Grades 3-6 Sunday School Lesson
Deborah: A Woman of Courage
This week, we’re beginning a new series of lessons on heroines in the Bible. The Bible tells us of many great women who were full of faith, courage, and conviction. We’re going to study just a few of them; and discover great examples of what God is looking for in His servants, even today. We’ll be starting with a woman of great courage. Her name is Deborah, and she was one of the judges God sent to help lead the nation of Israel.
Do you ever just feel like singing? Or do you know someone who just always seems to have a song coming out of them every time you see them?
Years ago, many plays and movies were full of songs. They were referred to as musicals. And anytime a character wanted to express what they were feeling, they would sing about those feelings. Sometimes those songs were full of happiness. Sometimes they were sad songs. God has given us the ability to sing, and music seems to have a way of touching our hearts even more than the words alone can.
Did you know that there are lots of songs in the Bible? Judges chapter 5 is one of those songs, and it was sung by a woman named Deborah. She was a judge in Old Testament times, before the Israelites had kings. We’re going to be learning about Deborah, today. And we’re going to find out what happened in her life that made her want to sing a song that God has recorded in His Word.
Today’s memory verse is part of the introduction to her song. Let’s learn it, together; and maybe be inspired to sing a song of praise to the Lord, ourselves.
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“I, even I, will sing unto the LORD; I will sing praise to the LORD God of Israel.”
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for Your Word, The Bible, where we can learn new truths about You, and Your plans for us. Help each one of us here, today, to be attentive to what You would have us learn. Give us open ears and hearts, ready to listen to Your words. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: Deborah: A Woman of Courage (Judges 2:10-15, 4:1-24 )
Many of you are probably familiar with the stories of Moses: how he led the Israelites out of Egypt by parting the Red Sea. Then after Moses, Joshua led the children of Israel, guiding them through the parted Jordan River, and leading them to victory in many battles against the enemies of Israel. Under the leadership of these great men, the Israelites saw many great miracles; and learned, first hand, how great and mighty the Lord is.
But after Joshua died, the book of Judges tells us this:
10 …there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.
11 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim.
12 And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger.
13 And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.
14 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies.
15Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed.”
What a sad state the Israelites reached; and so quickly. Only a few years after Joshua was gone, the children of Israel who had not seen for themselves how the LORD had brought Israel through so many battles and trials, turned away from serving the Lord. Who did they serve instead? The gods of the people around them. It seemed they were always looking around at what others had, that they didn’t; instead of looking up at what they did have…the mightiest and only God of the universe.
How did God react to the Israelites serving other gods? Did He just shrug His shoulders and walk away from them? No! God was angry with them. The Bible tells us in many places that our God is a jealous God. He will not tolerate us having other gods before Him.
So what does this passage say God did, in response to the Israelites’ sin? He stopped protecting them from their enemies. As Israel had moved into the Promised Land, the Lord had spent many years miraculously helping them conquer their enemies. He had given them supernatural protection that they had come to take for granted. But that would no longer be the case. In fact, not only did the Lord remove His hand of protection; verse 15 goes so far as to say that His hand was actually moving against the children of Israel.
Perhaps we can look at it something like this: imagine there was a family of birds – a mother bird, a bunch of baby birds, and one big brother bird. As the baby birds grew, they heard stories from their older brother bird of how there had been terrible storms when he was their age. And he told them of times when their tree would sway back and forth; and the rain would beat down hard on their mother’s back. He would tell them of how each time a storm came, their mother bird would be right there to love and protect them. She would always carefully shelter them with her wings. The baby birds knew, from their brother’s stories, that their mother bird loved them very much, and would protect them against any danger.
But since the baby birds had been born, there hadn’t really been any big storms. They had never really known great danger, or seen their mother bird have to do the things their brother bird spoke of.
Then, the baby birds began to hear chirping from other nests around them. The chirps sounded full of excitement. The other mother birds were letting their young birds come and go, out into the world, whenever they wanted. They did not have to stay close to their mothers, and follow any rules.
