Judges 4-5 - Skip Heitzig
Calvary Church is dedicated to doctrine. And we want you to experience a life change that comes from knowing God's Word and applying it to your life. So we explain the Bible verse by verse, every chapter, every book. This is Expound.
Let's turn in our Bibles to the Book of Judges 4. I said when we began this book that the Book of Judges is one of the saddest books in the Bible, because it is a story of failure. It is a story of a nation that, at one time, was one nation under God, but they have left that. They are fractured, and fragmented, and largely defeated. And yet, it is one of the most hopeful books, because at the same time, it shows us how God can take failure and work in the midst of it.
So I really do love the Book of Judges even though it is filled with this sin cycle that we looked at the last couple of times. At the same time, it's filled with hope. Because in the midst of their failure, God raises up these, sometimes, ornery characters, odd, weird people and uses them for His glory. It says in Daniel 11, those who know their God shall be strong and shall do great exploits. It's great scripture, isn't it? Those who know their God shall be strong and do great exploits.
The Book of Judges is filled with those who are strong and did great exploits because they knew the Lord. Having said that, they were far from perfect. When we get into the life of Samson, especially, you will see just what a weak, fleshly man this guy was. And yet, as we said, God used him.
Forgive me for this diversion already, but this morning in my quiet time, I was in Psalm 106. And you don't have to turn there. You're in Judges, so I'll make it easy on your hands. But in my devotions this morning, I was reading this psalm, Psalm 106 which is basically the psalmist rehearsing the history of the people of Israel when they went through the wilderness, when God delivered them from Egypt and brought them to the rock that water came out of and brought bread down from heaven, and quail, and fed them, and the complaining of the people. But it's, essentially, going through the list of failures of the people of God way before the Book of Judges. So it just sort of struck me, a couple of verses, in how parallel it is to what we're doing in our study of Judges.
So for example, in Psalm 106 in verse 6, the psalmist says, "We have sinned with our fathers." In verse 7, he notices they rebelled by the Red Sea. But then they believe God's words and they sang praise but they soon forgot His works. Talks about how they made a golden calf, how they murmured, et cetera.
But here's the verse or the verses that sum up that period of the history of Israel in the wilderness. In verse 42 of Psalms 106, "Their enemies also oppressed them. And they were brought into subjection under their hand many times. He delivered them, but they rebelled against Him by their counsel. They were brought low for their iniquity. Nevertheless, He regarded their affliction when He heard their cry."
Now, this is even before we get to the Book of Judges. This is while they're freshly delivered from Egypt. And already they are getting into this behavior of rebellion against God, not believing His promises, complaining against the Lord. And this is while they had Moses as a leader. This is while they saw miracles at the hand of God. They were already doing this behavior.
By the time they get into the land and Joshua is now dead in the Book of Judges, they go through these alternate cycles of peace and war. And when they're in peace and prosperity, they forget about God. God makes life uncomfortable for them. God puts them under the hand of their enemies. So in their discomfort, they cry unto the Lord. They whine to the Lord, God, please, we're sorry. Deliver us. God delivers them. And they're faithful to the Lord till the next day. Then they forget about the Lord. And they go through this cycle over and over again.
So when we left off last time, even though we dipped into Chapter 4, in 3:30, we are told, "So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel and the land had rest for 80 years." And if you recall, I said this was the longest period of peace that Israel, at that time, had with its enemies. You know, Israel has always been in a precarious position. There in the Middle East, even up to the present time, Israel has been surrounded by people who did not recognize its right to exist as a nation. Canaanites, Jebusites, Girgashites, as well as modern-day peoples in that part of the world have wanted Israel out of the neighborhood.
Yesterday, I had a very unique privilege. I was at the White House in Washington DC for a peace signing--
--between the nation of Israel and two of its Arab neighbors.
And I remember sitting in the palace about a year and a half ago with the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates. And he already signaled then that he was ready to make a peace agreement with Israel. Even though we couldn't disclose it at the time, he said it. We're ready to do it. We want to do it.
Yesterday, they signed what is called the Abraham Accords. What a great title. The children of Abraham, the Jews and the Arabs, are making peace.
And the other day when I got the invitation, I showed it to my wife. And she said, well, you're going aren't you? And I said, I don't know if I want to travel, do that again. I just got back from there. And she goes, you're nuts. Said, you've been praying for the peace of Jerusalem for 50 years and God answers your prayer in part and you're not going? I said, well, when you put it that way, I guess I should go so.
It was monumental. It was historic. And just think of it-- I remember in 1979 when the very first Arab nation to make peace with Israel was Egypt. It was when Anwar Sadat signed the peace agreement with Menachem Begin in the presence of Jimmy Carter. Anwar Sadat was murdered because he signed that agreement. He was assassinated. The second nation to make peace with Israel was Jordan in 1994. So in the last 40 years, two nations made peace with Israel.
