Saturday, July 13, 2019

Deborah the Judge

"Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time" (Judges 4:4).

The first two judges God raised up to deliver Israel were Othniel and Ehud (Judges 3). Ehud defeated a Moabite coalition and the land enjoyed rest for 80 years (3:30). After Ehud’s death, however, the people gradually fell into sinful idolatry until the Lord sold them to a Canaanite king, Jabin. The commander of Jabin’s army was named Sisera, and in his army he had 900 iron chariots, 900 more than Israel possessed. These Canaanite resurgents brought Israel low until they cried to the Lord. He was most pleased to hear them.

During the time Jabin dominated Israel, a woman named Deborah was judging the tribes. She held court at a place that came to be known as the Palm Tree of Deborah, in the hills where the chariot-army of Sisera did not have as much influence (Judges 4:5). God told her that the time was right to deliver Israel, so she called Barak ben-Abinoam, a Levite from Kedesh-Naphtali, and told him to head up the holy war that would drive out the Canaanites.

Barak said that he would be glad to lead the army, but only if Deborah went along. Was this cowardice on his part? No, rather we have to understand that the Lord was with Deborah, and Barak wanted to be sure that the Lord would go with him. By asking Deborah to go, Barak was seeking the Lord’s presence in the fight. This showed true faith, but it also showed weak faith, since Deborah’s command should have been enough. Deborah honored Barak’s request, but told him that the honor of the victory would go to a woman rather than to him.

How could they defeat iron chariots when all they had were wooden spears and arrows? The Lord caused a great rainstorm, turning the plain around Mount Tabor to mud. The chariots foundered, and Sisera’s men had to fight man to man. Sisera himself fled.

Heber the Kenite was sinfully allied with Jabin and Sisera, but his wife Jael was righteous and chose to be on the Lord’s side. Taking advantage of the alliance between them, she lured Sisera to her tent. She gave him yogurt, put him to sleep, and drove a tent-peg through his head. Thus, a woman received the honor of the victory.

God brings victory through unlikely ways and means. Military defeat at the hands of a woman was, and is, unusual. But because God is not constrained by convention, He has resources that continually surprise His people and His enemies. Recount one such time when the Lord brought an unexpected victory in your life.