, who was the Canaanite god was the god of the storms, supposedly. But Jehovah demonstrated His supreme power over storms, over Baal, and over all false gods. It wasn’t just the Canaanites who needed to be reminded of that. It was the Israelites who had fallen into Baal worship. Jehovah is the God of heaven and earth and storms.
Ladies, there is no limit to God’s power and God’s resources. If He needs to make the stars fight on your behalf, He’ll do it. He’ll move heaven and earth, and if you will put yourself at His disposal, He will do whatever it takes to defend you, to defend His name and His reputation, to advance His kingdom, and to glorify Himself over the enemy.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of God, the grace of God.
I want us to see that some of the Israelites willingly, eagerly joined in the battle, but others chose to stay home and refused to get involved. Those who participated, the willing volunteers, were commended and blessed. Turn to chapter 5, verse 11.
Then down to the gates marched the people of the LORD. [This is Deborah’s hymn, the song of Deborah and Barak, the victory hymn.]
From Ephraim their root they marched down into the valley, following you, Benjamin, with your kinsmen; from Machir [which is part of the tribe of Manasseh] marched down the commanders, and from Zebulun those who bear the lieutenant’s staff; the princes of Issachar came with Deborah, and Issachar faithful to Barak; into the valley they rushed at his heels.
Zebulun is a people who risked their lives to the death; Naphtali, too, on the heights of the field (verses 11, 14, 15, 18).
So those who were willing to get involved, who were willing volunteers, their tribes are named here, and they are commended and blessed for getting involved in the battle for such a time as this. But there were others who refused to get involved even though they lived nearby, and they were rebuked. Go back to verse 15 of chapter 5:
Among the clans of Reuben there were great searchings of heart. Why did you sit still among the sheepfolds, to hear the whistling for the flocks? Among the clans of Reuben there were great searchings of heart (verses 15-16).
These people thought about it. They considered it, but they didn’t do anything. They opted to stay home and listen to the pipers playing their tunes for the sheep.
Gilead [in the tribe of Gad] stayed beyond the Jordan; and Dan, why did he stay with the ships? Asher sat still at the coast of the sea, staying by his landings (verse 17).
Go down to verse 23: “Curse Meroz [which is probably some city in Naphtali, near the battle]. Curse Meroz, says the angel of the Lord [an Old Testament incarnation of the Lord Jesus Himself]. The angel of the Lord, Christ says,
Curse its inhabitants thoroughly, because they did not come to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty.
The old time commentator, Phillips Brooks, says, “Meroz stands for the shirker, for him who was willing to see other people fight the battles of life while he simply comes in and takes the spoils.”
Matthew Henry in his commentary on this passage, says, “Many are kept from doing their duty by the fear of trouble, the love of ease, and an inordinate affection to their worldly business.”
Now, God didn’t need these tribes to win the battle. God did it quite well without their help, but these tribes, these people missed an opportunity to align themselves with God and His cause and His battle. They made excuses for not getting involved, and they were disgraced because they chose to sit out the battle.
Ladies, God doesn’t need us. He doesn’t need you; He doesn’t need me. His purposes will be fulfilled in this world with or without you and me, but He’s giving each of us an opportunity to join Him in what He’s doing in this world in the battle between good and evil, heaven and hell, God and Satan. He’s giving us an opportunity to stand with Him and with His people, to risk our safety, our comfort, our convenience to get involved.
The question to you and to me is: Are we going to be those who join in the battle? Or are we going to be those who sit it out and play it safe?
As we come to the end of the account in chapter 4, verse 17, there’s a dramatic account of one other woman who got involved, admittedly in an unusual way. It’s the account of the destruction of Sisera. I won’t take time to read the whole passage right now, but the Canaanite commander was destroyed at the hands of a woman named Jael.
She was not an Israelite, but in this case she sided with the God of Israel against His enemies. Sisera flees through the torrential downpour, the storm that God has sent, to her tent, assuming that he will be safe there since her family has a treaty with the Canaanites.
