Judges 4:1-2 (ESV Strong’s)
And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD after Ehud died. And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera,
We live at a time in history when ordinary people can become heroes, and today I want to look at a team that rescued Israel from Canaanite oppression.
In ancient Israel, much like today, sexism was alive and well. Women were essentially 2nd class citizens, considered inferior to men, and the property of men. This is common throughout history, and while in most areas of society today women now have equal rights, this prejudice is still common among some in the church today. While I don’t want to enter into a debate about the value or otherwise of women, and I believe every life matters, Deborah was the only woman judge Israel had. Can a woman be a judge?
Judges 4:4-5 (ESV Strong’s)
Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment.
This lady was a judge, that is a leader in Israel. I don’t believe it’s because God couldn’t find a decent man to do the job, it’s because she was uniquely gifted and anointed. Her role was similar to Samuel later, she was a prophetess but also a leader. She heard from God, and she lead the people.
Now before you get all uppity towards me, and God, for putting a woman in a position of authority, stop and recognise that God raises up both men and women, uniquely gifted for specific roles. Most judges were warriors. Deborah wasn’t.
DEBORAH AND BARAK… A DREAM TEAM
Deborah formed part of a dream team, so she summoned the other side of the partnership, the commander of the army, Barak…
Judges 4:6 (ESV Strong’s)
She sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali and said to him, “Has not the LORD, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulun.
In an incredibly sexist society, what I want you to see here is that God used an anointed man and an anointed woman together in unity to deliver His people. When we read this, we want to debate about who was in charge of whom, but we need to see that this was 2 people with 2 different skill sets working together in unity. Each was in charge of their own area of gifting, Deborah hearing from God and setting the direction for the people, and Barak actually getting it done. She didn’t fight the battle for him, and he didn’t try to hear from God for her.
Deborah was perceived by the entire nation, and Commander Barak, as having a hotline to God. But she couldn’t fight or lead the army. This is not about who was in charge of whom, this is about 2 complimentary skillsets pulling together.
Romans 12:4-5 (ESV Strong’s)
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Instead of debating who is in charge, we should pull together in unity, each person shining in the role and gifting that God has given them. Deborah sough the Lord, Barak fought the fight, and the two formed a dream team.
It’s like that in life too. I am in charge of my household, responsible to the Lord. But Fiona is in charge it the cooking, and groceries. Each of us have a specific area we are gifted for, but in he end we pull together. Am I greater than her, or her than I? No, we’re a team. The church should be a team. Zac in finances, Tania in admin. Was Jesus inferior to the other parts of the God head? No, but to get the job done he chose to become submissive. Deb and Barak were a team, and each had a unique role to play!
IT’S TIME TO JOIN HANDS TOGETHER
There is too much division in churches today, over all kinds of perceived Biblical interpretations, most of which are not our core beliefs. We need to put our prejudices and preferences aside, but not our principles, and stand together in unity. I can tolerate people disagreeing with me, unless it is a salvation issue, then I don’t bend! We can disagree on matters of doctrine, interpretation and preference but still be in unity. Unity did not mean we see eye to eye on everything, but we can still walk hand in hand. Unity is more important than your preferences.
A Canadian farmer lost his 2 year old boy in a corn field, so he called neighbours to search for the child. He told them to be careful not to trample the corn, as it was ready to harvest. After several hours of fruitless searching and with temperatures dropping below freezing, he gathered the men together and said, let’s join hands, trample the grain, but find my son!
Eventually they found him curled up, frozen to death on the ground. The farmer said, gentlemen, we should have joined hands sooner.
Now, perhaps more than ever before in history, is the time to join hands in unity, bringing our strengths and gifts to the table to serve together, just as Barak and Deborah did… Deb said,
Judges 4:7 (ESV Strong’s)
And I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops, and I will give him into your hand’?”
Draw is Hebrew MASAK, which means to sow, to drag or draw down. Deborah’s role was to seek God and God’s plan for luring Sisera, the opposition general, out into battle. Barak’s role was to fight that battle, but he had reservations. Barak didn’t want to do it alone. He needed to know Deborah was with him.
Judges 4:8-9 (ESV Strong’s)
Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” And she said, “I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh.
Barak was scared. He needed to know the prophetess, God’s representative, went with him into battle. Deb agreed, but said because of his lack of faith the glory will go to a woman. That wasn’t an insult, or a threat, it was a consequence.
