Revive Our Hearts Podcast

God Chooses His Instruments

Leslie Basham: Do you sometimes feel like a nobody, like God could never possibly use you to do great things? Well, here’s some hope from Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Anything that is human is frail and flawed and fragile and weak, but God, who could just come do the job Himself, for some reason chooses to use human instruments, and then not always the people you would expect.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It's Wednesday, October 5.

There’s something satisfying about having the right tool on hand to do a job. It doesn’t have to be flashy. It doesn’t have to impress anybody. It just has to work the way you want it to work.

Are you ready to be used by God as a tool perfectly suited for His plan? Nancy’s going to talk about that in a series called, When Men Don’t Lead: A Look at the Life of Deborah.

Nancy: One of the things I love about the ways of God and about the account that we’ve been studying in Judges four and five, the life of Deborah, is that God so often chooses and uses instruments to accomplish His purposes that you would least expect.

God doesn’t usually choose to accomplish His purposes the ones that you think would be supremely qualified for the job. He chooses people who think that they are utterly unqualified for the job and in many cases are. As a result, God gets the glory for the outcome.

We see this in the life of Deborah and in the nation of Israel at this time of the judges.  God uses human instruments to fulfill His purposes. Anything that is human is frail and flawed and fragile and weak, but God, who could just come do the job Himself, for some reason chooses to use human instruments, and then not always the people you would expect.

In this case God first of all used foot soldiers against the Canaanite army. Now you say, “What’s the big deal about that?” Well, keep in mind the opposition, the enemy, the Canaanites had 900 chariots of iron, and yet God said, “I don’t need chariots to overcome chariots. I just need willing, available men whose hearts have been touched, who were willing to volunteer for the task.” And God used these foot soldiers.

Then in God’s battle plan, in this case, He used two women: Deborah, that we’re looking at now, and Jael, who will appear later in the story. In that day and age for women to be an integral part of the program, of the battle or the victory, was highly unusual. It was an unthinkable thing that a woman would be part of winning the victory.

I think of that passage in First Corinthians chapter 1 that says,

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that [here’s the reason] so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (vv. 26-29).

I’ll tell you, whenever God does something through Revive Our Hearts, when somebody’s life is impacted, transformed, changed, God puts a marriage back together, God changes a heart, no one stands more in awe than I do because I live with a constant sense of my own weakness and inadequacy and insufficiency for this task.

I’m just constantly having to lean on the Lord and depend on the Lord, and I say, “Lord, if anything happens through this ministry, I know that it’s not because I was more spiritual than someone else. It’s not because I was more gifted than someone else. It’s because You chose something that is weak and foolish and despised and lowly.” I can’t take credit for it. God get’s the glory.

When God uses you, as a wife, as a mom, in your work place, in your church, in your family—when God uses you to be an instrument of touching and sharing and changing lives, and spiritual battles are fought and won—you know as well as I do that you didn’t do it, that God is the one who did it.

Now as we’re moving through this story of Deborah in Judges chapter 4, remember that the Canaanites have been oppressing the Israelites for 20 years. The Israelites finally cry out to God, and God raises up a deliverer—Deborah, a prophetess. Now she didn’t appoint herself as a prophetess. God put her in that position. God put His Word in her heart and gave her the responsibility to speak His Word in the appropriate time, the appropriate setting.

Now Deborah is held up in some Christian circles today as a model of a woman taking a position of spiritual leadership. This passage is not often taught by more conservative evangelicals who believe that men should have positions of spiritual leadership because there’s a tension here.

If men are supposed to have spiritual leadership, why is Deborah praised for her role here in Judges? Is she really a model to promote women taking positions of spiritual leadership, or is she just an exception to God’s rule? Is she a contradiction of the ways of God, or is there something about her life and example that absolutely illustrates that God’s plan is for men to provide spiritual leadership for His people?

Now I’ll just tell you right from the outset, that’s what I believe—that Deborah is an illustration of a godly and feminine woman being involved in the battle in distinctively feminine ways that lift up and enhance male, spiritual leadership.

