Celebrating Godly Women (Full Service)

March 12, 2023

It’s been a great time so far this morning. It’s been good to be together. I’m Marcus Overstreet. This is my wife, Amy Overstreet. We welcome you. We’re thankful for everyone that’s watching online as well. Of course, as it’s been said in our country, March is Women’s History Month. Then last Wednesday, the world recognized International Women’s Day. Here today, we have the privilege to celebrate godly women and women’s ministry. I personally am very grateful for the godly women who have shared their lives with us today. Very thankful for what the Valentine’s shared as a family and the Uwans and just how they reached out to them and what Simone shared and Jen and grateful for the Eilish sisters. I know so many more could share today and I hope that inspired you. God has truly blessed us with the best of women here in the Orlando Church of Christ. Very thankful. And speaking of the best of women, today my wife, Amy, will join me as I teach our lesson entitled a divine partnership.

That’s what we’re going to talk about today, a divine partnership. Please turn your Bibles to Judges 4. Judges 4. Amy and I celebrate 20 years of marriage this summer, and I must say it’s been a divine partnership, has it not? Of course. It has been a divine partnership. Here’s the primary reason. Amy is my God given number one partner in the gospel. We’re in this together. Here’s the reality. I have divine partnerships with many people, men and women. As a man and a God, where would I be without my divine partnership? Specifically, where would I be without the numerous godly women in my life? I thank God for the divine partnerships in the Gospel that I’ve had with women over the years, from campus ministry age all the way up to now. There’s so many names I could come up with. I think about K. Hoit or Lurian Conkling, Barbara Porte, or Pat Rush, Mary Hatterway, Cassandra Fernandez, Sharon Bacan, and some of those. Most of those all are just in one city in Broward, and there’s so many more. So many new divine partnerships in Orlando with my sisters in Christ here. And of course, I have my mom and my sister who are both long time Christians.

I’m so blessed to have divine partnerships with them as well. I look forward to divine partnerships in the gospel with my two daughters. Good things are ahead and I’m so thankful for the godly women in my life.

I also am thankful for my godly partnerships with men, of course, starting first and foremost with my husband, and I’m very grateful to serve alongside him, but starting also with my dad’s faith and that faith that he passed along to me. I’m thankful that I’ve gotten to be a part of the singing Ministry for many years and partner with brothers and be friends with them as we lead the songs. I’m thankful for just the opportunity to bring a lot of my ideas forward in the ministry and have other men, especially my own husband, but other men execute them sometimes. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for the men who have consciously elevated my voice over the years like Jeff Chisholm, Ron Conkling, Tony Fernandez. I’m grateful for my partnerships with so many of the women, especially here in this church, so many of you who I get to partner with to study the Bible with other women, for those of you who work quietly, sometimes behind the scenes, practicing hospitality, praying fervently, and being aware of the needs of the members of the Church. You are so often the ones who are mentoring and leading our children.

And I’m so grateful for that. And I want to acknowledge, too, many of you do it with a godly man beside you, but many of you also do it without a godly man beside you. And I’m thankful for that. And I’m excited about the narrative we get to share today because I think it gives us a glimpse into these kinds of life saving partnerships.

Amen. Married or single, I want you to hear this. No matter what life stage you’re at at this moment, divine partnerships in Jesus Christ are an absolutely vital part of God’s plan for your life. If you’re a man, of course, you need godly men in your life. But I tell you what, men, you’re missing out if you don’t also have a pure platonic friendship or many friendships with your sisters in Christ. We need you. And here’s why. When hope seems lost, God partners with both men and women to rescue people. I’ll say it again, when hope seems lost, God partners with both men and women to rescue his people. That’s God’s design for hope that we find in our narrative today in Judges 1. Let’s go ahead and read that at this time. Judges 4, verse 1. And the people of Israel, again, did what was evil in the sight of the Lord after Ehu died. And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin, King of Canan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Cisera, who lived in Hiroshish HaGoyin. Verse 3, Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help, for he, Cisera, had 900 chariots of iron, and he oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for 20 years.