In the last week, two more nations made peace with Israel.
It is historic. And we think there will be more to follow. Of course, as soon as I mention this somebody, wants to ask me the eschatological implications of this, but this is not the place for that at this point. But let's use that to kind of get into the Book of Judges.
So last time when we were in this book, we went through one chapter and covered three judges, three leaders, three deliverers. In Chapters 4 and 5, now two chapters, it deals with only one. And it's not a prophet, it's a prophetess. It's not really a judge, it's a judge-ette, it's a judgess. It's a female judge, a gal by the name of Deborah. She is celebrated and highlighted in the next two chapters.
I mentioned last week that this fourth judge, Deborah, reminds me of the fourth prime minister of the modern state of Israel, Golda Meir. Now, Golda Meir was not born in Israel. She was born in Russia. She was raised in the United States and then she immigrated to Israel, became an Israeli citizen.
She was a wife and a mother. She never had political ambitions. She felt like the times in which she lived got thrust upon her. And the responsibility was thrust upon her. And she said, OK, I'll do it.
Like Deborah, the times demanded it. For we read in verse 1, "When Ehud was dead--" that is one of the judges, the one before Shamgar-- "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, the king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera who dwelt in Harosheth Hagoyim."
Jesus said, you are the salt of the earth. Have you ever thought what that means? That you, like salt, used in antiquity, you are used as a preservative in your culture. If you are living right, if you are speaking right, if you are doing right, you by your presence retard the spread of evil. You stop the spread of evil. Somebody says something or does something at work and you go, excuse me, that's offensive to me, I don't like that. Or, this is what I believe in and you share truth and light. You are the salt of the earth.
Like salt, these judges came, but when they left the meat got corroded, started decaying. So this judge is now gone. And the people revert back to their actions. So, we're told in verse 2, the Lord is behind this. The Lord sold them into the hand of their enemies.
Now, we're introduced to this area called Harosheth Hagoyim. And that is an area of Israel up north, in the northern parts called the Galilee. It is either a village at the base of Mount Carmel or since the name actually means the woodlands of the nations, it is thought that it is the whole northern part of the land, in other words, upper Galilee that at that time was controlled by these Canaanite powers. That's probably the idea. They just controlled the whole upper region of northern Galilee.
Verse 3, "The children of Israel--" because the Lord sold them in to their hands and now they're under servitude, once again, in bondage-- "and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord for Jabin had 900 chariots of iron. And for 20 years, he harshly oppressed the children of Israel."
We happen to have records from the writer Flavius Josephus who tells us that this King of Hazor, Jabin, had an infantry of 300,000 men, an army of 300,000. He had a cavalry of 10,000. And he had 3,000 chariots at his disposal. 900 are mentioned here, but according to Josephus, he had a total of 3,000 iron chariots.
What that means is he literally dominated the entire northern part of the land. Nobody could touch him. Because as we noted last time, to have an iron chariot is like to have a tank, a fully equipped tank. It's like an ancient tank.
The children of Israel did not have those implements. They have sticks, and clubs, and ox goads, like Shamgar. But they have the Spirit of the living God.
And no weapon formed against you will stand, as we'll see in the story.
So they're dominating the valley. And we're told in verse 3, they harshly oppressed the children of Israel.
I love that David said the battle belongs to the Lord.
And so what's going to happen is though they're outgunned, though they're outnumbered, though all the odds are on the enemy's side, they will cry out to God. And God, even though we sin, is merciful. God has a soft spot in His heart for you when you cry out to Him. He doesn't fold His arms and turn an eye away and say, well, you deserve it. Wallow in it.
When you cry out to the Lord, He starts moving. He starts acting to deliver you, in His time, for His purpose. It might not be immediately, but when they call upon the Lord in their weakness, God will answer.
The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12 said that God's strength is made perfect in our weakness. Have you ever thought about that? The weaker you are, the better off you might be. Oh, but I feel so weak. So? It's not going to be your strength in the battle anyway. You have a commanding officer that has far more power, far more strength, than 900 or 3,000 iron chariots. The battle belongs to the Lord. God's strength is made perfect in weakness.
So they cried out to the Lord in verse 3. "Now Deborah--" here's the answer-- "Now, Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time. And she would sit under the palm tree of Deborah." I like that she sat under a palm tree, first of all. I like that. Because I've always thought that palm trees are one of God's favorite trees, not just because I grew up around them, but it says in Psalms 92 that the righteous will flourish like a palm tree. So the fact that God will contrast or compare the righteous with a palm tree means it's one of God's favorite trees.
So I liked that she sat under upon tree. I like her style. She's a girl after my own heart.
