Judges Bible Study

Judges ~ Lesson 5

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4,

Read Judges 4-5

Questions to Consider

1. Go back to lesson 3 (link above) and review your answer to the first part of question 5, Israel’s pattern of sin and repentance in 2:16-23. How does today’s passage fit this pattern? How does today’s passage fit the theme verse of Judges (21:25), “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”?

2. Read chapter 4. Did Deborah take it upon herself to assume the position of judge (4:4)? According to 2:18, who placed her in the position of judge, and why? Was it for her own personal fulfillment or for God’s purposes in the nation of Israel? According to 4:5, what was Deborah’s day to day “job description“? How does this reconcile with God’s stated purpose for raising up judges in 2:18?

3. Notice how Deborah has to prod Barak to action (4:6, 14) and Barak’s hesitancy (4:8). What does this phrase – “Has not the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you…?” (4:6) – tell you about Barak’s awareness of God’s command before Deborah confronted him about it? Why weren’t he and his fighting men already out there obeying God’s command and fighting to protect their wives and children?

(Notice how 4:11 – seemingly random, useless information at the moment – becomes vital backstory when you get to 4:17. Always keep an eye on those seemingly random bits of information in the Bible. You might need them later.)

Where are Heber and the rest of the men of his clan when Jael is taking care of business (4:17-22)? Why aren’t they standing between Jael and Sisera, protecting her and the rest of their wives and children from danger?

What happens to women and children when men fail to fulfill their God-ordained role of protector? In what ways does men failing to carry out their God-ordained role impede women from carrying out our God-ordained role, and vice versa?

4. Compare 4:7 with 4:23-24. Did God keep His promise?

5. Many evangelicals today see this passage as a “girl power…’I am woman, hear me roar’…’Who run[s] the world? Girls!'” story. But is it? Carefully examine chapter 4, especially verse 9, in light of Isaiah 3:12 (Read 3:1-5, 9-12 for context. Notice the themes of Israel’s sin and God’s judgment in this passage. Notice also the “support” God is “taking away” in judgment. Are the people listed in 3:2-3 men or women? Why is God taking them away?) In both Judges 4 and Isaiah 3, is a woman in leadership portrayed as a blessing or as God’s judgment on His people? Explain why the original audiences of both the Judges and Isaiah passages would have seen these passages, not as a “girl power” celebration of women, but as a “man up” indictment of cowardly, lazy, faithless men.

Does the fact that God used Deborah as a judgment against the Israelite men who would not step up and do their duty as men in any way diminish her godliness or her wisdom as a judge?

6. Read chapter 5. As you read, compare the people, places, and actions with the the people, places and actions in chapter 4. Explain in your own words, verse by verse, how chapter 5 elaborates on, explains, or celebrates the events of chapter 4.

Which words and phrases in chapter 5 indicate that Deborah and Barak gave glory to God for the victory over Jabin and Sisera?

In a time in which the literacy rates were low and writing materials were scarce, explain how this song would have helped preserve the historical events of chapter 4 in the memories of the people of Israel. Why would it have been important for them to remember these things? What lessons would God have wanted them, and us, to learn from these events?

7. Take a moment to meditate on the depth of mercy and grace it took for God to rescue these sin sick souls from His own judgment and wrath, and give them the victory. Then, consider that He extended the same mercy and grace to you in the cross, rescuing you and giving you the victory over sin, death, and the grave. Kind of makes you want to sing a song of worship like Deborah and Barak did, doesn’t it? Pick a good one and sing His praise!


Homework

Many egalitarians and feminists today try to use the story of Deborah’s position of leadership to justify women “pastors,” women preaching to and teaching the Bible to men, and women exercising authority over men in the church. Read my article Rock Your Role: Oh No She Di-int! Priscilla Didn’t Preach, Deborah Didn’t Dominate, and Esther Wasn’t an Egalitarian. Practice how you would explain to a friend who’s using Deborah to argue against 1 Timothy 2:12 that Deborah as judge does not support the idea of women pastoring, preaching to/teaching men, or exercising authority over men in the church? How might women holding these positions today be just as much a “man up” indictment of evangelical men as Deborah was to the Israelite men in her day?


Suggested Memory Verse

Parenting, Poetry

The Prodigal’s Mom

There’s an empty chair at the table
Where my child once used to sit
When we all broke bread together
A family whole and fit

There’s an empty place in the photo
As his siblings celebrate
Without him again, missing him in
The memories they create

There’s an empty stocking at Christmas
Another year far from home
Joy with tarnished edges
As the wayward one still roams

There’s an empty place in my heart
That longs to be peaceful, content
Praying my child heeds the call of Christ
But fearing he’ll never repent

And so goes the song - it goes on and on -
Of a godly mother’s heart
Life’s full of empty moments
Her prodigal’s sin imparts

Until our knees and hearts are raw
We pray and pray again
A thousand tears we offer up
“How long, O Lord?” and “When?”