He gets to her tent. You can just imagine: He’s cold; he’s wet; he’s drenched to the bone; he’s exhausted. Jael welcomes him. She invites him in. She gives him some milk. He’s exhausted. He falls asleep. She covers him up, and then she takes a hammer and drives a tent peg into his head and kills him.
Now, Matthew Henry in his commentary says that it’s possible she intended nothing more than true kindness and hospitality until God “by an immediate impulse upon her mind directed her to do otherwise.”
Matthew Henry says, “We are not to rely on such impulses today.” (Laughter)
Now, keep in mind, as you read that gory story, that Sisera was a ruthless, violent man who was attempting to destroy God’s chosen people. In fact, in chapter 5, verse 30, his own mother talks about how he and his men would have thought nothing of raping and killing any woman they considered an enemy. So put that in that context.
In Deborah’s victory hymn in chapter 5, Jael’s act of courage is celebrated, and she is blessed by God.
My friend, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, says in one of his books, “The Lord can still use feeble instrumentalities. Why not me? He may use persons who are not commonly called to great public engagements. Why not you? A woman who slew the enemy of Israel was no Amazon but a woman who tarried in her tent. She was no orator, but a woman who milked the cows and made butter, so she gave him curds. May not the Lord use anyone like us to accomplish His purposes?”
So we have the conclusion of the battle. Chapter 4, verse 23, tells us that “On that day God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan before the people of Israel.” Chapter 5, verse 31, tells us: “And the land had rest for forty years.”
Notice the sequence, though: first the battle and then the rest. We want the rest, the victory without going through all the hardships of the battle.
Mary Kassian and I were talking a couple of weeks ago—less than a week ago—both of us had been going through some battle before this battle. We were kind of comparing notes, and we were saying to each other, “As we get older—we’ve been in this battle a long time—and it gets harder and harder for us to be willing to stay in the battle.”
Sometimes we get really weary. You know what that’s like. You got a teenager? You may be feeling that right now. If you’ve got toddlers, you may be feeling that right now.
Remember, first the battle, and then the rest. We can’t enjoy the rest, the peace, the victory, until we’ve been through the battle.
The impact of Deborah’s life, her courage, her faith, her godly influence was felt not only in her generation but also in the next forty years. What mark will your life leave on your generation and the one to come?
I don’t have to tell you that the spiritual battle in our day is no less intense than it was in Deborah’s. The enemy is no less powerful. God is chastising His people for our sins and our idolatry. There are so many believers who seem absolutely utterly clueless, oblivious to what is going on. Then there are a lot of others who realize what is going on, but they feel helpless, powerless to do anything about it.
I got an email a few days ago from Charles Colson, who’s letting me know about a resource he thought I would be interested in. A couple sentences caught my attention. He said,
I really believe in this moment in history that the one great hope is that the sleeping giant in our midst—the believers—will be awakened. It has happened before. It can happen again if God chooses. It’s the first item I pray for every morning.
John Angell James, I quoted at the beginning, let me quote again:
A community is not likely to be overthrown where woman fulfills her mission, for by the power of her noble heart over the hearts of others, she will raise it from its ruins and restore it again to prosperity and joy.
Oh how I pray that God will raise up in our day, not just one woman, but thousands of women across this country and around the world, women who will arise as Deborah did, women of the world, women of clear vision, clarity, courage, conviction, faith, humility, women who are willing to say, “Yes, Lord,” women whose lives will inspire the men around them to believe God for what only He can do.
I believe that the influence of that army of godly women will be incalculable in our homes, our churches, and in our culture.
This is a battle—I need to warn you—that is not for the faint of heart. We’ve a tireless enemy who hates God, and he’s not pleased with the thought of thousands of women saying, “Yes,” to Christ. In fact, a year and a half ago we sat in Shaumburg, Illinois, at True Woman ’08—it was a great, great weekend. God moved in a powerful way there, as He has here this weekend. But I have to confess that I was not prepared for the battle we were entering into.
Since the launch of the True Woman Movement at True Woman ’08, for me, and for others around me, the battle has intensified. I have battled with fear—something I was not really familiar with prior to that time—weariness, doubt, discouragement, my own flesh. I cannot tell you how many times I have wanted to go AWOL—probably a hundred times or more in the last year and a half. I have become tired at swimming upstream, tired of getting shot at. I have wanted to go back to where it’s safe, to have a more normal life.
