I’m reading through the Book of Judges right now in my devotions and I’ve begun to notice a few things. There are somethings which many scholars and pastors and even the casual reader will point out right away–there’s a downward spiral. We read repeatedly in the Book of Judges that they did evil in the sight of the Lord.
The people of Israel were supposed to push the original inhabitants of the land out of the land in order not to be corrupted by them and led astray. They didn’t do that. Instead they began to follow the ways of the people around them. The people of Israel were to be different, set apart, priests to the other nations, showing the other nations the glory of the God who called them. Instead, not only did they integrate so much with the people around them, they became even worse than the people around them.
And so, they got invaded. Repeatedly. An they became oppressed. Repeatedly. And they cried out to God for help. Repeatedly. And God sent leaders to their aide. Repeatedly. God sent judges. Now, in our mind today, judges are these people who sit behind a big desk, bang a gavel and declare what is lawful and unlawful, who broke what law and how recompense should be handed out. That’s not what a judge is here.
In the Book of Judges, a judge is one who is both a political leader and a spiritual leader. One who leads Israel both in the political realm amongst the other nations (usually the ones oppressing them) and also leads the people in following Torah, God’s word and way of living for Him so that His glory is shown. In the book of Judges, this only happened for a generation or two.
And so, enter in Deborah. She is called a prophetess (Judges 4:4) and is leading as a judge in Israel in a specific geographic location. It had been years since Ehud, the left handed swordsman, had defeated fat King Eglon and once again, Israel did what was evil in the eyes of God. Ehud had brought the people back to God and had instructed them in the faith. Yet after two generations, that faith wasn’t really well known in the land. Only a few, such as Deborah and those who would listen to her, remained faithful to God, the one true God.
The people of Israel were being once again oppressed, this time by the King of Canaan, the king of the people they were supposed to drive out of the land. The very people they were warned about corrupting them were now oppressing them.
Deborah has been leading God’s faithful peacefully under this king’s rule but it is time to be used by God to deliver His people. Deborah calls on Barak, from one of the tribes of Israel, to be used by God to deliver the people. Barak is a bit of a coward to tell the truth. He doesn’t really trust that God will do what He says He’ll do. In fact, Barak will only follow God’s calling to be used to deliver the people if only Deborah goes with him.
Barak wants glory. But he wants glory on his terms. He wants glory in battle but he wants it to be in such a way that if things fall, if things don’t succeed, he has someone he can blame for it all. In other words, if Deborah, the prophetess of God, the one who is the political and spiritual leader of the people comes with him and he succeeds, he gets the glory along with Deborah. And if it fails, well, Deborah gets left holding the bag.
Deborah sees right through this. And of course, so does God (der). Because Barak doesn’t trust in what God can do and instead hedges his bets, the glory he so wanted will be given to someone else. Not just that, but a woman. Now, today we might be saying “Hey, wait a second here, that ain’t cool.” But in that day and age, even having Deborah lead was cutting edge and advanced. The fact that Barak is accepting Deborah’s leadership is amazing. But that was rare. Women weren’t always seen with respect but instead of objects. So, the one who wouldn’t even have a chance of receiving glory in battle will have it given to them. Sucks to be Barak.
In fact, the glory and victory goes to a housewife named Jael. Jael is related to the same people who were the in-laws to Moses, the great leader of the people of Israel. In fact, when word came that Israel was raising up an army to fight against the king of Canaan, she and her family picked up and headed that way, setting up camp a bit farther back so Jael’s husband might fight with Israel (it is interesting to note that only the tribes of Ephraim and Benjamin came to fight, the rest had excuses…so one who wasn’t part of the tribes of Israel was willing to fight, but not the people of God…dude, talk about wimping out).
Where Barak was a wimp and hedging his bets for glory, Jael was cunning, smart, a smooth operator, who totally nailed down the general of the Canaanite army (quite literally, she put a huge tent peg through his head while he was hiding from Barak who had him on the run). Where Barak didn’t trust in God but wanted glory, Jael trusted in God but didn’t seek glory.
How many times do we try to seek glory but hedge our bets because we’re not willing to fully trust in God? How many times do we try to hedge our bets instead of using what we’re given to serve God? We’ll do something if we think we can succeed, but we’re not willing to put all we have on the line to serve God.
There are many times where we hold back (me included) in fully giving ourselves to serving God. We wonder what others might think. We wonder what will happen if we fail. We get afraid and hedge our bets. Deborah was strong, so was Jael (figuratively and quite literally…it took a lot of strength to wield a hammer big enough to hammer in a big tent peg into the head some dude…like She-Hulk strong almost). Barak, not so much. Deborah and Jael trusted in God, Barak, not so much.
You have a call by God to serve Jesus, a call that fills your soul, pulls at your heart. Are you willing to give your all or are you going to be timid about it? Your call. I’d say grab a tent peg and hammer and go at it, but that might be taken the wrong way.
How will you serve?