Friday, March 18, 2011

The Book of Judges Deborah

Welcome to Friday!  Today we will be continuing our series through the judges.  Today we meet a fascinating judge, today we will be talking about Deborah. 
When Ehud was dead, the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD. So the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheth Hagoyim. And the children of Israel cried out to the LORD; for Jabin had nine hundred chariots of iron, and for twenty years he had harshly oppressed the children of Israel.  Judges 4:1-3 NKJV
We begin with the familiar slide into sin.  Ehud (the last major judge from two weeks ago) was gone and so was his witness and leadership.  The children of Israel once again fell into sin and once again God sent a foreign army to oppress them.  This time is was Jabin the king of Canaan with a mighty army and this time it took a full twenty years for Israel to get the hint to return to the God they left.
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.  Judges 4:4-5 NKJV
Enter Deborah, a prophetess and a judge.  That's right brothers and sisters, Deborah was a woman.  She was not just a woman, but she was a leader.  She was a leader, a judge, and a prophetess.  Many today think that women in the church have no role except to find a husband and quietly take care of him.  Women and men do have specific roles in the Bible, but women can have a very high calling from God.  The Bible is clear that women are not to have authority over men in the church or the home, but that is not to say that they will not be powerfully used of God. We see here that women can have very high callings, including being a prophetess.  We also see here that they can be examples of great faith and strong leaders in the world.  Women are helpmeets to their husbands, but not doormats.
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 of the sons of Naphtali and of the sons of Zebulun; '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'?"  Judges 4:6-7 NKJV
And here are the marching orders given to Deborah by God.  It is hard sometimes to grasp the level of faith it takes to follow these commands.  This army has kept Israel at bay for twenty years.  Israel was unable to stand up to it for all that time.  Now God is telling Deborah to deploy troops and God will send this mighty foreign army against them.  God was basically saying to gather a bunch of soldiers in one place so I can send that army that keeps beating you right at you.  The difference is that God gives the promise of delivering that enemy into their hands. 
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!" So she said, "I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman." Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh.  Judges 4:8-9 NKJV
We see here that Deborah is also a strong and brave woman.  Big "brave" Barak would not go into battle unless she came with him.  She, having faith in the Word of God pronounced through her, readily agrees.  Unfortunately Barak loses any chance at fame and glory from his exploits for his lack of faith as the commander of the enemy army will fall at the hands of a woman and not him.  While Deborah's courage and faith are commendable to agree to go to the battle, the same can not be said for Barak.  For a man to refuse to go to battle unless a woman goes with him is sad for any man, and that little bit of humiliation he received if well deserved.
And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; he went up with ten thousand men under his command, and Deborah went up with him. Now Heber the Kenite, of the children of Hobab the father-in-law of Moses, had separated himself from the Kenites and pitched his tent near the terebinth tree at Zaanaim, which is beside Kedesh. And they reported to Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor. 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.  Judges 4:10-13 NKJV
And now the battle is set.  Barak gathers together his army of ten thousand and he and Deborah accompany the troops to Mount Tabor.  They did as the Lord commanded and now the Lord is set to do His part.  In another wonderful example of man's plans for evil turning into God's plan for good, we have Heber informing to Sisera the movements of the Israelite army.  He is trying to win favor with the foreign king while providing a fatal blow on the army of Israel.  Sadly, he was playing into God's hands.  Remember, God said that He would deploy the troops of Sisera to engage the army of Israel.  Heber may have thought he was outsmarting God, but in reality he was playing right into His hands.  This is exactly what God intended and now all the pieces are in place.
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. And the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army with the edge of the sword before Barak; and Sisera alighted from his chariot and fled away on foot.  Judges 4:14-15 NKJV
Interesting that Deborah had to tell the military leader it was time to attack.  Barak attacked and the enemy was slaughtered.  God gave a great victory that day and the enemies of God were left dead.  Sisera managed to escape the slaughter and tried to run away from God's judgment upon his army.
But Barak pursued the chariots and the army as far as Harosheth Hagoyim, and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not a man was left.  Judges 4:16 NKJV
Barak, seeing the work of God, finally got some courage of his own and pursued the fleeing army.  In the end, not a man was standing except Sisera who fled.  Sisera will soon learn that you can not outrun God.