And the Father who once welcomed us home 
- For we were His prodigals too -
Says, “Come and rest, and stand the test,
My grace is sufficient for you.”

Mailbag

The Mailbag: A Lost Husband, a Saved Wife, and an Apostate Church

Originally published April 17, 2017

My husband is unsaved, so I’ve had to take on the spiritual leadership of our home. As I’ve been growing in my discernment, I’ve learned that the churches we have been attending are not doctrinally sound. Thus, we have changed churches several times. My husband will attend church with our family, but is comfortable at our current church and doesn’t want to change again. Unfortunately, our current church is also doctrinally unsound. I feel very uncomfortable here and want to find a new, doctrinally sound church, but I’m concerned: a) that I won’t be submitting to my husband if I insist we leave, and, b) that my husband will refuse to attend church any more if I insist we leave this one. What should I do?

This question is actually an amalgam of two e-mails I’ve recently received asking basically the same question, which leads me to believe there are many other Christian women out there in similar circumstances.

It is heartbreaking when a husband and wife, whose souls God meant to be knit together as one, are separated by the gulf of eternity. It’s an unavoidable situation when two lost people get married and one subsequently gets saved, but it is completely avoidable if you’re saved before you get married. Single ladies, please be wise and learn from the pain your unequally yoked sisters have gone through: do not marry, or even date, someone you aren’t certain (as certain as you can possibly be, anyway) is a believer.

Normally, this is the type of question I decline to answer because it’s a situation that’s best handled by pastoral counsel. I don’t know all the nuances of the situation, the personalities involved, the doctrine of the particular church, etc. However, the readers who have asked my advice have both indicated that they’re in doctrinally unsound churches, so I can’t, in good conscience, refer them to “pastors” who may do more harm than good with their counsel. So, the best I can do is provide some biblical food for thought for these ladies to consider as they make their decisions.

Pray
God is so gracious and kind to remind us that if we need wisdom to handle things and make decisions, He will give it to us. When you’ve asked God for that wisdom, trust Him to give it to you and to guide you.

Additionally, ask God to provide you with a godly friend, pastor, or counselor to help you walk through this situation. You may wish to seek out a doctrinally sound church and set up a counseling appointment with the pastor or an elder. You could also look for an ACBC certified Biblical Counselor in your area (not just a “Christian counselor/therapist”- ACBC counselors are trained to help you apply correctly handled Scripture to your situation in a doctrinally sound way).

Finally, don’t neglect to pray for your husband’s salvation, and that God would soften his heart to attend a doctrinally sound church.

Study God’s Word
If you’re a believer, this should already be part of your daily life. Stay in the Word to keep yourself spiritually nourished, to gain biblical wisdom, and to be led by the Holy Spirit. It may be of some comfort to you to know that in the early days of the church, many Christian women (and men) were going through the exact same situation- being married to an unbeliever. There are a couple of passages that address this situation which you may want to give some extra study:

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
1 Peter 3:1-6

If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
1 Corinthians 7:13-16

Submission? As the 1 Peter passage above makes clear, biblical submission is one of the ways Christian women can prepare the way of the Lord in the life of an unbelieving husband. We should certainly submit to our husbands in anything that doesn’t conflict with Scripture. However, our first loyalty and submission are to Christ, so a Christian woman cannot “submit” to her husband if he is asking her to do something that Christ has clearly said not to do in His written Word (I’ve written more about the issue of submission in other situations here and here.).

As you consider submitting to your husband in the various aspects of this situation, study these passages regarding sitting under the instruction of false teachers. Do your husband’s desires about staying in a doctrinally unsound church conflict with what God’s word says? That’s something you will have to pray about, study about, and, if possible, get some godly counsel about.

Practical observations/suggestions
Here’s something to take into consideration: It doesn’t do any good for someone to go to a “church” that teaches false doctrine just for the sake of being able to say that person attends church. In fact, it may actually harden his heart to the truth of the gospel.

Regarding false converts (people who think they’re Christians but actually aren’t), it’s often said, “Before we can get them saved, we first have to get them unsaved.” In other words, we have to do the hard work of “undoing” the false doctrine they’ve been taught, which has convinced them they’re saved, so they can come to terms with the fact that they aren’t actually saved, in order to correctly teach them the gospel so that they can truly be saved. Consider whether, by continuing to attend a church that teaches false doctrine with your husband, you might be doing something right now that will be difficult to undo later. A garden variety lost person who doesn’t attend church is no more lost than a lost person attending a church that teaches false doctrine.

