Women in Ministry; Defeat of Sisera
We are Judges 4 and I have been going through the doctrine of leadership the last few weeks because this is one of those situations that is usually brought up in the context today when a discussion arises concerning women in ministry; this is a major pressure that has come from the cosmic system, from the world because of certain pressures brought by the radical feminist movement. That is not to say that there are not elements within that agenda that weren't needed or necessary in terms of things like equal pay for the same job, things of that nature, but that's not the ultimate agenda in the feminist movement and if you haven't figured that out by now I don't have time to straighten you out on the subject. It has radically shifted our whole cultural perception of the role of men and women and in a very few areas has that been good but in a majority of areas it has been bad; it is in a large sense also related to a lot of other things going on in our culture, related to sex and sex roles, immorality, homosexuality, all of these things.
In fact, something came across my desk this last week related to a decision, it hasn't been made official yet but a proposal that has been brought the California Board of Education that a redefinition of sex and gender is real and perceived sexual identification; that means that if you perceive yourself to be a woman one day you can be Miss Smith and the next day you're Mr. Smith, depending on how you feel that day, how you perceive your sexual role. So our culture is operating on the concept that these things are fluid and they don't make any difference, that is of course 180 degrees opposite from the Word of God and the Word of God clearly defines certain roles for men and certain roles for women in certain circumstances.
For example, in the home the man, the husband is the head of the home; he is the spiritual leader and he is the one responsible for the welfare, the spiritual welfare of the home. That does not mean the woman, the wife, does not have a role to play but that he is the one who is ultimately answerable and that is the man's responsibility. There is also a situation in the Church where women are not given the gift of pastor-teacher and they are restricted from exercising a teaching responsibility in the local church where the handling of the Word of God is at issue. This does not mean that women cannot function in secular jobs and leadership roles in secular jobs or careers or in other arenas but it does mean that as far as the Word of God is concerned, as far as the local church is concerned, as far as the local church is concerned that women are excluded from the pastoral ministry and from teaching men. And there are Biblical reasons for that and it's clearly taught in Scripture and we went through that.
Deborah is a remarkable woman and is presented as such because of her leadership but here leadership as a prophetess and as a judge does not involve the explanation or teaching of the Word of God. As a prophetess her role is simply to articulate as a mouthpiece what God has revealed to her. That is the role of a prophet and as a judge she did not function as the term "judge", as we have seen, shaphat is a word that has a broad meaning and it's not equivalent to the English concept of a judge or a magistrate, although that was part of it. Sometimes the judge served as a military leader; sometimes as a political leader; sometimes as simply a magistrate, someone who adjudicated conflicts between members of the society and that appears to have been her role.
As we get into Judges we see that there have been various cycles that take place in this book, cycles of disobedience and as we proceed from one judgeship to the next we see a deterioration that takes place. I want you to notice something, a way in which the writer emphasizes his points here. Turn back to Judges 3:7; we have one verse here that describes the apostasy of Israel. In verses 8-9 we have two verses that describe God's discipline of the nation under Cushan-rishathaim, and then two verses, verses 10-11 describe the deliverance that God provided, really it could be two and a half verses, back into verse 9 for God's deliverance.
Then we look down to the second cycle which is Ehud. I verse 12 we have half of a verse describing the apostasy of Israel, Judges 3:12a, "And the sons of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD," the author doesn't belabor the point, he's already done that describing the facets of it back in Judges 2 and so he simply states the point that once again they have succumb to idolatry and apostasy in the land. And then from 21b down through verse 14 we have a description of God's discipline on the nation through the military occupation from Moab under Eglon. Then starting in verse 15 down through verse 30 there are 16 verses. I want you to notice the emphasis here, the proportion. One of the rules of Bible study is proportion. Notice the relative emphases that the Holy Spirit gives to certain episodes. So in the first cycle there were two verses or a verse and a half related to chastening, and two and a half verses related to deliverance. In the second there is two verses related to the discipline and then 16 verse related to deliverance.
