Faye, a Christian in the year 2013, again sit down to compose to the Apostle Paul, now a resident of Heaven with the Lord Himself, another letter. Although it was my intention to be to have my letters to you end at the last one, number seven, I find myself unable to do so. I am drawn repeatedly to the subject of women serving in leadership positions in Southern Baptist and other denominations being denied based solely on their gender. Further, I was challenged by a reader, a minister, pastor, friend to always keep in mind that now that my beliefs about your denial of these roles of pastor, deacon, teacher of men – to women had hanged I was accountable for the knowledge and what was to be done with it. I believed all I was to do was change my beliefs privately within our own congregation, publically via this forum and it was finished. I’ve found I was wrong.
How many more letters will I write to you? I do not know, I just know this one is being written.
In the Old Testament book of Judges, chapter 4 we read of the prophetess Deborah who was the wife of Lappidoth was leading Israel after Ehud died and the children of Israel had gotten themselves into slavery under Jabin, a king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Deborah held court under what was referred to as the “Palm of Deborah” between Ramah and Bethel. God gave her instructions for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh so that Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army whose army was equipped with nine hundred iron chariots plus other men could be defeated in battle and killed. He was an opponent that seemed to be invisible. God was prepared to give this man and his army to the army of Barak with only 10,000 men of Naphtali and Zebulun who had no iron chariots. God told Barak what to do through the Judge of Israel at that time, Deborah.
Did Barak go without question? No. Did Barak go as God had instructed him through Deborah without “insurance”? No. Barak agreed to go only if Deborah went with him. Barak went into battle because God gave a prophetess and Judge of Israel the instruction to do so specifically for Barak. This wasn’t Barak’s idea. I can see that he would have felt more confident if God had given him the instructions without sending them through Deborah but that isn’t what God did. Barak and Deborah must have had numerous conversations about how to throw off the yoke of oppression and slavery from Jabin through Sisera. Deborah, clearly, had made this a matter of prayer as had perhaps hundreds of other Israelites. Deborah got the battle plan from God.
Because Barak balked at following God’s plan without Deborah accompanying him (and Deborah had her own part to complete from God already) Deborah and Barak had this conversation in Judges 4:8-9, “Barak said to her, ‘If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.’ “”Very well,” Deborah said, “I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will hand Sisera over to a woman.”
Sure enough, Sisera’s army with its nine hundred iron chariots was defeated and Sisera escaped by running away. He sought refuge in the tent of Heber’s wife Jael who seemed to welcome him and provide him with a place to stay. He asked for water and she gave him milk to drink. She made him comfortable. He was exhausted and fell into a deep and sound sleep feeling safe in the tent Jael, a woman who was the wife of a friend of Jabin’s. Sisera apparently overestimated the friendly relations between Heber and Jabin and he really underestimated the ability of a female to kill him. He never woke up for Jael took a tent peg and a hammer and drove the tent peg through his temple into the ground. Sisera was wiped from the earth by the acts of two women. Deborah, the prophetess and Judge of Israel, who followed God’s instructions without question and Jael, of whom all we know is she was Heber’s wife and clearly either on the Israelites side or just really hated Sisera and/or Jabin.
Yet in Hebrews in the New Testament in chapter 11 verse 32 you wrote, “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephtah, David, Samuel and the prophets,…” This particular chapter of your book called Hebrews is referred to by us today as “The Hall of Faith” for you have listed through Israel’s history those whose faith in God assured them His promise. You name Barak, you do not name Deborah and from the way you list the names of the men whose stories of faith you do not have time to cover it’s unlikely to suppose you would have included Deborah later, or Jael.
Barak did lead his 10,000 men to conduct a great battle and they did defeat the army lead by Sisera but Barak didn’t do it solely because he had faith in God. Barak needed an insurance policy of God’s favor. He needed Deborah to go with him. Barak and Deborah lead the Israelites in celebration in Judges Chapter 5 where the “Song of Deborah” is recorded. You credit Moses’ parents for hiding him and Rahab for befriending the spies sent to scope of Jericho but you credit Barak for what his faith allowed God to do. Barak, not Deborah, why? Barak’s faith needed an insurance policy and he lost the honor of being known as the man who took care of Sisera once and for all.
This strikes me as a time when perhaps your distrust of the female gender and the rigid laws of the laws and rules of the Old Testament got in the way of giving credit where credit was due.
Another piece of the puzzle concerning your personal attitude toward females and how that influenced your writing and your beliefs. Had you not had the attitude against women serving in leadership roles in the church, speaking in church then your words may have been different and the history of women would have been different.
How different is only something I could image, but I do know that man would not have had your words to twist to suit themselves if your words had been without prejudice.
Still finding my way on this,