Deborah: Humility in Leadership
Deborah is one of my favorite women in the Bible. She exemplifies many traits I desire in my own life. She was a fair judge and a fearless prophetess, she managed multiple roles in her life with discipline and grace, and she was a humble leader.
Leadership for women is a tough subject these days, especially in Christian circles. It can be hard to sort through all the online conversations and real-life experiences of women. And while I believe those conversations are important for us to participate in and that we need to listen and learn from the experiences of women, the most important consideration for us on this topic (and any topic) is what God’s Word says.
Judges 4 and 5 are one of the best places we can go in Scripture to understand what the Bible says about women in leadership roles. Deborah’s story teaches many lessons but today I want to focus in on how she led the people with strength and humility.
Deborah as a Strong Leader
The temptation for many women with strong leadership skills or giftedness within the church is often to diminish who she is and what she can offer. I know, because I’ve done this far too often and I know many other women who have done the same.
But Deborah offers us an example of a female leader who didn’t downplay her abilities and diminish the significance of the role and responsibility God had given her.
When I read her story, I see three specific ways Deborah exemplified strong leadership.
Strong leaders accept their calling.
Villages were deserted,Judges 5:7 CSB
they were deserted in Israel,
until I, Deborah, arose,
a mother in Israel.
The ESV Study Bible elaborates, “Before Deborah arose as a deliverer, life as it had been known ceased when Israel silently submitted to its enemies.” Deborah served Israel as a judge for sixty years. She did not take lightly the position God set before her and she rose to face the challenges being a leader brings.
Strong leaders occupy their space.
Deborah, a prophetess and the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to settle disputes.Judges 4:4-5 CSB
Good leaders know their boundaries and recognize the place they are called to fill. Deborah offers us an example of one knew what her space was and never strayed from the path God had called to her. She was a prophetess who spoke for God and a judge who helped His people settle their disputes. She didn’t seek additional position or power, but faithfully served in the place God had given her.
Strong leaders share the responsibility of leading.
She summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “Hasn’t the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you: ‘Go, deploy the troops on Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men from the Naphtalites and Zebulunites? Then I will lure Sisera commander of Jabin’s army, his chariots, and his infantry at the Wadi Kishon to fight against you, and I will hand him over to you.’”Judges 4:6-7 CSB
Deborah knew the place God had called her and was therefore able to own role He called her to play. She invited Barak into the same obedience to God she lived. Deborah didn’t seek glory for herself, in fact, if you read the rest of Judges 4, you discover it is another woman who would receive the praise for winning the battle.
A strong leader desires to build a strong team. Deborah obeyed God’s instruction and invited Barak to lead the people into battle. She was willing to share the responsibility of leading even if it meant receiving none of the glory for victory.
Deborah as a Humble Leader
Deborah’s example for us as a leader isn’t just that was strong. In fact, the most important lessons for us from Deborah are rooted in her humility as a leader.
Humble leaders shift the praise to others.
Jael is most blessed of women,Judges 5:24 CSB
the wife of Heber the Kenite;
she is most blessed among tent-dwelling women.
In her song of praise in chapter 5, Deborah celebrates Jael’s role in the deliverance of Israel. So often, we see leaders who want all the accolades for themselves. But godly leaders, in humility, shift the recognition to other people rather than pointing to themselves.
Humble leaders realize who the real hero is.
Listen, kings! Pay attention, princes!Judges 5:3-5 CSB
I will sing to the Lord;
I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel.
Lord, when you came from Seir,
when you marched from the fields of Edom,
the earth trembled,
the skies poured rain,
and the clouds poured water.
The mountains melted before the Lord,
even Sinai, before the Lord, the God of Israel.
Ultimately, Deborah knew all the glory belonged to the Lord. He is the one to whom all praise is due. And while humble leaders are quick to celebrate the role of others, they are most of all determined to give all the recognition and praise to the Lord for what He has done.
A Lesson for Us
Deborah offers us a beautiful example of the servant leadership we see perfected in Christ. As we have opportunities to influence and lead others, our hearts must ultimately desire to see God glorified.Deborah offers us an example of the servant leadership we see perfected in Jesus. She was both strong and humble and her ultimate desire was to give God the glory. Click To Tweet
A Prayer for Us
Father, as we have opportunity to lead, may we model the example we find in Deborah. Give us the courage to lead with strength but also the grace to lead with humility. Thank you for the perfect example of servant leadership we find in Jesus. May we live every day with a desire to point others to Him in all things. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
This post is part of the 20 Women in Scripture You Need to Know series. You can find every post indexed here.