But also that she's got one named after her. Well, where is she? Well, she's under Debbie's palm tree where you would expect her. So "she sat under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel--" that is right in the center of the land-- "in the mountains of Ephraim. And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment."
The name Deborah means honeybee. And I think it suits her because she's going to sting her enemies, but she's going to provide sweet refreshment to her own people. She's going to bring back that sweetness of the land and bring them back to a place of stability. So Debbie, honeybee.
Notice here that she is called a prophetess. Now, a prophet is somebody who speaks for the Lord. The Lord speaks to them to give a message to the people, then that prophet speaks for the Lord to the people.
There is a small group of gals in the Bible-- they have their own special club I suppose, because there is not many of them-- of gals who are called in the Bible prophetesses. The first one is Exodus 16, that's Miriam the sister of Moses. She is called a prophetess. There's Deborah.
There's a gal by the name of Huldah, Huldah, in the time of King Josiah. That's 2 Kings 22. In the New Testament, Luke 2, there's an old gal named Anna in the temple. When Jesus comes in, gives a blessing to him, she is called Anna the prophetess.
Then, finally in Acts 21, there's Philips' four virgin daughters who prophesied. So there's not many gals who are called prophetesses, but Deborah is one of them. She's among that group.
And notice that her husband's name is given. Now, we have two chapters on Deborah. We have a mention in a verse of her husband. She is called the wife of Lapidoth.
Now, I think if I were writing the story, I would say there was a guy named Lapidoth who was the husband of Deborah, because Deborah's the famous one, not Lapidoth. You know nothing about him except he happened to be married to this really cool gal named Deborah. But I think that this shows us her place, that she understood her place, that she wanted to be known as the wife of Lapidoth rather than her husband as the husband of Deborah.
In Ephesians 5, husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the church. And then it says, and wives, see to it that you respect or reverence your husband. I think the fact that she probably insisted that she should be noted like this indicates that she knew her place. She knew her place of respect to her husband.
Now, gals, you may have way more talent than your husbands. I see some of you gals going, yeah, I do. You're right. That's right. Amen. You may be highly skilled and competent. But don't let whatever profession you have to usurp the priority of honoring, and loving, and respecting your husband and giving yourself to the priority of the home. I think this is a beautiful indication of that.
Then verse 6, "She sent and called for Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali--" now, he's going to be the guy called upon to lead the armies-- "and said to him, has not the Lord God of Israel commanded saying, Go deploy troops at Mount Tabor, take with you 10,000 men, the sons of Naphtali and the sons of Zebulon?" Now, she's called a prophetess. Now, she's prophesying.
She's saying, I have a message for you, Barak, from the Lord. Lead the army. Win the battle. Take 10,000 troops and win the battle. So that's the message from God.
Notice his response. Now, before we get into that, in verse 6, she says "deploy troops at Mount Tabor." You that have been to Israel, do you remember what Mount Tabor looks like? It's an unmistakable hill. It looks like a cone shape, almost a perfect-- almost like a half moon. But it's conically shaped. It rises 1,300 feet. So the northern part of the Jezreel Valley, the valley of Armageddon-- in the valley of Armageddon, the very northern tip, is this mountain.
So because you've got an enemy with iron chariots, you can't compete down in the valley. So there's only one place you can hide. That is the-- mountains. You flee up to the mountains because the chariots can't go up the hill. So if you're going to mount an attack, you're going to sweep down from the upper parts of the hills down into the valley and surprise them. That's what the Lord told him to do.
And verse 7, "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." Cool. So that's the message from God. She's the prophetess. She's speaking for the Lord.
Barak hears the message. Notice his response, this brave man. "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."
Wouldn't you just love to have him commanding your army? Don't you just feel the confidence coursing through your veins. He's our commanding officer.
You can see his flaw. He gets a message from God. He should have just said, I'm going to obey the voice of the Lord. If God said go, I'm going. If He said I'm going to win, guess what? I believe I'm going to win.
But he begins to bargain with the Lord, actually, bargain with Deborah. Well, I'll go if you go. Mommy, I need my mommy. I need somebody to hold my hand.
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." Ouch. "Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedish."
Here's the deal, child of God. When the Lord wants to do something, and He wants to use you to do it, you might not feel like it. You may not want to volunteer. You may not want to get involved.
And if that's so, God's work will not be stopped. If you say no to Him, He's going to choose somebody else to do it. Because if God wants to do it, there's nothing on earth that is going to stop Him.
But then you will miss out on the blessing of being an instrument of God.
So often we say, here I am Lord, send somebody else.
