A Prophetess Named Deborah
In the book of Judges in the Bible is the true story of a prophetess named Deborah. In the time of the judges, Deborah was leading Israel.
“Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time and she would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of Ephraim. And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment”.(Judges 4:4 & 5)
The word for “judging” used here, is the Hebrew word “shâphat” – meaning “to judge” i.e. pronounce sentence (for or against); by implication, “to vindicate or punish”; by extension, “to govern passively”; “to litigate” (literally or figuratively): — “avenge” “that condemn” “contend” “defend” “execute (judgment)”; “(be a) judge(-ment)”, “needs”; “plead”; “reason” or “rule” (Strong’s concordance).
The nation of Israel at that time was being oppressed by Jabin, king of Canaan. The Lord spoke to Deborah who declared the Word of the Lord to Barak, so that the Lord would deliver the Israelites from Jabin.
Then she sent and called for Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “Has not the LORD God of Israel commanded, ‘Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor; take with you ten thousand men of the sons of Naphtali and of the sons of Zebulun; and against you I will deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand’?”.(Judges 4: 6 & 7)
For whatever reason, despite what Deborah had said, Barak did not want to go on his own and placed his own conditions on what the Word of the Lord had said.(Judges 4:4 & 5)
“And Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!”.(Judges 4:8)
Because Barak would not go on his own, Deborah said;
“I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up with ten thousand men under his command, and Deborah went up with him”.(Judges 4:9 & 10)
Jabin’s army was delivered into Israel’s hands just as Deborah had said. And just as she said, it was a woman, Jael, who ended the life of the commander of Jabin’s army and who received the honour instead.
“Then Jael, Heber’s wife, took a tent peg and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went down into the ground; for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died. And then, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said to him, ‘Come, I will show you the man whom you seek.” And when he went into her tent, there lay Sisera, dead with the peg in his temple’”.(Judges 4: 21 & 22)
The Test of a Prophet
When Moses was leading Israel, the Lord told Moses that He would raise up a Prophet like Moses from among their people to lead them; that He would put His words in that Prophet’s mouth and that He would speak to the people all that God commanded Him; That whoever would not hear His words would have to answer to Him.
“I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. ‘And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him’”.(Deuteronomy 18:18-19)
These words were spoken prophetically of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, but the principle for all prophets who speak the Words of the Lord is the same.
- All prophets are raised up by God and appointed by Him.
- The words they speak come from Him.
- Whoever does not hear His words will have to answer to Him.
Therefore, for Deborah to sit as judge over the entire nation of Israel, she had to have been the Lord’s choice and had to have been appointed by Him. So that whoever would not hear God’s words spoken through her, God would hold accountable for those words spoken to Him.
Like Balak, many do not have the confidence to wholeheartedly give themselves to the Word of the Lord through His prophets today. So, what gives us assurance in the Word of the Lord? Or, what gives us confidence that a Word given by someone is truly from Him? For a prophet to be Recognized in Old Testament times, their prophetic utterances would have to come to pass, and it is no different today. This was taken so seriously by Israel in Old Testament times, that if what the prophet had spoken did not come to pass, that prophet would forfeit their life.
“But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.” “And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’— “when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him”.(Deuteronomy 18:20 – 22)
The Tenement of Prophecy is Praise!
For the Israelites leaving Egypt the prophet who led them was Moses; for Barak who fought Sisera it was Deborah the prophetess. For you and I at times, the Lord’s instruction will come through the mouth of someone else. In whatever way the Lord speaks to us, or whomever He speaks to us through, the tenement of prophecy is praise!
- The Word of the Lord has a legal right to inhabit our praise.
- Praise at God’s hand – not that of another
If it is God then who raises up and appoints a prophet, can a man then pick and choose the ‘expert’ that he has decided for himself, whilst refusing the voice of the one whom the Lord has sent?
God condemns all control, or the ‘voice of another’ coming from man.
After Isaiah received the revelation of the holiness of the Lord, his next revelation was that he himself was a man of unclean lips.
“Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5).(Deuteronomy 18:20 – 22)
Because the Lord had a set purpose in revealing His holiness to Isaiah, the angel of the Lord took a coal and first purged Isaiah’s sin and removed his iniquity from him.
“Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.”.(Isaiah 6:6 & 7)
Isaiah’s second revelation following that of the Holiness of the Lord, was that he dwelt in the midst of a people of unclean lips.
“And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts”.(Isaiah 6:5)
Only after cleansing Isaiah’s mouth did the Lord reveal His heart for the nation of Israel, saying to Isaiah; “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” (Isaiah 6:8).
Had Isaiah not had his own lips cleansed and his own sin and iniquity taken away first, he would have been of little value in declaring the ‘Word of the Lord’ to a nation. But Isaiah’s immediate response was; “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).
Prophets do not send themselves out with the Word of the Lord but must be willing to go when and where they are sent and to speak the words that the Lord gives them to speak. The Lord didn’t send someone else to lead the Israelites out of Egypt when they didn’t like what Moses said, and He didn’t send another prophet to Barak to conquer Sisera. Whether we like it or not, God’s choice of prophet is God’s choice of prophet and God’s choice of words are God’s choice of words.
- We cannot pick and choose who to listen to if we do not like what a prophet has said.
- We can not change the things that God has set.
Our Authority Comes With a Sword
A prophet’s authority comes with a sword. The sword is the Word which is sent. The sword of the Word has power to save and power to heal. Jesus is that Living Word.
“And take ……. the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God”.(Ephesians 6:17)
“Word” here in the Greek is translated “rhema” meaning – “an utterance” (individually, collectively or specially); by implication, “a matter or topic” (especially of narration, command or dispute); “saying” “word” (Strong’s Concordance).
The rhema Word of God becomes a sword when it is uttered, narrated, commanded or spoken out!
Speaking of Jesus Christ, the Living Word, John said, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
There is an authority far greater than man’s. It is the authority of the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ through the holy spirit, who is the spirit of truth. The purpose of the Holy Spirit’s voice is to guide man into all truth, to tell man things to come and to glorify Jesus Christ. Jesus said,
“However, when He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on his own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you”.(john 16: 13-15)
Where there is no legitimate authority there is no legitimate power. So, who gave man his tongue? Or who gave man the power of speech? It is the same Lord then, that gives man the authority to use that power of speech!
- Our authority comes with the power to speak His Word.
- Through the voice of the Holy Spirit, Jesus gives us His authority to speak the Word that he has sent.
The Lord Chooses Whom He Sends
So, what does legitimate authority look like? Jesus had been given All authority (see Matthew 28:18), yet the Pharisees did not recognize Him. Instead the Pharisees questioned Him, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?” (Matthew 21:23).
Some even accused Jesus of having a demon: “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death. ’Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?” (John 8: 52 & 53).
Those who are sent by God do not often appear as man thinks that they should.
Samuel spoke the Word of the Lord as a boy and all of his words came to pass. “Then Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son!” He answered, “Here I am.” And he said, “What is the word that the Lord spoke to you? Please do not hide it from me. God do so to you, and more also, if you hide anything from me of all the things that He said to you.” Then Samuel told him everything, and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good to Him.” So Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground” (1 Samuel 3:16-19).
John the Baptist did not dress or eat the way that other men did and Jesus did not behave the way many thought a prophet should.
“For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.’ Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey” .Matthew 3:3 & 4)
“And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner”.(Luke 7:37-39)
Jesus said, “For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (Luke 7: 33 & 34).
Nathaniel wondered because Jesus did not come from the PLACE that he thought He would.
“Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”.(John 1: 45 & 46)
Ahab, king of Israel did not like the things the prophet Micaiah said.
“Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall I go against Ramoth Gilead to fight, or shall I refrain?” So they said, “Go up, for the Lord will deliver it into the hand of the king.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not still a prophet of the Lord here, that we may inquire of Him?” So the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is still one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the Lord; but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say such things!”.(1 King 22:6-8)
- Stop looking for the way you think Jesus should come, or the person you think He should speak through.
- The power is not in the vessel, the power is in the Word.
- Don’t look to the vessel; look to the Word.
Lying Spirits Fill the Mouths of False Prophets
When queen Jezebel’s husband Ahab, king of Israel, sold himself “to do evil in the sight of the Lord” “because Jezebel his wife stirred him up” (see 1 Kings 21:17-25), the Lord determined to destroy them both. Though Ahab did not want to listen to Micaiah, the prophet Micaiah warned Ahab that a lying spirit had been sent from the Lord to speak out of the mouths of Ahab’s prophets – All 400 of them.