Would your husband be open to staying home from church on Sunday for several weeks or months while you visit churches alone until you find one you’re confident is doctrinally sound?

Many churches have midweek, Saturday, and Sunday evening services. Perhaps you could explore another church on your own during non-Sunday morning services for a time until you’re sure it teaches sound doctrine, and then ask your husband if he’d be willing to change to that church.

Your husband probably views his church attendance as something he’s doing for you or for the kids. Is there any kind of “deal” you could work out where he changes to a doctrinally sound church “for you,” and, in exchange, you do something for him (make his favorite meal every week, take over a chore he hates, etc.)? He might be more willing to change churches if he thinks there’s a benefit to him for doing so.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Guest Posts

Guest Post: A Woman in Seminary Training: A Personal Story

If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in my “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs in the blue menu bar at the top of this page) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail, and let’s chat about it.

Note from Michelle: I’m hoping Kim’s super guest post will inspire some of you ladies to consider seminary. For my thoughts on women attending or teaching at a seminary, click here and here.

A Woman in Seminary Training: A Personal Story
by: Kim Arnold

Why should women attend seminary? I hear this question posed often, and as a current seminarian myself, I have many responses. The purpose of this post is to share my own experience while encouraging other women in possibly attending seminary themselves. If you are a woman who is in a position of leadership over women or children, then I encourage you to seek wise, biblical training, whether that is through seminary or other in-depth theological instruction.

I have been in a seminary PhD program for over two years now, and here are three reasons why I think women should pursue seminary degrees.

1. You get to sit under orthodox theological teaching at the highest level. For my entire first semester, I felt like I was drinking water from a fire hose! After my first week of classes my husband handed me his pocket dictionary of theological terms because I had been scrambling to understand the words my professors were using. I constantly referenced that little book in every class until I became familiar with “seminary terminology.” I felt like I barely kept my head above water that entire first semester, but you know what? By the grace of God, I survived. And not only did I survive, but God started shaping my heart and mind toward him in ways that possibly would not have occurred outside the depth of the seminary classroom.

Here is an example of how a typical class has gone for me: my professor opens with the reading of a Psalm, and then he prays for our class and the discussion on which we are about to embark. After he prays, we spend time discussing the texts we read over the week, solidifying our own beliefs as he wisely leads the discussion. My particular program has classes that meet for 2.5 hours, once a week, so we have time to delve deep into specific topics. As we then go through the next six days between classes, we meditate on God’s Word and constantly examine where our texts draw specifically from Scripture. We write research papers for every seminar, so we spend time studying the Bible deeply, as well as commentaries and other historical research documents.  

This combination of Scripture, prayer, meditation, and research at such a deep level allows for our entire being (mind, will, and affections) to be molded to Christ, from which we then teach others.

2. You make like-minded friends. Even though my program includes attending classes online (we were using Zoom before it was cool), I have made some dear friends from all over the country. I told my husband during my first semester, “I found my people!” God has allowed me to meet other men and women that serve him daily, and lead from a similar theological position as me. Knowing that these people exist outside of my own bubble helps me know that I am not alone, and we all cheer each other on as we apply in our daily lives what we learn in the classroom.

On this note, do not underestimate the influence of professors and fellow seminarians on your spiritual journey. Be diligent in seeking wise, biblical counsel in where you should attend seminary. Research your primary professors and know their biblical stances on specific topics related to your degree. You want to be faithful in your preparation to attend seminary so you can be taught accurate theology. This cannot be emphasized enough. Throughout the course of your study, your professors will (hopefully) lead you in wise, biblical education, and the friends you make along the way will also help shape your thinking on important biblical issues. As the author of the book of Proverbs mentions the importance of acquiring knowledge and understanding, and how it begins with the fear of the Lord (1:29, 2:5, 3:7, 8:13, 9:10, 19:23), so the seminarian responds appropriately with seeking discernment (1:5, 3:21, 14:6, 17:24, 18:15), heeding wisdom (2:1, 4:13), seeking understanding (2:3, 4:5, 8:14, 19:8, 23:12, 28:5), and guarding his heart (4:23, 21:2). 

