3/4/12 Deborah : God Raised Up A Mother In Israel

3/4/12 Deborah : God Raised Up A Mother In Israel

Judges 4:1-5:31                                               Lesson 6

Kevin Jesmer NIU UBF                                  3/4/12

Key verse 4:4 “ Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time.”

This passage is for all those people who think that women are discriminated against in the Bible. This study will reveal character sketches of three people, Deborah, Barak and Jael. The story of Deborah describes the unlikely victory of the Israelites, led by the Judge Deborah, over superior Canaanite forces. The story of Barak describes the humble general who overcame fear and prejudice to lead his army to victory. There is also the story of a woman called Jael. Her’s is a “David and Goliath” story where a small, weak person, triumphs over a terrifying warrior, Sisera. The entire story celebrates the power of the God of Israel and the victory given to those who live by faith and long to please God. We will discover the kind of people that God uses; those who are decisive, bold, courageous and full of faith to bring glory to God in “impossible situations.” Let’s see.

Part l: God Draws His People To Himself (1-3)

After the death of Ehud the people fell away from the Lord. Look at verse 1. Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, now that Ehud was dead.” This tells us the importance of two things, first, having a personal relationship with the Lord and second, about having qualified leaders. The people were having “a rollercoaster ride” in regards to their life of faith. The solution to their problem is that they needed to have a daily walk with the living God who was walking at their side. Second, we can not ignore the fact that human leaders are necessary in the work of God. Othniel and Ehud were qualified leaders whom God used to lead their people to peace for decades. Without the proper spiritual leadership, the church is like a ship without a rudder. Maybe God wants you to be that qualified leader for your generation.

God did not abandon his people in their time of need. But he helped him in an unusual way. Look at verses 2-3a, “So the LORD sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Sisera, the commander of his army, was based in Harosheth Haggoyim. 3 Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years …” God came to their aid, but not in the way that they may have wanted, for it was through much suffering. He lifted his hedge of protection from his people and they were oppressed by their enemies for twenty years.

Thankfully, the people responded in verse 3b, “…they cried to the LORD for help.” After 20 years they cried out to the Lord. I suppose it was better late than never. But the question we must ask ourselves is, “Why did the people wait so long?” And, “Why all the unnecessary suffering?”  Wouldn’t it be better to just quickly turn their hearts to the Lord? The answer lies with our human nature. So often, because of our pride, we insist on doing things our own way, even if our own way is unfruitful, painful and includes much suffering. We suffer needlessly for twenty years or more. God’s heart weeps.

There is a better way. It is a wiser choice to quickly come to the Lord and cry out to him. The most blessed people are those who are spiritually sensitive and repent early. We read in 2 Corinthians 1b-2, Paul spoke of God plea to his people. “’In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” Today is the day of salvation for all of us.

Part ll: The Judge, Deborah (4-9; 14)

Deborah was an exceptional woman who held a national leadership position. I know what some of you are saying, “What! There is woman leader in the Bible?” Yes there is. The people of her time had no difficulty in accepting her as a judge. God raised up women into leadership positions. Paul said that in Christ, “There is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ.” (Gal 3:28) also, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” (Acts 2:17-18) Don’t let your prejudices get in the way of seeing those whom God has chosen to lead his people. I first met Jesus in a church led by a woman and my Bible teacher was a woman.

Deborah was a prophetess who sat as judge under a palm tree nearBethel. Her namesake, Rebekah’s nurse, was buried there 400 years beforehand. This palm tree was the ancient equivalent of a judge’s courthouse, a place where people went when they needed a dispute settled. She was a great leader, because of her human and spiritual qualities. Let’s see…

a. Deborah was a judge. A judge was a tribal leader who, in times of peace, had authority to settle disputes and problems. In times of war they acted as a rallying point to gather the tribes and organize resistance.

b. Deborah was a wise leader. Wise leaders are rare. Such leaders are team builders and team players. They see the big picture. They make good mediators, advisors and planners. Deborah was such a person.