Now, Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Labadoth, was judging Israel at the time. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim. And the people of Israel came up to her for judgment. So verses 1 through 3, this is a very dark time for God’s people. From the days of Joshua, God commanded his people to actually wage a physical war against the horrific evil of the Cananites. God told Israel to conquer this promised land and to wipe them out. Now, I struggle with the violence of all of that as I read that and as I reflect on that. It’s very, very violent to go and wipe out these people. But we must consider the centuries of evil in Canaan. They had ongoing incest and abuse of women. This was normal. Beastiality, temple prostitution, systemic injustice, and worst of all, rampant child sacrifice. Sacrificing the innocent was the norm. God wanted to do something about this, and he was going to use his people as an agent for this. They were to go in and conquer the promised land. But here’s the problem we often see with God’s people.

Instead of fighting evil, we’re seduced by it, and we start getting drawn into it and becoming comfortable with it, and we start to adopt the wicked ways of our culture. And so that’s what’s happening here in Judges 4. So God says, You know what? Have it your way. And he gives the Israelites over to their sinful desires. It’s a sad time. It’s a difficult time. You’ll see here in the map, trapped and hopeless. That’s the Israelis right now, the Israelites right now. King Jabin, his general Sisera, they oppress the Israelites for 20 years, and they’re squeezing them. They’re squeezing them from the Northeast and from the Southwest, and there’s no room for them to go. There’s no escape. The general Sisera, he controls the valleys, he controls the planes. And not only that, he has the very best military technology, 900 iron chariots. So there’s nowhere to run and there’s nowhere to hide. But remember, when hope seems lost, God partners with men and women to rescue his people. So verses 4 and 5, enter Deborah. She’s down in the hill country. You’ll see that on the map there. She’s in the hill country of Ephraim.

And that’s where she was holding court. The name Deborah means honey bee. So if you follow Old Testament times, many names actually represented something about that person. Deborah means honey bee. Deborah is a married woman. She’s also a mother. Judges 5 or 7 tells us she’s known as the mother of Israel. Deborah is a prophet. She is a prophet of Yahweh. Now, keep in mind, a prophet is not typically a fortune teller or a predictor of the future. They do some of that. But more of what the Prophet’s role would be as a Prophet serves as the spokesperson from God to the people. So this is a big deal. As a Prophet of God, Deborah would proclaim the word of God to the people. And we’ll see this later on in chapter 4 and verse 6, when she tells Barak, the Lord, the God of Israel commands you. So typically, God would call men to be prophets, but not all the time. Sometimes it’s a woman. And Deborah is a part of that select group of women called to be prophets in both testaments. And I got some of the examples up here. Miriam, the sister of Moses, Exodus 15 20.

She was a prophet in Israel when they left slavery in Egypt. Hulda, who you may not have heard of, she’s not particularly famous, but doesn’t mean she didn’t have a huge impact. Hulda, as a prophet, and you can read about this in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, she played a key role in the reforms of King Josiah. We also have Isaiah’s wife. Unfortunately, we don’t know her name. She’s just Isaiah’s wife. But Isaiah is one of the most famous prophets. He had a lot to say, many pages in your Bible. Isaiah’s wife was a prophet. So they had a prophetic ministry as a couple. They were a ministry couple. They worked together. Can you imagine that? Both of them received the Word of God and giving it to the people, man and woman together. Then we get into more of the New Testament times as Jesus comes on the scene in Luke 2, you have the Prophet Anna. She lived at the temple, it seems, most of her life. She was just there. I don’t know if she had a bed there, but people were like, She’s here all the time. She gave her life to God and she spoke for God.

