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Week Three: Grab your Opportunities

Light for Living

Has the Lord not taken the lead?

Deborah in Judges 4:14

I look back with a great deal of regret over wasted years and opportunities. But Paul says that the way to move forward is to put the past behind and focus on what’s ahead: “Instead I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13b-14).

Forgetting the past means accepting God’s forgiveness and grace; however, it doesn’t imply that we ignore its lessons. My past has taught me not to miss any opportunities that God gives me.

As we read God’s continuing story this week, we meet a heroic woman who embraced the possibilities of her circumstances by acting when the opportunity unexpectedly arose. We’ll also look at my favorite judge, Deborah, who was a great woman of valor.1 She was ready for God to use her, even in unorthodox ways that she perhaps never imagined when she recognized that he had taken the lead. (See this week’s verse above.) God is not a respecter of persons; if he used these women, he can use you and me. The key is trusting in a big God rather than looking at our positions or experiences.

Part One Study

Read Judges 4:1-11, noting your thoughts about these questions:

  • What do you learn about Deborah?

(FYI: God used prophets in the Old and New Testaments as his messengers. Prophets spoke for God to people; they were his mouthpieces.)

  • What possible reasons come to mind as to why Barak might want Deborah present as he went into battle?
  • What is God saying to you personally today?

Consider this: Ron Pierce believes that the context suggests that “woman of fire” is a better translation of the Hebrew than “wife of Lappidath.”2 Think about that as you read the rest of her story this week.

*** Read about other women who served as prophets: Miriam (Exodus 15:19-21), Hulda (2 Kings 22:8-20), Isaiah’s wife (Isaiah 8:1-3), Anna (Luke 2:36-38) and four daughters of Phillip (Acts 21:8-9). Journal your insights and feelings.

Part Two Study

Read Judges 4:12-24, and journal about these questions:

  • How do you see the three main characters of the story (Deborah, Barak, Jael) use their opportunities well?
  • Share your thoughts about the surprising ways that God works in this story.
  • How do you see both God’s sovereignty (rule over all) and people’s responsibility?
    • What is God saying to you about your willingness to follow God into risky situations?

Week Two’s Lesson noted that many commentators consider Othniel the ideal judge. Yet, Deborah has no recorded weaknesses either, and much more is written about her. I appreciated this note in the ESV:

While the pattern of apostasy continues (esp. 4:1-3), Deborah distinguishes herself as the most godly of all the judges; it is ironic that the most distinguished judge was a a woman (4:8-9). . . Deborah’s actions and words consistently pointed to God, not away from him, in contrast to the poor choices of [other] judges . . . . 3

*** Many theologians, pastors, and teachers through the centuries have suggested that the only reason God used Deborah as a judge was that no man would step up and do it, which is likely why many of them consider Othniel to be the only ideal judge.4 Do you see anything in the scriptures to suggest this? What differences do you see in Deborah’s story that would suggest she was more distinguished than Othniel? You may want to look at recent scholarship on this issue.5

Part Three Study

The second chapter of the story of God’s victory over the Canaanite king Jabin and his commander Sisera is a poem. Like all poetry, it uses figurative, not literal, language. This poem celebrates Israel’s victory over its oppressors in a way that exalts its heroes.

Read Judges 5:1-31, commenting on the questions below.

  • Last week we looked at the need to stand against injustice. What do you learn from Deborah, Barak, and Jael about courageously acting against oppression?
  • How did God prove that he was the one giving Barak the victory?
  • What are your insights into the contrast between Deborah and Jael on one hand and the way the poem pictures Sisera’s mother on the other?
  • What has God been saying to you this week through this story and song?

*** Consider these verses about God’s sovereignty. How can they help you overcome fear when faced with God-given opportunities: Psalm 33:8-11; Isaiah 14:26-27; 43:13; 45:7; 46:9-11?

Sherry’s Story

We lived in Charlotte, North Carolina before moving to Texas. We moved into an older neighborhood that had many older folks. Our neighbor directly across the street from us was a precious 84-year-old widower. He was a fascinating man who had wonderful stories to tell. He had traveled the world and owned his own antique and art gallery for many years. He loved to garden and his home was on the home and garden tour every year.

My children and I visited and walked in his garden with him, but mostly he loved to have the children come over and have cookies and hot tea with him in the afternoon. He was a Jewish man, although he did not practice his faith. We shared with him on occasion about what we believed, where we went to church and the fact that our children were in Christian school. Being the very intelligent man that he was, he had a scientific argument for everything. He respected our beliefs, but thought we were a bit conservative. I never came right out and shared the gospel with him. I’m not sure why—was it a fear of rejection, a fear of offending him? I can’t say.

We left Charlotte after a short 16 months. We were very sad to leave him, but I think he was more sad to see us go. He had no children and was quite lonely. We kept in close touch through letters and phone calls.

Two years after we moved to Texas I received a phone call from a girl who helped him with groceries and errands. She said his health was declining and she wanted us to know. She said he had our children’s pictures all around his room. He missed them a lot. I was so sad after she called. He was like a member of our family. I wanted to go see him. My husband and I talked it over and it worked out that I was able to go see him shortly after the phone call. Before I got on the plane, my daughter said, “Mommy, you have to tell him about Jesus.” I knew she was right.

I had a wonderful visit with him for an afternoon and then a morning visit before leaving. He did not talk much and seemed unclear in his thinking. I hugged him good-bye, knowing I would never see him again. I got on the airplane and flew home without ever making the gospel clear to him. I skipped and skirted around it but never came out and shared the truth. I have shared my faith with total strangers and family members on many occasions, but for some reason I hesitated with him.

Ten days after my visit, he died. I sobbed that day, because I would miss him, but mostly because I had felt led by the Lord to share with him but disregarded God’s leading. I had been disobedient, and it will forever be a reminder to NEVER pass the opportunity or ignore the Lord’s prompting. Could the Lord save him without me? Absolutely, but I was disobedient, and I missed a blessing.

We took him to a butterfly exhibit once. I took a photograph of a beautiful butterfly on a flower. I found the photo not long after his death. I framed it and put it where I would see it as a reminder to never miss an opportunity again.

1 Proverbs 12:4; 31:10 and Ruth 3:11 refer to women in this way.

2 Ron Pierce, “Deborah: Only When a Good Man is Hard to Find?” Vindicating the Vixens: Revisiting Sexualized, Vilified, and Marginalized Women of the Bible, Ed. Sandra Glahn (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2017), 191-192.

3 Note on Judges 4:1-5:31in ESV Study Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 444.

4 Pierce, 291.

5 See footnote #14 for a recent resource on many of the women of the Bible.

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