c. She was a good and powerful wife. She didn’t deny or resist her position as a wife. But she answered the call of God and served her position as Judge well. She was like Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip ofEngland.

 d. She was “a mother in Israel.” (5:7) This means she cared about her people as her own children, counseling them and praying for them and even settling disputes.

 e. Deborah was brave. She did not tremble before Sisera and his 900 iron chariots. She was brave enough to summon great generals…brave enough to minister to the people. Brave enough to go into battle along with Barak.

 f. She was effectual. Her name means “Bee” in Hebrew. It may also mean “spirited” or “fiery woman”. This implies that when attacked, Deborah could sting like a bee. ( In this life it is so hard to make any difference. But when we are in Christ, our lives can be effectual.

g. She was a high quality person. She was held court, officiating over a governing body where “the princes of Israel” and The remnant of the nobles” came down to get expert advice from a servant of God. Deborah was a woman of high quality and integrity and the elite of Israelite society responded.

h. She commanded respect. Her personality drew people together. Leaders from all the tribes would come to her get advice and direction. People respected her governance.

i. She inspired others to take action. The force of her personality and her complete faith in God gave Barak, and the people, the courage to face odds that were overwhelming. (4:14)

And now concerning her relationship with God…

a. She had prophetic power. Deborah is introduced as a ‘prophetess’. She ‘heard’ a message from God (in some way) and passed it on the people of her generation.

 b. She gave glory and honor to God. In her song, she said things like, “the Lord commands you”, “the Lord will deliver your enemies into your hand.” and “praise the Lord.” A servant of God always deflects praise and honor back to Jesus Christ.

 c. She was in tune with God. She could discern the will of God.

d. Deborah had boldness and confidence to declare the word of God.  She often declared, “The Lord commands you…” She was like a spiritual general.

e. She spoke the truth of God. Her words were not just her fanciful ideals. They actually happened. She told Barak that a woman would take the glory of defeating Sisera. And it came to pass in Jael.

f. She planted faith in God in others. We see this in verse 4:14 where she told Barak, Go! This is the day the LORD has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the LORD gone ahead of you?” She encouraged faith. May God raise up mothers in our land who encourage faith.

Part lll: Jabin and his General Sisera:  Formidable Enemies.

The Lord was drawing his people back to himself through oppression by their enemies. Look at verses 2-3 again. There were enemies of God’s people still living among the northern tribes. Instead of driving them out, both parties settled on harassing each other. The root of the problem was that the previous generations had failed to drive out all the Canaanites and now these nations had regrouped and were attempting to restore their lost power. But God was working through all the warfare to draw his people unto himself. Let’s think about how the oppression took place.

The Canaanites were led by King Jabin who ruled a large, fortified city-state in upper Canaan, and may have been the leader of a confederation of Canaanite city-states. His aim was to restore Canaan’s power by exterminating the Israelite invaders. The tyranny of Jabin was peculiarly felt in the northern tribes, who were near his capital and under her jurisdiction. His general was Sisera. Village life was very hard for the Israelites. 5:6-7 reads, “In the days of Shamgar son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned; travelers took to winding paths. 7 Villagers in Israel would not fight; they held back…”  The Israelites couldn’t even walk on their own highways because of raids.

      They were helpless, for the Canaanites possessed vastly superior military technology. General Sisera led a disciplined, professional army, armed with iron weapons and chariots which were the tanks of the ancient world. They were made of iron or wood and were drown by one or two horses. Some even hade razor sharp knives attached to the hubs designed to mutilate foot soldiers. They were the most feared weapons of the day. Sisera’s army was a terrifying force that could do fearsome damage. The Israelites had inferior weapons. 5:8 reads, God chose new leaders when war came to the city gates, but not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel.” The oppression that the Israelites were feeling was intense, but very effective in breaking their false pride and humbling them to cry out to God for deliverance on a national level. And God heard their cries.