I want to take a couple of sessions here to just expand that whole concept because in our era, in evangelical Christianity today, there is a whole movement that is pushing and promoting women as spiritual leaderships, in positions of spiritual leadership within the church and within the home. I think we need to take back that ground and begin to think more clearly and more biblically.

Now we shouldn’t get our theology from any single story in the Bible—Deborah or any other story. But you take the theology of Scripture, Deborah becomes, I think, a wonderful illustration of what it means to have a distinctively feminine role in God’s plan.

Now we have to start by pointing out that men and women, according to the Scripture, are equal before God—that men are not superior to women, and women are not superior to men—that they are equally loved by God, equally eligible for salvation.

We both, men and women, come to salvation by grace, through faith, through Jesus Christ alone. And both men and women are called to serve God. God uses men, and God uses women. And the fact that you’re a woman—you can’t say, “Well, men are supposed to do ministry, and I’m just supposed to be a woman.” That’s not a biblical concept. Women are to learn the Scripture. Women are to be well-versed in the ways of God, and women are to be actively involved in serving God.

However, as the Scripture unfolds and the progression of revelation takes place through the Old Testament and then into the New, we discover—and I’ll just tell you, I think this is clear if you don’t approach the Scripture with a prejudice—we discover that God’s plan is that men should provide the spiritual leadership for the people of God, that it is not God’s plan that women should lead and rule over men spiritually.

The fact that Deborah held—at this moment in the nation of Israel’s history—that she held the primary position of spiritual influence and leadership in the nation was a sign of the spiritual deterioration of the nation. It was a sign of the spiritually needy condition of the people of God that there was no man who rose up to lead. In the absence of a man, God raised up a woman, and I think to humble the whole nation because for a woman to provide this kind of leadership would have been humiliating to this male-dominated society.

But the fact that God did this in this instance does not contradict God’s normal pattern, which is that men are to be the primary leaders, protectors, and providers for the people of God. All the way through the Scripture you see that the heads of tribes were men. The heads of the tribes of Israel were men. All the other judges were men. The kings of Israel were men. The prophets were men. The apostles that God selected were men. In the New Testament we find that pastors and elders who provide spiritual authority over the church are to be men.

God has designed and orchestrated a structure that in the home, the man provides spiritual leadership, protection, and provision for his wife and for his children. So you see the thread, the theme, the tenor of Scripture is that the men provide. I like to say it this way: The men are to lead and feed. The men are to provide the spiritual leadership and nurture for the women and children in God’s plan.

But we find times in the culture and times in the church when the primary leadership seems to come from women. Could I suggest that that is a sign of a spiritually weak culture? It’s not saying those women are not necessarily spiritual women, but we read in Isaiah chapter 3, where God is describing the decadent, fallen condition of the nation of Israel, one of the descriptions given there is that, “Infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them” (v. 12).

“Infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them.” Now that is not a slam on children or on women. That’s saying it’s a sad state of affairs when the young people and the women get put in a position where they are the ones having to provide the leadership.

And what do we see in our culture, in the pop Christian culture, in the evangelical world today? It’s the young singers and entertainers that are the most popular ones. We’re getting more theology, more leadership from some of these young celebrities than we are from our seasoned pastors.

We find that some of the most effective Bible teachers and spiritual leaders in the country are women. Now that’s not a slam on those women. The question is, “Where are the men?” It’s not a sign of a spiritually healthy, evangelical culture if we don’t have strong, male leadership. It’s not to say the women don’t have a role, and biblically we do. But it’s to say that it should be of concern to men and to women if men are not providing the spiritual leadership and provision and protection for the flock of God.

Now I have always been very careful on Revive Our Hearts and in all of my ministry. I have a huge thing that we as women should not in any way bash men. I hope I’m not coming across that way at all. I think it’s wrong for men to bash women and for women to bash men.

Unfortunately, today it’s politically correct for women to speak disparagingly of men, and I am not going to fall into that trap. I believe God calls us to honor one another, to prefer one another, to speak well of one another. So in saying that there’s a vacuum of male leadership, I’m saying there are a lot of reasons for that. I also want to say that there are some men leaders, but that in many cases, the culture has made it a whole lot more difficult for men to exercise those leadership qualities.