So the baby birds grew bored of just hanging around their own nest with their mother. They complained about how she always hovered over them, and had so many rules for them to follow in her nest. They complained about the food she brought them. And they longed to find out what it would be like out in the big world.
For a time, she warned them of the dangers of leaving her nest. But when all they did was complain, and when they insisted they were big enough to decide for themselves where they would go, and what they would do, the mother bird decided she would no longer force them to stay in her nest…and she let them go. She knew there would be many dangers they would face. But she also knew that in order for them to be satisfied staying with her, where she could protect them, it would have to be their choice to stay.
So she let them go, hoping that whatever dangers came their way would show them that they did, in fact, need their mother bird. She hoped that they would come back to her, before the storms or enemies destroyed them. So the baby birds hopped off, out into the world. They went from nest to nest, enjoying the freedom to come and go as they pleased, since the other mother birds did not hover around the nests as their mother bird had done.
But in their busyness of enjoying their newfound freedom, the baby birds failed to notice the shadows of the clouds overhead. And when the mighty storm beat down upon them, some of them were washed away by the storm before they could get back to the protection of their mother bird. She was still there, waiting for their return. But for some, it was too late.
In the end, some of the baby birds did come back, grateful for the protection they finally realized they needed. But others never learned their lesson.
The Israelites had become like these baby birds. They turned their backs on the Lord, and had chosen to go their own way. And like the mother bird, He let them go. He knew that some would never come back. They would be swept away, caught up in the world of the pagan people around them. But He would let them choose for themselves.
But God also knew some would come back. Listen to what this verse at the end of the chapter says the Lord was doing, in letting them go and fall into the hands of their enemies:
That…I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not. (Judges 2:22)
Why did God allow the Israelites to fall into the hands of their enemies? God let them meet the consequences of their choice (the enemies around them) to see if they would choose to come back to Him. Some did, when they finally realized how much they needed Him. And when they came back, the Lord had a “mother bird” waiting to help them. Her name was Deborah. And God called her to help rescue the Israelites who had turned away, but then saw their need and called out to Him for help.
1And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead.
2And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles.
3And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.
The Israelites had turned away from God; so He allowed the Canaanites to conquer and rule over them. The captain of the Canaanite army was a man named Sisera. And he managed to make the Israelites miserable. How long had Sisera been making them suffer? For 20 years!
And what was the response of the Israelites to the suffering they were enduring? Who did they turn to in trouble? They turned back to the Lord. And He had a plan already in mind for their rescue.
4And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.
5And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.
Before the Israelites had kings to rule over them, God sent judges to help them through difficult times. At this time, the judge God had raised up was a woman named Deborah. And He had a very special message for her to deliver.
6And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedeshnaphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the LORD God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?
7And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand.
As He had done in the past, God was again going to deliver the Israelites from their enemy. Deborah was a very respected woman in Israel because God had chosen her to be their leader. So Barak listened very carefully to the message the Lord had given to her.
What did Deborah tell Barak he was supposed to do? He was to round up some troops, and go to the Kishon River. And what did God say He would do there? God promised to deliver Captain Sisera and the Canaanite army into Barak’s hand…a guaranteed victory. But Barak wasn’t sure he was ready to handle such a big assignment, on his own. He wanted someone to go along who could assure him that he was on the right track. And who better than the woman who was hearing directly from God!
8And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.
It was one thing for Deborah to tell Barak what he was supposed to do. But it was quite another for her to be asked to actually join the battle. Women just didn’t do that, back then. Deborah had a big decision to make. And her answer would reveal whether she really trusted the Lord whom she had been speaking for. If she really believed the message she had given Barak, she wouldn’t need to be afraid, because the Lord had promised He would deliver the enemy into their hands. What do you think Deborah did?
9And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.
We learn, here, that not only was Deborah a wise woman who was able to judge the people; she was also a woman of great courage, willing to trust the Lord to do just as He promised. She was not afraid to go with Barak to the battle, knowing that the Lord was going with them.
