1. Application

Roles within the Church

Judges 4:1–24 (ESV)

1 And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD after Ehud died.

This passage does not really provide support for having women in office. Judges 4:1–24 is descriptive; it describes what Deborah did. It does not thereby prescribe or recommend to the church today what she did. The Bible likewise describes men like Jacob and David having multiple wives. But it does not thereby recommend that we do the same. Deborah’s role is being described rather than prescribed. And it’s important to remember that the book of Judges presents a downward spiral. Each time the cycle is repeated, things get worse.

Yet we don’t go astray when we maintain that Deborah’s role here is positive. In a time where male leadership was very lacking, Deborah steps forward to help. She arose as a prophetess. She was at this time the person of God’s choosing, and she steps forward to bear fruit in her role.

This does not make female leadership right; it makes it irregular. Deborah had no choice but to take on the role of leader. She led because all the men of her day were like Barak: afraid to take on the roles of leadership to which God called them. Deborah’s leadership was a last option, a shameful option for Israel, but unfortunately the only option for the furthering of God’s kingdom and glory.1

And Deborah herself was well aware that female leadership is not ideal. She took on the role of leader with the goal of making things right. Deborah was a woman who knew her God-given place as a helper to the man, the very task given to the woman in creation. Notice how Deborah continually encouraged Barak to take the leadership. Even in her position as prophetess in Israel, she acknowledged the man as the head.

Judges 4:1–24 shows us an irregular situation. That’s the case for Deborah as it is for Jael, who ignores the alliance her husband had with Jabin, and smashes in the skull of the enemy Sisera. She steps out of her normal role of submission because this is an irregular situation. That extends to other situations. A wife of a man who is spiritually passive or immature as the head of the household, or who is abusive, is not expected to sit idly by. That’s not the godly option. There will be times when women need to stand up. With the goal of finding ways to encourage the men to move toward what’s right. Much wisdom is needed for those times. The Lord can provide that wisdom. He’s able to bring change, so that those who are called to lead their families, their churches in battle against evil, would do so.