She was there when Jesus came as a baby. That’s the Prophet Anna. Then we know in Acts 21 that Philip had four daughters. Not just a couple of… He had four daughters who were prophets. Can’t wait to hear more about that one day. Just like the men, I should say on the other side of this, all throughout biblical times, we know there were false prophets. We also have women who were false prophets in the word of God as well. So all of this that I’m sharing with you here, I ask you to keep this in mind. As a church, we’re studying 1 Corinthians. And so please keep this in mind in a few months when we start digging into Paul’s instructions about women speaking in the church. He would have known all this. Paul is a Hebrew scholar. He trained under the best, and he would assume his audience would know this as well. So there’s context and integrity that we must have as we read and learn the Word of God and apply it to our lives. Amen? Amen. All right, so here’s what’s really different. Of course, she’s a prophet, which was not usual, but there were other women prophets.

But here’s what’s really different about Deborah. She’s also the judge of Israel. Let’s double down on this. She’s prophet and she’s judge. Watch out. That means she is the ruler of the nation. Just like Moses before her and Samuel after her, Deborah would hold court to settle disputes for all of Israel. Who has the final word in Israel? Deborah. That means Deborah is perhaps the wisest, most spiritually gifted person in all of Israel. I’m sure she had a very high IQ. Perhaps the highest in Israel. We know she’s definitely spiritual. A spirit led woman. We really have no idea. We don’t know from the narrative how she rose to such a position of authority. Maybe it evolved over time. In my own opinion, perhaps Israel needed some mothering, some wise counsel from a mother before it was ready to fight. And Deborah emerged as their leader. That’s all my speculation. All we know is that God called Deborah to rescue God’s people. So Deborah is a prophet and a judge. Let that sink in. And I would say this, yes, I will acknowledge the period of the Judges. This was a dark time for Israel.

Let’s look at the broader scope of things. There were a lot of dark times in Israel. There have been a lot of dark times for God’s people. Jesus came to this earth at a very dark time where there was a lot of leadership lacking and the prophets hadn’t spoke for 400 years. Some context there. I would caution against writing Deborah off just because, well, the men were doing lousy. There’s a lot to learn here. Amen. Deborah’s rise as the mother of Israel, I’ll tell you what, it brought stability to Israel and it brought spirituality to a very chaotic situation. Along with Samuel, I believe Deborah stands at the top of the list as the best judge Israel ever had.

So I want to share that in this current world that we live in and the way that women are viewed and talked about, I think it’s very important that we acknowledge a few things that we know, but let’s really take them in. Deborah is a woman. She is a woman married to a man, meaning by the laws of Torah, she would have been submissive to her husband in that way. She’s a mother. She’s all woman, but she’s also a leader. She’s also a leader in Israel. She is both. She gives spiritual instruction. She is a voice of wisdom, and she’s respected by both men and women. She didn’t need to leave her man to be liberated in order to do this. She did not need to become a man in order to do this. Amen.

To be crystal clear, there is not a question about her gender, identity, or her sexual orientation simply because there are aspects about her that may appear more traditionally masculine in this situation. Like Deborah, our identity as women is ultimately defined by God. We are made in his image, and we will always, all of us, be more nuanced and interesting than a few boxes that we check on an application such as our age, our income bracket, our marital status, or our ethnicity. Deborah is an awesome spiritual woman.

Amen. Let’s continue reading in verse 6 as God builds a divine partnership to rescue his people. Judges 4, verse 6, Deborah sent and someone, Barak the son of Benoem, for from Kadesh 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. And Barak said to her, If you will go with me, I will go. But if you will not go with me, I will not go. Verse 9, And she said, I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road or expedition on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kadesh. And Barak called out Zebulun and Naphtali to Kadesh. And 10,000 men went up at his heels and Deborah went up with him. All right, verses 6 and 7.

It’s another example of Deborah’s influence and Deborah’s respect in the country. Deborah summons Barak and the general comes immediately. And he’s coming from approximately 30 miles away. He’s there. All right, we need to talk. We need to come up with a plan. Then she commands Barak, Go get your troops together to fight Jabin at Mount Tabor. And then she asked, Has not God told us that he’ll give us this victory? I don’t know. Maybe they’ve had this conversation before and we don’t know everything that happened. But she’s telling him, this is the word of God. We’re going to win. The battle belongs to the Lord. Let’s do this. All right, now we get to verses 8 and 9. I’ve been reading today from the English standard version, but here’s the New International version from 1984. Niv has two versions, one 2011, this one’s 1984. I just want to give you a heads up. This is a clear example of why we need to be students of the Bible. It’s invaluable to read other translations of the Hebrew rather than only the New International version of 1984. I say this is because many of us have grown up on NIV 1984, including me.

