Rev. Joseph Bianco
There is a pattern emerging in the text between the relationship of the Judges, the Israelites, and God. The pattern that applies for Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson is as follows: Apostasy (4:1) Servitude (4:2) Supplication and Salvation (4:3-24). At the beginning of chapter 4 we read that because Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, God gave them to the hands of Jabin, king of Canaan, who oppressed them cruelly for twenty years (4:2). Twenty years is a long time to be under cruel oppression. God then sends Deborah who works with Barak to bring both faithfulness and salvation to Israel. It is noteworthy that Deborah is one of the most faithful judges in the book of Judges. It is also noteworthy that Deborah did not lead the battle herself, but challenged Barak, a man, to do so. In between the battle and the song of Deborah and Barak, we encounter the interesting character Jael who was the wife of Heber the Kenite. The Kenites were distantly related to the Israelites. There we read of this horrific (and heroic) act of driving a tent peg through the head of Sisera, the commander of the Jabin’s army. The victories over Jabin’s army and Sisera both come at the hand of woman (4:9). The song of Deborah and Barak is full of imagery and evokes a few questions. In 5:15 and 5:16 we read a phrase repeated twice, “There were great searchings of heart.” Not all of the tribes of Israel were equally involved in the destruction of Jabin’s army. The song rightly demands the reflection; where is your heart? The second question results from the first, namely what will Israel do in the future? The song begins with the leaders taking leadership, and the people offering themselves willingly. Will God’s people continue to remain faithful now that salvation has arrived?
Reflect: There are two major reflections in the chapters and the first directly concerns women. We read about two very strong women in the text, Deborah and Jael. In addition to their strength, in 4:9, the author points out the contrast that the glory will not belong to Barak, but to a woman. Why does the author make this point? At the very least it is to show that in a time in history when Israel is in rebellion against God, God chose to use women in powerful ways to complete his purposes. We read this again in the gospels, various places that Jesus includes women actively in ministry. If you are a woman, how might this story challenge you take up the call for God to use you in powerful ways? Does this scare you or encourage you? How so? Second, there is the question of the “searchings of heart?” As we read these words we are forced to reflect on our own hearts. Take some time in prayer and ask the Lord to search your heart. There you will find a need for repentance and faith.
Connect: Luke 8:1-3 Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.
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This blog is part of the ministry of City Reformed Presbyterian Church. Unless otherwise noted, the entries are written by Matt Koerber. This is part of a project that our church is doing as we read through the narrative sections of Scripture between early January and Easter 2020. New entries will be scheduled to drop automatically at 5:00 am on the scheduled day.