Monthly Archives: April 2017


Some men are leaders, but do not know it. The best leaders are sometimes those who are reluctant to lead, and have no ambitions to be leaders. Moses is a good example of this. When the Lord called him to lead, he made all kinds of excuses. Ultimately, however, he was perhaps the greatest leader in the Old Testament. King Saul was an example that turned out badly in the end. Initially, he was reluctant to lead and thought himself unfit, but in the end he was arrogant and oppressive. Another good example of a reluctant leader is Gideon.

During a period of Midianite oppression, the Lord saw fit to chose one man to lead the children of Israel against their oppressors. This man was Gideon. His own estimation of his own qualifications did not match the Lord’s. He based his view of qualifications on wealth and station in life (Judges 6:15). The Lord had a loftier view of Gideon’s qualifications. The Lord called him a “mighty man of valour” (6:12). Even if this was mere encouragement to Gideon, as some commentators suggest, it was the truth. The Lord also said Gideon would go in “this thy might,” which, when all is put together, suggests Gideon had demonstrated his worthiness before.

Perhaps there were other exploits, unrecorded in the scriptures directly, but alluded to by these comments, which demonstrated Gideon’s valour. Gideon is certainly capable of mustering able men of war to fight the Midianites and Amalekites and the children of the east. He blew a trumpet and Abiezer, his own family, gathered to him (6:34). He sent messengers to Manasseh, his own tribe, along with the tribes of Asher, Zebulon and Naphtali, and they all responded to his call to throw off the yoke of the Midianites (6:35). Gideon was able to assemble 32,000 men to fight (7:3). Even this was a meager host against the 135,000 warriors from the east but the children of Israel felt willing and able under the leadership of Gideon (8:10).

Gideon had previously demonstrated his courage and obedience to God and his leadership qualities when he overthrew his father’s altar to Baal. The angel of the Lord had commanded Gideon to overthrow his father’s altar and cut down the grove that was by it. Even though he feared his father’s household and the men of the city, Gideon took ten men of his servants and, during the night, obeyed the commands of God (6:27). His father may have been only a nominal worshiper of Baal, for, when the men of the city came to kill Gideon, his father defended him. He argued that if Baal was real, he could defend himself (6:31). Good for Joash and good for Gideon!

Gideon also relied upon proof as the basis for his actions. When the angel first appeared, he asked “If God is with us, then why are we oppressed and where are His miracles?” (6:13). Gideon then requested a sign as proof that the angel was even talking to him (6:17). Even after Gideon had mustered his army, he asked for proof that God would save Israel by his hand (6:36,37). Once this was given, he again asked for more proof of the same (6:39,40). Finally, when Gideon had his men set, God gave him proof even before he asked, which he surely would have, that he was going to be successful in his battle (7:10-15).

Gideon’s asking for proof was neither a flaw in his character nor a weakness of his faith (Rom. 10:17; I Thess. 5:21) but it was evidence that Gideon was not aspiring to be a leader and became one only reluctantly. God desires to reason with us about our salvation (Is. 1:18). The Bible has been given to us so that we might have the evidence to strengthen our faith (John 20:30,31). The miracles of the Lord and His apostles were given so that we might have assurance that Jesus was approved of God and that His word is true (Acts 2:22-24; Heb. 2:1-4). Seeking evidence for what you believe, contrary to popular religious sentiment, is not wrong; indeed it is scriptural (John 20:27).

When the angel first appeared to Gideon and gave him this charge to save Israel, He assured him that “I will be with thee” (6:15). God told him, “Have not I sent thee?” (6:14). God wanted Gideon, and us, to understand that it was not Gideon’s hand that saved Israel, but the Lord’s. That is the reason the Lord whittled down the number of men who would be fighting against the children of the east. “The people that are with thee are too many,” the Lord said, “for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against Me, saying mine own hand hath saved me” (7:2). The Lord can save by many or by few because it is not the size of army but the depth of the faith and the sincerity of the reliance on God that matters.

Another proof that Gideon was a reluctant leader was his refusal to become Israel’s first king (8:23). However, from the gifts he was given, he made an ephod and placed it in his city, Ophrah. But this became a snare to Gideon and his house because all Israel left the Lord because of this ephod. Just how is not stated, but presumably through some form of idolatrous worship of it or some priesthood associated with it. When Gideon trusted in God he prevailed; when he trusted in himself, he failed. When God’s people rely on themselves, they always end up with trouble and sin. The lesson from Gideon is we need to trust in God.