The 1984 NIV takes liberties in describing the motives of Barak. You’ll see the difference here. Some of you are like, I don’t even care about this. But I think this is significant as we’re trying to show the character of these men and women Jesus, or that God is calling to rescue his people. In the NIV 1984, Barak says to her, If you go with me, I will go. But if you don’t go with me, I won’t go. Here’s the difference. Very well, Deborah said in verse 9, I will go with you. But because of the way you’re going about this, the honor will not be yours for the Lord will hand Sisera over to a woman. So again, for those of us who grew up with NIV 1984, we may have a certain impression of Barak and what happened here. And then as we keep reading our NIV 1984 and we get to Hebrews 11 and we see that Barak is honored, I’m like, What? Okay, what’s going on here? But if you read this here and the way this is being described and translated, if you’re like me and my bias and how I grew up, it was like, Well, Barak’s a coward.

He’s not a strong man. He’s so weak, he wants a woman to hold his hand to come to battle. Then, of course, Deborah then rebukes Barak and tells him, Because of the way you’re acting, the way you’re going about this, the glory here is not going to belong to you, but it’s going to a woman instead. Again, I love you. If you have the NIV 1984, it probably has a footnote on it for verse 9 that it could be translated on the expedition you are undertaking, the honor will not be yours. The NIV updates in 2011 and changes this statement to match the most reliable translations of the Hebrew, including the ESV, which translate verse 9, on the journey you’re taking. It’s important to note the NIV is the lone ranger in this interpretation. That’s a red flag. Long story short, I’m trying to give Barak some credit here in the story as well. But long story short, it’s much more likely that Deborah is simply stating a prophetic fact in this conversation. Barak, you will lead the troops to this impossible victory, but God has already determined that a woman is going to get the glory.

I believe that what Barak is or what Deborah is telling Barak, it’s prophecy. It’s not a rebuke and it’s not a dig at women in leadership or women getting glory. Are you with me? And so for me, the longer I’ve been married to Amy and the longer God has blessed me to work with incredible partners in the Gospel that are women, the more I can relate to what Barak actually says here. I can relate to his response to Deborah in verse 8. I totally could see myself saying this, just going, Hey, Deborah, the odds are really long here. This is hopeless, but you’re Israel’s prophet. You’re Israel’s judge. If you say so, well, if I’m going to march into the teeth of this invincible army, Deborah, there’s no way I’m going without you. You’re Israel’s judge. You’re Israel’s prophet. Deborah, I need you with me. The troops need you with us. I need your divine partnership. If there’s any chance at all that we’re going to rescue Israel, Deborah, you’re coming with me. Then I will go. Hebrews Chapter 11, there’s a reason Barak makes the hall of fame of faith. It’s not because he’s a coward.

Nine hundred chariots would beat his 10,000 weak men any time. But Barak still fights. When was this ever about all the honor? He’s not honor seeking here. He humbles himself. He partners with Deborah. Again, when hope seems lost, God does his best work. God partners with men and women just like us to rescue his people. All right. So Amy is now going to read the conclusion as Barak now finds a new surprising divine partnership in verse 14.

And Deborah said to Barak, Up, for this is the day in which the Lord has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the Lord go out before you? So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with 10,000 men following him. And the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army before Barak by the edge of the sword. And Sisera got down from his chariot and fled away on foot. And Barak pursued the chariot and the army to Harosheth Hagemin. And all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword. Not a man was left. But Sisera fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. For there was peace between Jabin the King of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. And Jael came out to meet Sisera and said to him, Turn aside, my Lord. Turn aside to me. Do not be afraid. So he turned aside to her into the tent and she covered him with a rug. And he said to her, Please give me a little water to drink for I am thirsty. So she opened a skin of milk and gave him a drink and covered him.