Then we come to the third cycle with Deborah in Judges 4, and once again there's only one verse given to the apostasy, Judges 4:1, "Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, after Ehud died." Then we have two verses related to the discipline, verses 2-3 and then starting in verse 4 down to the end of the chapter we have 21 verses related to divine deliverance, and then chapter 5 is a praise hymn describing…once again as a praise psalm describing how God gave them victory and delivered them once again from the oppression of the army of Sisera. So there is clearly in this particular emphasis a much expanded description and emphasis on God's deliverance and the importance and significance of it.
Now one thing I want you to pay attention to here, we've got a lot of geographical detail in this chapter, a lot of historical detail and sometimes we can lose the forest for the trees. You get so involved trying out to figure out the geographical facets and the historical facets that you lose sight of the fact that this is not recorded for us simply to give us a nice little history lesson on Israel but this is designed by God and God the Holy Spirit in the process of inspiration to give us an example that relates to spiritual life. When I teach this I want to say once again that this is not allegory; allegory means that the events that you use in the story did not actually take place in history. That's the difference between allegory and the way the writers of Scripture are using history. The writer of Scripture under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is picking and choosing, he is selecting key events in the history of Israel; there are many things that took place and many more things that he could say but he is being highly selective and he is choosing these events in order to properly interpret, give God's interpretation of human history and also to give for us an example related to the spiritual life in the Church Age. So the there is a double facet working here; one is the divine interpretation of history and one is that this is designed to teach something, it is not just interesting incidents in history, it's designed for a purpose. And we know this from a couple of passages in the New Testament.
For example, in Acts 17:11 when Paul was on his second missionary journey and he was traveling in the northern part of Greece, he had gone from the city of Thessalonica to Berea and in Luke records, "Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica," and of course when Paul went into a new area he always went to the Jews first, he went to the synagogue and so he goes to the synagogue and he begins to explain how Jesus of Nazareth fulfills all of the Old Testament prophecies related to the Messiah and that Jesus is indeed the Messiah who died on the cross as a substitute for their sins. So they had a knowledge of Old Testament Scripture, but they didn't just take Paul's word for it, they got involved in a little personal Bible study on their own to make sure that what he was saying was correct. So we read, "These were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica for they received the Word," that is the gospel message, "with great eagerness," positive volition, "examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so."
It's not that they rejected or didn't accept Paul's authority as an apostle but no human being, apostolic or otherwise is infallible and inerrant. The only time the apostles can be associated with anything infallible or inerrant is when they were inspired by God the Holy Spirit in the writing of Scripture. That was it. So that does not mean that every time Paul spoke that he was absolutely correct; that does not mean that Paul was sinless. It means that only in certain circumstances was that true and the rest of the time even under the Apostle Paul the people got into the Word. That's why it's always important for believers to be in the Word, to constantly be reading the Word.
Now there are going to be problems, you're going into things that confuse you and you're going to run into things that perhaps you don't understand and there are bad translations and translation problems and so you need to be able to look at things and say well I don't understand that, I'm just going to go past it or maybe I'll ask the pastor about it some other time, but don't let those things trap you. It's important to get into the Word on a daily basis just to remind ourselves and to discover promises. It's important for a believer to memorize promises. How in the world can we exercise the faith rest drill and mix faith with the promises of God if you don't have any promises memorized and stored in your soul that you can call on in times of trouble and adversity. When those times come you can't say now wait a minute, wait a minute, I've got to run home and get my notebook and open it up and look for some promise that relates to this. By then it's too late. You have to have it in your soul.
So when it says that they "examined the Scriptures daily" they were getting into the Word for themselves. But what was the Word, what were the Scriptures that they got into? It's the Old Testament; they were searching Old Testament Scriptures to back up and supplement what the Apostle Paul was teaching them. At that time there was no New Testament canon. If we're right in our understanding of how the New Testament canon was formed there were perhaps at that point maybe two epistles, or at the most three, that had been written. It's possible that Matthew's Gospel had been written. I take the view that Matthew's Gospel was the first written under the principle, "to the Jew first and then to the Gentile," and I think that possibly Galatians had been written at this time, and maybe James, but probably nothing more. So there's no canon or New Testament Scripture, whatever had been already written was still probably localized in Galatia or in Turkey from James writing to the scattered believers there, scattered Jewish believers, so there's no collection of New Testament books at this point. They are getting into the Old Testament in order to document and supplement what Paul is teaching them and Paul is clearly teaching them about Church Age spiritual life principles.