Isaiah said, here I am, Lord. Send me. When Esther was in the palace in Persia and there was a death edict on all of the Jews of the land, her uncle Mordecai came in and said, you got to go talk to the king, Esther. And she was hesitating. And Mordecai, her uncle, said, listen, if you don't go speak to the king, don't think you're going to escape, being in the palace, the fate that all of the Jews in this land are going to experience.
And he said, if you remain silent, then relief and deliverance for the Jews will come from somewhere else. He was so confident that God was going to deliver His people, that he turned to his niece and said, hey, the Lord may want to use you in this. But if you don't avail yourself to this, if you don't volunteer, the Lord's going to do it, but it's not going to come through you.
But then he said this, but, perhaps, you've been brought to this kingdom for such a time as this. This could be your finest hour, gal. And if the Lord chooses to use you and you say, yes, then you're on the journey of your life. When you step into serving the Lord, it's the best adventure you can go on. If you say no, God's work will go on with or without you, but relief and deliverance will come from somewhere else.
It's interesting. Barak wouldn't go without Deborah. By the time we get to Hebrews 11, and we have the Hall of Fame or the Hall of Faith, it talks about the different people that did certain things by faith. By faith this person did this-- Jacob, Abraham, et cetera. He said, what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and Barak, and Samson, and Jephthah, also David, Samuel, and the prophets." Deborah isn't even mentioned in Hebrews 11. Barak is.
Now, Barak did step in and he did lead the armies, but he wouldn't have gotten anywhere without Debbie at his side, honeybee. I believe behind every good man is a good woman. I believe my wife is my secret weapon.
Interesting that she's not mentioned, but he is. So Barak, verse 10 of chapter 4, "Barak called Zebulon and Naphtali to Kedesh--" these are the northern tribes. "He went up with 10,000 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."
Let me just call to your remembrance something happened in Chapter 1 where it mentions the Kenites. Remember the Kenites were related to the father-in-law of Moses, Jethro. And they came into the land with the children of Israel. They were living down in Jericho. And then they went and settled the lower parts of the land near Arad down in the Negev Desert, we're told in Chapter 1.
Evidently, one family decided, I don't want to be down in Jericho. I don't want to be in the desert. I don't want to be down in the Negev where it's hot and dry. I want to be up in Galilee.
Now, I understand their way of thinking. I'd much rather be in Galilee. Once you see it-- do I want to live out in the middle of the desert? Do I want to live where it's green and lush? And there's a big, old stinking lake right there. That's where I want to live. So they did.
And yet, it seems like these Kenites, this family of Kenites, Heber is his name, is friendly with the Canaanite army. He's living in the land. He's known to the Israelis as well as to the Kenites. So he has diplomatic relations with both.
It could be that he was giving information to Jabin and Sisera. He seems to be that close, because by the time we get down to verse 17 of this chapter, it says that he had made peace with these Canaanite peoples. He had some kind of covenant going on.
So I'm guessing that they were very close. And it could be because it mentions that he was encamped by this terebinth tree-- which is a deciduous oak in the land. It was one of the trees that they would build pagan shrines by-- that he had built a pagan shrine. So he had sort of left Judah, left the worship of Israel, and was worshipping alongside of the Canaanites and giving vital information to the other side.
Now, this proves interesting because Heber's wife is going to be a hero or a heroine in this story. She's going to be the one to give the commanding officer a splitting headache before this chapter is done. So it's interesting just to see how this plays into it.
So Sisera, verse 13, "gathered together all of his chariots, 900 chariots of iron, and all the people who were with him from Harosheth Hagoyim to the river Kishon. Then Deborah said to Barak, Up, for this is the day which the Lord has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the Lord gone out before you? So Barak went down from Mount Tabor--" so here's the sweep going from hiding out into the open with 10,000 men following him.
And it says the Lord routed Sisera, confounded them, confused them. They had to flee. They had to run in different directions. "And all of his chariots and all his army with the edge of the sword before Barak and Sisera--" he's the commanding officer-- "alighted--" or got down from-- "his chariot and fled away on foot."
The question, if you are a careful reader of the text, is why would he do this? Why would you leave your chariot? You had the advantage when you're in an iron chariot and your enemy has ox goads and clubs.
You have the advantage. You have the speed. You can get safely at a distance, use your arrows, and you can eliminate the enemy. Why would you flee from your chariot? Well, you wouldn't unless there was a rainstorm. And that's what the text seems to indicate, because when we get into chapter 5, the poetic language that she brings up is that of water coming from the sky and flooding the land.
So probably what happened is when they got down into the valley, there's that brook Kishon-- you can see it to this day. When you stand on top of Mount Carmel, you can see in the distance the trees that are right on the edge of the Kishon-- it's really a stream. It's not much of a river. It's just a little brook of water today. But it's still there.
