ROBERT >> How important are women to the work of the Lord? Well, I want to talk to you today about the woman of the Old Testament named Deborah who made a difference. Because of her, God gave victory to Israel against their enemies. Stay tuned. We’ll be back in just a moment.
SINGING>> Speaking the truth, speaking the truth,
speaking the truth, speaking the truth in love.
ROBERT >> The story of Deborah is found in Judges chapter 4 and chapter 5. In fact, these are the only two chapters in the Bible that we read about Deborah. But this was a terrible time in the history of Israel. In the period of the judges, after Joshua had died, the generations that followed continued to forsake the Lord, to turn away from him; and because of that, God brought great oppression upon them from their enemies. And each time, God’s people would see their sin, and they would cry out to the Lord for deliverance. And in response, God would raise up a judge, really, a warrior, to lead them against their enemies, to defeat their enemies, to set them free from the oppression. And here we read in Judges chapter 4 how God used Deborah to give them the victory.
Look with me here in Judges 4:1. “When Ehud was dead, the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord.”
They had been delivered, but now once again, after enjoying some time of prosperity and blessing, they forsook the Lord. They did evil in the sight of the Lord. And I want us to think about this for just a moment.
I want us to realize how serious sin really is, because sometimes I think that we just wink at sin. It’s not really that big a deal. It’s not really that bad. And we kind of gloss over our sinfulness and the things that we do against God and the things that we say and the things that we think, and we don’t really want to be honest about our sins, and we don’t really want to get serious about sin.
But how serious is God about sin?
All you have to do is look at the cross, and you can see how serious God is about sin. It cost God the blood of his only son. Our Lord and our savior Jesus Christ left his place with God in heaven to become one of us. And having lived a perfect life, being tempted and tried just like we in the flesh, he was one without sin, he was an innocent one, and yet he suffered and he died for us, as our substitute.
He took our place. When we deserved to die, he died for us, and there he paid the price for our sin. It came at such a great cost, the cruel suffering death of the cross.
In 1 Peter chapter 1, Peter writes about this great cost of sin. I want to read that to you, because it’ll help us to see how serious our sins really are.
1 Peter chapter 1, beginning in verse 18. Here Peter says, “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from our aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
Peter’s telling us here, we ought to live in obedience to God because we know something. We know what it cost for God to pay for our sins. It can’t be measured in the amount of silver, the amount of gold; but it’s measured by the blood of Jesus Christ, as of one without spot, one without blemish. You can’t put a price tag on that. That great sacrifice was necessary to pay for our sins.
How dare we sin. How dare we continue in doing those things that really put Jesus there. It was our sins that nailed those spikes into his hands and into his feet, that pressed that crown of thorns upon his head,that caused that scourging of his back. You see, it was because of our sins that Jesus went to the cross. Our sins put him there.
Knowing that, how can we continue in sin?
But that’s what happened. And you’ll notice here back in Judges chapter 4 that the people cried out to the Lord, and they looked to him for a judge, one to be raised up to deliver them. And when you and I are honest about our sins and realize how hopelessly we are lost because of them, we, too, will cry out to the Lord and look to him for our deliverance. And that deliverance is only found in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and who rose again. It’s through him that we can be forgiven and that we can have the hope and the assurance of eternal life, victory over sin and over death. And so we see that here mirrored in the story of Deborah. When the people sinned against God and God brought to them a deliverer in Deborah.
Let’s read on in Judges chapter 4 and in verse 2. “So the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who rained in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who dwelt in Herosheth Hagoyim. And the children of Israel cried out to the Lord; for Jabin had nine hundred chariots of iron, and for twenty years he had harshly oppressed the children of Israel.” You see, sin is a harsh taskmaster. Sin takes control of our life. We’re sold over into sin, and it becomes our master. Here in this case, we see it personified in Jabin, the king there in Canaan. And we see how that he had oppressed the people of God until they cried out for a deliverer, to be set free. This is the nature of sin, and this is why we need to be so serious about sin. It may come upon us gradually and begin to control parts of our life and begin to bring about its destructiveness into our hearts and lives, but in time it will completely destroy us.
I want you to look at what the apostle Paul wrote about sin in Romans the 6th chapter. Look here in Romans chapter 6, and notice what he says in verse 16. “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? So who is your master? Is it sin that has taken control of your life? Or is it the righteousness of God?”
He goes on to write in verse 17, “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from your heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”
Here in this passage the apostle Paul reminds us how we can be set free from sin. That happens by the obedience from the heart to that form of doctrine. He was talking about the teaching of Jesus Christ, the teaching of the gospel, his death, his burial, his resurrection, when we became obedient to that in baptism, as he said earlier in this chapter in verses 3 and 4, how we’re baptized into Christ Jesus, into his death, buried with him by baptism into death, that we might walk in newness of life.