And where were they getting it? From the Old Testament Scriptures. In Timothy we learn the same thing. 2 Timothy 3:16 is a well-known verse in this congregation, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness." But the verse prior to that Paul is talking to Timothy about his own upbringing and states, "from childhood you have known the sacred writings, which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." What were those "sacred writings? The Old Testament. There was no New Testament at that point; in fact, when Timothy was a child it was probably the same time that Jesus Christ was on the earth during the incarnation; it might have even before Jesus three years of public ministry. So the only doctrine he had was from the Old Testament.
So the thing we need to remember is that this is not simply a description of historical events but is to give us some doctrinal insights into problem solving. And they, of course, have a major problem of adversity brought on by their own sinfulness. This gets us back into the doctrine of suffering. Why is it that we suffer? There are two reasons we suffer; we suffer first of all because we live in a fallen world, and because of that we are associated with fallen institutions and fallen people and we are under a curse from Genesis 3:13 and following which indicates that we are always going to have suffering in this life and it is perhaps undeserved in a general sense, that it is not a direct result of any bad decisions which we have made. The second reason… and all of this is under the category of undeserved suffering.
Then we have the category of deserved suffering and deserved suffering comes under 2 categories, first of all under the principle of we reap what we sow, which is the natural consequences of bad decisions. And then sometimes the Lord intensifies those natural consequences under the category of divine discipline. Now natural consequences are also a part of divine discipline, and sometimes in grace God somehow mitigates those circumstances or we really don't reap what we sow and that's just an act of grace and sometimes in arrogance we forget that and think we actually got away with something and we continue in our carnality and it eventually comes back to haunt us and God lowers the boom in divine discipline.
Now the situation we have here in Israel is this last category, they are under suffering, the oppression from a foreign power, as a result of divine discipline on the nation in light of God's promises to discipline the nation for their disobedience based on the Mosaic Law. This is what happened starting in Judges 4:1, so let's start off there.
Judges 4:1, "Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD," and we continue to be reminded of the fact, this is repeated each time all the way through the book, that evil is "in the sight of the LORD," there is an absolute standard. Evil is not relative, it's not based on a consensus, it's not based on a vote, it's not based on a majority opinion, it's not even based on people who can accurately punch a hole in a punch card. It is based exclusively on God's righteous character and that is the standard. Evil in the sight of the Lord also has a technical use in the Old Testament; it's not just any category of sin. So often when we think about evil we think of particular types of sin, everybody has their own list. If you're a modern American divorced from any concept of doctrine then your concept of personal sin is usually related to some sort of safety issue, some sort of issue that you can take into court and sue somebody over, it's related to smoking or health or something that may shorten your physical life. But if you're a believer sin has a totally different sense.
There are three categories of sin in the Scripture. There are personal sins, there are sins of the tongue and there are mental attitude sins. But the concept, "evil in the sight of the LORD" does not really refer to any or most of those. This is not talking about lying, this is not talking about gossip, this is not talking about fornication or violence or murder. That is not what is entailed in the concept of "evil in the sight of the LORD." If you analyze this phrase throughout the Old Testament it always relates to idolatry, which is a violation of the first two commandments of the Mosaic Code, that they have departed, they have forgotten, they have abandoned God and in place of that they have substituted the worship of the idols, in this case the fertility gods and the fertility religions of the Canaanites, the Baals and the Asherah.
So the sons of Israel once again succumbed to the inside pressure in Canaan. Now this is the model I want you to keep in mind. For understanding the spiritual life here we have to remember that Israel… draw a circle here and this represents Israel and the believer, the New Testament Church Age believer. Back in the third chapter Israel had failed to obey God so God said I'm going to leave these nations in the land to test you, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, all these are going to be inside the land. So the Canaanites and the other groups all represent inside pressure on Israel to succumb to the Canaanite way of doing things. This is analogous to sin nature pressure and sin nature control of the soul.