And the Lord had one more message for Deborah to give to Barak. Because of his hesitation to go alone, God was still going to give him the victory, but the credit for the victory was going to go to someone other than Barak. Who did Deborah say would be honored for the victory? It was to be a woman. Would anyone like to guess who that woman would be? It’s kind of a trick question, because it seems likely that it would be Deborah. But let’s take a look at what happened in the battle, and who it was that became a new hero for the Israelites.
10 And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet: and Deborah went up with him.
11 Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh.
12 And they shewed Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam was gone up to mount Tabor.
13 And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon.
How many chariots did Captain Sisera have? He had 900! How many did Barak have? We don’t read of any. Deborah could see that just as well as Barak could. Yet when it came time, she still didn’t hesitate to charge into battle with him. Deborah fully believed that the Lord was going to give them the victory.
14 And Deborah said unto Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the LORD hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the LORD gone out before thee? So Barak went down from mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him.
15 And the LORD discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet.
The New Living Translation puts it this way: “the Lord threw Sisera and all his chariots and warriors into a panic.” We’re not sure exactly what God did. But whatever it was, it put Captain Sisera into such confusion that he jumped right out of his chariot, and tried to run away on foot.
16 But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left.
Who did Barak chase after? He went after the chariots and the rest of the army. And how many of the Canaanite army fell before Barak and the Israelite army? The entire Canaanite army was eliminated, except for one man…Sisera. Let’s find out what happened to him.
17 Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite.
18 And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle.
It sounds as if the Canaanite king, Jabin, and Heber were allies. So Sisera felt safe turning to Heber and his wife for refuge from Barak, and the Israelite army. But God had something else in mind for the enemy of His people.
19 And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him.
20 Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and enquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No.
How did Heber’s wife, Jael, treat Sisera when he came into her tent? She gave him even better than what he had asked for. He asked for water, and she brought him milk. Then it sounds like she was a sweet hostess, and tucked him in to sleep. Sisera was very tired, and did fall asleep, never suspecting that a woman might be plotting his death. But remember what Deborah had told Barak about who would be the hero of the battle? It was to be a woman; and her name was Jael. Listen to what this brave woman did to help the army of Israel.
21 Then Jael Heber's wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.
What did Jael do to Sisera? She killed him by driving a tent spike through his head while he was sleeping. She took a big chance in taking it upon herself to rid Israel of the man who had terrorized them for twenty years. What if he had woken up just as she was ready to strike? He could have killed her on the spot. But God had promised the victory. And He protected Jael as she followed His leading. Now, all that was left to do was to share the good news with the man who had been sent to do the job that this woman, Jael, had done for him.
22 And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples.
23 So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel.
24 And the hand of the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.
It all happened just as Deborah had prophesied. God gave a great victory to Israel. He used a cunning woman, Jael, to bring down the greatest enemy Israel had been facing for many years. And He used brave Deborah to lead Barak into battle. Now that’s a reason to sing!
And sing they did! The entire next chapter of the book of Judges, chapter 5, is a song about the great victory against Sisera. In it, God has forever recorded the bravery of two women who were willing to risk their own safety to bring down the enemies of Israel.
Do you think you could be as brave as these two women, Deborah and Jael? God will probably never ask you to do the things they were called to do. But many of us do live in a time like they did; where those around us have turned away from God to live like those baby birds in our story. They believe they are free. But the truth is they are living away from the protection of God. Perhaps God will call you to be the one to speak to them, and share with them the love of the Lord, and His desire to have them come back to Him. Will you be brave enough to stand up and speak for the Lord, as Deborah did? He will give you the courage if you are willing to trust and obey Him.
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the example of Deborah, and her courage to share Your message with others. Help us, too, to be sensitive to Your leading. And give us the courage to live in a way that is pleasing to You. For we love You, and want to serve You just like Deborah did. For we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Activity: (Review Questions)
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. During the time of the judges, the Israelites were serving other gods. (true)
2. God allowed Israel’s enemies to prevail over them in order for them to see their need for God. (true)
3. Captain Sisera was kind to the Israelites. (false – he oppressed them for 20 years)
4. God caused Sisera and his army to be confused, which led to their defeat. (true)
5. Jael hid Sisera from Barak, and the Israelite army. (false – she killed him)