Today we are continuing our conversation through the book of Judges.
Last week we started off the conversation by giving a little background into the book and talking about the repeated pattern or cycle that happens throughout the book:
The Israelites have crossed into the promised land. They do not have a king, but the call is clear that God is to be their king and leader. But the people forget about Him and follow other gods and the cycle is relentless.
Last week we saw the pattern forming with Othniel and Ehud. While there is a pattern in Judges, it is not a simple repeat and repeat and repeat. It is actually a story of a deeper and deeper spiral.
Today we come to the 3rd Judge. Things are not getting better. And don’t worry–IT WILL GET WORSE. As we talked about last week, this is not a spiral to point to the wretchedness or worthlessness or unlovableness of the people. This is a spiral pointing to the need for something to change.
God loves His people. God is committed to His people. He is gracious and persistent with them. And while this is a painful read with so much death, loss, failure, and destruction, it is pointing at the need for a Messiah, the one that will be greater than a judge. Jesus is the answer to something being different.
Here’s a dialogue question to get us to a shared starting point this morning:
Are you a person that sees a movie once and doesn't want to see it again no matter how much you liked it, or are you a person that likes to see a movie over and over again? Why?
So now we come to another viewing of the film. The spiral continues–something really needs to change.
Today we come to the Judge Deborah. She was the leader of the Israelite people. She was respected and seen as wise and discerning. She was called the wife of Lappidoth, but there is some debate as to what this means–it literally means woman of torches, so maybe she was a fiery woman. There are many things to admire about Deborah, but again, the point of the book is the need for something to change.
If we look forward, after Judges, Saul is anointed King. That didn’t work out so well. Then David was the next king–that didn’t go so smoothly. And Solomon was the next king. That also was not perfection–there were so many issues. The Israelites were still living in the cycle. The story goes on and on, and the theme continues: Something needs to change. A messiah is needed.
There is a double plot twist in this Deborah story in Judges chapter 4–the twist of an unlikely hero.
The Bible is filled with unlikely heroes: Jacob was a homeless swindler. Moses was a murderer with a stammer. Ehud was a disabled loner. Joseph was an entitled repeated failure. Jonah was an unwilling servant of God. David was an impulsive teen. Peter was a slow learner. Paul was a persecutor of the church. Onesimus was a runaway slave.
And the ultimate unlikely hero was Jesus, the Messiah, the change that this book of Judges is pointing towards. He was born of Mary and placed in a manger, in the humble town of Bethlehem.
Why does a story of an unlikely hero connect with most people?
Now this unlikely hero theme is a major theme of Scripture. Why?
What does it tell us about God and about His relationship with us that there is an overwhelming theme in Scripture of unexpected, unlikely heroes?
Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians about a thorn in his flesh. It is not clear what it is, but I am sure we can all relate:
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:7b-9)
In my weakness, Christ’s power shines.
Next week we will come to the judge Gideon. There is not a more clear person in my eyes where this is happening. Gideon’s victory was in his weakness and in God’s strength.
Let’s have one more process moment before we jump into the text. There are a lot of calls in Scripture to trust God:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)
Trust God. Depend on God. He will help. He cares. He will provide. He is there for us. He hears us. He responds to us. But…
How do self-sufficiency, personal strength, ease of life, and/or personal comfort impact a person’s dependence on God?
We turn the page to chapter 4 and the third judge. The cycle continues.
There are a few characters in the story:
- Ehud: Prior judge that died and the people went astray
- Jabin: King of Canaan
- Sisera: Commander of the Canaanite armies
- Deborah: Judge and leader of the Israelite people
- Barak: Leader of the Israelite armies
- Heber, Moses’ brother-in-law (not an Israelite): Betrayer
- Jael, Heber’s wife: Hero of the story
Here’s the story:
Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, now that Ehud was dead. 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. Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help.
Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. 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. 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.’”
Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”
“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. There Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali, and ten thousand men went up under his command. Deborah also went up with him.
Now Heber the Kenite had left the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ brother-in-law, and pitched his tent by the great tree in Zaanannim near Kedesh. When they told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, Sisera summoned from Harosheth Haggoyim to the Kishon River all his men and his nine hundred chariots fitted with iron. 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. At Barak’s advance, the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot. Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, and all Sisera’s troops fell by the sword; not a man was left.
Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite. Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket. “I’m thirsty,” he said. “Please give me some water.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up. “Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’”
But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died. Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead. On that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan before the Israelites. And the hand of the Israelites pressed harder and harder against Jabin king of Canaan until they destroyed him. (Judges 4:1-24)
Okay. Remembering our earlier conversations about the Biblical theme of unlikely heroes and about how need and self sufficiency impact trust in God, let’s process this.
Judges points to the need for something to change, the need for Jesus. The judges are not the heroes that we should simply aim to emulate–there are admirable things, but they are on a spiral away from God and something needs to change. So what does this narrative tell you about God, where Jael–an outsider who was married to a betrayer–was the hero in the story?
She is revered in Debrah’s song in chapter 5:
“Most blessed of women be Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, most blessed of tent-dwelling women. He asked for water, and she gave him milk; in a bowl fit for nobles she brought him curdled milk. 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. At her feet he sank, he fell; there he lay. At her feet he sank, he fell; where he sank, there he fell—dead.” (Judges 5:24-27)
What does this narrative tell you about God, where Jael, an outsider who was married to a betrayer, was the hero in the story?
The pattern has continued.
It continues even after this moment. Here are the first words of Judges 6:
The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. (Judges 6:1)
I am going to give you a question to end with that is not simple, but is so essential:
What changes when Jesus is introduced to the cycle?
Take It Deeper Questions
- Read Judges 4
- Who is the “most important” person you have ever been in the same room with?
- Who do you identify with most in the story? Ehud, Jaben, Sisera, Deborah, Barak, Heber or Jael. Why?
- Where in life would you like to possess Debroah’s certainty and confidence?
- How are you challenged, encouraged, focused and/or confused by this text?
Bible Reading Plan
- 2 Chronicles 7
- 2 Chronicles 8
- 2 Chronicles 9
- 2 Chronicles 10
- 2 Chronicles 11