Deborah, How God Can Use the UNEXPECTED!
by Rev. Randy Brown
Well, we come to the end of our sermon series on the heroes of the Old Testament. We have not covered all of the heroes, but we are at least for this time, going to go in a different direction in our worship time on Sunday mornings. I think we have looked at many of the significant heroes of the Old Testament. Today is a day like that because we hear of a woman named Deborah. She was a powerful woman in that day. She was a prayer warrior. She was one who would do what God had called her to do and when she comes on the scene in Judges 4 and 5 and those are the only 2 chapters that we see her story. Israel has been disobedient for some 20 years and she and some others are praying for Israel to repent. She is called a judge. Now, that’s not a judge like would have a courtroom in our day, but she was one that the people would go to if they had a dispute and she would help them to settle the dispute.
I’m going to date some of you here. It was more like her judge was not being in the courtroom, but she was more like Dear Abby or Ann Landers. Some of you remember those ladies. Because they would have a dispute and they would go to her and she would make a decision and direct them to what they should do. Also, she was a prayer warrior, praying for Israel. When she prayed for Israel, God answered her, but He answered her in a very unexpected way. If Deborah was here this morning, she would tell us that God uses the unexpected and that’s what I want us to talk about for a few moments this morning.
God uses the unexpected. He was always using unexpected things. He is the God of the unexpected. It was unexpected when He told Noah that there’s going to be a flood and you need to build a boat. That was unexpected. It was unexpected when He told Abraham that Abraham would be the father of many nations, and at that point in time, Abraham was an old man and he didn’t have any sons, so how could he be the father of nations? God was into the unexpected. He was into the unexpected when Joseph was sold by his brothers and soon would become king. He was the God of the unexpected when He asked one who had a great stuttering problem to lead the Israelite nation and he did. He was into the unexpected when Samuel said that David would be king.
He was into the unexpected when David used the sling to slay Goliath. He was into the unexpected when Naaman was told, “Go down into the Jordan and bathe and you will be healed.” He was into the unexpected when Mary and Elizabeth were standing in front of each other, both with child, and the child inside of Elizabeth’s womb would leap when Mary walked into the room. He was into the unexpected when Mary and Joseph were chosen to be the foster parents for the Messiah. He was into the unexpected on that Friday morning, or that Friday, when the world seemed to stop and 2 days later, Mary heard her name called in the garden. God was always into the unexpected and God loves to surprise us.
I want you to know that of the other things I believe about God, God loves to surprise us. He wants to surprise you. Sometimes, we have to let Him surprise us. Sometimes, we have to say, “God, I thought I had you all figured out, but God, come and do something different, amazing, and surprise me.” And see how God shows up. If we talk about Deborah and God’s relationship with Deborah, she was an unexpected leader. Now, she was a judge as we talked about a moment ago. She was a prayer warrior. She was a prophet. Now, a prophet is not one that necessarily foretells the future, but a prophet in that day was somebody who spoke for God. And not everybody wanted to be a prophet because if you were proven to be a false prophet, you were proven and it was punishable by death, if you were a false prophet, so not everybody wanted to take on the role of being a prophet.
Now, for a woman being a prophet, especially Deborah, it was different than for a man being a prophet because if you look at the stories of the Old Testament prophets, most of the time, when God to spoke to an Old Testament male prophet, He spoke through an angel, but when He spoke to an Old Testament female prophet, He spoke straight to them. Now, I don’t know if that means that men have a harder time listening or not. You don’t have to shake your head, ladies. There was a difference for those two.
God spoke directly to Deborah, told her what she needed to have done. She was an unexpected leader. She had an unexpected message. For 20 years the Israelites had disobeyed, God wanted to help her and God wanted to help them, so God speaks to Deborah and His message was, “Tell Barak, who was a leader of the army, to take 10 companies of soldiers down to the Kishon Valley and God will be there and God will deliver the Canaanite army into your hands.” Now, she wasn’t sure how the Israelite army would react. They didn’t have a very high sense of worth and self-esteem because they’d been suffering for 20 years. After that long, you don’t feel real good about yourself when you’ve gone through what they’d been through for 20 years. The Canaanite army, she wasn’t sure how they would react. They felt far superior to the Israelite army. They had 900 iron chariots
But God said go and Deborah said, “Barak, God said go” and Barak said, “I ain’t going unless you go with me.” She said, “I’ll go.” You know, sometimes, we just need somebody to come along side of us. We need somebody to be God in the flesh for us, and if we have somebody walking along side of us, then suddenly we have the courage to do what we should do. So who is it that you and I need to walk along side this coming week to give them the courage to do what God has called them to do? She was an unexpected leader. She had an unexpected message. God intervened in unexpected ways.
Someone has said this week as I’ve been reading … Someone said, “If you can explain what God’s doing, then it’s probably not God.” May be some deep truth to that, because God loves to show up when He’s least expected, and as I heard somebody else say, God loves to show out. He loves to surprise us. His creativity is there in ways that we cannot expect. The scripture says He made a way where there was no way that you, and I were once no people, but now we are His people. The scripture talks about how He uses the simple to confound the wise. God intervenes in unexpected ways.