You see, in our obedience to the gospel, he sets us free. He delivers us through the power of Jesus Christ.
And so back in Judges chapter 4, when the people cried out, God goes to work for their deliverance.
We see in verse 4,” Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time. And she would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of Ephraim. And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.”
You notice here something about Deborah. She was not just any woman. She was a unique woman. She was a prophetess. We don’t read about many great prophecies. When I usually think of a prophet, I think of Isaiah and Jeremiah or Daniel, or maybe the prophet Moses himself, or perhaps you’re thinking of someone like Elijah or Elisha. And they pronounced great prophecies. They pronounced judgment upon the people of God and the enemies when they would turn from God and they would commit their evil, and they would point to a savior, the deliverer, Jesus Christ.
Now, we see in Deborah a deliverer as she herself points to him; but what we read about concerning the prophecy of Deborah is in chapter 5, the song of Deborah. Her prophecy came by singing. And this is not unusual, as the prophets would sometimes sing their prophecies.
I remember Miriam, way back in Exodus chapter 15, when God delivered his people out of Egyptian bondage, they were led by Moses, you remember, through the Red Sea, and Pharaoh’s army was destroyed. But it was after that that they celebrated their victory.
And I want you to notice what it says here in Exodus 15 after we read of this great song of victory. In verse 20, “Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them, Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!”
It’s that kind of praise that we see in the song of Deborah in Judges chapter 5 upon the victory that God would give them over their enemies here that we’re reading about in chapter 4. Deborah was not only a prophetess, but she was also judging Israel at that time. She had her own palm tree, and she would sit under that palm tree, and the people would come to her for judgment. It’s not really the picture of some judge in a black robe in a courtroom where the lawyers are battling the case, but it’s more like what we used to have in the paper, Dear Abby. Ann Landers was often called upon for her advice, and she would give her wisdom to the people. They had problems, and like we all have problems, we want somebody to help us with those things. And that’s the way I see Deborah in Israel, watching over them and caring for them. They would come to her for her wisdom, for her advice, for the word of the Lord. And she would help them in arbitrating their disagreements and resolving their issues and their problems. She was, according to the song of Deborah here in chapter 5, actually a mother of Israel.
You’ll notice it in verse 7 of chapter 5. Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel, until I, Deborah, arose, arose a mother in Israel. You know how mothers take care of the house. They take care of the family, they manage the household, as Paul said in 1 Timothy chapter 5. They’re so important to the life of the family. And so Deborah, what an important role she played in Israel at such a difficult time in their history, one to whom they could come, one who cared for them, who watched out for them, one who took care of things for them. But now look what happened. She was also one who was ready and willing to go to battle with Israel if it was necessary.
As you read on here in Judges 4:6, “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? Here, Deborah reminded Barak, the commander of God’s army, what he had been told by God. God had told him to go, to take ten thousand men, to fight Jabin the king and the great multitude, the army that he had that had been oppressing them.”
Apparently, Barak had not actually acted upon God’s word. And so here we see this woman, Deborah, who was so prominent in that time, encouraging him, reminding him, doing what she could to get him to be the man that God wanted him to be.
And notice his response as we read on here in Judges chapter 4. In verse 8, “And Barak said to her, If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!”
Apparently, Barak was afraid to go by himself; but he saw in this woman faith, he saw in this woman a confidence that he could in fact be victorious. And so he wouldn’t go without her.
And it says in verse 9, So she said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh.”
What a woman of faith. What a woman of confidence. I’ll go with you. Whatever help he needed, she was willing to step up and to do it, even if it meant going into battle. But you’ll notice, because Barak failed to be the leader that he should be, he would not receive any glory. There would be no boasting on his part when the victory was won. In fact, this commander of the enemy’s army, Sisera, would actually, it says, be taken care of by a woman. My thought, Deborah’s going to defeat him; but that’s not how the story falls out. Before that happens, I want you to notice as we read on in this chapter how God gave victory to Barak and to Deborah that day.
Let’s look down in verse 13. “So Sisera gathered together all his chariots, nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people who were with him.”
And in verse 14 the Bible says, “Then Deborah said to Barak, Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the Lord gone out before you?”
You see, it was going to be God who would deliver them and who would give them the victory.
And look what it says in verse 15. “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. But Barak pursued the chariots and the army as far as Harosheth Hagoyim, and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not a man was left.”
Did you see who was doing the fighting here?
It was not Deborah and Barak and his army. It was the Lord who was fighting. God routed the enemy, God brought destruction upon the enemy, and they were slain by the edge of the sword.
