Thursday, December 13, 2012

Jesse Tree Day 13 - Deborah

At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgement.  - Judges 4:4-5

Prophetesses in the Bible were somewhat rare birds; there were only five listed and not all of them were named. Miriam, sister of Moses, was the first and then came Deborah. While prophets were generally charismatic men who were both military and civil leaders, prophetesses tended to be more in the line of the wise woman who, like the men, were sometimes called upon to adjudicate disputes, give judgements on various things and, in general, keep a light hand on the rudder of the group in order to keep things moving in a positive direction.

Wisdom comes with age, so they say. Most cultures have their wise women, senior females to whom people turn when there's a problem to be solved, a question to be answered or a resolution to be sought. They are valued members of the society, often acting as a sort of visual conscience that helps to remind people of what it is they are supposed to be and do.  They also have the time to devote to observing what goes on around them and spot where trouble is likely to occur or where an extra hand might be needed. Deborah probably did those things, as well as prophesying and planning a military campaign. 

Every age and every culture has its wise women; in some, though, the wise women have been persecuted (like the elder women who lived alone and often served as herbalists and midwives but who were condemned as witches and murdered because of that accusation) or they have been pushed aside by others who simply want them to sit on their front porches (or better yet, in the parlor out of sight) and knit, trotting them out on Mother's Day or at family events and then retiring them again to invisibility. Some women successfully fight against that, becoming the leaders and workers in ways that fulfill them and serve others in a very meaningful way. They may see things somewhat differently than the men do and may choose a very different path to resolution of what is before them, but the contribution remains. It is valuable and should be valued. Jesus reiterated the need to care for the widows and orphans; he didn't say anything about ignoring them, putting them out to pasture or inhibiting their abilities to do what they felt called to do. Look at Mary Magdalene...

What can I learn from Deborah?  Sometimes you have to sit under a tree in a very prominent place in order to be noticed, but you'd also better have a good head on your shoulders, a head that guides you in the direction of wisdom and proper judgement. You have to earn the trust of those you seek to serve. It doesn't hurt at all to give good advice, but listening for good advice from God is an important component as well.

Use your head.

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