Shelby G. Floyd
Good morning on this beautiful sunshiny Sunday! We have about 30 of our young people away at Gatlinburg. They will be on their way home soon so please pray that they will have a safe journey. We still have a good number for our worship today. Last week Mitch used peanut butter as an illustration, and I took one of his jars of peanut butter to restore my stash in the office. But he doesn’t hold that against me because he came in this morning and bought me this gift of the full armor of God soldier for my office. He got one for himself and one for me. I thank him and we appreciate each other, and we love each other and support each other.
THE SIN OF NEUTRALITY
Three weeks ago I spoke to you about Deborah and Barack. Let me briefly summarize that story. The story of Deborah and Barak in the book of Judges was about 1250 years before Christ. During this period the children of Israel were going through a cycle they would repeat several times in Judges. Israel would have peace and prosperity for 20, 30 or 40 years. Then they would get puffed up with pride and disobey God. Then God would punish them by one of the Canaanite nations who would overpower them and basically make their life miserable. They would suffer until it was unbearable and then they would cry out for God to help them. He then would raise up a judge that would deliver them and again they would prosper.
It was during one of these cycles that God raised up Deborah to be a prophetess and Judge in Israel. Jabin king of the Canaanites had subjected Israel to servitude and God raised her up as a prophetess and Judge to deliver Israel. She judged like Moses did when Israel came out of bondage and headed to the promised land. She judged at a palm tree near Ephraim. She called Barack and reminded him that God had commanded him to gather 10,000 men from the tribes of Zebulon and Naphtali. He was to assemble his army at mount Tabor. Then he would join the battle with Sisera, and God would give him the victory.
For some reason Barack had been delaying God’s order. Deborah reminded him of his duty. Finally he said I will go if you go with me, but if you do not go with me I will not go. Deborah agrees to go with him but said the honor will go to a woman and not him! You know the rest of the story. King Jabin and Sisera were defeated. When Sisera saw that his army was defeated he jumped out of his chariot and ran to the tent of a woman named Jael. Jael welcomed him into her tent. He asked for water, and she gave him milk. Also she gave him curds to eat, covered him with a blanket and when he fell asleep from exhaustion she drove a tent peg through his temple, and he died on the spot.
It was not long until Barack came chasing after him and Jael said come inside my tent and I will show you the man that you’re looking for. He went in and found Sisera dead as door nail! “Jael drove the nail!” And so the glory and honor of the victory went to Jael and not Barack.
THE METHODS GOD USED FOR THE VICTORY
Now let us look at the methods God used to win this battle for Israel. When God says that he is going to give the victory to Deborah and Barack that doesn’t mean that man has nothing to do. God is not going to do it all. God has promised Christian people victory over sin and Satan, but that does not man we have nothing to do on our part. We are to be workers together with God! If we do our part, then God will do his part. We cannot stay on the sideline and remain neutral.
And so today I want to talk to you about the sin of neutrality. Lot of people do not want to take a stand. They want to be neutral. They say I am not for you, but I will not be against you! But Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Mathew 12:20). So if you are not with Christ you are against Him! There is no neutral ground. Therefore, let us look at the methods that God employed on His part to bring about this victory for Barack and Israel.
God Used A Willing Spirit
The first thing that God used to win this battle for Israel was A Willing Spirit. It is wonderful when we have people here at Heartland who are willing to volunteer to do a lot of different things. You people do a great job contributing to the needy people in Johnson County. We bring what people need and it helps out a lot of families who are struggling. Last week we announced the struggling family that is basically raising their grandchildren and they don’t have anything. But look how the people are responding. It is wonderful because God can use a willing spirit. Now I want you to open your Bibles to Judges the fifth chapter, because that is where we are going to center our attention today. You can follow along with me and see how God won this battle and how he used different methods to bring about this victory.
Look at Judges 5: 1 and notice that when leaders lead in Israel they are victorious. That is what leaders need to do! If leaders do not lead then they are not leaders but followers. Notice what Deborah sang in the first verse of her song of victory.
When leaders lead in Israel,
When the people willingly offer themselves,
Bless the Lord! (Judges 5:1 NKJV).
