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DEBORAH: A WOMAN OF
CONVICTION AND COURAGE
Intro: The book of Judges is a gritty, dirty book. It is filled with sin, violence and the judgment of God. It is an action book that probably appeals more to men than it does to women. A modern counterpart would be the action and war movies that men find far more appealing than the romantic comedies preferred by the ladies. While this book contains certain qualities that might appeal to men more than women, the book of Judges is a book that actually elevates the position of women in Israelite society.
In the chapters before us today, we are introduced to two women who were used by God in great ways, for his glory. Those women are Deborah and Jael. One was a respected leader in the nation; the other was a simple housewife. They came from different walks of life, but they were both used by God is remarkable ways. Since we are studying the judges of Israel, we will focus our attention on Deborah as we consider the passage before us.
I want to move through chapters 4 and 5 and point out some facts that present themselves in this tale of sin, judgment, war, faith, and victory. I want you to see how God used a courageous, faithful woman to deliver His people from bondage and oppression. I want you to see that God is still using women for His glory every single day. Let’s walk through these verses together and meet Deborah: A Woman Of Conviction And Courage.
I. v. 1-3 THE SPIRITUAL
MELTDOWN IN ISRAEL
(Ill. These verses describe the horrible spiritual conditions that existed in Israel during the time if Deborah.)
A. v. 1 Their Corruption – After Ehud delivered Israel from Eglon and the Moabites, the land has rest from war for 80 years, Judges 3:30. As long as Ehud lived and judged the nation, the people followed God and served Him. When Ehud passed from the scene, the people returned to their sinful ways. We are told that they “again did evil in the sight of the Lord” Judges 5:8 says, “they chose new gods”. The people of Israel turned their back on the God of their salvation and followed the gods of the Canaanites. There was a spiritual void in their lives and they walked away from the Lord. They no longer had Ehud to direct them, to guide them, to give them the truth, and they wandered from the right path.
(Ill. The children of Israel are a picture of what we see all too often in our churches. We see people who will follow God for a while, and then when there is a spiritual void in their lives, they turn away from God and seek their own ways. Perhaps it is the death of a special loved one. A parent, a grandparent, or some other influential relative will pass away, and the believer finds his foundation is gone. It is sad when we base our faith on those around us and not on the Lord.
Sometimes it happens when a preacher leaves a church. When the preacher leaves, the people will sometimes scatter. This should not be! Our faith should be in the God Who gave Himself to save us, and not in any man. We should live just as close and just as clean regardless of who is removed from our lives. This kind of things happens when believers get their eyes on men and not on the Lord, Heb. 12:1-3.
We need to be very careful! Like Israel, the old enemies from the past will rise up when you least expect them to. That sin you thought was conquered will defeat you if you give it an opportunity! You aren’t safe until you get home to glory and are delivered from this flesh, Rom. 7:14-25; 1 Cor. 10:12.)
B. v. 2 Their Chastisement – When Israel rebelled against God, He responded by giving them over to their enemies for punishment. The Bible says He “sold” them. This words means to “turn over; to give up”. In other words, God abandoned them to the life they chose for themselves. They paid a terrible price for their rebellion. The condition of the nation is described in Judges 5:6-7. They were literally driven from their highways and their homes.
(Ill. There is still a high price to pay for disobedience to the will of the Lord. When we choose our ways over His ways, and when we choose to follow other gods instead of Him, we can expect His displeasure. He will send chastisement into our lives, Heb. 12:6-11; Deut 8:5; Rev. 3:19.
I don’t know about you, but I do not want to experience the displeasure and chastisement of the Lord in my life. The only way to avoid that is to keep short accounts with Him and confess sin when it appears in our lives, Pro. 28:13; 1 John 1:9. If I choose to go on in my sins, I can expect God to touch my life in ways I will not like.
Ø He might touch me through my flesh by bringing sickness or other sorrows into my life, Psa. 51:3; 40:12; 38:1-11.
Ø He might touch me through my family by working through them to bring me back to Him, 2 Sam. 12.
Ø He might touch me through my finances by bringing me to a place of want where I realize where my supply comes from, Hag. 1:6.
Ø He might touch me through my future by allowing me to reap the full consequences of what I have sown, Gal. 6:7.
I don’t know how God will work in your life or mine, but I do know that He will work. We may sin, but we will never get away with it, Num. 32:23.)
C. v. 3 Their Cry – Israel was oppressed by Jabin and his armies for 20 years. As far as Israel was concerned, Jabin was undefeatable. He possessed a powerful army anchored by 900 chariots of iron. The helpless armies of Israel were no match for this enemy. According to Judges 5:8, the Israelites possessed no weapons. They were a conquered, defeated people. They were a people without hope. Eventually, they came to the place where they were tired of their situation. They called on the Lord and He heard them. But, you will notice that they did not cry out in repentance, they cried out for deliverance from their problems. Israel never seemed to realize that walking with the Lord, and honoring His Word and His ways brought His blessings, while rebellion and wickedness always brought His judgment.
