Our next two warriors are better studied as a team, Team Deborah and Jael, if you will, and you can find the account of their bravery and strength in the Book of Judges, chapters 4 and 5. These two women abided in the word of God, and they saved their people. We’ll talk about Deborah first.
First, a little background.
The book of Judges is brutal. It’s a tough study; more than once I had to put it down and just pray for understanding. Even with a stack of commentaries, Judges is by far the most difficult book (for me) to come to terms with. However, I find it to be powerful in its parallels between the behaviors of the ancient Israelites, and the way we behave today. We’ll say that we want to live like God-fearing people (and we’ll really mean it) but the next thing you know we’re seeking out someone else’s way instead of the way of God that we’ve pledged ourselves to.
But our secret weapon will always be the Word of God. If we keep that word within us, we’ll avoid the pitfalls of acting against it.
Israel had pledged themselves to God, and they really meant it. They entered into a covenant with God, promising to obey Him and follow His ways. But their faith deteriorated along the way. As we get to the second chapter of Judges, we learn that their kids don’t know God anymore: 10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. . Judges 2:10 niv 2011
They knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel…? Somewhere along the way, the Israelites stopped abiding in God’s word, and they didn’t tell their children about Him either. The next generation, as a result, didn’t know the Lord, and wasn’t aware of what He’d done for Israel. And it’s a downhill slide after that. Read on:
11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. 14 In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Judges 2:11-14 niv 2011
And to be clear about the worship of Baal and Astoreth, they were involved in child sacrifice. This was an evil religion and God had pleaded with Israel to turn away from it. The resultant “raiders” mentioned in the verses above are the first of many who plunder the Israelites – until it finally reaches a point where Israel is without weapons.
Their downhill slide coincided with the dwindling of their weapons – this is remarkable.
As it was with the Israelites, so it will be with us. We have the power of the resurrection backing us, but if we’re not abiding we will lose the effectiveness of that holy weapon within our arsenal.
15 Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.
16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways. Judges 2:15-19 niv 2011
They stopped speaking the truth to their children, and their children grew up to worship false gods. What an indictment.
We run the same risk. If we don’t continually speak to our children about the salvation and redemption of Christ Jesus, they will start listening to someone or something else. They’ll become just like that new generation of Israelites who know neither the Lord nor what he has done for us.
In the midst of Israel’s horrific disobedience, we find our two warriors. They may not have even known each other, but they kept to God’s ways.
Deborah was a judge in Israel. What’s important to understand about a judge is that they have the law (God’s word) within them – and that’s where Deborah is. She judged. She eats and breaths God’s word every day, so much so that she is able to decide the Israelite’s disputes based on God’s law.
Here is how it begins:
…the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. 2 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. 3 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.
4 Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time. 5 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. 6 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; 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’?” Judges 4:1-7 nkjv
One day, in the middle of her work, Deborah just up and sends for Barak – who, apparently is a military giant there in Israel. She wastes no time in confronting him with what he must already know: Has not the Lord God of Israel commanded? Barak is destined to deliver Israel from King Jabin, and Deborah pretty much tells him to hop to it.
8 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 4:8 nkjv
He won’t go without her? She must be something special, this ordinary judge who sits under a palm tree all day long. What is it about her that makes Barak insist that she accompany him?
9 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. 10 And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; he went up with ten thousand men under his command, and Deborah went up with him. Judges 4:9-10 nkjv
Of that account, George Williams wrote about Deborah,
“There was one heart that did not tremble before Sisera and his nine hundred chariots of iron.”
— George Williams Commentary, © 1994, Kregel.
Deborah was as solid as an oak when it came to her faith in God Almighty, so much so that she went ahead and left her comfortable gig as a social magistrate in order to accompany God’s deliverer to the staging area of an impending battle.
Paul wrote to Timothy, “7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2nd Timothy 1:7 esv
Deborah is filled with the word of God. She doesn’t appear to be afraid of anything. Filled with the power of the Lord God and her love for Israel, she goes with Barak.
Join us next week for a look at how Deborah’s abiding continues to help Barak with direction in the battle for Israel, A Warrior Abides – The Word Within A Warrior Part 2
© 2018, Ta`Mara Hanscom
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