So we see that in this setting in the Old Testament where there is a vacuum of leadership—period—from men or anyone else, God provides for us a model in Deborah of a woman who fulfilled her feminine nature and calling and was used by God as she fulfilled her feminine nature and calling. She was used by God to promote male leadership in the nation.

She didn’t do it by bashing men. She didn’t do it by writing books on why men ought to be more masculine and why men ought to be better leaders. She didn’t do it by writing articles on why women are just as qualified as men to lead battles. She did it in ways that were distinctively feminine and godly. That’s what I’ve come to love about this woman.

So I want us, over the next couple of sessions, to look at some evidences of Deborah’s femininity. How did she fulfill this role as a prophetess, as a judge, as a major influence on the men of her day, and on the battle strategy? How did she exercise that role in a way that did not violate her position as a woman, in a way that was distinctively feminine?

The first thing that is apparent to me in this chapter is that there is no evidence that Deborah set herself up for this position. There’s no evidence—and I’ve been meditating on this chapter, reading it again and again and again over the last few weeks, this chapter and the next, Judges four and five—and there’s not even a hint that Deborah set herself into this position, that she proclaimed herself a prophetess or a judge. It just says Deborah was a prophetess.

Now for someone to be a prophet or a prophetess indicated a calling of God on their life. Men in the Old Testament who were prophets—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel—these men did not proclaim themselves to be prophets. God called them. God set them apart. God gave them a message. God gave them a mission.

I believe Deborah was no different. She didn’t say, “I’m going to be a prophetess. I’m going to be a judge.” She was minding her own business, doing what she was supposed to be doing, listening to God, getting to know His Word.

God filled her with wisdom, and God said, “I have a purpose for you in this time. It involves calling Barak down from the north and giving him this message from Me.” And Deborah was just responding to God’s initiative. She wasn’t taking the initiative herself.

Now I don’t want to argue from silence, but I think that’s the tenor and the tone of this passage, as it is with other prophets. I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that Deborah was different on this count.

The people came to her, Judges says, because they knew that she had wisdom that came from God. She was a woman that was speaking something that made sense and that God was using to quicken their hearts in a time of national disaster. There’s no evidence that she put herself in this position.

I have to tell you honestly, I struggle with the extent today to which women in the Christian world, on occasion, are taking it upon themselves to become God’s spokesmen. Now I can’t know anyone else’s heart, so I don’t even have anyone else in mind when I’m saying that.

I think there’s a movement in the church today among women to say—and it’s true in many of our seminaries (this is where a lot of this discussion and debate takes place) and many women in positions of influence in the evangelical world today. There is this mindset that says, “Women are as good as men. Women are as spiritual as men. Women are as capable as men. There is no reason that women shouldn’t have as much right to lead, to rule, to pastor, to shepherd, to be the head of the home, as a man. We have a right to this.”

The whole tone of God’s Word is: Ministry is not a right. Ministry is a calling. God determines who He calls and to do what. The priesthood in the Old Testament was not a right. God called priests. God said, “You’re going to be a priestly family. This is who I ordain. This is who I pick.”

God has the right to say who does what in His economy. Whether we’re men or women, we need to accept with meekness and with humility and with a submissive heart God’s plan, whatever that is. A man doesn’t have a right to be a pastor. A woman doesn’t have a right to be a pastor. There is no right to pastor. Our only right is to obey God.

God says, “I’ll set apart elders. I’ll set apart pastors. I’ll set apart heads of homes. And I will determine who they will be.” In God’s wisdom and in God’s plan, He has ordained that that primary responsibility for leading and shepherding the flock of God is in the hands of men. That’s the way God has planned it, and that’s when things function best, when we do it according to God’s plan. So for us as women to insist I have a right to this—I have a right to that position—already we’re talking the wrong language.

Now I see in Deborah another evidence of her feminine approach to fulfilling her calling, and that has to do with her heart and her perception of her own role.