It’s ok to be scared. John Wayne said, “Courage is being scared to death and mounting up anyway.” If you’re fearful as you look ahead, that’s ok, just do not give up. God has a destiny for you, just keep going…
Galatians 6:9 (ESV Strong’s)
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
This COVID thing has dragged on for too long. It’s hard yakka, it’s restrictive, but let’s stay the course. Don’t give up on church. Ignite is changing into what we believe God wants us to become, all of us in unity, so let’s covenant to see it through together. We may not all agree on how church should be done in these challenging times, but I want you to be in unity. We leave no man or woman behind.
THE BATTLE… ANYBODY PLUS GOD IS A MAJORITY!
Barak’s heart must have melted as he saw 900 chariots of iron in the valley. The details of the battle form the basis of Deborah’s song in Judges 5. But he heard thunder, turned around and saw torrents of rain sweeping across the slopes, turning the valley to mud. Now the 900 chariots became 900 stuck in the mud coffins, and Barak’s 10,000 men swept forward. The enemy army was defeated, the remnant including the commander Sisera fled on foot, with Barak in hot pursuit, because he wanted his enemy as his prize.
Judges 4:15 (ESV Strong’s)
And the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army before Barak by the edge of the sword. And Sisera got down from his chariot and fled away on foot.
BEWARE A WOMAN WITH A TENT PEG
So Sisera fled to the only ally he had anywhere close, Heber the Kenite. Heber’s wife Jael offered him sanctuary…
Judges 4:18 (ESV Strong’s)
And Jael came out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Turn aside, my lord; turn aside to me; do not be afraid.” So he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug.
She gives him sanctuary and a nice glass of milk, and hides him. He directs her,
Judges 4:20 (ESV Strong’s)
And he said to her, “Stand at the opening of the tent, and if any man comes and asks you, ‘Is anyone here?’ say, ‘No.’”
OK, Sisera can relax now, and exhausted he falls asleep. But Jael had him pegged…
Judges 4:21 (ESV Strong’s)
But Jael the wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand. Then she went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple until it went down into the ground while he was lying fast asleep from weariness. So he died.
Something went through Sisera’s head than had never gone through it before. By the time Barak arrived, Jael had made her point… she, not Barak, nailed Sisera!
Judges 4:22-23 (ESV Strong’s)
And behold, as Barak was pursuing Sisera, Jael went out to meet him and said to him, “Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking.” So he went in to her tent, and there lay Sisera dead, with the tent peg in his temple.
So on that day God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan before the people of Israel.
SOMETHING TO SING ABOUT Deborah
The next chapter, Judges 5, is a song about this event, composed and sung by the dream team, Deborah and Barak… it starts this way…
Judges 5:2 (ESV Strong’s)
“That the leaders took the lead in Israel, that the people offered themselves willingly, bless the LORD!
Judges 5:12 (ESV Strong’s)
“Awake, awake, Deborah! Awake, awake, break out in a song!
Arise, Barak, lead away your captives, O son of Abinoam.
Jael features in the song, even though she was the lowly wife of a lowly nomad. It was her who was the one who did something big for God. She shows that God will use anyone willing to be used by Him, it doesn’t matter who gets the credit, as long as He does.
While some are busy debating who was in charge over whom, I believe God gives us a huge key here… God was in charge over the whole nation, and he used a man and a woman bringing their unique gifts together in unity to serve Him. In an age of protests against prejudice, the church should lead the way by standing in unity, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, black and white, men and women, old and young, we are one in the Spirit.
IT’S TIME TO STAND TOGETHER DEBORAH AND BARAK
In the lockdown, the enemy has done his best to divide us and separate us and isolate us, because he knows the real strength of our witness comes when we stand in unity together. We may not agree all the time, but we can be in unity.
Psalms 133:1 (ESV Strong’s)
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
1 Peter 3:8 (ESV Strong’s)
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
Jesus Himself said a house divided will not stand, and the enemy is trying to divide us right now. Already some have fallen away, saying they want to stay home and worship God their own way. But this plays into the hands of the devil. He’s doing everything he can right now to divide the church.
So now is the time to let our petty grievances go and instead stand together in unity. You might think you’re right, that God and the Bible are on your side, but listen, most controversies in the church are argued from both sides using Scripture!
Unless it is a core value, like salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone, can we not lay our preferences and interpretations aside and stand together? If you think you’re truly Biblical, stop concentrating on verses that support your pet doctrine and concentrate on the ones that are about unity, and there’s loads of them!
1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV Strong’s)
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
It is time to stop our preferences becoming prejudices, and celebrate what unites us, not what divides us.
This moment in history is ours if we are willing to be obedient and stand in unity. Come and be part of a dream team here at Ignite, because when we stand together the enemy shakes in fear.
Ryuno Satoro said, Individually we are one drop, but together we are an ocean.
Hebrews 10:23-25 (ESV Strong’s)
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Prayer for commitment to unity.