(Ill. Most people in our day never learn that lesson either. People call on the Lord so that He will deliver them from their problems, while they fail to deal with the root of their problem, which is their sin. If we really want to be delivered from the oppressive effects of evil and the harsh whip of chastisement, we must deal honestly with our sins before the Lord. Our goal should not just be to escape our problems; our goal should be to be found pleasing to the Lord. Our goal should not just be to have an easier time in life; our goal should be to be right with the Lord in every area of our lives. If we could ever learn to seek the Lord’s will above all things, we could be spared a lot of the hardships we are forced to face in life. )
I. The Spiritual Meltdown In Israel
II. v. 4-24 THE SPECIAL
MINISTRY OF DEBORAH
A. v. 4-5 Her Position – The Bible is very clear; Deborah was both a “prophetess” and a “judge”. Her name means “Bee”, and she was as busy as a bee! Matthew Henry says that her very name suggests the work of the bee: industrious, sharp perception (discernment), great usefulness, sweetness to her friends, and sharpness to her enemies.
The word “prophetess” suggests that she received direct revelation from the Lord and shared that word with His people. Deborah is not the only “prophetess” mentioned in the Bible. Others include: Miriam, Ex. 15:20; Huldah, 2 Kings 22:14; Anna, Luke 2:36; and the four daughters of Philip, Acts 21:9.
There is no contradiction between this fact and the fact that God only calls men to preach, 2 Tim. 3:1-8. God laid His hand on these women and poured His truth through them in an age when there was not a complete Bible. In this age, we have a completed Bible. God does not call women to preach in this age, 1 Tim. 2:8-15.
The word “judge” lets us know that she settled disputes among the people of Israel, v. 5. They came to her with their problems and she rendered judgment. In a very real sense, Deborah the leader of the nation during those dark days.
B. v. 6-7 Her Prophecy – Deborah receives a word from the Lord and she calls Barak, to take 10,000 soldiers and go to war with the enemy. The Lord promises to defeat Sisera, the Canaanite general. God promises a great victory, if they will simply trust Him. And go to war.
C. v. 8-9 Her Problem – Deborah has a word from the Lord. She shares that word with Barak, and she finds that Barak seems to be afraid to follow that word. Her is willing to go to battle, but only if Deborah will go with him. She agrees to go, but tells him that since he depended on a woman, the glory of victory will be given to a woman!
D. v. 10-24 Her Partner – Barak and Israel go to war with Sisera and the Canaanites. Barak gets 10,000 from his own tribe of Naphtali and the neighboring tribe of Zebulon, Judges 4:6, 10; 5:14, 18. Later, the ranks swelled to 40,000, 5:8, with volunteers from Benjamin, Ephraim, Manasseh, and Issachar, 5:5:14-15. Some of the tribes refused to come, 5:15-17, but those which did saw God give them a great victory.
Considering the fact that Israel had no weapon, 5:8, and no standing army, what Barak and Deborah did was an amazing act of faith. They trusted God and He have them a great victory!
Verse 15 tells us that God “discomfited” Sisera and his armies. Judges 5:21 tells us what happened. As they fought, God allowed the Kishon River to overflow its banks, the iron chariots of Sisera became stuck in the mud and the soldiers were swept away by the currents. All the soldiers of Sisera were slain, 4:15.
Seeing that his army was defeated, Sisera fled the battlefield on foot. He went to the tent of a man named Heber, who was of the Kenites. The Kenites were a people group who aligned themselves with Israel. This particular family, however, had turned on the rest of the tribe and took sides with Sisera and his army.
So, Sisera flees to the tent of Heber thinking that he will find refuge there. Heber’s wife Jael greets Sisera and invites him into her tent. She helps him hide from his pursuers, v. 18. Sisera asks Jael for a drink of water, she brings him a drink of milk instead. The offer of milk served two purposes. First, it eased the mind of Sisera. He was convinced that he had entered the tent of a friend and that he was safe. He asks Jael to lie for him, v. 20. Second, the milk would have helped him fall asleep. He was already tired from the battle and when he drank the milk and laid down in the darkness, it wasn’t long until sleep overtook him. While he slept, Jael takes one of the tent nails and drives it through Sisera’s head, killing him, v. 21.
In that culture, it was the woman’s responsibility to put up and take down the tents. So, Jael was used to swinging that hammer. This woman was not stupid! When she saw Sisera come to her tent on foot, she knew that he had been defeated in battle. She also knew that if she was caught hiding him in her tent, she might be put to death with him when Barak found them. She saw that Israel had come out on top in the battle and she wanted to be found on the right side when the dust settled. Jael was a wise woman!
