Deborah Shows Us God Isn’t Bound By Culture

Deborah wears more hats than just about any other woman in the Bible – some 13 centuries before Christ.  She’s a mother, wife, counselor, judge, deliverer, spiritual and political leader, and prophetess.

She knows what’s it’s like to sit in the boardroom and make tough decisions. And not only is she in the boardroom, she’s at the head of the table. She calls the shots. She’s the kind of woman who takes on more and more responsibility because she knows how to get things done. And she’s not power hungry. Just the opposite. She’d rather delegate, but she’s also not afraid to get her hands dirty when duty calls.

Deborah is ahead of her time by more than a few centuries. It’s completely unheard of for a woman to command the political, social, and spiritual authority in Biblical history. She’s the exception, not the norm. So does this mean that God will only use women when He can’t find a man for the job?

I’ve heard some Christians downplay Deborah’s leadership as an anomaly. It’s not uncommon to hear statements like, “Well, none of the men would step up, so God had to use a woman.”  But when I read Deborah’s story, I’m just not buying it.

Let’s face it. God used Deborah because of who she was, not in spite of who she was. This shows us that God isn’t limited by circumstance, culture, or even gender. Simply put, God is ahead of our time.

I’m inspired by leaders today like Terry Morgan  who challenge us to Care For Our Calling.  Morgan  identifies four threats to living out our calling – cliché, culture, comparison, and coercion.

Her words about culture resonate with my study of Deborah:

CULTURE: Having lived and worked internationally for many years, I have heard cultural excuses for limiting men’s and women’s opportunities and responsibilities.  Although I have a deep respect for culture influences, Biblical truth is my greater standard. Every culture has wonderful richness that we can glean, but no culture is perfect. Some culture norms go strongly against God’s commands. Jesus acted very counter-culturally in His interactions with women, in His service to the disciples, and in His encounters with sinners. When I choose to go “against the flow”, it sometimes carries a price – from subtle scoffing to strong criticism – but my most important priority is to honor God… and sometimes I get to demonstrate a new healthy example for others also.

These words could have been written out of Deborah’s play book!  Clearly, when Deborah led the men into battle, she was breaking more than a few cultural norms.  I’m just thankful Deborah had the courage to go against the flow and honor God.  She’s more than a healthy example for all of us!

Do you agree that culture can limit our calling?  Has it limited yours?

[I’m on a journey to study and write about the working women of the Bible – the subject of my next book.  I hope you’ll join me!]

I'm an author who writes about the working mom's struggle to live out an authentic Christian faith in a complex and fast-paced world. I live in constant need of grace, caffeine, and technology -- usually in that order.
  • Terry Morgan

    Thanks for the mention, Susan! I appreciate you! “God used Deborah because of who she was, not in spite of who she was.” May we – and all women – be available for God to use us too.

  • Susan DiMickele

    Thank YOU Terry. I just loved that post.

  • Anonymous

    Brave post!

  • Jamie H

    I studied Deborah earlier this year for a book / study that I was writing. I found her fascinating.

  • Bradley J. Moore

    Whoa. Great stuff here, Susan. I sometimes look at some of what goes on in our own culture, and even what is between the lines (or explicit) in biblical culture, and realize that we must have a critical eye sometimes. Just because Paul writes about head-coverings doesn’t mean that’s how it should be throughout history. It was part of his culture.

    This is so cool how you point out the Deborah story as an example of God transcending our cultural limitations. It’s just plain lunacy to think that God can’t use women to lead and transform and influence – in the church, in business, wherever. Just plain lunacy.

  • Laura Boggess

    Wonderful post, Susan. I’ve been studying to become a Lay Pastor and it’s been surprising to encounter some folks who do not believe women should have any leadership or teaching role in the church. Deborah is such a wonderful example of how God sees each one of us as individuals. Thanks for this!

    • Susan DiMickele

      I am going to celebrate your ordination. Give me plenty of notice!

  • Jean Wise

    I can’t wait to read your book. What a great idea.

    love the statement: God used Deborah because of who she was, not in spite of who she was.

    The idea of Jesus being counter cultural has repeated itself in many of my readings lately – I think God is inviting me to ponder this and your wonderful post spurred that on. I love reading a post with some ‘meat’ for thought and yours does have that.

    I just can’t believe God would “waste” half of the population and not use them fully in His work just because they are female. He never wastes anything.

    Great post, Susan!

  • Christi McGuire

    LOVE THIS! And what a great topic for your next book–can’t wait to read it!