In fact, I will tell you, and our team knows this, that if it had been up to me, we would not have had any True Woman ’10 conferences. I was too tired. I did not want to do this. Not because I didn’t want to see the outcome, but I just wanted out of the battle.
But God has His hand and His calling on my life, and He’s put some great men and women around me who have courage when I don’t. My life is not my own. It’s tethered to Christ, who is the Author and the Finisher of our faith. I am learning through my weakness that there is no safer place to be than in the thick of the battle with Him.
I’m learning that our God is:
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure [we can remain under] for, lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” by Martin Luther
Some of you have read the story in the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. There’s a point in that story where Edmund, Lucy, and Caspian are on a voyage from Narnia, headed east, toward Aslan’s country at the end of the world.
At one point, their ship, the Dawn Treader, anchors near land, and they all go ashore. Some of the sailors are tired of the long journey. They want to stop and spend the winter there where they are and then head back west and return home to Narnia in the spring. They’re told that if they stay where they are, every evening they will be given a feast fit for a king. That makes them even more reluctant to press on eastward toward Aslan’s country.
Then Reepicheep speaks up. Remember Reepicheep, the valiant talking mouse? He expresses his determination to keep pressing on no matter what. Here’s what he says:
My plans are made. While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle [small boat]. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws, and when I can swim no longer, if I’ve not reached Aslan’sf country, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise.
God hasn’t promised us that the journey will be easy, but He’s promised to go with us. He’s promised to go with you wherever you’re going into the battle today. He’s promised that one day prayer will be praise, faith will be sight, every tear will be dry, and our journey will be rewarded.
Some are tired, and we want to stop. We don’t want to pressf on. Some want their reward here and now. And they may choose to turn back. Perhaps some who’ve come with you may be at that choice. But by God’s grace, and for His glory, my course is set. My plans are made, and I plan to press on until we reach Aslan’s country—the New Jerusalem, the city of the Great King.
Will you go with me? (Long applause) Amen. Amen. Amen.
Let’s pray: Oh Lord, we’re Your servants, and we just want to say, “Yes, Lord.” Where You lead, we will follow. You are the champion of our faith. You are our hero. You’re the valiant God-man. We love You, and we pray that You will shape us, mold us, make us Your true women. Keep us in the battle, in the fight, all the way to the finish line, for Jesus’ sake, and for the sake of His great kingdom we pray, amen.
Please be seated.
In July of 1848, the first women’s rights convention in the U.S. was held in Seneca Falls, New York. That convention adopted a document entitled “The Declaration of Sentiments” which they asked the women to sign.
It was essentially a list of grievances against men, and those who signed agreed to use every method they could to right those wrongs. Not everyone who was at that convention signed the document, but those who did went on to make history.
I believe that God is giving us an opportunity today to be a part of His great redemptive plan “for such a time as this.” So I want to invite you now to take out the True Woman Manifesto copy that you’ve been carrying around, reading, quoting, discussing, getting engrafted into your mind and your thinking. Pull it out. You’ll need that over these next few moments. We come to a sacred time here, a holy time. We’ve been on holy ground, in the presence of the Lord throughout these days.
The true woman, as it says on the front panel here, the True Woman Manifesto is
A personal and corporate declaration of belief, consecration, and prayerful intent—to
the end [here’s the objective; here’s the goal] that Christ may be exalted and the
glory and redeeming love of God may be displayed throughout the whole earth.
That’s the goal. That’s the burden.
I’ve invited a number of people who participated in various ways throughout this weekend, some of the speakers, some of the sponsors, those who served administratively behind the teams, others to join me on the platform and to lead us in reading through the first portion of this document, an expression of our corporate affirmation of these statements.
I want to ask you to follow along as these women read and lead us through the first portion of the document, and then we’ll provide a chance for you to respond. So starting here with my friend Dannah:
Dannah Gresh: We believe that God is the sovereign Lord of the universe and the Creator of life, and that all created things exist for His pleasure and to bring Him glory.
