Shelby G. Floyd
Good morning! God is great! A-men. It is a beautiful day, and it is good to be back among my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We had a great vacation in Florida. It was in the 70’s and 80’s most of the time. It is wonderful to get away and rebuild our energies and rest up a little bit. It is great to be back, and I am ready to go to work! I appreciate Mitch taking care of things while I have been away, and I do the same for him when he is away on vacation. Also I appreciate Larry teaching the Bible class and I understand he has done an excellent job.
And now I am ready to present to you the word of God. Our lesson today is from Judges the 4th and 5th chapters of the Old Testament. Larry read our text in Judges 4:4-11. I could have given our lesson today different titles. We could have called our lesson, “Deborah the Cheerleader!” Or we could have entitled it, “Two Men Went to Jail.” But to keep it simple, we shall simply call it “Deborah, Barak, and Sisera.”
Now the book of Judges is about God’s people serving the Lord, obeying his word for 20, 30, or 40 years and living in peace and security. And then they would fall away by worshipping idols and committing all sorts of sin. Then God would turn them over to the ungodly nations of the Canaanite people who would punish them and make them slaves. And then they would cry out again for God to help them. They could not throw off these people who had put them into bondage. Then God who loved his people would raise up a deliverer who would set them free again. God called these deliverers Judges! This was a continuous cycle during this period. Before Deborah there were Judges named Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar. The last judge before Deborah was Shamgar. The Bible doesn’t say much about Shamgar, but what it says is enough: “… Shamgar son of a Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox goad. He too saved Israel” (Judges 3:31). What a man! He killed six hundred men with an ox goad! I would not want to mess with a man like him.
But today we are studying about Deborah. In this lesson we will take notice of the sin of neutrality. Sometimes when there is an issue, certain people just do not want to take sides. They do not want to be on the left side or the right side. They just want to be neutral! There are times when neutrality can be a good thing. For instance, George Washington the Father of our country did not get involved in all those European wars that were going on at that time. He chose a spirit of neutrality. This proved to be a wise choice because we had all we could take care of with our war with England, France, and Spain. And so sometimes neutrality can be a good thing, but most times when there is an issue of right or wrong, we had better have enough faith and strength to stand up and choose the right side.
And Jesus himself thought that was the right thing to do. You cannot live in the middle ground. No one can be neutral on the great issues of life. Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Luke 11:23 NKJV).
BACKGROUND OF DEBORAH, BARAK, AND SISERA
Now I want to give you a little background of our lesson today. Ehud was a great warrior, a great judge and leader. And under his leadership, Ehud destroyed the Moabites. He blew the trumpet in mount Ephraim and the Israelites followed him and slew 10,000 mighty men of valor. And the land of Israel had rest for 80 years (Judges 3:27-30). And after he had died, the Israelites did evil again in the sight of the Lord, and he delivered them into the hand of Jabin, the king of the Canaanites. Sisera was the general of the army, and he had nine hundred iron chariots and he oppressed Israel for 20 years. It was bad for Israel. They stayed off the main highways and took the back roads instead:
“In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath,
In the days of Jael,
The highways were deserted,
And the travelers walked along the byways.
7 Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel,
Until I, Deborah, arose,
Arose a mother in Israel. (Judges 5:6-7 NKJV).
Today, we would say that they stayed off the Interstate. The idea here is that the people were afraid to be on the highways because Sisera and his army was everywhere harassing the children of Israel. It was so bad that they had to take the back roads.
But after 20 years of harassment God raised up a woman to deliver Israel from their bondage. God raised up a mighty woman, a mighty warrior by the name of Deborah to deliver Israel from the Canaanites. Her husband’s name was Lapidoth (Judges 4:14). We do not know anything about him.
In recent times England had a mighty woman leader by the name of Margaret Thatcher. They called her the Iron Lady. She showed the men of England the kind of leader that they ought to be. Today women have proved that they can be great leaders and that was true of Margaret Thatcher. So Deborah was God’s “Iron Lady” in Israel’s history. And she was a prophetess and judge in Israel. She was the only woman to ever hold that position.
Where did she judge? The Bible says she judged under a palm tree near mount Ephraim. And the people would come out to her to settle their differences. We need to remember that Israel was both a religious and political people. Therefore it was a theocracy. Deborah was judging Israel in the same way that Moses judged Israel after they came out of Egypt, until Jethro told Moses that he needed to get help so he would not wear himself out (Exodus 18: 13-27). Some preachers today hold up Deborah as the model for the feminist movement in the churches. Deborah was not a feminist. She was just the opposite. She urged Barak to do what God had commanded him to do, to have courage and backbone!. She was like a cheerleader for the man Barak. The New Testament commands the men to be the leadership in the church. Paul taught, “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence” (1 Timothy 2:12).
GOD, DEBORAH, AND BARAK DEFEAT SISERA
Deborah summoned Barak to come to her and reminded him that God had asked him to deliver Israel:
Then she sent and called for Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “Has not the Lord God of Israel commanded, ‘Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor; take with you ten thousand men of the sons of Naphtali and of the sons of Zebulun; and against you I will deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand’” (Judges 4:6-7).
