Deborah’s Enduring Example of Service

Have you ever opened the Old Testament and had these thoughts: How am I supposed to relate to these stories? Borrrring. Times were so different back then, so how can I learn from the women in Scripture? What does all of this have to do with Jesus?

If you have had any of those questions, I’m excited to introduce Deborah to you today and show you how God used her as an instrument to lead an entire nation. Her life was marked by devoted service to God and His people, and her story is anything but boring.

Who was Deborah in the Bible?

Deborah was a wife, prophetess, and judge. As a prophetess, she received divine revelations from the Lord and was a charismatic leader. As a judge, her responsibilities were similar to a judge you’d meet today—a leader who’d arbitrate legal disputes. She fulfilled military duties as part of her leadership role as well (Judges 4:4–5).

Deborah was also the only female in the Bible who was a prophet and judge, joining the ranks of Moses and Samuel. Talk about being in a faith-filled lineup of people, right?

Throughout Deborah’s leadership, the nation of Israel continued to yo-yo on their commitment to the Lord, and their actions reflected their cyclical struggles with sin. Day after day, Deborah sat under the Palm of Deborah, her favorite palm tree, and judged the actions of the Israelites. Her position as a judge shows us God trusted her to lead with integrity, and she did.

Deborah would sit under the Palm of Deborah

As a woman of faith who did not waver on her devotion and service to God and the Israelites, the role of judge was one she fulfilled with courage and grace. Although we only read about Deborah in Judges 4 and 5, we can see the great impact her servant leadership had on the nation of Israel and continues to bear fruit for women of faith today.

Bottom line: Deborah was a boss. If there’s any leading lady from the Old Testament we can admire and learn from, it’s her.

Deborah’s Dedication to Service

Deborah’s life was marked by servant leadership. Although Scripture doesn’t tell us whether or not she was a biological mother, she was a spiritual mother to Israel, serving God by guiding the people He entrusted to her (Judges 5:7).

Deborah modeled her dedication to service in Judges 4:6–7 when God gave her a specific message to communicate with her counterpart, Barak.

“She sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali and said to him, “Has not the LORD, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulun. And I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops, and I will give him into your hand’?”

Barak reluctantly responded, “I will go, but only if you go with me” (Judges 4:8 CSB).

Deborah agreed to his request. I don’t know about you, but here are some thoughts I would have had at that moment if I were Deborah:

Barak, can’t you just do what God is telling you to do? I’m giving you a specific message from the Lord, and now you want me to hold your hand? Come on, dude!

This is exactly why I wasn’t chosen as a judge.

Deborah, on the other hand, answered with a heart of service and humility and agreed to battle alongside her people. Because of her unwavering faith and grit, Deborah led Israel out of bondage and into a forty-year period of rest.

5 Characteristics of a Servant Leader

What can we learn from Deborah’s leadership and dedication to serving others? I believe five key characteristics stand out.

  1. Obedience

Intimacy with God is experienced through obedience to God. Your personal relationship with the Lord directly relates to how well you serve His people. Deborah had an intimate relationship with God, and it propelled her to live her life in a way that honored Him and His people. In return, God drew near and blessed her.

  • Humility

Servant leadership means valuing others above yourself. I can’t imagine Deborah really wanted to go into battle in Judges 4, but because she valued God, Barak and her relationship with him, and the future of Israel, she chose the path of humility. Jesus chose the ultimate path of humility when He died on the cross for our sins, sins He didn’t commit. May we honor Him in our actions and attitudes as we lead with humble hearts (Philippians 2:3–5).

  • Courage

Deborah was not a warrior, but she went into battle knowing God would fight on her behalf. Deuteronomy 31:8 (CSB) says, “The Lord is the one who will go before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or abandon you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.”This Old Testament truth is one that still stands firm for us today. As we enter into our own battles each day, we can draw courage from God’s power and presence, just like Deborah did.

  • Integrity

I once heard a mentor say, “It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing.” Sometimes we struggle to know what the “right thing” is, but God knows. If you’re wrestling with knowing whether a choice is right or wrong, don’t forget that you have access to the Creator of the universe who is holy and perfect. This is the same Creator who equipped Deborah to discern decisions with integrity thousands of years ago. We can rely on Him to help us know what is morally upright, righteous, and permissible in His eyes.

  • Praise

Judges 5 is called The Song of Deborah and is an entire chapter of Deborah singing praise to God after Israel’s victory over King Jabin. Deborah’s actions show us that servant leaders know when to stop everything and everyone to say, “God, look what you did! Thank you!”

Friend, don’t forget to praise God for what He’s done in your life today. Even when work, family, and circumstances seem to zap your energy quicker than an old cell phone battery, there’s always room for a quick but heartfelt, “Thank you.”

If we are willing to submit ourselves to the Lord, we can take these five positive attributes of Deborah and allow them to bear fruit in our lives today. If, like Deborah, we could give selflessly of ourselves, think of all God could accomplish through us for His glory. What inspires you the most about Deborah’s story and service and how can it impact your life today?

photo of Mandy Johnson

Mandy Johnson is a writer and speaker who loves encouraging women in their faith. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, Kyle, and their two children, Luke and Caroline. Mandy’s devotions have been published by Proverbs 31 Ministries, the Truly Co. magazine, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and more. When Mandy isn’t writing, you can find her spending time with her family, leading a fitness class at Fit Factory Nashville, or cheering on the Clemson Tigers! You can read more from Mandy at or follow her on Instagram at @mandycjohnson.

Scripture quotations marked CSB are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.