The period of the Judges in the Bible was a tumultuous one. During this time, Israel as a nation entered into cycles of sin that constantly required a deliverer in the form of a judge. The repeated pattern was the following: Israel would sin through idolatry, God would discipline them through conquest by a godless nation, the Israelites would eventually cry out for a deliverer, God would provide a judge to deliver them, and the people would live in peace–for a season–until the cycle began again. Deborah became an unlikely deliverer for the Israelites against a king of Canaan. Deborah was both a prophetess and a judge during a particular season of slavery due to Israel’s sin. Through Deborah, God raises up a deliverer, a man named Barak. But Barak was wise enough to know that there would be no victory without Deborah. So through Debora’s instruction and Barak’s execution, Israel throws off the chains of Canaan. Through this great victory Israel was accorded 40 years of national peace and rest.
In Judges 5 you find the words to a celebratory song from Deborah and Barak. It is an anthem of praise to God and an acknowledgement of his deliverance. It recounts the military exploits that God accomplished through Israel.
What is intriguing to me is verse two:
That the leaders took the lead in Israel, that the people offered themselves willingly, bless the Lord!
The opening line to this prayer/song is thanksgiving to God that leaders led and people followed willingly. Isn’t that amazing? At a time of national crisis when leaders were desperately needed God raised up a woman and a man to rally leaders to lead. And when leaders led well, people followed. And that was a reason for praise to God.
There are principles here for us as modern day leaders. As leaders, we too must wholly lead on God in times of crisis. As leaders, we must have the wisdom to recognize the word of God for us (in this case represented through Deborah) and not abandon that word. As leaders, we must recognize that we accomplish little in our own resources and we must be careful to give God praise. When leaders lead well and people willingly follow-we too must give thanks. Lead well!