Judges ~ Chapter Four
Read: Judges 4:1-24
"Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time.
And she would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel
in the mountains of Ephraim. And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment...
and Barak said to her, "If you will go with me, then I will go;
but if you will not go with me, I will not go!"
(Judges 4:4-5, 8)
Under the spiritual and civil leadership of Othniel, Israel experienced rest for forty years. Later, when Ehud delivered Israel out from under the oppressive rule of Eglon king of Moab and subdued the Moabites, the land had rest for eighty years. As soon as Ehud died, however, the people went right back to their idolatrous ways and the sin cycle repeated. The story of Israel's fourth judge, Deborah, begins with the death of Ehud, but she celebrates in song the first minor judge who is briefly mentioned at the end of chapter three: Shamgar (3:31; 5:6). Shamgar was a courageous man who ministered during the same time as Deborah and delivered Israel with a piece of farming equipment because he trusted in the Lord and obeyed Him. Deborah, the prophetess, made herself available to God, and He used her mightily at a time in Israel's history when the armies of the Lord lacked sufficient courage to face their enemies. Instead of experiencing religious revival during their extended years of peace, the people were reckless in their devotion to God. The results were devastating. Their lack of trust in God led to their timidity in battle which called for divine discipline to repair the damage. "When you go out to battle against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God is with you, who brought you up from the land of Egypt" (Deuteronomy 20:1). The Lord's ways are not our ways; His thoughts and ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8, 9). Because His people were behaving like rebellious children, He gave them a spiritual mother (Judges 5:7) to instruct them and to guide them in the reformation of their ways. She was God's mouthpiece to judge His people and to give them His military strategy so they would have victory in the land. "Then she sent and called for Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, "Has not the LORD God of Israel commanded, 'Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor; take with you ten thousand men...and against you I will deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand'?" (vv. 6, 7). The Lord gave a clear and detailed plan to be followed, and even included a promise of victory. All that Barak had to do was obey God's instructions, but instead he hesitated. "And Barak said to her, "If you will go with me, then I will go: but if you will not go with me, I will not go!" (v. 8). The Lord was setting a trap for the enemy and revealed in His plan that even the enemy's movements were under His sovereign control. The armies of Israel had nothing to fear; "for the battle is the LORD'S" (1 Samuel 17:47b)! But Barak requested Deborah's presence with him on the battlefield, perhaps acknowledging that, as the Lord's appointed "head" of His people, her presence would guarantee the successful work of their hands. Ultimately, it would be the Lord's Presence that would give them the victory. "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the LORD our God" (Psalm 20:7a). Like Israel's godly leaders, it is vital that we depend on the Lord's Presence as we walk the path of faith, facing our internal and external battles each day. Jesus is the Head of the body, the church, "from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God" (Colossians 2:19). The proper functioning and growth of the entire Body is dependent upon each member yielding to the indwelling Presence of the Holy Spirit, whom He has provided as our Comforter and Guide to lead us into all truth (John 16:13), and through whom we will experience fullness of joy in His Presence each day (Psalm 16:11). May we not hesitate, nor harden our hearts, but be open to His instruction and obedient to His voice as we feast daily upon His Word, so we will walk in in His wisdom and experience His victory each day. "And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence" (Colossians 1:17, 18).
"Then he said to Him,
"If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.
For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight,
except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I,
from all the people who are upon the face of the earth."
(Exodus 33:15, 16)
"Then Deborah said to Barak, "Up! For this is the day in which the LORD
has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the LORD gone out before you?"
So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him."
The Lord, the Divine Warrior, would fight for His people. He united the people and summoned them to battle under the godly leadership and strong faith of Deborah. The Lord's strategy was to lead Sisera and his troops into the trap He had set for them at the River Kishon (Judges 4:7). "So Sisera gathered together all his chariots, nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people who were with him, from Harosheth Hagoyim to the River Kishon" (vv. 12, 13). Sisera, equipped with his chariots and armies, thought he had the military advantage, but the Lord was in control of every aspect of the battle, including the weather, and would fight from an unexpected side - from heaven above! The Lord flooded the battlefield with rain and all of Sisera's chariots ended up stuck in the mud, forcing the commander of Jabin's army to flee on foot straight into the next trap that was set for him. "However, Sisera had fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said to him, "Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me; do not fear." And when he had turned aside with her into the tent, she covered him with a blanket" (vv. 17, 18). When Sisera revealed that he was hiding and asked Jael to lie for him, Jael knew that the battle was being won by Israel, so she stood by her family's alliance and took up the weapons she had at her disposal and swung the final blow by doing the very thing she had been disciplined to do her whole life - driving the tent pegs that set up her home in the land. "Then Jael, Heber's wife, took a tent peg and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went down into the ground; for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died" (v. 21). With one iron nail, the battle against nine hundred chariots of iron was brought to a victorious end and the glory went to a woman, as Deborah had predicted. Once again, the Lord used the most unlikely warrior, armed with the most unusual weapon, to bring about His unique victory for His people. The enemy may have confiscated Israel's weapons early on, and their resources for battle may have been limited (1 Samuel 13:21), but with the Lord on their side they were guaranteed victory. May we, like Jael, stand our ground courageously, not allowing the enemy any point of entrance into our homes and hearts that would risk tearing down what the Lord has been faithfully building, instead, may we make diligent and disciplined use of the spiritual tools He has given us to accomplish great things for His glory - yielding to the Holy Spirit, seeking His wisdom in His Word, and remaining faithful in prayer. "Through God we will do valiantly, for it is He who shall tread down our enemies" (Psalm 60:12).
"I will fasten him as a peg in a secure place,
and he will become a glorious throne to his father's house.
They will hang on him all the glory of his father's house,
the offspring and the posterity, all vessels of small quantity,
from the cups to all the pitchers."
(Isaiah 22:23, 24)