Eric L. Padgett


The time in which Deborah lived was notable for its lack of heroes. Apparently, there were no men qualified to lead. If there had been, it would have been likely that they would have been used by God to lead and judge the children of Israel. But since there was no one else, God used a woman named Deborah. That is not to diminish Deborah in any way. It is not to say that she was not a great leader, it is not that she did not shine as a virtuous woman, it is not to say that she was not wise enough to judge God’s people, for she was all these things. But God had set man into that leadership role and only in remarkable circumstances would a woman be required to fill it.

The times were desperate. After the death of Ehud, Israel was spiritually weakened, engaging once again in the numerous sins which haunted Israel nearly all its existence (Judges 4:1), and for this cause God sold them into the hand of Jabin, king of Canaan (Judges 4:2). It is during troubled times like these that men turn to the Lord, and this time it was no different. The children of Israel, after twenty years of Canaanite oppression, cried unto the Lord in their distress and the Lord answered their prayer with the leadership of Deborah.

The name Deborah means “bee.” It was a rare name for only one other woman in the Bible wore it, Rebekah’s nurse (Gen. 35:8). We are told that Deborah was the wife of one Lapidoth, about whom we know nothing more (Judges 4:4). Some have rendered this “woman of splendors.” Others have suggested that this means “woman of Lapidoth,” signifying her place of birth. But if it is correctly translated as “wife,” then she was a married woman, possibly even the mother of children, though the role of mother mentioned here probably had more to do with her role as a leader in Israel (cf. 5:7). Thus, she had many roles in her busy life and was capable of balancing them all, as women have done all down through time.

As a judge, she was renowned, for the children of Israel came up to her for judgment (Judges 4:5). Earlier, in the days of Moses, when issues arose among the people, they would bring their concerns to him and he would settle the matter (Ex. 18:13). The same was true in the days of Samuel, who would act as a circuit judge and go between Ramah, Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpeh (I Sam. 7:16,17). Later, when the number of cases increased, Moses added other judges to help, but all hard cases were brought to him (Ex. 18:14-26). The same was true with Samuel, as he grew older and the cases became too much of a burden, he made his sons judges (I Sam. 8:1). But Deborah apparently handled all these cases by herself.

She was also called a prophetess (Judges 4:4). The term “prophet” was applied to no other judge, though naturally these judges were in some fashion guided by the Lord (Heb. 11:32). There were other women throughout Biblical history who were chosen by God to be prophetesses. First, there was Miriam, the sister Moses (Ex. 15:20). After Deborah we find a Huldah during the time of king Josiah (II Sam. 22:14-20). When the book of the law was found, they went to Huldah instead of Jeremiah, though he was available (cf. Jer. 1:2,3). A prophetess named Anna lived during the period of the birth of Christ and spoke of the redemption that Christ would bring (Luke 2:36-38). Finally, the four virgin daughters of Philip, the evangelist, are referred to as those which could prophesy (Acts 21:8-10).

While Deborah was the judge of Israel, she also recognized the need for a military man to execute God’s plan of defeating Israel’s enemies. Whether it was God’s plan to chose Barak or whether this detail was left up to Deborah we cannot say, but he must have had some background in the art of war. He was able to gather ten thousand men out of Naphtali and Zebulon and march against Sisera. This was a command of God (Judges 4:6). While Barak had the skill, Deborah held the moral and spiritual influence to give Israel the confidence to act. Barak would not go up without Deborah by his side (Judges 4:8).

Curiously, in the Hebrews Hall of Faith, Paul mentions Barak but does not mention Deborah (Heb. 11:32). But it was Deborah who surely exhibited the greater faith in following the commands of God. It was she who motivated him to act. It was she who had faith to go. It was she who spoke the commands of God. It was she who judged Israel. It was she who was doing what Barak and others ought to have been doing all along. And while Barak had a major role in the defeat of Jabin, it was two women who were to truly instrumental (Judges 4:9). First, until Deborah, the villages ceased, the highways were empty, and there was no spear among forty thousand in Israel. She brought the country back to God and encouraged the defeat of Jabin. Second, it was Jael who delivered the final, fatal blow to Jabin (Judges 4:21).

Deborah is a great example to women and men of all ages. She was a faithful wife to Lapidoth. She cared for the people of Israel as her own children, and perhaps for her own children, as well. She judged Israel and guided them in difficult times. She motivated Barak to obey God’s commands to take back the country from foreign invaders. May God give us more leaders with the character and charisma of Deborah!