Deborah is singing this song of victory and she assigns victory because the leaders in Israel were willing to lead. And she was talking about herself and other leaders that contributed to this victory. Barack is a leader of faith, but he needed a woman to encourage him to take up arms against these oppressors. Next we notice that the leaders and the people volunteered. Notice the next verse of Deborah’s song of victory:
My heart is with Israel’s princes,
with the willing volunteers among the people.
Praise the Lord! (Judges 5:9 NIV).
They willingly volunteered! We love volunteers because no one likes to go and put pressure on somebody to do something. It is much better when people say, “I volunteer, I will do it, you can depend on me!” Deborah praised those who volunteered, and her heart was with the rulers of Israel who offered themselves willingly! Bless the Lord, yes we bless the Lord when leaders lead in the church today, and we bless the Lord when we volunteer to serve and to do the things that need to be done. Therefore the first way that God won this battle for them is he had a lot of people who volunteered willingly to go to war and fight the battle.
When I think of an example, the Second World War comes to mind. When we finally decided to go to war the whole country pitched in and we had soldiers that volunteered to go and do the fighting, but you know the Homefront is just as important as the soldiers who went over there to fight. We had to have people in factories producing the jeeps and the tanks and the arms and everything else that is needed for an army to win wars. In reference to the great Roman army, people have said that an army travels on its stomach. They must be fed and cared for while they are in the field. Recently in reading a book about George Washington and our patriot volunteers here in early America, by the end of the war they were without food and had not been paid for over a year. Many feared there would be an insurrection by the army. But thanks to the Father of our country and Alexander Hamilton, Congress was able to establish a bank and appropriate money to pay our debts. The Republic was saved. Therefore it is very important to volunteer and have a willing spirit.
God Almighty Used Powerful Thunderstorms and Gushing Rain To Defeat Sisera.
In the second place God almighty won this battle through Deborah and Barack along with powerful thunderstorms and gushing rain. In some low parts of Indiana powerful thunderstorms and heavy rain can bring flooding. Through nature God brought about this victory, so I want you to look at another verse of Deborah’s song of victory:
Lord, when You went out from Seir,
When You marched from the field of Edom,
The earth trembled and the heavens poured,
The clouds also poured water;
The mountains [a]gushed before the Lord,
This Sinai, before the Lord God of Israel.
The kings came and fought,
Then the kings of Canaan fought
In Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo;
They took no spoils of silver. (Judges 5:4-5,19 NKJV).
Deborah is singing about this powerful thunderstorm and rain that was their Sinai like that the children of Israel experienced on their journey from bondage to the promised land. Now imagine Barack has taken his army of 10,000 men over there to mount Tabor and the Kishon river runs right by the mountain. In Kentucky or Tennessee where there are mountains and rivers nearby, they can flood very quickly if there is a downpour and gushing rain. Suddenly there can be a flood situation. That is exactly what happened when Barak’s army came down off mount Tabor. Suddenly as the battle engages, clouds suddenly come in, there is thunder and lightning, and the rain is coming down in buckets full as we used to say. King Jabin and Sisera have their 900 iron chariots as they engage the battle. They are very effective out on the plains, but they are useless when it comes to rainstorms and mud. They are sliding around all over the place. Therefore God won the battle for Israel by a powerful thunderstorm and gushing water!
God Used The Stars In Heaven To Fight Against Sisera.
In the third place, it is very interesting how God can win a battle for Israel by using the stars in heaven to fight against the army of Sisera. Perhaps the Canaanites worshipped by the false science of astrology based on the movement of the stars. But who is to say that the stars do not have something to do with the movement of things on this earth? After all we do know that the moon has a powerful effect upon the earth because it affects the tides of the ocean and lakes. The tide comes in and the tide goes out based on the moon’s gravitational pull on the earth. And from what Deborah sang in her song it seems that in some way even the stars of heaven have some effect on what happens down here on earth:
They fought from the heavens;
The stars from their courses fought against Sisera (Judges 5:20).
When we read Deborah’s entire song the only way that the stars could be involved was in the thunderstorms and the gushing rain. Therefore God was the original author of the Star Wars!
The Flood Waters of The Kishon River Defeated Sisera.