So down in that valley, if your chariot is on dry land by that riverbed, which is typically where they would run their chariots, if it rains hard, if you get a severe thunderstorm, that little stream is going to flood. And if your chariot gets mired in the mud, you lose your advantage. And that's probably what happened.
Now, I'm bringing this up because the chief god they served, the Canaanites, was whom?
Baal, Baal, Baal. Baal was called the storm god. He was the god who controlled the clouds, controlled the rainfall, controlled the weather patterns. So to have a rain storm that mired their chariots was a failure on Baal's part. Their god failed them. And now they're running for their lives.
"But Barak pursued the chariot--" verse 16-- "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." However, Sisera-- remember he's the commanding officer-- "Sisera had fled away on foot to the tent of Jael--" that's how you would pronounce it. Jael-- "the wife of the Heber the Kenite for--" notice this-- "there was a peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite."
Perhaps, as I mentioned, he was helping out their army. Perhaps, he was giving information to them because he was telling them the movement of the troops of the Israelites on Mount Tabor. Perhaps he was part of their worship system because he was pitching his tent by that terebinth tree. One commentator even suggests that perhaps he was rehoofing the horseshoes on the horses for the 900 chariot horses and making sure that they were in good working order.
So now you have the wife of this character. And it says verse 18, "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." And that was to hide him.
Obviously, he is running. He is in pursuit. They are in pursuit of him. She recognizes him perhaps but invites him in. This is Middle Eastern hospitality. They're really good at being hospitable. When you go into a person's tent, you are given full protection in those days, even to this day in Bedouin tents.
And so he said to her, verse 19, "Please give me a little water to drink for I am thirsty." I suppose if you're running for your life, and it's hot, and you're sweating that you work up a thirst. What I am certain of also is when you're really, really thirsty because you've been fighting a battle, only water will suffice. Nothing else will quench your thirst like water.
Notice what she does. So she opened a jug of milk. Ooh. If I'm really, really, really thirsty and I want ice cold water and somebody gives me milk, that's not going to quench my thirst. But she gave him milk, gave him a drink, and covered him. Now, the milk that she would have given would have been like goat's milk, warm goat's milk. No refrigeration in those days.
And it would have been slightly fermented. So it's more like kefir. Are you familiar with kefir, kind of a fermented yogurt drink? And so he would be drinking that.
Now, if you're really, really thirsty, I imagine even though you're given milk, you want a lot of it. So he probably guzzled a lot. And what's interesting about milk is it does have tryptophan in it. And tryptophan is what regulates the melatonin and serotonin in your brain to cause you to relax.
It's also what's in turkey when you have a nice Thanksgiving dinner. You ever wonder after Thanksgiving, why do I feel so tired? Because the tryptophan is working.
So she gives him a bunch of milk. He lays down. "And he said to her, Stand at the door of the tent. 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, 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."
I told you this book was Rated R. But what a cool story.
Now, she's a Bedouin woman. She is a tent dweller. She's a nomadic person in her culture. So women were the ones who kept the tents. Women were the ones who drove the tent pegs. Women were the ones who kept the animals.
I've been in enough Bedouin situations and been under the hospitality of the Bedouin tribes to know just how hard these gals work. So for her to wield a hammer and a tent peg, she was good at it. She was used to it.
So she saw a tent peg hanging out there. He was asleep. Probably during the encounter found out who he was. They had an agreement with the Canaanites, but also the Israelites.
And for whatever reason, she obviously disagrees with her husband about how important the relationship with the Canaanites is. Because on the one hand, she is very copious in her Middle Eastern hospitality, inviting him in, giving him milk, covering him up. And then when he falls asleep, I would say to understate it, this was a breach of Middle Eastern hospitality to put a pin through the guy's head. So that's why I say he died of a splitting headache.
Now, there is a thought-- I just want to bring it up to you, because I know you're familiar with this story, but there's a thought by a few commentators that said this probably went a little bit differently. Because conquerors had their way with women, they would use women for their own pleasure. And they would do whatever they wanted to. That for a conquering commander to go into a tent and have his way with a woman sexually was very common in those days.
And, obviously, he breached Near Eastern hospitality because no man would ever enter into somebody's tent unless the husband were home unless he had other intentions. So it is thought that Jael, in this tent, believed that she was going to be raped when she woke up. So as an act of protection, she drove a hammer, drove a spike into his head, killed him.
Now, it's funny because I'll read different books. And people have trouble with the fact that she was not honest and didn't tell the truth. Really? That's what you have problems with in this story? What about the fact that she murdered somebody? Does that bother you at all? It's funny how you would even have that discussion about her honest intentions and communication when she nails a guy with a tent peg.
And so it says in a very understated economy of words, "so he died" I guess so.
And then verse 22, "As Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him and said, Come, I will show you the man whom you seek. And when he went into the tent, there lay Sisera dead with a peg in his temple. On that day God subdued Jabin the 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 and the king of Canaan until they had destroyed Jabin the king of Canaan."