Eric L. Padgett


More often than not, when an individual follows in the steps of some great person, whatever the situation may be, failure, or at least disappointment, is to be expected in varying degrees as critics compare the latter to the former. This was definitely not the case with Joshua following Moses as the leader of God’s people. While Moses remained unparalleled as a leader, a prophet and lawgiver (Deut. 34:10-12), Joshua came to be trusted as a great leader of God’ people in his own right (Josh. 1:16-18).

When we first meet Joshua (Ex. 17:8), he is apparently already a leader of some note. When Israel met their first foreign opposition coming out of Egypt in the Amalekites, Moses turned to Joshua to lead an army to defeat them. From the fact that out of all the men who came out of Egypt Moses chose Joshua to lead a group of men to fight, he must have already won a reputation as a warrior. The judgment as to whom Joshua would lead, was left up to his impeccable discretion (“choose out men”), implying that all things having to do with battle, could be safely entrusted to the capable hands of Joshua.

Joshua had been born a slave in Egypt and was relatively young (cf. Ex. 33:11), probably between forty and forty-five at the time of the Exodus. What circumstances lead to his being chosen as a leader are not revealed (just as Moses’ exploits are not revealed – Acts 7:22), but God seems to have had His eye on him early, for Moses was instructed to “rehearse” these things in the ears of Joshua and write them in a book for a memorial (Ex. 17:13). God would later charge Joshua to meditate in the things written in the book (Josh. 1:8). The great testimony to Joshua’s character and leadership is that during his days, and the days of those who lived with Joshua, the children of Israel served the Lord (Josh. 24:31).

Moses described Joshua as his “minister” or “attendent” or “servant” (Ex. 24:13; Num. 11:28). It was Joshua who went up with Moses into the Mount of God while Aaron and Hur stayed back to deal with the issues the people raised (Ex. 24:13, 14). It was Joshua who remained at the Tabernacle, presumably to gaurd it from desecration by sinful hands (Ex. 33:11). It was Joshua who, when Moses learned that he would not enter into the promised land, was appointed by God as Moses’ successor (Num. 27:15-23). It was Joshua who lead the children of Israel across the Jordan and into the promised land (Deut. 1:38; Josh. 3). It was Joshua who led the children of Israel in the taking of the promised land (Josh. 1:1-9).

When the time came to spy out the land, Joshua and Caleb were the only two who brought back a positive, good report (Num. 14:6-10). They said “let us go up at once and posess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (Num. 13:30). All the rest cried in despair that the land “eateth up the inhabitants” and is posessed by giants and people that are stonger than they (Num. 14:31-33). While the report of the other ten fomented doubt and insurrection, Joshua’s report, along with that of Caleb, exhibted trust, courage and faith in God. But Joshua’s report was also rooted in a military background and was not just a fanatic’s rave.

The one word that is often associated with Joshua is the word “courage.” He is exhorted to be strong and of “good courage” (e.g. Josh. 1:6,7,9). Perhaps the constant use of this term with Joshua suggests that he had unspoken doubts and fears. No good leader leads with abandon. With the sensible, there are always reasonable fears. But courage allows the righteous to be bold as a lion (Prov. 28:1). Paul encouraged us to stand fast in the faith, quit like men, be strong (I Cor. 16:13). God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind (I Tim. 1:7). Let us pray that we have the courage of Joshua.

The Bible tells us that the man we know as Joshua was originally named Oshea (Deut. 32:44). At some point, Moses changed his name to Jehoshua, either when he was sent to spy out the land of Canaan (Num. 13:16) or, perhaps, when he won his first victory over Amalek (Ex. 17:8-16). Oshea means “help” or “salvation.” But “Jehoshua” means the same thing with God’s name attached to the beginning, meaning “Jehovah saves.” Another form of the name is “Jeshua” (Num. 8:17). In the New Testament, “Jesus” is the Greek equivalent to this Hebrew name. The name “Jesus” means “Saviour” “because He shall save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).

Just as Joshua brought the children of Israel into the promised land, our Lord Jesus brings us into the promised land of Heaven. In Hebrews chapter four, when Paul wrote about the rest that the Lord had promised to His people, the translators of the King James Version correctly translate this “Jesus” (Heb. 4:8). It was Jesus, the Angel of His Presence, Who led the children of Israel out of Egypt, through the wilderness and into the promised land (Ex. 32:20-23, 14:19; 32:34, 33:2, 14; Num. 20:16; Josh. 6:2; Is. 63:9; I Cor. 10:4,9) and it is Jesus which will lead us into Heaven (John 14:1-6).