When you come to chapter 5 of Judges, verse 6-7, you read,

In the days of Shamgar, the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned, and travelers kept to the byways. The villagers ceased in Israel; they ceased to be until I arose; [now this is Deborah speaking] until I arose; I, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel.

How did Deborah see herself? Isn’t it interesting that she didn’t define herself as a ruler, as a judge, as a prophetess, as a leader? Now God used her temporarily, in some measure, in some of those roles, but that’s not how she saw herself.

What was her heart for what she did? She just said, “I’m a mother. I’m a mother.” What do mothers do? They nurture. They care. They have a nurturing instinct, a protective instinct, and she says, “I arose.” That word arose means “to rise up, to establish, and to strengthen.”

She didn’t step in and say, “I’m taking over. I’m taking charge.” She said, “I had a mother’s heart.” Now we don’t know if she had literal, physical children. We do know she had a mother’s heart, and we know that God has called every one of us as women to have a mother’s heart.

The fact that she had a mother’s heart is what gave her courage. It’s what gave her compassion because of the spiritual condition that the nation was in. That’s what motivated her.

You see, she wasn’t motivated or driven by the things that drive many modern women—things like power, control, prestige, position, the top of some corporate ladder. That’s not what mattered to Deborah. I don’t even think that was on her mind.

What mattered to her was that she had a mother’s heart. That’s how she perceived herself, and that’s a distinctly feminine sense.

I think we see in this passage that we should not underestimate the power and the influence of a woman who sees herself as a mother, a woman who has a shepherding heart, a mother’s heart, whose instincts are compassionate, who cares about what’s happening around her. When we have that kind of heart as women, we are in a position where God can stir in us, and God can speak through us, and God can use us in ways that are even greater than if we took the reigns ourselves and said, “I’m taking over. I’m taking charge.”

It’s the power of influence more than the power of control. I know that among our listeners are many women who have this kind of mother’s heart—mothers in Israel. You care about what’s happening to our children. You care about what’s happening to our men and our families and our government.

That’s why some of the greatest intercessors on the national scene today are women. It’s always been true. Now that doesn’t mean men shouldn’t pray. Men should pray. But there’s something about a mother’s heart that cries out to the Lord and says, “Lord, we need you! Help us! Direct us. Show us what to do.”

Then as you have that mother’s heart, God may put in your heart a distinctive message for our time. God may give you the opportunity to be influential with that message, but not because you tried or sought to influence or to be a leader, but just because you were being faithful and obedient to the message that God put on your heart. When we as women serve in those distinctively feminine ways, we end up wielding even greater influence than we possibly could have imagined or attained if we had tried to get that for ourselves.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been exhorting every woman to embrace God’s role and calling for her life. She’ll be right back to pray. Over the next few days you’ll continue to find out what it means to serve in distinctly feminine ways.

Nancy’s teaching through a series called, When Men Don’t Lead:A Look at the Life of Deborah. I hope you’ll order the complete series on CD. This teaching would be great to listen to while you’re serving in various ways throughout the day. You'll find the series on CD at ReviveOurHearts.com.

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When you support this ministry with a gift of any size, we'll send you the 2012 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar. I think you'll appreciate the care our designers took in designing this year's calendar. The quotes from Nancy and Scripture will encourage you as you flip the pages month by month.

Just ask for your calendar when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. The number is 1-800-569-5959. You can also take us up on this offer by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com.

Now maybe you’re fully ready to follow the leadership of your husband, but he doesn’t want to lead. What do you do? Nancy will address that tomorrow. Now let’s pray.

Nancy: Lord, I pray that You would give us understanding and wisdom in Your ways. I pray that You’d raise up today women with a mother’s heart, women who see themselves as women, who delight to be women, and women whose hearts care and nurture, and women that You use to establish and to strengthen and to lift up the men in the culture around us.

Lord, it’s not always easy to know how to do that, but I pray that You would direct us as we submit ourselves and come under Your authority. We know how we are to serve and how we are to influence, in ways that will bring glory to You and in ways that are distinctively feminine. Thank You for making us women, and thank You for Your calling in our lives. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

 

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