We go back to our study on adversity and stress, that adversity is the outside pressure on the soul and stress is the inside pressure. Adversity is what circumstances do to us; stress is what we do to ourselves. Adversity is inevitable; stress is optional. Adversity is outside pressure and is tantamount to the pressure of the cosmic system and inside pressure from the soul or stress is tantamount to sin nature control. When we try to solve the problems in our life by adopting human viewpoint techniques and human viewpoint strategies, whether they involve direct sin, I'm going to solve this problem by getting angry at that person, I'm going to get back at them by character assassination, gossip, maligning, running them down, something like that, then that is handling our problems through overt sin. But we can also try to handle our problems through relatively "good" techniques, techniques of psychotherapy, techniques of visualization, techniques of New Age.
I just ran across a new one this past week that someone told me about that's a resurrection of a system, it's called theophostic therapy and it reminds me of some stuff that came out in the mid 80s where you visualize Jesus coming to heal you and it's kind of a mix of inner healing and creative visualization, New Age meditation, all wrapped up in the garb of Christian verbiage and terminology. And this is taking several Christian groups by storm. It's amazing how few Christian organizations have anybody in leadership any more who is dedicated to the principle of the sufficiency of Scripture and that God's grace is sufficient for all of our problems, and so they get out and constantly go to the world to find some new psychotherapeutic gimmick and then they try to baptize it and rehash it and bring it into the church and it just creates more problems.
So the sin nature takes over, when we reject God the sin nature takes over and puts inside pressure on the soul and outside pressure comes from adversity. And there is also the outside pressure of the cosmic thinking or what the Bible calls worldliness of human viewpoint thinking to solve problems. So we have the outside pressure and the inside pressure, and the inside pressure is analogous here to the Canaanites who are pressuring the people in the nation to compromise and to assimilate their value system and solve the problems in life the way they do. And they solved the problems, they try to gain prosperity, and they try to gain affluence and they try to gain success by participation in the fertility rituals of the phallic cult. When Israel succumbed to that then it opened them up to the influence from outside pressure and the result was that they were dominated by adversity which in analogy is external enemies, the nations that oppressed Israel during this time. That's the framework that we need to adopt in understanding a Christian life application from what we are going to study, that once we succumb to sin nature control of the soul then that makes us vulnerable to defeat from the outside, and there is only one solution and that is the divine solution. The human solution is no solution according to 2 Corinthians 11, the human solution is no solution; God's solution is the only solution and we will see how that works out in the course of this episode here in Judges 4.
Now structurally, one of the things we ought to note, this is an unusual situation in the Bible. We get to see something in light of how the Jews wrote poetry because Judges 4 gives us the narrative, the historical analysis of the battle, and Judges 5 is going to give us a poetic hymn that uses all sorts of metaphor and simile, various images in order to express what took place in chapter 4. So we're going to learn some things by looking at it from two different perspectives. We'll see Judges 4 this time and Judges 5 next time.
Judges 4:1, "Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, after Ehud died." So they went back into idolatry,  "And the LORD sold them" this is the qal perfect of makar which is the same word used to sell a slave into slavery. And so we see once again the principle that once a people succumb to sin nature control, that is tantamount to soul slavery; once a culture gets involved in soul slavery it is not long before they are enslaved from the outside. Once a culture begins to think as slaves then they make decisions as slaves and this is what happens to Israel. "And the LORD sold them," it's an active form of the verb which indicates that God makes a specific decision in terms of divine discipline to put Israel under the oppression of a foreign power. "And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; and the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim.  The sons of Israel cried to the LORD; for he had nine hundred iron chariots, and he oppressed the sons of Israel severely for twenty years."