In fact, if you look at Deborah’s song, if you look over in chapter 5, look what it says in verse 4 and verse 5 about this battle. “ Lord, when You went out from Seir, when You marched from the field at Edom, the earth trembled and the heavens poured; the clouds also poured water; the mountains gushed before the Lord, this Sinai, before the Lord God of Israel. God poured out water from heaven. The mountains gushed with water. God brought the destruction that day.”
It’s like the Nazi German tanks in their war against Russia. When they hit that mud of that land, they were bogged down and defenseless, and there’s nothing they could do to escape. And I can imagine these nine hundred iron chariots and how they must have bogged down in that mud. God gave the victory. God fought for them. And we need to know today that God will fight for us. But look at the key here in the song of Deborah in verse 2.
In Judges 5:2, it begins this way:” When leaders lead in Israel, when the people willingly offer themselves, bless the Lord!”
Yes, when those of us who are leaders will step up and we’ll be the kind of people God wants us to be, then we’ll get the victory; but if we refuse to go to battle, if we refuse to be that leader that God would have us to be, then the people certainly are not going to do anything. On the other hand, it’s not enough just for the leaders to lead, but he says the people willingly offer themselves. We must all be willing to give ourselves to the battles of the Lord so that we can know his victory.
We must give ourselves to Christ as Christians. We must turn over our gifts, our time, all that we have into the service of the Lord and live for him. When leaders lead and when the people willingly, voluntarily offer themselves, then God will give us the victory. Yes, God will fight for you just as he fought for Israel that day. He will give you the victory just as he gave them the victory. But then notice what happened.
In verse 17,” Sisera fled away on foot. And where does he go for safety? He goes to the tent of another woman, Jael. And he goes into that tent because her husband he thought was at peace and had alliance with king Jabin, whom he served. But he goes into the tent, and he finds that she’s not so friendly.”
Here we see in verse 18, “And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said to him, Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me; do not fear. And when he had turned aside with her into the tent, she covered him with a blanket. And then he said to her, Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty. So she opened a jug of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him. And he said to her, Stand at the door of the tent, and if any man comes and inquires of you and says, Is there any man here, you shall say, No. And then Jael, Heber’s wife, took a tent peg and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went down into the ground; for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.
Instead of giving him the water he asked for, she gave him a little milk and covered him up. And now full and now warm, he falls asleep. She takes up the tent peg, and she drives it through the temple of his head into the ground.
Now, that’s not like most women that I’m familiar with today; but these were different times. These were times of war, and these were times that everyone had to step up with great courage.
We notice here a fulfillment of what we had read earlier back here in verse 9, where Deborah had told Barak, The Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. It wasn’t the hand of Deborah, but the hand of Jael. Surely we can see from this great story that we all ought to offer ourselves to the Lord, that we ought to step up and do what God would have us to do.
And we learn how important women are to the work of the Lord, how they help us, how they encourage us, how they support us, and how they, too, are a part of the victory that we enjoy through Jesus Christ.
You know, there were some according to the song of Deborah in chapter 5 who wouldn’t go to battle.
We read about it in verse 16. “Why did you sit among the sheepfolds, to hear the pipings for the flocks? The divisions of Reuben have great searchings of heart. Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan, and why did Dan remain on ships? Asher continued at the seashore, and stayed by his inlets. Why did they sit on the sidelines and not get involved?”
Today, every one of us has a decision to make.
Will you stay out of the battle?
Will you sit on the sidelines?
Or will you offer yourselves in the battle of the Lord?
Will you know his victory?
Will he fight for you?
Notice the last verse of Deborah’s song in verse 31. “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. Let’s all shine in the victory of God.”
Let’s make our decision to do his work and to fight his war against Satan and sin, and let him fight for us and give us the victory.
SINGING>> Peace, perfect peace.
In this dark world of sin, the blood of Jesus whispers peace within.
Peace, perfect peace.
By thronging duties pressed, to do the will of Jesus, this is best. Peace, perfect peace.
Our future all unknown, Jesus we know, and he is on the throne.
It is enough.
Earth’s struggles soon shall cease, and Jesus calls us to heaven’s perfect peace.
ROBERT >> Thank you so much for watching our program today. We’d so much love to hear from you.
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SINGING>> Sing to me of heaven, sing that song of peace.
From the toils that bind me it will bring release.
Burdens will be lifted that are pressing so,
showers of great blessing o’er my heart will flow.
Sing to me of heaven, let me fondly dream
of its golden glory, of its pearly gleam.
Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall,
sing to me of heaven, sing the sweetest song of all.
Sing to me of heaven tenderly and low
till the shadows o’er me rise and swiftly go.
When my heart is weary, when the day is long,
sing to me of heaven, sing that old, sweet song.
Sing to me of heaven, let me fondly dream
of its golden glory, of its pearly gleam.
Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall,
sing to me of heaven, sing the sweetest song of all.