And he said to her, Stand at the opening of the tent and if any man comes and asks you, Is anyone here? Say, No. But Jael, the wife of Heber, took a tent peg and took a hammer in her hand. Then she went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple until it went down into the ground while he was lying fast asleep from weariness. So he died. And behold, as Barak was pursuing Sisera, Jael went out to meet him and said to him, Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking. So he went into her tent and there lay Sisera dead with the tent peg in his temple. So on that day, God subdued Jabin, the King of Canaan before the people of Israel. And the hand of the people of Israel pressed harder and harder against Jabin, the King of Canaan, until they destroyed Jabin, King of Canaan. And later, Chapter 5 Verse 31, says there was rest in Israel for 40 years.

So there you have it. God creates this divine partnership of Deborah and Barak. And together, God uses this dynamic duo to save his people. And we’ll get to Jael in just a moment. But I did want to take a look at Verse 14. Deborah tells Barak, Go, it’s time. Attack. This is the day God has given Sisera into our hands. You can do this. God has got this. Let’s go. I know at that moment, Barak and the troops were thankful she was there. I have to say, as a man, I love this. I think God has built me this way. I can just tell you just how zealous and fired up I get for the Lord when a spiritual woman confidently tells me, You got this. You and God, you got this. I am with you. I believe in you. Am I right, men? It feels good. It feels very good. Single or married. You know what, as men, we can get insecure, but there’s nothing like a good woman pushing you and believing in you. We need it. God made us this way. It’s a divine partnership.

What I admire about Barak, excuse me, and I think that the women in this room would agree is that it’s clear that he’s accomplished. He’s an accomplished military leader. He’s able to Summon 10,000 men to follow him. But at the same time, even with his abilities and his leadership qualities, he recognized the spiritual encouragement and support that Deborah could provide, and he was humble enough to ask for it. It’s clear to me from the biblical record that says he pursued the enemy until no man was left, and that he’s later elevated in Hebrews 11 in the hall of fame of faith, that he is not cowardly but bold. What I want to say is it is always inspiring to see both courage and vulnerability in our brothers.

Amen. I did want to point out verse 15, to God be the glory in this victory. To God be the glory. Let’s be clear, it is God who routes and destroys the mighty army of 900 iron chariots. It is God that brought Deborah and Barak together. It is God’s command and the prophecy that was given to Deborah to pull this off. God won this victory. To God be the glory. I think that’s important for all of us to remember. In every biblical narrative, we have many heroes and sub heroes that are part of the plot, but God is always the ultimate hero. That’s where the power is. And so speaking of heroes, there’s one more twist into this plot of this epic narrative, one final divine partnership. And it comes because, well, Barak got everyone except one guy, as it were. The evil Sisera escapes on foot. The general gets away. The iron chariot just wasn’t working for him anymore. He had to run away on foot. It’s ironic. So he flees for safety to the tent of a woman named Jael. But little does he know that past partnerships and peace treaties no longer applied with her.

There had been a change. Jael had broken solidarity with her clan, and she had cast her lot with Israel. I love it. I just laugh every time I read it. Don’t miss the irony of Sisera’s words to Jael once he gets in the tent. In verse 20, Hey, watch out for a man. She’s like, Got it.

I will.

I got you. Watch out for a man. And we know what happens next. Jael then emerges as the final hero in this story, a very unlikely hero. Jael, it is her who fulfills Deborah’s prophecy that a woman will get the glory for killing Sisera. So once again, Yahweh rescues his people in ways that we would least expect. Not only has God chosen a woman to save Israel, Jael is not a prophet. Jael is not even a true Israelite. In the spirit of Rehab, God chooses this maverick hero to save his people.

That’s how God always gets the glory by doing something totally unique, very surprising, and often not replicable. But what’s so cool about this story is that it begins and ends with a woman. I think that’s very special and something to take notice of. It’s special to me because it reminds me that God does have work for all women to do. He has important partnerships for us. And each person in this narrative plays a critical role, for sure, in saving God’s people. But by beginning and ending with a woman, we should definitely get the message that God will call on us as women to partner with him, too.