Now, I want to bring something to your attention. Go back to verse 9 when Deborah speaks to Barak. And she says, "Surely, I'm going to go with you in this battle. Nevertheless, there will be no glory in it for you in this journey that you taking for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman." Deborah wasn't speaking about herself. Remember, she's a prophetess.
She may have thought she was speaking about herself, but what she was doing was prophesying that Sisera is going to die at the hand of a woman named Jael. So the fulfillment of her prophetic utterance in that verse is in the killing of this commander by this woman in the tent.
There's something else you need to know. That to be killed by a woman in those days-- I think you can imagine this-- is like the ultimate disgrace. To have a woman kill you if you're a soldier, it's just like, OK, you know, kill me now. Don't let anybody know this.
So turn over to Chapter 9-- just for a moment. This just takes a second. It's painless. We're dealing with a guy by the name of Abimelech, 9:52, "So Abimelech came as far as the tower and fought against it and drew near the door of the tower to burn over the fire. But a certain woman dropped an upper millstone on Abimelech's head and crushed his skull. And then he called quickly to the young men--"
Obviously, it wasn't totally crushed, because he could still speak. He still had some maneuverability left. "He called his armor bearer and said, Draw your sword and kill me lest men say of me a woman killed him." Ha ha ha. So his young man thrust him through and he died.
See, that's how bad it was. I don't want that on my record. I want anyone to know that a woman killed me. So just nobly put a sword through me.
"So the hand of the children of Israel-- 4:24-- "grew stronger against Jabin and the King of Canaan until they had destroyed Jabin and the king of Canaan. Now, Chapter 4 is the account. It's the account in prose, the account in prose.
Chapter 5 is the same account in poetry. This is a song. These are lyrics to a song composed by Deborah, probably sung by her and, perhaps, Barak. And it is considered a literary classic. I read some remarks on this poem that it is among the finest of war poems in ancient history.
Now, when I say war poems, you may remember back in Numbers 21, there's this reference to the Book of the Wars of the Lord. You remember that? Numbers 21, it says, is that not found in the Book of the Wars of the Lord? And you wonder what is the Book of the Wars of the Lord? Evidently, it was a journal of war hymns or war anthems that were kept from that era. And it is thought that the Song of Deborah was part of the Book of the Wars of the Lord found in Numbers 21.
We have examples of ancient war songs from the Egyptians and from the Assyrians from the 15th century BC to the 12th century BC. We have fragments of them. They're on record. And this ranks up there pretty high.
And Deborah, Barak the son of Abinoam "sang on that day, saying--" When leaders lead in Israel, when the people willingly offer themselves, bless the Lord. When leaders actually do something instead of just talking about doing something, bless the Lord. Praise the Lord.
"Hear, O kings, give ear, O princes, I, even I, will sing to the Lord. I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel." This is the song after the battle. Learn to do this. Learn after you get through a time of harrowing difficulty, personal battle, trial, temptation, to pause and worship the Lord. Thank the Lord. Write your own worship song, if you will.
I think you should do it before a battle. I think you should do it during a battle. I think you should do it after a battle.
Joshua did it before a battle. He saw the Captain of the Lord's hosts. He took off his shoes. He bowed down and he worshipped, Joshua 5.
Deborah does it after the battle and I like that. See, in America, in the United States, when we pray for food, when do we pray for our meal?
Before the meal. Lord bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies. We rattle something off. Amen. It makes us feel good about what we're going to do and we chow down.
Not the Jews. The Jews have been instructed not to pray before the meal but to pray after the meal. It is still a practice to this day. It's called [HEBREW] or the prayer, the blessing, after the meal. And it is quite elaborate.
But the idea is from Deuteronomy 7, where it says, When you enter the land and you have eaten and you are satisfied, then you shall bless the Lord your God. So they take that text very literally and they said, I guess God wants us to pray after the meal.
So I think it's a good practice. You ate your food. And then you say, Lord, man, that steak was awesome. And thank you for providing those potatoes along with it. And you know, whatever you want to pray for. And then maybe pray for relatives and pray for concerns that are going on. But I like the idea of praying not just before but, especially, after a battle. The Lord has delivered and then you pause and you praise and you thank Him for it.
"Lord, when you went out from Seir--" verse 4-- "when You marched from the field of Edom, the earth trembled, the heavens poured--" notice this-- "the clouds also poured water. The mountains gushed before the Lord, this Sinai before the Lord God of Israel." He's sort of rehearsing what happened in the Book of Exodus when there was lightning and thunder with the giving of the law of Moses back in the Book of Exodus.