Now there are several fascinating lessons that we can take from these verses but first of all we have to understand a few things that are going on here so that we can comprehend the historical scenario. We have to look at a map; this is a map of Israel. To the west is the Mediterranean, to the north is the Sea of Galilee, you have the Jordan descending, all of this is below sea level down to the Dead Sea. Jerusalem is located right about here, to the north is Jericho; over here in the central hill country are two important towns for this study, Bethel which is where Abraham had established an altar, Ramah is where the tabernacle is housed, and it is in between these two towns where Deborah was judging Israel. We'll come to that in verse 5, that she is located "under a palm tree between Ramah and Bethel," and this is "in the hill country of Ephraim." Now to the north we have the Sea of Galilee and these two tribal areas in the north pay a critical role in this narrative. You have the tribal allotment of Naphtali which is to the far north, and just south and west of there, around the Bethlehem area is the tribe of Zebulun. We will see that up in the center part of Naphtali is a town called Kedesh which is referred to in this episode but there are two towns named Kedesh; there is Kedesh of Naphtali which is the home of Barak and then there is another Kedesh down here just off the south shore of the Sea of Galilee. Now right here, because I want you to pay attention because I'm going to zoom in on a different looking map so we can have a little more perspective on some things. Here is Mount Tabor, to the southwest of the Sea of Galilee, it's at about 1300 feet and it is located to the north northeast of a major valley, running down through here is the valley of Esdraelon, also called near Megiddo which is where the great battle of Armageddon will take place at the end of the tribulation.
Now let's look at a little more precise map here. We have these towns, Megiddo and Jezreel focus on that, just to the northwest we have Mount Carmel; to the southeast we have Mount Gilboa. Now we're going to zoom in on a slightly different map here, this is a topographical map of the Valley of Jezreel, also called the Valley of Esdraelon, and this valley is a huge valley; on the northwest is Mount Tabor, up here in this area; then Mount Carmel to the northwest; Mount Gilboa to the southeast, and notice these shades, from light green to dark green you're going downhill. The light green is about 100 meters and the second level of green is right at sea level so you see how the land is getting lower and lower as you move to the lower right of the map. That means that when you look at this river here, the Kishon River, which is really a wadi. Now a wadi is a dry river bed except in times of the rainy season. If you've ever been to some place like Arizona, New Mexico or West Texas then you will know what that is; it's just a dry river bed but you get a heavy rainstorm and you'll have a flash flood that will come through there. And that was typical during the rainy season in Israel, but this does not take palace in the rainy season because Sisera is a military commander and he would not be so foolish as to take his chariot corps into a flooded are or an area prone to flood in the midst of the rainy season. That's what the liberal says but we're going to see differently as we look at the text.
Now get this in your mind, we'll come back to this map again and again but we have to understand the layout here, the topography here if we're going to really grasp the miracle that takes place in God's deliverance of Israel in this particular battle. Napoleon in about 1790, late 1790s when Napoleon came up through the Middle East he stood on the edge of this valley and said, this is the valley of Esdraelon where Armageddon will take place, he said this valley is so large that all the armies of the world could meet here and do battle. Now what was happening in this area, we learn that once again the Canaanites have a superior military force because they have superior technology. And this is one of the general principles that you will always find throughout history is that one way to subjugate and tyrannize another people is to prevent them from being able to use the latest technological weaponry, the latest technology to protect themselves.
We live in an age today when technology has made weapons that have incredible killing power, not just in terms of atomic weapons but also in terms of personal weapons. You have all sorts of things that are available in terms of assault weapons and we all know that there have been a number of unfortunate incidents in the last few years where people who have gotten hold of these weapons have committed some atrocities, they've shot at school yards, they've shot children and so there's a great move, from people who do not understand reality, to pass laws prohibiting the possession and ownership of these kinds of weapons. The problem with that is that once the citizen is unable to possess, to own and have in his house, the same technology that the armed forces of a nation or the police forces of a nation have, then it places the citizenry at a disadvantage because they can no longer protect themselves against the violent encroachment of a strong government. And that is how a tyrannical government begins to take over and to exercise power over people and to destroy their freedoms. And that is why it is important that a nation always has in its arsenal the latest technology and why people should have the freedom to own and possess the latest technology for personal protection.