God had assured Barak that he would win this war. “I will deliver him into your hand.” So when we talk about Deborah and Barak winning this battle, we really should say, God won this battle through the agency of Deborah and Barack. Therefore it is God who wins the battle for Israel. Now here is what Barak said, “I will go down to meet Jabin’s army if you will go with me. but if you do not go with me I will not go.” So he is taking the middle ground. I will go only on the condition that you go with me. Now in the New Testament book of Hebrews, Barak is pictured as a great man of faith (Hebrews 11:22). And he was a great man of faith, but for now his faith wavered when he thought about Jabin and Sisera’s army with all those iron chariots. Deborah said, I will go with you, but the honor will not be to you, for God will give the honor of the victory to a woman. Therefore instead of being a feminist, she was trying to put backbone into Barak!
Therefore, now Deborah and Barak are going to join the army over at Mount Tabor by the Kishon river. On their way they gathered 10,000 men from the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali. The battle will be engaged at mount Tabor and the Kishon river. They assembled at mount Tabor. Sisera received word that Israel was at mount Tabor. They had good intelligence back then also. Then he brought his great army over there. Now we see those two opposing armies facing each other. Deborah courageously urged Barak to join the battle,
“Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the Lord gone out before you?” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him. And the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army with the edge of the sword before Barak; and Sisera alighted from his chariot and fled away on foot” (Judges 4:14-15).
This is the way it has been since the beginning of time. Opposing armies facing each other for the great battle. Since a boy I have read about World War Two and how the two great opposing armies faced each other at the beaches of Normandy. But after the war was over and our troops came home, America sung the songs of victory! We do not sing songs of victory after our wars anymore! But Deborah and Barack will sing a great song of victory after this battle victory by the help of God Almighty (Judges 5:19-22).
JAEL DROVE THE NAIL!
When Sisera saw his defeated army, he jumped from his chariot and fled on foot to the tent of a woman by the name of Jael. Jael was the wife of a man named Heber the Kenite. The Kenites were related to the Israelites by Jethro or Ruel, the father-in-in-law of Moses. When Israel was travelling to the promised land they came by where Ruel lived and where Moses had spent 40 years in exile. They encouraged Jethro to go with them, but he declined. It seems that Hobab the brother of Zipporah travelled with them. Zipporah was the wife of Moses. Therefore, he was the brother-in-law of Moses (Judges 4:11 NIV). The Kenites were descendants of Hobab. Heber had pulled himself away from the other Kenites and was loyal to Jabin the Canaanite King: “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” (Judges 4:11 NIV). Heber is another example of neutrality. He was taking the middle ground. He wanted to stay out of the war. But his wife Jael did not agree as we shall see. She was loyal to Israel.
And so the battle ensued: they are fighting, slashing, cutting, and killing, and finally they have destroyed Sisera’s army. Sisera’s 900 iron chariots were effective if they were in the plains. But when they were near a mountainous area and a river, especially if a heavy rain descended and the ground became muddy, they became useless! That is what happened.
DEBORAH AND BARAK SUNG A SONG OF VICTORY!
When Deborah and Barak sang their song of victory they revealed how God won the battle for Israel:
“When you, Lord, went out from Seir,
when you marched from the land of Edom,
the earth shook, the heavens poured,
the clouds poured down water (Judges 5:4 NIV).
“Kings came, they fought,
the kings of Canaan fought.
At Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo,
they took no plunder of silver.
20 From the heavens the stars fought,
from their courses they fought against Sisera.
21 The river Kishon swept them away,
the age-old river, the river Kishon.
March on, my soul; be strong! (Judges 5:19-21 NIV).
Now when Sisera realized that his army was defeated by Israel, he jumped from his chariot and ran to his safe house tent of Heber and Jael. Heber was not home, but Jael came out and welcomed him to come into the tent and be safe! He mistakenly thought Jael was loyal to him. Exhausted he asked her for a drink of water. She gave him a bottle of milk and put him down on a rug. He fell asleep. She covered him with a blanket. While he was asleep she went to him with a tent peg and a hammer. Then she drove the tent peg through his temple, and he died. She pinned him to the ground!
Barack came running toward the tent of Jael looking for Sisera. Jael said, “Come into the tent and I will show you the man that you are looking for.” Sisera was dead! Barack did not receive the honor as Deborah had predicted. The honor went to Jael. “Jael drove the nail!” The honor went to a woman.
This was a great victory for Deborah, Barack, and the children of Israel. They had won this victory because they willingly offered themselves to the Lord:
Then Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam sang on that day, saying:
“When leaders lead in Israel,
When the people willingly offer themselves,
Bless the Lord! (Judges 5:1-2 NKJV).
They summed up their victory in these closing words of their song:
“Thus let all Your enemies perish, O Lord!
But let those who love Him be like the sun
When it comes out in full strength.” (Judges 5:31).
In the same way may all of us be active in the fight of faith and willingly offer ourselves to the Lord. If you are not a Christian, now is the time to obey the gospel while we stand and sing.*
Copyright © 2022 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
*Shelby G. Floyd delivered this sermon Sunday morning January 30, 2022, at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142.