And he's equating that, comparing that, that great period of their history, the giving of the law, the quaking of Mount Sinai with what happened that day of the battle at the Kishon when the heavens opened up. That's why I believe that there was a rainstorm that broke out and mired the chariots in the mud.
"The clouds poured water, the mountains gushed before the Lord." Verse 6, "In the days of Shamgar, the son of Anath--" so this is the only other mention of Shamgar. There are only two verses in the Bible that mention him. One is Chapter 4 and this one in Chapter 5. "In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath in the days of Jael, the highways were deserted and travelers walked along the byways."
Why would they do this? They were scared. They were afraid. They didn't want to go downtown on Central and walk around at night.
It wasn't safe. They were defunding their police.
So people didn't feel safe to get out and about because of the bandits, the riots. So they had to find the back alleys so that they would be protected. The village life, it says in verse 7, "ceased." It "ceased in Israel, until I, Deborah, arose a mother in Israel."
We don't know if she meant this literally or figuratively. I think it was both. I think, like Golda Meir, who was a wife and a mother whose circumstances were thrust upon her and she took the job as the fourth prime minister, I think that Deborah was a wife of Lapidoth. And she had children. They're not mentioned. They're not important to the narrative of the story.
So she was a mom. She was a wife. But she became a matriarchal figure to the nation, a mother in Israel.
Now, never underestimate the role of a mom. There's some pretty famous moms in the Bible-- Hannah, the mother of Samuel, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, Eunice, the mother of Timothy, Deborah, the mother of whatever her kids were named, a mother in Israel. Somebody once said no nation is greater than its mothers for they are the makers of men.
I love the Jewish proverb. The Jews said, you know, God couldn't be everywhere so He made mothers. Of course, God can be everywhere, but the point is is that God's presence often shows up through mom. I can attest to that.
Verse 8, you would read it and you would miss, really, the most important part and that is the beginning. "They chose new gods." That's where the trouble began. They got tired of the Lord. They got tired of worshipping. They got tired of Bible study. They got tired of the same old, same old. So they chose new gods.
"Then there was war in the gates. Not a shield or a spear was seen among 40,000 in Israel." Wow. Get 40,000 together and you couldn't find a shield. "My heart is with the rulers of Israel who offered themselves willingly with the people. Bless the Lord." The poetic picture she is painting is that the people of the land were so demoralized by this time they didn't even bother getting weaponry, didn't bother making a sword or getting a shield.
And it's all because they chose new gods. Once you start marginalizing the Lord-- and some of you may be guilty of that-- Book of Revelation, the Lord Jesus said, I have something against you. You have left your first love. When you leave your first love, it's going to end in frustration, even depression.
And in that frustrated state, because you've chosen new gods, you're not worshipping the Lord like you once were, you find yourself very vulnerable. Maybe this is why.
So she goes on to say, "Speak you who ride on white donkeys--" those were especially prized by the wealthy and by rulers-- "who site in judge's attire and who walk among the road far from the noise of the archers among the watering places. There they shall recount the righteous acts of the Lord, the righteous acts for the villagers in Israel. Then the people of the Lord shall go down to the gates."
Now, what you're going to read following is she talks about those who were faithful in the land and those who were unfaithful in the land as participants in the battle. That is, some said, I'll go. I'll fight. That her example and Barak's example inspired many others to do the same. While others didn't lift a finger, just watched others fight. And so she calls them out.
"Awake, awake, Deborah. Awake, awake, sing a song. Arise, Barak. Lead your captives away, o son of Abinoam." In other words, she begins with the leaders because they inspired the people to get into the fight.
"Then the survivors came down, the people against the nobles. The Lord came down for me against the mighty. From Ephraim where those whose roots were in Amalek. After you, Benjamin--" she's going to go through the tribes who got involved-- "with your peoples from Machir--" that's way up north, half tribe of Manasseh on the west side of the Jordan-- "from Machir, rulers came down. And from Zebulon, those who bear the recruiter's staff. And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah. As Issachar, so was Barak sent into the valley under his command among the divisions of Reuben. There were great resolves of heart.
Why did you sit among the sheepfolds to hear the pipings for the flocks? The divisions of Reuben have great searchings of heart. Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan. And why did Dan remain on ships after Asher continued in the seashore and stayed by his inlets. Zebulon is a people who jeopardized their lives to the point of death. Naphtali also on the heights of the battlefield."
So there was a mix. Some people said, I'll risk my life. I'll get into the fight. Others just sat around to hear their flocks. Others had-- it says in verse 16-- "great searchings of heart." Let's get together and think about this. Let's have a committee meeting over this.
I don't like meetings, by the way, because typically you just talk about things but you don't do anything. Let's just talk about what we did and what we might do. And just-- they were having committee meetings. They talked and they voted. They just sat around and didn't do anything.