Then there’s that unexpected victory that comes because once Deborah told Barak to go and Barak went and Deborah went with him, what happened was unexpected to both armies and all the commanders on both sides of the armies, but it was not surprising to Deborah. I think that’s one of the reasons she wanted to go. You ever just wanted to see what God’s going to do in a situation and you wouldn’t miss it for the world? I think that’s what Deborah … Deborah knew that God was going to show up. Deborah knew that the Israelite army was going to be victorious and she didn’t want to miss it. I think that’s why she went.
Now, we’ve learned about God and how God has used Deborah, but God had to have a willing servant, somebody willing to put feet to their prayers. That was Deborah. I want to share with you a couple of things that she had to be willing to do, and if we’re going to see the victory of God, some things that we’ve got to be willing to do. She told Barak, “You need to go” and he was hesitant and we talked about there were several reasons for that. Some other reasons, sometimes we limit ourselves based on what we think other people think of us. Sometimes we limit ourselves based on what we think of ourselves, but don’t ever do that. Realize that God sees a great potential in you and He counts on you to use the potential that He’s given you. Don’t live under the expectations of somebody else.
Hear me this morning. You are bigger and better and more gifted than what you think. You are bigger and better and more gifted than what other people think about you. God wants to surprise the world through you. He’ll surprise you, but He wants to surprise the world through you as well. Don’t hesitate to be the one that God will use to bring about surprises and unexpected things. You’re more than you think.
Now, Deborah had to be willing to speak when God expected her to speak. So often, we just want to be this Christian when it’s convenient. So often, we just want to do the God thing when it’s convenient and comfortable. We wouldn’t get very far in other areas of life if we approached them that way. I don’t know if you’ve taken Disciple Bible Studies courses or not, but there’s a leader in Disciple Bible Studies named Zan Holmes. He’s a small-framed African-American guy, but I tell you what, he’s like dynamite. He comes in small packages. I heard Dr. Holmes say one time, “Discipleship can be hazardous to your health. Just ask Jesus. Just ask Peter. Just ask Paul.”
Discipleship can be hazardous to your health, but Deborah, when it came time and it came to need, she stepped out and they could count on her. The responsibility of going into battle was given to a man named Barak. He didn’t want to go without her, so she went, and the ministry of presence was there. You know, sometimes people going through things, all they need is for us is to be there. We don’t have to fix it. We don’t have to fix them. We just need to be there. How often have I been going through things or you’ve been going through things, and somebody just shows up? They don’t say much. They don’t try to rehash everything. They’re just there and you have the courage to go on because they’re there. That’s what Deborah did for Barak. It’s called the ministry of presence. Sometimes that’s all we can do.
I hear people at funeral homes a lot saying, “I don’t know what to say to them.” I say, “Don’t say anything. Just be there. Just be there.” The ministry of presence. She went for God. Her people were uncomfortable, but she was there and they had the strength to go on. She knew that sometimes people just depend on us to be there, and your courage becomes their courage. Now, there’s a couple other things we can learn from Deborah and we learn from other people as well. When we miss an opportunity that God gives us, often He gives it somebody else. There was a story about a man going to Jericho. As he was going down the Jericho road, he fell among thieves and they beat him and stripped him and left him there to die.
First guy came along, the priest. The priest had an opportunity to help, but he didn’t do it. So, God gave somebody else the opportunity. God gave it to the Levite, and that rascal didn’t help either, although he had the opportunity. Before long, there came a despised Samaritan and he got the opportunity to help. He put the man on his donkey and he took him down to the inn and he gave them his Jerusalem Express card and said, “Whatever else he spends, I’ll pay you when I come back.” Sometimes if we miss the opportunity, somebody else will get the opportunity and they’ll get the blessing. Not just people, as I was reminded in Sunday School class this morning. They were telling Jesus to tell his disciples to hush, and Jesus said, “If they stay quiet, the rocks and the stones will cry out.” If we miss an opportunity, somebody else will get it – to be a blessing to others.
Now, we can be selfish when it comes to that, okay? Let’s make the most of each opportunity that we have. The only ability that God is looking for in you is your availability. Hear me? That’s the only ability He’s interested in from you, is your availability. Who will go for us? Here I am, Lord, send me. Another thing we need to realize is we don’t need to play God by putting limitations on God. Don’t put a period, where God puts a comma. What would have happened, if on that Friday when Jesus was crucified, somebody put a period? He’s crucified. He’s dead. He’s in the tomb. It’s sealed up. We might as well go back and eat potato salad. Period. It’s over. God didn’t put a period there. God put a comma, because on Sunday morning, Mary went to the tomb and he wasn’t there. Don’t put a period, where God puts a comma. God’s writing the script. We just need to live it out. Think what great things can be done if we don’t put a period where God puts a comma.
Lastly, like many heroes of the faith, when are we truly obedient to God, God will bless those closest to us. Deborah was obedient, and a people who had suffered for 20 years now lived in 40 years of prosperity. What a legacy she left. I want you to examine, for just a moment, your world. Not the world that everybody else lives in. Examine your world. If you want to be a blessing and your life to be a blessing to others, then be an example for them. Follow the leading of God with integrity and don’t worry about who gets the credit. Great things can happen when nobody cares who gets the credit, because the scripture says, “For your Father who knows in secret will reward you” and He has all kinds of ways to do that. “Your Father who knows in secret will reward you.” That’s what the book says and the book never lies.