So we’ve learned about God’s partnership with Deborah, Barak, and Jael to rescue his people. But I want you to know this, ultimately, God wants to partner with all of us to seek and save the lost, to be on a rescue mission. As we heard in our communion today, it’s very clear God always uses people to save people. Will you answer that call? Who will you partner with this week? Who will you seek to rescue from the clutches of the enemy? Be ready, be flexible. It may not come your way in what you might expect. And as Keith shared with us last week, sit down and be humble. Like Barak, we’re going to need to have humility to have these divine partnerships with one another. Humility to work together, no matter age or experience, no matter marital status, no matter a person’s gender, and no matter their culture. Let’s learn also from Jael and Deborah, and I want you to hear this as well, do not count yourself out just because you think you don’t fit into the right category. God wants to use you. He has a plan for your life. It doesn’t matter the category that this world tries to put you in.

All of us need to be ready to say yes to God. We must say yes to partner with God and partner with one another in his rescue mission. So many of you over the years have continued to say yes, and that’s why you’re here. I urge you to continue to say yes to God’s call, to partner with Him, even during the most difficult of times. Now, I invite our daughter Charlotte to come up. And Charlotte is going to share about someone in this church who has said yes and has become a hero to her.

Heroes are different for everyone. Like yours might be your grandma or your uncle, or maybe your mom or your dad. But for me, it’s my friend and mentor, Odessa.

If you’re wondering what a mentor is, it means an experienced and trusted advisor. Here are three reasons why she’s my hero. First, she’s kind. Odessa always makes sure to hang out with me, even though she always has a ton of paperwork to do. In addition to this, Princess Diana once said, Carry out a random act of kindness with no expectation of rewards, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you. Odessa does this to everyone she meets and inspires me to do the same. Secondly, Odessa is without a doubt one of the most trustworthy people I know. For example, she keeps her promises, you can count on her. She tries to do her best and she’s honest. Apart from this, I was thinking about the effect of a non trustworthy person. I could never rely on them, trust them to help, or love me truly and deeply. All of the details I just mentioned are the opposite of my mentor, Odesssa. Last but not least, she’s brave. This quote by Helen Keller really relates to Odessa. It says, We can never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world.

The reason Odessa relates to this is that she has lived a hard life for many reasons. Yet she continues to be brave and love people, even with the risk that she could lose them. All in all, Odessa is my hero for many reasons, but the three main reasons are she’s kind, trustworthy, and brave. Do you know now who is your hero? Because I do. She is truly an amazing example of what it means to be a hero. Amen.

We love you, odesa. Amen.

Yes, when hope seems lost, when times are hard, when times are difficult, God still wants to partner with you to do great and amazing things. God partners with both men and women to rescue his people. And not only does this apply to Judges 4 and 5 that we read today, this applies to you and me now. Unlike us, Israel waged a physical war against evil. But today in the Kingdom of Jesus, you and I are waging a spiritual war against evil. Just like the Israelites, we, too, have a promised land to conquer. That’s East Orlando. Let’s learn from Israel’s history. Don’t get sucked into the world. Don’t be seduced by the world. But with Jesus Christ taking the lead, let’s go and bring the good news of the Kingdom of Jesus into this dying world. This world needs Jesus. Let’s conquer this world. Can you see it? This is our promised land. You are the hope of East Orlando. Just imagine the incredible opportunity to bring the Kingdom of heaven down to Orlando. Let’s partner with God. Let’s partner with one another. Let’s show the world what it really means to work together as men and women created in God’s image.

Together, let’s occupy and conquer the promised land of East Orlando. As my good friend, Sean Barnes, recently said, We don’t just hold down the fort around here. We’re God’s people. We’re the people who storm into the darkness to bring light into this world. Our best days as Christians are right in front of us. Let’s now stand together and we will sing Victoriously our final song.


Orlando Church