Verse 17, "Asher continued at the seashore and stayed by his inlets." They settled on the Mediterranean Sea and they kept up with their commercial interests right off the sea coast. Zebulon, on the other hand, jeopardized their lives to the point of death.
Verse 19, "The kings came and fought, the kings of Canaan fought in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo. They took no spoils of silver. They fought from the heavens. The stars in their courses fought against Sisera. The torrent of Kishon swept them away. The ancient torrent, the torrent of Kishon."
Now, again, it's just a small little rivulet. It's a stream. But if it's a heavy enough rainfall for a long enough time, it's a flood. It's a torrent.
"O my soul, march on in strength. Then the horsehoofs pounded the galloping, the galloping of the steeds. Curse Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, curse its inhabitants bitterly because they did not go up to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty."
Now, Meroz is a place more recently known as Merome in Israel, the waters of Merome There was a lake just north of Galilee called the Lake Hula, Hula Lake. It was a place with a lot of mosquitoes before 1948. The lake has been drained by eucalyptus trees. So it's just an area to the west of Hazor right up in this lush verdant valley. They didn't do anything. They just sort of sat around and watched.
But in contrast to them, from that town, verse 24, "Most blessed among women is Jael." What's noteworthy about Jael is she gets honor. She's not even one of the people of God. She's not even an Israelite. She's a Kenite. She really is a Gentile, not under the covenant of Abraham.
"Most blessed among women is Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. Blessed is she among the women in the tents. He asked for water, she gave milk. She brought out cream in a lordly bowl.
She stretched out her hand to the tent peg, her right hand to the workmen's hammer. She pounded Sisera and pierced his head." These are the lyrics of a song, folks. Let's find a melody for this.
"She split and struck through his temple. At her feet, he sank. He fell. He lay still. At her feet, he sank. He fell. Where he sank, there he fell dead."
You know, just when he thought he was safe, bam. Right? Falling asleep, ah, this is good. A little yogurt, a little blanket, boom!
Now, I'll tell you what it reminds me of-- the day of the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 5, the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night. And when they say, Peace and safety, then comes sudden destruction.
Just like that tent peg. If you're not right with God, get right with God because that peg of judgment is coming your way.
And the Apostle Paul said it's going to be like a woman in labor. You women know that, what that's like. I can only talk about it. I've only seen it. I've not experienced it.
"The mother of Sisera looked through the window and cried out through the lattice, Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why tarries the clatter of the chariots? Her wisest ladies answered her, Yes, she answered herself, Are they not finding and dividing the spoil, to every man a girl or two? For Sisera plundered, plunderer of dyed garments, plunderer of garments embroidered and dyed, two pieces of dyed and embroidered for the neck of the looter." In other words, your son's taking so long because he's enjoying the spoils of war.
"Thus, let all your enemies perish, Lord. But let those who love Him be like the sun when it comes out in full strength." Beautiful way to end it. Let those who love Him be like the sun.
My prayer for you is that you will be like the sun. Didn't Jesus say, You are the light of the world.
Don't hide your lamp under a bushel. So shine your light that men may see it and glorify your Father who is in heaven. May we shine brighter and brighter and brighter. So "the land had rest for 40 years."
There's three types of people. There's those who make things happen. There's those who watch things happen. And then there's those who have no idea what's happening.
Among God's people in the church, there are a few people who make things happen. There's an awful lot of people who watch things happen. God will keep a record, like she kept a record, like Deborah and Barak kept a record of those tribes who got involved and those who didn't. The Bible says that we'll all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
And we all build our lives. Some out of gold, silver, precious stones, some out of wood, hay, and stubble. And we'll be judged according to what we do with what God has given to us.
Now, this is one of the reasons why church is essential, why you can't just go on watching it through a tablet or a computer. It demands involvement of some kind. It demands service of some kind. You can't just watch somebody else doing something. You have to get involved in serving God's people. It's essential that we do that. We're not healthy until we do that.
So as we get back to normal, part of getting back to normal is finding creative ways to serve one another and not just becoming a consumer mentality, consuming the media, getting it to us-- you know, OK, I got my fix. I'm fed this week. Great. How are you serving? What are you doing? How are you in the battle?
Make things happen. By God's glory, by God's goodness, use your gift for His purpose. Father, thank You that the battle is the Lord's. It doesn't depend on us, but we are part of it. And we are involved. And we want to say, Here, I am Lord, send me, send us, not send somebody else, but use us.
And show us during this time, Lord, as we are facing mandates, and masks, and government, this and that, how we can obey You and be the church and serve one another. By Your grace, for Your glory, in Jesus' name, Amen.
For more resources from Calvary Church and Skip Heitzig visit calvarynm.church. Thank you for joining us during this teaching in our Expound series.