Are there some things that are oppressing us and causing us to cry out to God on a national and on a personal level? What about our war on terrorism? the bad economy? the increased gas prices? and the break down of the family? What about sickness? What about national epidemic of loneliness, depression and anxiety ? What about the inner oppression caused by our own sins, fears and our broken relations with others around us, especially those close to us? What about the limitations of ministry? Are these enough to make us cry out to God? They should be more than enough to cause us to cry out to the Lord today from the bottom of our hearts.

Part lV: Barak…A General Who Was Humble To Trust And Obey Deborah

Threatened with the might of King Jabin’s army, the Israelites turned to Deborah. God began to work through his servant. Let’s read verses 6-7, “She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. 7 I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’” She summoned Barak, an able military leader.

Barak was a good man. Barak means (lightning). He was great in several ways. He was a very respected and competent general who could lead 10,000 warriors into battle and lead from the front and not from the rear and yet he was humble. When Deborah summoned him, he came.  He accepted the word of prophecy from a woman.  He also depended on God. He was obedient. He took the first courageous step in battle. He pursued fleeing chariots, never giving up. God granted him a victory.

Let’s see how the battle proceeded to see faith in action. Deborah told Barak to go Mount Tabor with as many fighting men as he could, and so drawing King Jabin out. She in turn would draw out Jabin’s fearsome general, Sisera, and taunt him into fighting at the Wadi Kishon, a valley with a river.

At first, Barak was reluctant to enter into battle. His hesitation is understandable. Barak was human and we humans first see the impossibilities rather than the possibilities. He turned to Deborah for support in verse 8. “Barak said to her, ‘If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.’”  Deborah did not seem too happy about Barak’s request, but I think it is O.K. to lean on others for support, especially on servants of God. But the ultimate goal is to always lean on Jesus for he is our strong tower and he is with us 24/7. If we depend on Jesus then we will always move forward in faith and victory.

God could sense Barak’s hesitation and set out to strengthen his heart through his servant Deborah. Look at verses 9, “’Certainly I will go with you,’ said Deborah. ‘But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.’ So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh.” Deborah was a good shepherd to Barak. She was willing to put all things on hold if only she could lend support to Barak during his hour of need. She was willing to lay down her life for Barak.

Barak drew courage from her spiritual encouragement. Look at verse 10. “There Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali, and ten thousand men went up under his command. Deborah also went up with him.” The people were also inspired. Listen to 5:2, “When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves— praise the LORD!”  And 5:9,My heart is with Israel’s princes, with the willing volunteers among the people. Praise the LORD!” There are times when we must walk along side people. Our presence can make all the difference. Others will be inspired and become willing volunteers in the Lord’s army.  We must also thank God for Jesus who is walking by our side, planting encouragement in us by his words and his spirit, enabling us to accomplish things we can never do on our own. Thank you Jesus for guiding my heart and helping me to be a willing volunteer in your kingdom.

Their military maneuvers caught the attention of Sisera just as Deborah had planned. Look at verse 12-13. The sight of Sisera’s advancing forces must have been very foreboding. Barak’s army must have been shaking in their sandals. They did not know what to do, but God knew and he began to work through his servant, Deborah, once again. Look at verse 14. “Then Deborah said to Barak, ‘Go! This is the day the LORD has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the LORD gone ahead of you?’ So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him.”  Sometimes God’s people need a shove to get moving.

God was with them and intervened in a supernatural way. Listen to what happened in 5:4-5; “When you, LORD, went out from Seir, when you marched from the land of Edom, the earth shook, the heavens poured, the clouds poured down water. 5 The mountains quaked before the LORD, the One of Sinai, before the LORD, the God of Israel.” And also look at  5:19-21, Kings came, they fought, the kings of Canaan fought. At Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo, they took no plunder of silver. 20 From the heavens the stars fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera. 21 The river Kishon swept them away, the age-old river, the river Kishon. March on, my soul; be strong!”   The fearsome iron wheels of the chariots were stopped by a sudden downpour that brought about the swelling of the Kishon River. They were stuck in the mud and were easy prey. The Israelite foot soldiers had the advantage. Barak and his forces utterly routed the Canaanites. There was a wonderful irony in this. Baal, the main god of the Canaanites, was god of storms and weather. He was worshipped by the Canaanites. Yet the Canaanites lost the battle because of a storm! Yahweh, the God of Israel, was clearly superior to the god of the Canaanites. Their faith in their God was strengthened. Our God is awesome and powerful. More powerful than our sins, more powerful than the devil, more powerful than any situation we may find ourselves in today.