Mary Kassian: We believe that the creation of humanity as male and female was a purposeful and magnificent part of God's wise plan, and that men and women were designed to reflect the image of God in complementary and distinct ways.
Kristyn Getty: We believe that sin has separated every human being from God and made us incapable of reflecting His image as we were created to do. Our only hope for restoration and salvation is found in repenting of our sin and trusting in Christ who lived a sinless life, died in our place, and was raised from the dead.
Kim Wagner: We realize that we live in a culture that does not recognize God's right to rule, does not accept Scripture as the pattern for life, and is experiencing the consequences of abandoning God's design for men and women.
Susan Hunt: We believe that Christ is redeeming this sinful world and making all things new, and that His followers are called to share in His redemptive purposes as they seek, by God's empowerment, to transform every aspect of human life that has been marred and ruined by sin.
Monica Vaught: As Christian women, we desire to honor God by living counter-cultural lives that reflect the beauty of Christ and His gospel to our world.
Hannah Farver: To that end, we affirm that Scripture is God's authoritative means of instructing us in His ways and it reveals His holy pattern for our womanhood, our character, our priorities, and our various roles, responsibilities, and relationships.
Carrie Gaul: We glorify God and experience His blessing when we accept and joyfully embrace His created design, function, and order for our lives.
Paula Hendricks: As redeemed sinners, we cannot live out the beauty of biblical womanhood apart from the sanctifying work of the gospel and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Fern Nichols: Men and women are both created in the image of God and are equal in value and dignity, but they have distinct roles and functions in the home and in the church.
Tisa Treece: We are called as women to affirm and encourage men as they seek to express godly masculinity, and to honor and support God-ordained male leadership in the home and in the church.
Rosalyn Hickman: Marriage, as created by God, is a sacred, binding, lifelong covenant between one man and one woman.
Judy Bertucci:When we respond humbly to male leadership in our homes and churches, we demonstrate a noble submission to authority that reflects Christ's submission to God His Father.
Cindy Rojas: Selfish insistence on personal rights is contrary to the spirit of Christ who humbled Himself, took on the form of a servant, and laid down His life for us.
Susan Henson: Human life is precious to God and is to be valued and protected, from the point of conception until rightful death.
Holly Elliff: Children are a blessing from God, and women are uniquely designed to be bearers and nurturers of life, whether it be their own biological or adopted children, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, or other children in their sphere of influence.
Carolyn McCulley: God's plan for gender is wider than marriage; all women, whether married or single, are to model femininity in their various relationships, by exhibiting a distinctive modesty, responsiveness, and gentleness of spirit.
Alice Moss: Suffering is an inevitable reality in a fallen world; at times we will be called to suffer for doing what is good—looking to heavenly reward rather than earthly comfort—for the sake of the gospel and the advancement of Christ's Kingdom.
Devi Titus: Mature Christian women have a responsibility to leave a legacy of faith, by discipling younger women in the Word and ways of God and modeling for the next generation lives of fruitful femininity.
Nancy: Amen. Thank you, ladies. They’re going to stay with me up here on the platform as we now come to our opportunity to join in responding personally, saying, “Yes, Lord,” to these we-will segments of the Manifesto.
Now, just to set that up for us, I want to acquaint you with a term that strikes me as being really appropriate for what we are about to do. You may have heard the phrase, “Nail the colors to the mast.” Are you familiar with that phrase? The origin of that phrase was in the context of naval battles. A sign of surrender was to lower the flags, or the colors that identified your ship. Nailing the colors to the mast meant that those flags could not be lowered. It indicated that you had no intention of surrendering. You intended to win the battle or die in the attempt.
So “nail the colors to the mast” is a phrase that has come to mean to make a firm declaration of what you believe. The implication is that the declaration may not be popular, and if you doubt that, go on to the blogosphere and look up True Woman. There’s some ugly stuff out there. The calling is not to be popular.
There’s not ugly stuff on the True Woman website. I want to make that clear. (Laughter) Stick to my notes.