3. You prepare to the best of your ability, so that you can lead other women in the disciple-making process. I cannot begin to tell you how my mind, will, and affections have changed since I’ve been a seminarian. I have been challenged and encouraged in my faith every step of the way. My professors have made me define my exact beliefs on specific issues, which has helped me teach other women with confidence, and even helped me defend my position when it has come against opposition. If you are going to teach the Bible to women and children, you must be trained for the task set before you. Just like the Levites had to train to serve the Lord in worship, so women need to train for teaching God’s Word to other women and children. Training does not necessarily need to come from attending seminary! Michelle offers many valuable resources in knowing how to discern a true Bible teacher, from whom we can grow in our theology. From my experience, seminary has also provided me with a deep theological foundation so I can know specific truths while I continue to work out my own faith every day.

One last note on my personal story. When I started my seminary program, I was teaching at a local Christian liberal arts university. In May of 2020, the university decided to close their School of Music, leaving me halfway through a degree and no longer employed. I have asked myself many times why I am continuing to pay for a degree, especially when I no longer have a full-time job in the field. Here is my answer to that question: I want to be fully equipped to teach in any capacity (church, higher ed, etc.) when the opportunity arises. I think theologically trained women are in need in all areas right now, especially in teaching our younger generations. I obviously have no idea where God will lead my family in the future, but I can help lead and educate others with confidence wherever I am because I have sat under biblically sound professors at seminary.

The seminary journey may seem daunting to many women, exciting to others, and possibly unimportant to some. I encourage you to examine the areas in which you serve and see if seminary training would be helpful for you. As I have emphasized, women and children in our churches are in desperate need of theologically trained leaders. Many seminaries offer everything from certificate programs to doctorates, with many online options available today. Take some time to see what could be helpful in your own disciple-making process!

If you have any questions from this post, don’t hesitate to reach out to me or any other female seminarian with similar views. We would love to help you through the process!


Kim has been married to her husband, Jason, for 21 years, and they have one son. Jason is an executive pastor and holds two seminary degrees himself, so Kim has experienced life as a seminarian, and as the wife of one. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Church Music and Worship from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and enjoys teaching women in her church. When not reading or writing, Kim enjoys hiking with her husband and son, or playing with her family’s new labradoodle puppy! Check out Kim’s blog, and follow her on social media at Acceptable Worship.

Church

Throwback Thursday ~ It’ll Grow on You…

Originally published April 22, 2009

Have you ever wished your church would grow? Maybe your pastor talks about church growth from time to time? What should a church do if it wants to grow?

Before a church starts thinking about publicity, programs, attention-getters, etc., it should take some things into consideration:

1.

Is this a Bible-believing, Bible-preaching/teaching church? Do we stick to Scripture and preach the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth even if it makes people uncomfortable or (in a biblically appropriate way) offends them?

Since the Bible is God’s Word, it would make no sense for Him to want to grow a church that either doesn’t believe what He has said, or twists what He has said to fit what the people want to hear. Scripture is clear, our churches are to be focused on correctly handling and proclaiming God’s Word.

2.

How do we know God wants us to focus on growth right now? The church belongs to God, and we are to obey Him in all things. Have we as a congregation spent time in prayer both individually and corporately to seek His direction for the church? There could be any number of things God wants to do in the church before bringing a whole slew of new people in. He may want to do some pruning of the membership or the doctrine being taught. He may want to root out some corporate sin that needs to be dealt with. He may want to concentrate on building unity for some period of time. There could be a number of biblical things that are a higher priority to God for our church than growth.

3.

People can grow an organization, club, colloquy or group, but only God can grow a church. If you have a group of people that is growing strictly by man’s efforts and/or in violation of Scriptural principles, it is one of the former, not the latter. The question is, do we want to grow an organization here, or do we want God to grow a church?

4.

How did Jesus grow a church? After all, we’re to be about the business of following and imitating Him, right? If we take a look at how Jesus’ own following developed while He was on Earth as well as how the first century church grew, we don’t find that they had to go out and drag people in. They didn’t send out fliers, have space walks, barbecues, concerts and all that kind of stuff that so many churches do today just to try to draw people in. That’s a “top down” approach. Jesus and the first century church took a “bottom up” approach. They studied the Scripture, prayed, ministered to people as they had needs, and preached and taught the Word, and the people who truly wanted to know God and hear the Word came out and joined them.

Now, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with barbecues and space walks. Indeed, if a church is following Christ rightly and praying for God’s direction, they might decide to do some sort of outreach event that includes some fun activities. But the thrust of drawing people in should be the lifting up of Jesus in the church.

Want your church to grow? Make sure the church is completely in line with what the Bible teaches. Seek God’s direction for the church through corporate and individual prayer. Recognize that God is the only one who can cause a church to grow, and that growth – always in spiritual maturity, sometimes in numbers – is a natural by-product of an obedient, prayerful, true to Scripture church.