Why Deborah’s Initiative is as Important as Sarah’s Submission

(Co-Authored by a man with a heart for Christ centered leadership)

I’m not sure I’d want to sit under a tree named after myself, judging the tribes of Israel.

I most certainly would not want to join an army—and if the battle was won, I probably wouldn’t sing a song describing myself as the mother of Israel.

The thought is almost funny.

Yet, scripture is written for our edification and instruction. The story of Deborah tells us a lot.

  • She was a WIFE.
  • She heard from GOD.
  • She was a PROPHETESS.
  • She sat under a palm tree named after herself, “The Palm of Deborah”.
  • She summoned a man to her station and delivered a WORD FROM THE LORD.
  • She gave detailed descriptions of what Barak needed to do during this war.
  • Somehow, she had gained the utmost respect of Barak, who was a leader and commander, most likely a type A man with great abilities of his own.
  • After victory, she gave glory to God, and included herself in that story.
  • In a patriarchal culture, she reminded a strong man that the battle would be won by a woman.
  • God Himself chose to use two women to execute victory in a battle fought by men.
  • Deborah wasn’t trying to DO EVERYTHING a man could do; she was fully BEING EVERYTHING she was called to be as a woman. (please note the difference here).
  • When Barak asked her to go with him into battle, she agreed to go.
  • Barak was not too proud to ask—and she did not disqualify herself from a place of great importance in this story because she was a woman.
  • Both man and woman did exactly what God wanted them to do by working together to perform what He asked.

Then there is the awe-inspiring, Proverbs 31 Woman! A woman can expect to hear the words “You’re such a Proverbs 31 woman”, —when she arises early to pack her husband’s lunch, do his laundry, or prep his dinner. But there is more that we need to be teaching our daughters.

I want to take a deeper look at this distinguished woman from the book of Proverbs. The Proverbs 31 woman also:

  • Had a husband who trusted her decisions.
  • She made intelligent business moves that put their estate at an advantage.
  • She didn’t just shop locally, but sought out the best purchases from around the country. This meant being well informed and knowledgeable.
  • She had maids to free up more of her own time.
  • She purchased real estate.
  • She took care of her body and strengthened it.
  • She knew that her business was profitable.
  • She helped the poor.
  • Her clothing was fine linen and purple.
  • She created, sold, and distributed her products to merchants.
  • She was marked with strength and dignity.
  • She opened her mouth with wisdom (which meant she had wisdom others heard and received).
  • She spoke with kindness.
  • She looked after her household WELL (and that also meant knowing her limits by hiring maids).
  • Her husband, who was an established, productive leader, PRAISED her.

Notice, she excelled personally, at home, at business, in her community, in the market place AND she was PRAISED by her husband.

Photo by Any Lane on Pexels.com

While we see far reaching extremes from oppressive patriarchal “Christian” cultures for women, all the way to brash, feministic, non-christian culture, it is clear from the examples of Deborah and the Proverbs 31 woman that both of these extremes are a far cry from the good, loving heart of our Heavenly Father.

I’d like us to take a quick look at Sarah, who is mentioned in 1 Peter 3. Sarah is described as a woman who obeyed her husband and called him lord. Unfortunately, this passage is often taken so out of context that it has produced a cult-like, oppressive environment for women, where, in all honesty, if she operated like a true Proverbs 31 woman, she’d be labeled as “too much”, “too strong” or even “rebellious”. Scripture never contradicts scripture, but actually compliments scripture. If it appears to contradict, we must simply look further or deeper at what God is saying as a whole, which can involve context and further study.

I have seen women who are struggling in painful marriages, yet afraid of “dishonoring” their husbands by getting help and exposing the real truth of his actions and words behind closed doors, The husbands expect their wives to quietly “find a solution” that protects their reputation, which usually looks like the (already submissive) wife being “more submissive”.

In many of these marriages, the problems are quickly blamed on something a wife does or doesn’t do while the man refuses to own his need simply because he’s “the leader”.