In the next place, this harmonizes with what has just happened. With the terrible thunderstorms and gushing rain God used the adjacent river Kishon to defeat Sisera. It just happened that this river ran right along the side of mount Tabor. Therefore we can understand how this flooding river could sweep away the powerful army of the Canaanites. But we are not left in doubt because Deborah and Barack sing how it all happened:
The torrent of Kishon swept them away,
That ancient torrent, the torrent of Kishon.
O my soul, march on in strength! (Judges 5:21).
And Sisera’s 900 iron chariots were of no value because the river is overflowing and the ancient torrent of Kishon swept them all away. Oh my soul, never belittle the power of Almighty God.
Deborah During the Battle Was A Mother To Israel And Barack
The constant leadership of Deborah was another reason Israel won this battle:
Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel,
Until I, Deborah, arose,
Arose a mother in Israel. (Judges 5:7).
Like a mother who cherishes her children, Deborah looked out after God’s children of Israel. After the battle was won, village life returned to normal. This teaches us that there are times when men should listen to their wife because men are not always right, and sometimes a woman has a sixth sense about things that men do not have. There are times when men should listen to what a woman has to say, especially if you’re facing a crisis in your life. Men need to get all the counsel they can before they make that final decision. In this story we see what is happening. Deborah is like a mother cheerleader to Barak. He needed this mother cheerleader before he would even get involved in the fight. Wisely he listened to Deborah and thank God that he did because she was right, and he was wrong for treading water and not going to battle. But now listen to the Awake Verse of her song:
Awake, awake, Deborah!
Awake, awake, sing a song!
Arise, Barak, and lead your captives away,
O son of Abinoam! (Judges 5:12).
Barak got a little song while he was up on mount Tabor with his army and Deborah urged Barak to strike while the iron was hot! As the result of the great victory Barak, son of Abinoam was urged to lead his captives away!.
Jael The Woman Who Drove The Nail Defeats Sisera!
Now let us look at the last way God helped Barak and Deborah to win this battle. We will briefly recount how Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite contributed to this great victory over the Canaanites. Deborah who as a prophetess was inspired by God, included praise for Jael in her triumphant song of victory:
Most blessed among women is Jael,
The wife of Heber the Kenite;
Blessed is she among women in tents.
25 He asked for water, she gave milk;
She brought out cream in a lordly bowl.
26 She stretched her hand to the tent peg,
Her right hand to the workmen’s hammer;
She pounded Sisera, she pierced his head,
She split and struck through his temple.
27 At her feet he sank, he fell, he lay still;
At her feet he sank, he fell;
Where he sank, there he fell dead. (Judges 5:24-27 NKJV).
That is a great poem to a great woman who took care of the chief army general of the Canaanites. It is as beautifully written as any rime in English poetry! When Christians today are in a great battle of life, do not trust in yourself alone. Put your faith and trust in the Almighty and he can and will bring you victory out of nowhere! There have been times in my own life’s battles when I did not know where to turn except to the Lord. And when I did He often brought victory when I could only see defeat.
THE TRIBES WHO SURVIVED THE BATTLE
Now after the war was over we will take notice of the tribes in Israel that joined in the battle and survived to live another day! There were five or six tribes who survived to talk about the victory. This also would include some of the villages within some of the tribal territories! Deborah also includes these survivors in her eulogy!
Then the survivors came down, the people against the nobles;
The Lord came down for me against the mighty.
From Ephraim were those whose roots were in Amalek.
After you, Benjamin, with your peoples,
From Machir rulers came down,
And from Zebulun those who bear the recruiter’s staff.
And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah;
As Issachar, so was Barak
Sent into the valley under his command; (Judges 5:13-15).
Those who went to the battle and survived were Ephraim, Benjamin, Zebulun, and Issachar. We learn also that Naphtali fought courageously: “Zebulun is a people who jeopardized their lives to the point of death, Naphtali also, on the heights of the battlefield.” (Judges 5:18). Deborah makes sure to include all those tribes who valiantly fought and survived to live another day. They were true heroes and are listed in Deborah’s song of joy.
THE NEUTRAL TRIBES AND VILLAGES!
In the next place we shall describe those tribes and villages that were neutral during the war with Sisera.