You may be criticized when you “nail the colors to the mast,” but you’re saying, “That doesn’t matter. I believe in my cause. I’ve committed myself. I’ve taken a stand. And there is no turning back.”
C.T. Stubb was a British missionary in the last 1800s and the early 1900s, and there’s this paragraph in his biography that I think speaks so powerfully to us as we get ready to nail our colors to the mast.
Nail the colors to the mast. That is the right thing to do, and therefore that is what we must do and do it now. What colors? The colors of Christ—the work He has given us to do. Christ wants not nibblers of the possible, but grabbers of the impossible by faith in the potency, fidelity, and wisdom of the Almighty Savior.
Is there a wall in our path? By our God, we will leap over it. Are there lions and scorpions in our way? We will trample them under our feet. Does a mountain bar our progress? Saying, “Be thou cast into the sea” We will march on.
Soldiers of Jesus, never surrender. Nail the colors to the mast.
Are you ready to nail some colors to the mast? Then let me ask you to stand, and as I lead us, right where we left off in the Manifesto there, as I come to each of these points, I’m going to ask you, if this is an expression of your heart (please do not say something that is not in your heart). We don’t want to make hypocrites out of anybody. Okay? This is between you and the Lord, but if you desire to join those of us here on the platform in saying, “Yes, Lord,” then, as I read each of these statements, just affirm by saying, “Yes, Lord.”
If you have your hanky handy, and you’ve got enough hands free, you may want to use that. You feel free. Just express to the Lord as you want.
Believing the above, we declare our desire and intent to be “true women” of God. We consecrate ourselves to fulfill His calling and purposes for our lives. By His grace and in humble dependence on His power, we will:
- Seek to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Audience responds: “Yes, Lord.”
- We will gladly yield control of our lives to Christ as Lord. We will say “Yes, Lord” to the Word and the will of God. (Audience responds: “Yes, Lord.”)
- We will be women of the Word, seeking to grow in our knowledge of Scripture and to live in accord with sound doctrine in every area of our lives. (Audience responds: “Yes, Lord.”)
I want to hear this strong, okay? You’re going to need that conviction when you get out of here. Number 4:
- We will nurture our fellowship and communion with God through prayer—in praise, thanksgiving, confession, intercession, and supplication. (Audience responds louder with: “Yes, Lord.”)
- We will embrace and express our unique design and calling as women with humility, gratitude, faith, and joy. (Audience responds: “Yes, Lord.”)
- We will seek to glorify God by cultivating such virtues as purity, modesty, submission, meekness, and love. (Audience responds: “Yes, Lord.”)
- We will show proper respect to both men and women, created in the image of God, esteeming others as better than ourselves, seeking to build them up, and putting off bitterness, anger, and evil speaking. (Audience responds: “Yes, Lord.”)
- We will be faithfully engaged in our local church, submitting ourselves to our spiritual leaders, growing in the context of the community of faith, and using the gifts He has given us to serve others, to build up the Body of Christ, and to fulfill His redemptive purposes in the world. (Audience responds: “Yes, Lord.”)
- We will seek to establish homes that manifest the love, grace, beauty, and order of God, that provide a climate conducive to nurturing life, and that extend Christian hospitality to those outside the walls of our homes. (Audience responds: “Yes, Lord.”)
- We will honor the sacredness, purity, and permanence of the marriage covenant—whether ours or others'. (Audience responds: “Yes, Lord.”)
- We will receive children as a blessing from the Lord, seeking to train them to love and follow Christ and to consecrate their lives for the sake of His gospel and Kingdom. (Audience responds: “Yes, Lord.”)
- We will live out the mandate of Titus 2—as older women, modeling godliness and training younger women to be pleasing to God in every respect; as younger women, receiving instruction with meekness and humility and aspiring to become mature women of God who in turn will train the next generation. (Audience responds: “Yes, Lord.”)
- We will seek opportunities to share the gospel of Christ with unbelievers. (Audience responds: “Yes, Lord.”)
- We will reflect God's heart for those who are poor, infirm, oppressed, widows, orphans, and prisoners, by reaching out to minister to their practical and spiritual needs in the name of Christ. (Audience responds: “Yes, Lord.”)