Eric L. Padgett


Amram and Jochebed were very concerned about the things of God and His people. This can be gleaned, not only from Paul’s statement about their faith (Heb. 11:23), but also from the character of the children which they reared. Moses grew up to become a great leader and deliverer of his people. Through him, God delivered both the greatest principles of law which still guide western culture and the law which led us to the Christ (Gal. 3:24). His brother Aaron worked with him hand in glove and was a great priest of the Most High God. Though little is said about her, Miriam was also a part of this leading, godly family. She is noted by Moses to be a prophetess and listed by Micah to be a great leader.

Her name is found only fifteen times in the Bible. Most of these instances are clustered in the section which reveals her worst characteristics. But from the few brief mentions of her, we can see that Miriam was also generally zealous of the things of God. Her name is the Hebrew equivalent of the name Mary in the New testament. Miriam is called a “maid” or an “almah” when we first encounter her (Ex. 2:8), which suggests that she is a young women of marriable age, though yet unmarried (cf. Prov. 30:19; Is. 7:14), so she must at least be in her early teens when we first meet her. Also, she must be old enough to be conversant with Pharaoh’s daughter and think quickly in that situation.

The first time we encounter Miriam is in the second chapter of Exodus. At least, this is very probably her, for her name is not given in the account. But the text mentions “his sister” (Ex. 2:4). From the text in I Chronicles 6:3, Miriam is the only sister mentioned to Aaron and Moses. The first time we see her she is keeping a close eye on the ark which was strategically placed in the flags of the river Nile so that Pharaoh’s daughter could find it. The next time we see her she is suggesting to Pharaoh’s daughter that a Hebrew woman be responsible for nursing the child, her brother. These two statements alone suggests several things about Miriam.

First, it suggests she was obedient to her parents. It can be reasonably assumed that her mother (or father or both, along with Inspiration) was behind the plan to save baby Moses. Her suggestion to Pharaoh’s daughter that a Hebrew woman nurse the child is very likely at the behest of Jochebed, who sought to be that woman. But while Miriam risks being caught in this plot, she is nevertheless obedient to her parents.

It also teaches us that Miriam was not self-centered. She was concerned about the welfare of her baby brother in very dangerous times. It is likely, as we have seen previously, that this baby boy was believed to be special. Perhaps there was prophecy concerning his future (His parents did act in faith, which means they had revelation from God to hide him – Heb. 11:23). Moses, when he came of age, thought that the people should understand that he was to be their deliverer (Acts 7:25). But in spite of all the attention that Moses received, Miriam was not jealous of his popularity or success. That is, at least not at first.

The one incident which mars her character is her opposition to Moses when he married an Ethiopian woman (Num. 12:1). It is, perhaps, impossible to know with certainty whether or not this is Zipporah, as many commentators claim, but it seems unlikely that Moses’ marriage to her would become an issue with Miriam after so long of a time. Regardless, the Text tells us that “Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman he had married” (Num. 12:1). From the fact that Miriam’s name is mentioned before Aaron’s and the fact that Miriam is the only one punished (Num. 12:10), it is likely that Miriam was the instigator of this cabal. Besides, Aaron was not one to lead anything, much less a rebellion. Miriam was the more vocal and outspoken of the two.

Not only did Miriam and Aaron complain about Moses’ marriage, they also had become envious of Moses’ position. They came up with this charge, “Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath He not also spoken by us?” (Num. 12:2). After all these years of trusting in God and supporting her brother, Moses, she finally gave in to jealousy and envy. What a sad way to close her otherwise exemplary life. But God let her know that Moses was special. Her punishment was leprosy (Num. 12:10). But when Aaron pleaded for her life and Moses interceded for her healing the Lord responded and after seven days of shame of being put out of the camp, she was healed. Her death is recorded in only a passing fashion (Num. 20:1).

Miriam was, along with Moses and Aaron, and Amram and Jochebed, part of a great, leading, godly family. In the prophets, Miriam is listed right along side Moses and Aaron as a leader (Mic. 6:4). Though we do not know what she taught, she was a prophetess, according to Moses (Ex. 15:20). Her claim that God had spoken also by her agrees with this observation (Num. 12:2). While we may not know what she taught verbally, the example of her life speaks volumes to us.

Eric L. Padgett