Tribe of Reuben
And number one was the tribe of Ruben. You will remember that Ruben was the first-born son of Jacob, and he did sinful acts that caused his father a lot of heartache. Now it seems that his character hasn’t changed because his people did not go to the battle. They stayed home and played it safe!
In the districts of Reuben
there was much searching of heart.
Why did you stay among the sheep pens
to hear the whistling for the flocks?
In the districts of Reuben
there was much searching of heart. (Judges 5:15-16).
Yes, among the divisions of Ruben there were great resolves of heart. You can have great resolves of heart, but if it stops there what good is it? Why did you stay among the sheepfolds to hear the whistling or piping for the flocks when the battle was engaged? After the battle was won there was great searching of heart among the people of Reuben! That is what happens to people who sit over on the sidelines and do not get involved in the battle. They have a great “search engine of heart” and feel very guilty for not doing their part in the war.
Village of Gilead
Deborah next reveals that the village of Gilead was not involved because “Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan.”(Judges 5:17). But Gilead was not a tribe, so I did research and found that Gilead was a village located in the territory of Reuben and the half tribe of Manasseh. This territory was given to them by the Lord when Israel divided up the land of Canaan (See Joshua 22:9). This territory was located on the east side of the Jordan River. But the battle was on the west side of the Jordan. Therefore the people of Reuben did not go to battle and the people of Gilead who lived in the same area did not go either. They were neutral and were held in contempt for their lack of Israelite patriotism.
Next, the people of the tribe of Dan stayed out of the fight because they stayed with the ships. Therefore Deborah asked, “And why did Dan remain on ships?” (Judges 5:17). The territory of Dan was on the western shore of the Mediterranean Sea where the Philistines lived. They played it safe and stayed on their ships!
And what about the people of Asher? The territory of Asher is located up in the northern part of Canaan. They were in the proximity to Mount Tabor where the battle was fought. Deborah includes these people also for taking a neutral spirit: “Asher remained on the coast and stayed in his coves.” (Judges 5:17 NIV). Asher was neutral. They were not involved and therefore they cannot celebrate with a good conscience because they did not do anything.
The last group of people who were neutral in the battle at Mount Tabor is Meroz. Scholars believe this village was located just north of Mount Tabor. Therefore, of all the people who were neutral in the conflict, Meroz had the most at stake, because of where they were located. Therefore we are not surprised that Deborah and the angel of God held them up for contempt by a curse:
‘Curse Meroz,’ said the angel of the Lord,
‘Curse its inhabitants bitterly,
Because they did not come to the help of the Lord,
To the help of the Lord against the mighty.’ (Judges 5:23).
OBSERVATIONS AND APPLICATION
And now I shall make some observations and application to our discussion about neutrality. It is decision time for a lot of people. We cannot be neutral because there will always be a conflict between right and wrong. Remember what God said to the serpent after he expelled Adam and Eve from the garden in Eden?
So the Lord God said to the serpent:
“Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15 NKJV).
In the natural world the head is the supreme part of the body, while the foot or heel is the lowest part of our nature. God will deal a bruising blow to the head of Satan, while Satan will bruise the heel of Christ. Satan did this when he worked to put Christ on the cross. But God Almighty dealt a death blow to the head of Satan when He raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead.
We can’t be neutral today! We must take one side or the other. Jesus Christ said, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” (Luke 11:23). Edmund Burke said one time, “The only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Also Jesus said at the conclusion of the parable of the unjust steward:
“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Luke 16:13).
Whose side are you on? Satan or the Lord? We are either on one side or the other! There is no neutral ground. Therefore, if you are not against Christ, you are on His side! “For he who is not against us is on our side” (Mark 9:40). If you are therefore on the Lord’s side, let it be known today! Today is a good day to choose the Lord! The water is warm, and we are ready to take your confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (Romans 10:9-10), and to baptize you into Christ this very day (Romans 6:3-4; Acts 8:34-39). Come forward and make that decision while are we standing and singing.*
*Copyright © 2022 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd Heartland Church of Christ 1693 West Main Street Greenwood, Indiana 46142
Shelby G. Floyd delivered the essence of this sermon Sunday morning February 20, 2022, at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142