There are times where the topic of lust and purity is a matter of how a woman dresses more than that of the man’s own heart.

Some of these men are content leading in minor material areas of life (or being the admired leader/authority figure) of their homes while leaving the most important (relational or spiritual) areas to their wives.

It’s become more of an emphasis on Position and Authority than being the reasonable, responsible and respectable leader by God’s standards. The aftermath of this “authority” focus is devastating on women.

For example, there are women still weeping over sexual abuse after many years because they’re told to forgive more than told that God is angry with what has happened. (forgiveness can only happen when you know God is just and will bring justice). In some of these cases, a perpetrator is still allowed to live freely among the women he violated. (Even a minor can be removed from the girls he wronged).

At times, if women become “too upset” because they are NOT BEING HEARD, they’ll be labeled as being “bitter” or “rebellious” and told to submit. The men of the church will decide what should and shouldn’t be done—which sometimes, means the perpetrator is allowed to stay. I realize this would be unthinkable to many good and Godly men, but this is the reality for many women in some religious communities.

To add Insult to Injury these same women are strongly admonished to: Serve their families, especially their husbands; Be eager for sex; Continue admiring of their husbands; Stay silent on what matters most—unless the husband agrees. At most, she can very gently and “submissively” broach the subject but cannot make strong statements on things even as great as what to do with a perpetrator.

The Result?? Christian men, many of your women are weeping. Some of them are becoming emotionally distraught by the lack of true friendship and loving relationship.

It’s time for God-Inspired Leadership. What does it look like?

God-Inspired Leadership:

  1. Listens – the cry of every woman, (person really) is “to be heard” – Do you value her voice?
  2. Leads by example – Purity of heart, sacrificially, does the hard things, NOT just the fun things.
  3. Lets her function in her gifts, too – She has God-given influence – can you “allow” her, or even better, HELP her accomplish her goals, pursue her gifts and talents?
  4. Lavishes her with goodness – Give to her & help her, provide for her, be generous to her.
  5. Lessens her Load – Help her with the kids, share in household responsibilities, hire a maid…
  6. Loves Loudly – Leave no doubt in her mind of your love her, let her hear it often, and see it always …Love hard!

This is what Godly Leadership in our homes should look like! A man is a covering, not a lid. We cover what we love and want to protect, we cover what we value, we cover what we don’t want any damage to come to.

Recently I asked one of my happily married friends if she would defer to her husband if a major decision needed to be made and they did not agree. She immediately said “Oh, yes!”

I asked her because I noticed that they were mutually happy in their relationship.

I asked her because I noticed her countenance was joyful.

I asked her because I noticed she lived without pressure, and her atmosphere spoke of peace rather than stress.

Let me assure you that I’m still in love with 1 Peter 3, where Sarah is spoken of as an exemplary woman, one we would do well to follow.

But, the leadership we often see in Christian churches is destructive for men as well, because it is producing women they don’t want to produce. Unknowingly, men are digging their own graves to a happy, fulfilling relationship—all in the name of “Biblical” teaching. Women usually won’t be happy and fun unless they are treated well, with differing roles but with equal value.

Satan laughs while women weep. He’s successfully taken a beautiful, God-given plan for the family and turned it into a damaging, patriarchal system of selfishness and hierarchy.

Godly leadership will make a good woman COME ALIVE.

Before I close out, I want to thank every man who’s shown us what it looks like to love a woman well. I sincerely hope some of you speak up in the church, for the church, for your sisters who are suffering in ways you have no idea and would come to arms if you only knew.

My faith in men stands strong because of you. And my faith in God’s plan remains unshaken as I continue to pursue a culture of honor. Perfection is never expected on either end. But mutual effort, open and kind communication, love reciprocated, and mutual honor for each other.

As one Godly man said, “It looks a lot like team work!”

Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.

……….Let each of you love his wife as himself.” Ephesians 5:25-29, &33a, ESV