However, Sisera had fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite; for there was peace between Jabin king of Hazor and the house 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. Then he said to her, "Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty." So she opened a jug of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him. And he said to her, "Stand at the door of the tent, and if any man comes and inquires of you, and says, 'Is there any man here?' you shall say, 'No.'" 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.  Judges 4:17-21 NKJV
A traitor to one is a traitor to all.  Now that the Canaanites were routed and Israel was going to be in control, the house of Heber needed to change sides.  Women who are with a cheating husband with the promises of a future of love, need to keep verses like this in mind.  A wise preacher once said "If he will do it for you, he will do it to you."  It is true in love, and as we see here, it is just as true in other parts of life.  Sisera went to the tent of Heber and the wife of Heber, Jael, came out to greet him.  Sisera thought he was among friends so he thought nothing of letting his guard down.  He laid down on the floor and was covered all snug drifting to sleep after a nice glass of warm milk.  He put his life in Jael's hands, thinking she was a friend.  She was not.  She took a tent spike (which are not the small tent spikes of today but rather large) and she took a hammer and drove that tent state right through his head.  All the way through his head.  She basically staked his head to the ground.  That's another tough lady.  As Deborah said, Sisera fell at the hands of a woman.
And then, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said to him, "Come, I will show you the man whom you seek." And when he went into her tent, there lay Sisera, dead with the peg in his temple. So on that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan in the presence of the children of Israel. And the hand of the children of Israel grew stronger and stronger against Jabin king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.  Judges 4:22-24 NKJV
With their leader killed and army is disarray, the Canaanites were doomed.  The war went on for a bit, but from that day Israel grew stronger and stronger until they ultimately destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.
We have much to learn from Deborah.  We learn about faith and courage.  We learn about sin and consequence and how God will deliver His people if they return and repent.  We learn that there is no escape from God.  We learn that traitors to one are traitors to all.  What I want to focus on today, though, is the lesson regarding the role of women in the body of Christ.  Many seem to mistake submissive for subjugated.  Some men also feel it is their responsibility to keep their women submissive and use horrible means to keep them in line.  Women have a strong and important role to play in the body of Christ and while they are not called to be pastors or leaders of men in the body of Christ, they can hold very high offices.  They also have played and continue to play an important role in God's plan.  We have Sarah and Rahab mentioned in the Hall of Faith.  We have the mother of Moses who had that faith to hide him then put him in a basket and float him on a river.  We  have Deborah here in judges.  We have the heroic story of Esther.  We have Mary, a woman highly favored of God who was chosen to be the earthly mother of our Lord.  Then there was Anna, the prophetess, who waited until her old age who waited in the temple day and night fasting and praying for the coming of her Lord, a faith rewarded when she met her Lord face to face and now spends eternity with Him.  We also can not forget Lois and Eunice, the mother and grandmother of Timothy who God through Paul gives credit to being living witnesses to Timothy as he grew into the man of God that Paul wrote to.  We have the courageous Priscilla who risked her life along with her husband for Paul in the furtherance of the Gospel.  This is but a small sampling of the many heroic women of the faith featured in the Word of God.  A woman may be the weaker physical vessel, but in terms of faith, their strength can be just as strong as the strongest of man's.  Please do not ever think that because a woman is called to be submissive to a man that it means that she is lesser than a man. 
And, finally, I would be remiss if I did not address the fact that there was a woman judge in Israel.  That job would normally fall to a man so it is peculiar that a woman would be in that role.  When we see even a military leader in Israel refusing to go to war unless Deborah comes with him, the crop of men in Israel were much to be desired.  Unfortunately today, many woman are forced into leadership roles in the home and in the church because men refuse to grow up and step up.  It is unnatural and hinders the church as a whole, and God will deal with those men who ignore their calling from God.  For any man today who refuses to grow up or lead your wife spiritually and to all the men who rely on the women to teach Sunday school or fill other neglected leadership roles in the church, shame on you.  You are the Baraks of this day and age.  You are cowards and you are weak and you should be ashamed.  This world is a spiritual war and instead of taking up your armor of God, you are hiding behind your wife's skirt.  May the same shame that fell on Barak fall upon you, in that a woman will get credit for doing your job. I feel for the women of God who yearn for their husband to be that leader, and all I can say is to keep praying that God moves his heart to take up the role you are forced to take.
Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. Proverbs 31:10 NKJV

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