If you were to skim Deborah’s song in Judges 5—thinking that you already knew all the details of the story from the previous chapter—you’d miss four piercing truths about the way God does his work in the world:
1. When the leaders lead, the people praise the Lord. (5:1, 9, 14–18)
Deborah begins her song, “When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves—praise the Lord!” In other words, blessed are the ones who step forward in faith and fight. She even singles out specific tribes for their participation (or lack thereof). Ephraim (v. 14) gets a shout-out, as do Issachar (v. 15) and Zebulun (v. 18). They were faithful and risked their lives. Gilead, on the other hand, stayed back. And Dan “lingered with the ships” (v. 17).
I’m a firm believer that leadership shouldn’t be limited just to men (See here for more). But I do sense a special burden to call the men in our churches to step up and lead. We have far too many men “lingering by the ships” when they ought to be out in the fight.
One major element of humanity’s original sin in Genesis 3 is passivity on the part of the man—a failure to get involved. God had given Adam the responsibility to lead his wife spiritually, to serve her, and to protect her. Yet when the serpent came to offer Eve a taste of death, Adam stood right there and watched. Instead of protecting her, he waited to see what would happen.
Passivity doomed Adam, and it dooms many men still today. The greatest temptation for most men is not to do evil, but to do nothing. It’s not that our churches are filled with particularly bad guys. It’s that the ones we’ve got are just hanging back by the ships. The International Mission Board, for instance, reports that for the most difficult posts in the world, female applicants outnumber male applicants 4 to 1. Praise God for those women! But where are the men?
Men, God has given you a crucial role to play in the kingdom of God. He’s given you an indispensible role in your family. If your family, if the church, if this world is going to praise the Lord, it will only be a result of the princes taking the lead. There are plenty of guys in the world; we need more men.