- And we will pray for a movement of revival and reformation among God's people that will result in the advancement of the Kingdom and gospel of Christ among all nations. (Audience responds: “Yes, Lord.”)
Amen. Let me ask you to be seated for just a moment and to take that portion of the Manifesto that is perforated, to sign your name, if this is an expression of your heart desire, saying, “I desire to be a part of a counter-cultural, spiritual revolution among Christian women in our day. I have read and personally affirm the True Woman Manifesto, and I hereby express my desire to join other women in living out and reproducing its message to the end that Christ may be exalted and the glory and redeeming love of God may be displayed throughout the whole earth.”
If that represents the desire of your heart, let me encourage you to give us your signature, to put the date and to turn this in at the doors as you leave, and then to remember that this is just the start.
Remember the Samaritan woman who met Christ there at the well found living water, as God has been so gracious to pour out on us this weekend, and then what did she do? It says she left her water jar and went back to the town and influenced her whole community to come and see a man, Christ Jesus.
So the True Woman Manifesto is posted online in English and Espanol, and you can go there. Encourage others to go there. Go back to your churches—do we have that framed Manifesto? Is that somewhere nearby by any chance? Yes, thank you so much.
This is a version of the Manifesto that the Revive Our Hearts’ team and staff women have signed at the bottom. We have—not this framed version—but this size of a Manifesto, a farmable version, that you can purchase in the resource center and take back to your church, your small group. Study this together.
I’m in the process of recording a whole series teaching through the Manifesto day by day, line by line. We will be airing that throughout the course of the rest of this year. You can get those CDs; you can go online and get the transcript from those. You can teach this material using the Word as your primary text, in your churches and perhaps have a True Woman event, a signing event, a Manifesto weekend where you present this. You get women to pray through it and perhaps to sign their own version.
Encourage them to go to the website and sign online. I think, right now, there are some 12,000 signatures on the Manifesto online, many others who have signed it elsewhere. Ninety countries are represented thus far, signing that, and many of those countries where those women pay a huge price to be women of God. Pray for our sisters in these other countries.
As a pebble dropping in the water sends out ripples, our desire is that the ripple effect of this weekend would touch every corner of the earth for Christ’s name sake and for the sake of His glory and the advancement of His kingdom.
Lord, I want to pray for my sisters. Thank You for their earnest, eager hearts, for their yes-Lord hearts, for their attentiveness and connectedness during this weekend. We’ve had a lot of long sessions, long hours, long messages, short nights, and our bodies are weary, but we’ve been strengthened in our inner man by the power of Your Holy Spirit.
Lord, we’re here as Your handmaidens to say we love You, we worship You. This is not about us. This is not about True Woman. This is not about Revive Our Hearts. This is certainly not about Nancy Leigh DeMoss. I am so weak, but You are great. You are strong. I pray that as a result of what You’ve done here this weekend that the women of the Church of God would arise, arise, as mothers in Israel, to trust You, to obey You.
And when we fail, as we will, remind us that we’re nothing apart from Christ, that all of this is only possible because of His redemptive suffering and death and work for us on the cross. It made it possible as He died in our place for us to be clothed in His righteousness, to be credited with His righteous life, and to have His Holy Spirit living within us.
Oh, Father, may we never think we are anything, and when we think we are, remind us that we aren’t. Keep pointing us to Christ. It’s all, all, all about Him. In Christ alone we stand, we serve, we love, we give, we weep, we pray, we go forward, we go back into our homes, into our churches, into our communities—standing alone sometimes, but never truly alone because our hope is in You, Oh Christ. Amen.
All Scripture has been taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
Leslie: The message you just heard was presented at Revive Our Hearts’ True Woman ’10 conference in Chattanooga. You can hear any of the messages delivered there and more by visiting www.truewoman.com. There you’ll find even more ways to connect from books and resources for yourself, your friends, or your life group to on-demand multi-media to ongoing conversations you can be a part of.
True Woman ‘10 is a ministry of Revive Our Hearts, helping you become God’s true woman.