(Ill. Let me stop here and say a word about women in the church. Thank God for the women! They are not second class saints. They fulfill a vital role in God’s kingdom work. If all the women were removed from the average local church, the work of the church would grind to a halt. I have watched the ladies work while the men just stood around and talked. Most men are spoiled. Their mothers did everything for them when they were growing up. Their wives have done everything for them since they have been married and they don’t know how to do anything but grunt work outside.
Women hold a vital place in the work of the church. They are the ones who, for the most part, teach our children. They are the ones who have the kind of compassion that drives the outreach ministries of the church. They are the ones who bring the gifts of grace, love and mercy to the table. By and large, they are more dependable than the men, when it comes to be involved in the work of the church. The women in every church exert tremendous influence on the children in the church. I thank God for the godly, active women in this church!)
I. The Spiritual Meltdown In Israel
II. The Special Ministry Of Deborah
III. 5:1-31 THE SWEET
MUSIC OF VICTORY
(Ill. The victory over Sisera results in Barak and Deborah launching into song. Their song is recorded for us in chapter 5. It is a song of praise to the God Who gave them the victory over their enemy.)
A. v. 1-12 They Praised God For His Virtues – The primary thrust of these verses is a refrain of praise offered to God for His wonderful works among the people of Israel. He gave them unity so they could raise and army, vv. 2; 9. The Lord Who had given them victory in the past would not fail them now, vv. 4-5. God, in His faithfulness, gave them Deborah to lead them, v. 7. God allowed them to defeat their enemies and freed them from the bondage of their oppressors, vv. 6-7; 10-12.
They praise God for His power in their lives. That is a valid reason for praise in this day. Take a moment to inventory your life. Hasn’t God been good to you? You are saved and blessed beyond words. He is worthy of our love, worship and praise!
B. v. 13-18 They Praised God For His Volunteers – When the call went out for volunteers, only half the tribes came to fight. The rest refused to go to war. In the days of Joshua, every tribe was expected to fight for the nation, when Barak called for warriors, many would not come. Ill. Verse 23 – The town of “Meroz” was cursed by the Angel of the Lord because it refused to send volunteers to help the Lord.
By the way, things have not changed today. The majority of the work is carried out by a minority of the people. The call has gone out for us to tell the world about Jesus, but few go. The call has gone out for us to take our stand against evil, but few have answered. The call has come for us to rally ourselves together and fight the good fight of faith, but few answer the call.
I thank God for those who are willing to work! I thank God for those who can be counted on to teach those classes, sing in the choir, come out to prayer meeting, support the special meetings of the church, and go to work for the Lord in these dark days. I just believe that God still blesses those who fight and work for Him!
C. v. 19-23 They Praised God For His Victory – The enemy was defeated by the power of God. He sent the rain and defeated the 900 iron chariots of the Canaanites. One raindrop is a tiny, fragile thing, but when it is united with many other raindrops, it becomes a things of great power. Just as God took the weak raindrops and used them to wash away the enemy; He took the weak army of Israel and gave them a great victory.
We look at our world today and wonder whether we can have victory any more. I want to say that we can! If we will stand together and fight the good fight of faith, God will empower us and lead us to victory for His glory. You see, it isn’t numbers, wealth or human power that gets the job down; it is the power of God, 1 Cor. 1:26-31.
D. v. 24-31 They Praised God For His Vessels – They close their song by praising the Lord for His unsung heroes. They praised the Lord for the bravery of Jael in slaying Sisera. Her act of bravery allowed the nation to enjoy victory.
God always has His people. He has those secret ones through whom He is working. We ought to praise God for the unsung heroes of the Christian faith. People like Hur who, along with Aaron, held up the arms of Moses while Israel battled the Amalekites, Num. 17. We have those same kind of heroes in this building right now. The prayer warriors, the silent servants, the people who do the little things that no one notices, and the people who serve behind the scenes. There is a God in Heaven Who sees who you are and He watches what you do. Carry on, and He will bless you in His way, in His time, Gal. 6:9.
Conc: Verse 31 closes out the story and the song of Deborah. This verses is a prophecy that reminds us that the enemies of the Lord will be destroyed, while the faithful saints of God will shine with His glory some day.
Let me encourage you to keep on serving the Lord. I know the way gets weary. I know the path gets steep. I know that it often seems there is little reason, from a human standpoint, to carry on, but there is! One day Jesus is coming. When He does, He is taking His children home with Him. When we get there, we will stand before Him and give an account of our service to Him. On that day, if you have been faithful, you will receive rewards for everything you have ever done for His glory, 1 Cor. 3:10-15. Others, who have lived for themselves, will see everything burn up and perish. But, you who are faithful, will hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”
So, turn from sin, live for Jesus and look for the day when He balances the books. It will be worth it all then!