Political Hero from the Bible: Deborah

In this series we take a look at 'political heroes' from the Bible and see what lessons we can take from them in today's political arena. This latest article looks at Deborah.

The story of Deborah has often been overshadowed by a certain Jael who hammered a certain tent-peg through the head of a guy called Sisera when he was asleep. This is certainly a more dramatic story, albeit one that is often glossed over in Sunday School, but the over attention paid to it means that we often miss out on the lessons that can be learned from Deborah herself.

Deborah was one of the Judges, leaders appointed by God to set the people of Israel back on track, and she oversaw the Israelites’ defeat of Jabin, the king of Canaan who had conquered them. Whilst her story is certainly militaristic, she still has much to teach us about political engagement.

Deborah was a woman

This first point might seem very obvious, but it is an important one to make. In the male-dominated society of Ancient Israel, the fact that a woman could be a God-sanctioned leader was particularly striking. And she was definitely not a second-rate leader either! We see her holding court, giving sound military advice, and ultimately achieving peace in the land for 40 years. God calls both men and women to public leadership.

We might think that we have this sorted in the 21st Century, but one only needs to look at the number of female MPs (191) compared to the number of their male counterparts (459) to see that there is still a way to go towards gender equality. Women as well as men need to be getting involved in politics, and as Christians we should be leading the way to encourage this.

Deborah’s boldness complemented Barak’s timidity

Deborah knew what God wanted and was not afraid to see it completed. In this she contrasts greatly with Barak, the Israelite commander, who was timid and only happy to go against the enemy with Deborah by his side. As a result, Deborah tells him that the honour will not be his, as it will be a woman who kills the enemy commander Sisera, not Barak. When we are seeking to engage with politics, there is definitely a time to be bold and to follow where we believe God is leading us, even if that is daunting.

However, God is also able to work through timid people, as many of us are probably more like Barak than we are Deborah. Barak was still able to fulfil God’s purposes, ultimately succeeding together with Deborah – he just took a massive hit to his ego. Indeed, when we are setting out in politics, we should also be prepared to deflate our ego by asking for help, as often we will be able to achieve much more together than by going it alone. As an African proverb says “If you want to go fast, go it alone. If you want to go far, go together”.

Deborah recognised God at work

God was clearly at the centre of all Deborah said and did. This was a great source of encouragement to her and to Barak, as she asks him “Has not the LORD gone ahead of you?” before he goes into battle. Likewise, we can be encouraged that God has gone ahead of us – in Jesus the evil powers of this world have already been defeated and we can be sure that one day this will be brought to completion. Because of this, we know that God has gone before us and is with us in whatever work we are doing to reflect His coming Kingdom.

Deborah also made sure that all the glory went to God. Her lengthy song in Judges 5 which recounts the events in the previous chapter begins with praise to God, attributing the great victory to Him. So, whatever victories and successes we might achieve through politics, we must remember to give God the glory. This is amazingly humbling, and can help us to be distinctive as Christians involved in politics: we are getting involved in politics to honour God and to serve others, not to boost our own egos and status.

Political Hero - Paul
Political Hero - Esther
Political Hero - Joseph
Political Hero - Nehemiah
Political Hero - John the Baptist