“Then Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by, on His right hand and on His left. And the LORD said, ‘Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?’ So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, and said, ‘I will persuade him.’ The Lord said to him, ‘In what way?’ So he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And the Lord said, ‘You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so’.” therefore look! The Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, and the Lord has declared disaster against you”.(1 Kings 22:19-23)
Though he was warned, Ahab still ignored the voice of the Lord! And though there was only one prophet of the Lord and four hundred lying prophets of Ahab, it was the Word of the Lord that prevailed!
“Now a certain man drew a bow at random, and struck the king of Israel between the joints of his armor. So he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around and take me out of the battle, for I am wounded.” The battle increased that day; and the king was propped up in his chariot, facing the Syrians, and died at evening. The blood ran out from the wound onto the floor of the chariot. Then, as the sun was going down, a shout went throughout the army, saying, “Every man to his city, and every man to his own country!” So the king died, and was brought to Samaria. And they buried the king in Samaria. Then someone washed the chariot at a pool in Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood while the harlots bathed, according to the Word of the Lord which He had spoken”.(1 Kings 22:34-38)
When Prophets of the Lord are Rejected
When the prophets of the Lord are rejected, mankind reverts to a ‘king’. When Samuel was old, he made his sons judges over Israel. But they did not walk in Samuel’s ways.
“Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice” (1 Samuel 8:1-3).
Instead of taking their concerns to Samuel to enquire after the Lord, to see what He would do to restore their situation, they took things into their own hands, asking instead to be judged by a king.
“Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, ‘Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations’”.(1 Samuel 8:4 & 5)
Though the Lord may be displeased with man for persistently choosing his own way,
For the Lord’s own purposes He may appear for a time to agree to doing things man’s way.
“But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day—with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also”.(1 Samuel 8:6-8)
We see this same principle at work when the Israelites grumbled for meat in the wilderness. Though the Lord answered their request by giving them quail, He then smote them down with a plague (see Numbers 11:4-34).
Balak, when lured by a fee for divination, sought the Lord a second time hoping He would change His mind, though the Lord had said to him, “You shall not go with them” (to curse the people of Israel). Though the Lord then told Balak to go, the angel of the Lord stood with drawn sword to oppose him along the way saying, “your way is perverse (destructive) before Me” (see Numbers 22: 4 – 34).
Unrestrained Power Corrupts.
The elders of Israel didn’t want to be a people ‘set apart’ by trusting in the Word of the Lord. In their rebellion they wanted to be like the other nations around them and to do things the way that the other nations did them.
So the Lord allowed the door of deception to stay open for a time
Whilst there was great Freedom for the Israelites in the time of the judges, when God’s instruction came through the mouths of the prophets, God warned what a king would require of them.
They would end up in servitude to the king that they chose and under harsh rule they would cry out.
The Lord said, “Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behaviour of the king who will reign over them” (1 Samuel 8:9).
“This will be the behaviour of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day”.(1 Samuel 8:11-18)
Though the Israelites were clearly warned of all these things, they persisted in their own way.
“Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, ‘no, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles’”.(1 Samuel 8:19 & 20)
- The Israelites thought they were exercising their right to choose.
- By choosing a king, their right of choice was taken away.
- By choosing a king, they only had limited ownership.
- This affected their sons and their daughters as well.
- The king took their sons and their daughters to be what he wanted them to be.
- The best of theirs — he took for himself and gave it away to others of his choosing.
A Return to the Voice of the Lord
There are always two streams that flow — Rivers of living water from the hearts of men, flowing down from the throne of God above (see John 7:38 & 39 and Revelation 22:1); and lying spirits from the lips of men. Like the Israelites, we ALL at times can substitute the voice of the Lord for the voice of a human ‘king’ and drink from the wrong stream. But the work of the Lord is an academy of grace, that works in the hearts of men. This ‘Word of the Lord’ is a liturgy of grace and peace from Christ. Grace in the understanding; peace in the restoration in brings.
May the eyes of our understanding be opened to the Words of the King of kings.
“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land”.(Isaiah 1:18 & 19)
“I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counsellors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city”.(Isaiah 1:26)
“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward”.(Psalm 19: 7-11)