Part V: Jael: A Women Who Decided To Side With The People Of God.

Sisera fled towards the encampment of another great woman in the Bible, Jael. Jael means “wild gazelle” or “wild goat”. She was a tent-dweller. Her family were tinsmiths who made farming utensils, domestic items, and weapons. They traveled whenever they could find work. Her campsite was close to the battlefield because her family was supplying weapons for the army. The Kenites were descendants of Moses’ father-in-law Jethro. They lived among Israel, but kept their separate identity. Heber, her husband, was from the Kenite tribe, a longtime ally of Israel. But for some reason, Heber decided to side with Jabin, maybe because Jabin’s army appeared to have the military advantage. Heber, was on good terms with the Canaanites. Sisera thought he could get help from Heber, and so he fled to his tent on foot.

Jael, however, did not throw in her lot with the Canaanites. (4:21) Through her husband Heber, she was bound to the Israelites by kinship obligations. Jael knew that in times of war there can be no neutrality. So she made a decision to stand with God’s people. She was like Rahab and Ruth.

When Sisera arrived, exhausted and terrified, Jael called him into her tent, hid him and fed him. Jael’s tent was separate from her husband’s tent. Sisera was relieved. First, because Jael was the wife of Heber, he thought she surely could be trusted. Second, because a man was never allowed to enter a woman’s tent, he thought that no one would think of looking for him in there. After entering into the tent, she covered him with a rug to help him hide. He asked for water. She gave him goat’s milk. Exhausted from the battle, he fell asleep. Sisera felt that he was on control. But he was never more out of control. He was about to meet his Maker, the God of the Hebrews. We may think that we are totally in control in our lives. But we will come to the time when we are not in control any longer. At that time we must come to Jesus and surrender our lives to him.

After he fell asleep Jael revealed her resourcefulness. Sisera was fierce, yet Jael used her wits and courage. She took the wooden hammer used to put up her tent and one of the pegs that held the tent ropes and then, with one blow, she drove the peg deep into the side of Sisera’s head. Deborah sang about Jael in 5:24-27, “Most blessed of women be Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, most blessed of tent-dwelling women. 25 He asked for water, and she gave him milk; in a bowl fit for nobles she brought him curdled milk. 26 Her hand reached for the tent peg, her right hand for the workman’s hammer. She struck Sisera, she crushed his head, she shattered and pierced his temple. 27 At her feet he sank, he fell; there he lay. At her feet he sank, he fell; where he sank, there he fell—dead.”  She was hailed as a national heroine who, together with Deborah, had saved the Israelites from their mortal enemies. Deborah’s prediction was fulfilled: the honor of conquering Sisera went to a brave and resourceful woman, Jael. Jael’s story is a real David and Goliath story that shows that a seemingly invincible enemy could be defeated, if God’s people put their complete faith in Yahweh.

God blessed the term of office of Deborah. 5:31 reads, “So may all your enemies perish, LORD! But may all who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength.” Then the land had peace forty years” When we have the faith and Deborah, Barak and Jael and serve our calling with faith, courage and integrity of heart, then we will no longer be oppressed by our spiritual enemies of sin, Satan and self. Others will rally around the cross of Jesus with us and win one victory after another as we obey Jesus with faith and courage that comes from him. We and others around us will experience the peace of God that surpasses all human understanding. May God raise up many spiritual woman, like Deborah across our land. Amen!

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