The Leadership of Women
050-00738 Judges 4:1-24 (Judges 5)
I. Sound reasoning and logic almost never win a debate.
A. I have heard some of the most seemingly intelligent people in debates made to sound absolutely foolish.
1. Yet there will always be people who listening to the debate take his or her side.
2. Anyone who has watched presidential campaigning debates knows two things:
a) First, they are not debates at all. They are simply question and answer sessions and demand no actual reasoning behind opinions.
b) Second, it doesn’t matter who says what. Though there are some people who say they use the debates to make up their minds, the truth is that most of us already have our minds made up and even if our candidate bumbles along we are going to still vote for her or him.
3. Even in real debates, most people come with their minds made up and listen through the filter of what they already believe.
B. Logical reasoning is important. Logical reasoning is a good discipline by which we can test and try our thoughts.
1. But logical reasoning rarely wins the day.
2. If it did, there would not be such an uproar between those who baptize infants and those who only baptize professing believers.
3. There would not be such dogmatism when discussing six twenty-four hour day creation and some form of evolution.
4. There would not be a discussion at all about women in office.
C. I say this because there is but one truth. And flawless logic should be able to lead us to the one truth.
1. But there is one big problem with this: though the truth be infallible, there is no such thing as an infallible human being. Other than Jesus, that is.
2. When it comes to understanding the truth, we can all come to conclusions that are sustainable.
3. But that doesn’t mean our conclusions are correct.
II. This morning we come to one of those theological topics that is debated with fervor. That is the issue of women in office.
A. I think that the women in office issue is such a hot topic because it has a lot to do with deeply ingrained teachings that reach to the core of our very understanding of Christianity.
1. There are many visceral reactions when our theology is challenged.
2. If I was wrong about this teaching, what else am I wrong about? Justification? Resurrection? The historicity of Jesus?
a) There are plenty of people who present challenges in all of these areas and more.
b) How can I be assured that the orthodox teachings passed down through the centuries are really true if one of them is questionably wrong?
3. If this teaching is right, what about the traditional teachings on homosexuality or sex only in marriage?
B. All of these issues are debatable on an intellectual level – but they are all quite emotional too.
1. I know there are some here today who will agree with the interpretation I am about to present.
2. I know that there are some who will absolutely disagree too.
3. And there are some who maybe haven’t ever given it much thought because the issue just hasn’t come up in their experience.
4. What I am about to say regarding the Leadership of Women I am personally committed to. But I know the controversy and I do not preach this morning as one who knows all the answers. I come to you today with a deep burden that some of you may feel negatively about women in office. I also know some of you have felt negatively about the issue for some time because you have patiently waited for the freedom of women to serve in offices.
5. Therefore, I present the following information with the hope and belief that the Holy Spirit will lead Bethel Church in the direction God wills. I realize that such a decision will affect everyone here, and I will continue to pray for God’s direction, not mine and for unity in the face of diversity.
III. What we know about Deborah and her story.
A. Deborah was a prophetess in Israel.
1. There is no indication in the language of the text that this was an unusual situation.
2. Her gift was recognized and accepted.
3. Notice that Balak came and listened to her message and accepted it. His problem was that he so closely related Deborah to God that he believed that his best chance at victory was to have God’s spokesperson there with him.
4. We need to also remember that a prophet was one of the three offices in Israel. And in the time of Deborah, the third office had not yet been instituted. There was no king so the prophets and priests ruled the people as God’s representatives on earth.
5. That is what an office is, God’s selection of humans who for a time serve to represent him as leading his people.
6. Furthermore, Deborah not only served as a prophetess, she was so well accepted as the voice of God that she was a judge too.
B. When Balak responds to God’s message through Deborah, it was not because she was a woman but because he had weak faith.
1. He wanted some sort of assurance of victory beyond words.
2. The result was that God chose to take the victory away from Balak, even though he eventually did lead the army against Sisera.
3. Instead he chose to grant the victory to a woman.
4. Again, the text does not imply that victory by a woman was shameful becaus she was a woman. The understanding comes from the story itself.
a) The woman referred to in the prophecy was not Deborah.
b) It turns out that the woman of victory was Jael.
c) She was the one who killed Sisera.
d) The shame came from the fact that Jael was the wife of a renegade who had left his people and these people were descendents of Moses’ brother-in law.
e) In other words, the woman was not even a Hebrew. Yet the Hebrew victory would be at her hand.
C. In the end, Deborah is merely one of many women God used in various kinds of leadership of his people.
1. Jael is just one of many women God gave honor to because she acted in the interests of his people.
2. And judges four and five are presented as exceptional not because they are women but because once again God’s people had turned from him and once again he rescued them from their own sin.
3. The fact that he used women to do this is not presented as unusual at all.
D. So why the dispute about women in leadership roles? Why the effort to make Deborah appear unusual, unique, and an exception to the rule?
1. I think there are many reasons.
2. But I would like to address just one this morning.
3. And I believe this one is foundational.
IV. What does the Bible have to say about men and women at the very beginning? (focus on words: adam, adamah, helper, ishah, ish)
A. Genesis 2:7 the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
1. Genesis 2:15-20 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.
2. Genesis 2:22-23 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”
B. Genesis 3:16-19 To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire (craving) will be for your husband, and he will rule (have dominion – note that when Adam was placed in the garden to care for it, he is not said to have dominion but to serve) over you.” To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife (ishah) and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground (adamah) because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground (adamah), since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
C. The order of things:
1. God creates a human from the ground (feminine).
2. God demonstrates the human’s inadequacy in relationship with all the animals (they are male and female).
3. God makes a female human from the side of the male human.
4. The two were created to work together in cooperation in all the functions of serving the garden.
5. The two sin.
6. One of the aspects of the curse on sin is that the woman shall crave after the man and the man shall have dominion over the woman.
7. I believe that the dominance of men over women is not a part of the created order of things.
8. The ruling male is a result of the curse on sin; it is the disruption of the created order.
D. Now Christ came to redeem creation and to restore the divine purpose and order.
1. He died to defeat sin and the effects of sin.
2. He was raised and taken to heaven to restore the rule of God.
3. That is why we are taught to pray “Thy will be done on earth.”
4. And that is why Paul could write regarding the promise of God, Galatians 3:26-29 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
E. This does not answer all the questions about women in office.
1. I have only laid out what I believe the Scriptures teach us about the Kingdom and life within it.
2. But I also want to remember that simply making the argument I have made this morning will probably have little to do with changing people’s minds.
3. Those of you who favor the freedom of women serving in offices might well agree with me.
4. Those who favor the position that God had defined different roles for women and men will probably disagree.
5. Recognize that these positions are not merely intellectual choices. They are deep matters of the heart.
V. And so I want to close sharing with you how God moved my heart from one position to another.
A. Tell story of Pine Rest – Mary the chaplain and minister in the Reformed Church. My initial fears. God’s resulting change.
B. In the end, the church is not going to hell over the issue of women in office.
1. The gates of hell shall never prevail against the church.
2. But we are in grave danger when we let ourselves be carried away with a focus on women or men losing our focus on Christ.