The story of Deborah only takes two chapters in the Bible, in the book of Judges, but she makes an impact. Her story – the victory of God’s people over Canaan - can help us see how we can have victory in the fight against poverty and injustice.
Deborah is a prophet and a judge living in difficult times. Israel has been oppressed by the King of Canaan for 20 years and the nation cries out to the Lord. Deborah tells the military commander, Barak, that God has commanded him to fight and that God will give the enemy’s army into the hands of Israel.
It is a clear command and promise, yet like so many of us when faced with a challenge from God, Barak is reluctant. He will not go without Deborah.
We live in challenging times as Christians – some of us are living under oppression, some live in nations where God is given only lip service, some face social and physical poverty and some are tempted by the false gods of materialism. And we should note that Israel is in trouble because it had turned its back on God – “they again did evil in the sight of the Lord” (Judges 4: 1).
God is calling us to radical action to restore righteousness and justice and promises to be there with us as we spread God’s Kingdom values. But we need to step out.
When Deborah and Barak go to fight, not all the tribes join in (see Ch 5: 14-18). Likewise, when we seek to include as many groups as possible in Micah Challenge, some will be reluctant and some may say No. It is vital though that we reach out to include as many groups as possible and speak in ways that different traditions will understand. But some may not join in (some may even be happy with the status quo). We should take heart from Deborah’s story that if we follow God’s calling we should not be discouraged if not all Christians join in.
We should also remember that God will surprise us with the way the “battle” goes. He uses the army of Barak in a conventional way but the full victory is only won when Jael, a farmer’s wife, kills the enemy commander, Sisera, in a totally unconventional way by driving a tent peg through his head. In our campaigning, we can use all the usual methods to win support and move political mountains but we should not be surprised when God uses unusual people and methods to win the fight, especially if, like Barak, we hesitate to take up the challenge.
Jael’s part in the defeat of the Canaanites also serves as a reminder that it was God’s victory – “So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan” and in Chapter 5 verse 20 it says “the stars fought from heaven, from their courses they fought against Sisera”. In the same way, Micah Challenge is more than a human “battle” against poverty – it is a spiritual battle for Godly values of justice and it will be God’s victory.
The complete story of Deborah and Barak is not revealed until the song in Chapter 5. Praise and worship for God are a key part of the victory – “I to the Lord, I will sing, I will sing praise to the Lord, the God of Israel” (v 3) and “Awake, awake, sing a song!” (v 12).
What has worship to do with advocacy? Worship gives God his rightful place and reminds us of his faithfulness. It cements the link between faith and justice and reminds us of God’s ultimate power.
In the end, we do all we can in faith and trust that God will multiply our actions, as He did with Deborah and Barak – “let those who love him be like the rising of the sun in its might” (v 31). What a fantastic image for Micah Challenge and one that is very understandable to those of us who know about the heat of the sun.
Let us pray that we can be mighty because we have God’s mighty power at our disposal.