One never knows when you might get the wrong kind of people in power in a nation and seek to dominate and tyrannize the citizenry, but if the citizenry have the weapons then they can protect themselves. They also have to protect themselves against the criminal element and one of the things that's happened in Australia and in Canada in the last couple of years since they both passed laws outlawing the personal ownership of weapons that the rise of criminality has been exorbitant. The number of murders, the number of crimes has gone up astronomically because the criminals know that the individual citizen is not going to be able to pull out a .45 and blow them away in the midst of his commission of a crime. So they feel like they are protected, and then of course the criminal element is always able to get the latest technology. It always amazes me that whenever one of these incidents take place, as tragic as they are, people always want to cry for the passage of more laws and the fact is that if the laws that were on the books were enforced then it wouldn't happen, or it probably would happen because people are sinful and there's always going to be that criminal element and that laws cannot prevent everything. But that's what happened in recent years is that we see people crying for more and more laws when the fact is that, for example I think in the incident in Columbine High School there were about 15 different laws related to firearms possession that were violated but those laws did not prevent that from happening. So we're going to pass more laws to try to prevent it from happening. Well, that won't work. If you pass more laws all you're going to do is keep innocent people from being able to protect themselves and all of this is extremely dangerous.
We see this principle here because the Jews were forbidden from having the latest weaponry and the latest weaponry, the latest technology at that time looked something like this. Here is a picture of an Egyptian charioteer. We know that they had a possession of iron and iron chariots and iron weapons whereas the Jews were prevented from having them. We read over in 1 Samuel that the Philistines prevented the Jews from being able to possess iron weapons; they kept them from having blacksmiths so that they could not have the latest technology. So they're overrun and what would happen in this area is that this huge valley is wide open and flat and so the forces of Sisera would range to and fro through the valley with their chariots and the people were forced to go hide up in the mountains and up in the hills. So they just ranged to and fro, wreaking havoc and virtually, if you look at the map of Israel here, that if you control the Valley of Esdraelon here, running from Mount Gilboa to Mount Carmel, then you have split the nation in two and you have prevented them from being able to unify against a common enemy.
Now I need to say something about the identification of "Jabin, king of Canaan who reigned in Hazor." Hazor was a town located in the area of Naphtali, up here to the north and if we read over in Joshua 11 we would discover that Joshua's army had defeated a coalition headed up by another man by the name of Jabin, not the same individual and since they're both named Jabin that indicates that this was sort of a dynastic title, something like Pharaoh would be, it was a title or maybe it was just the family name, those last three letter in English, b-i-n, is etymologically related to either the Arabic "ibn" indicating son of or the analogous Hebrew "bin." For example, Saudi Arabia is ruled by the house of Ibn Saud, Ibn meaning the son of or it indicates the family dynasty. So Jabin very well could indicate just the family dynasty and it is very possible, we don't know there's not enough extra-Biblical evidence but it seems to suggest, this is the only time Jabin is mentioned here, that what happened is after Joshua defeated the kingdom of Hazor and killed that Jabin, that there were descendants of that Jabin in the family that came up a couple of generations later and they would probably be living in exile along the coast. So you had a Canaanite enclave along the coast outside of the land and they are organizing around this dynastic figure.
Along with them, somewhere in this area there was a town or a fortress called Harosheth-hagoyim which was the stronghold, the military base for this commander, this military commander Sisera. It almost reminds you of some of the things that go on today in terms of how the Palestinians and Arabs are trying to destroy Israel from bases outside the land by putting together various coalitions. And this has taken place over the last 40 or 50 years and the same kind of thing was taking place here. So you have, from this base along the coast, you have this organization of various people groups around this dynastic leader that they're going to focus on him and they're going to invade down here through Israel. And they've been very successful at this and have brought Israel under control and they're seeking to expand their control
Now at the same time we come to verse 4 and we discover that Deborah is a prophetess during this time. She does not become a judge as a result of the people crying out, but she is already a judge. And God uses here, therefore, to bring about deliverance under the military leadership of Barak.
One other point I want to make is what changes the situation is that the Jews used what would be for the Church Age believer 1 John 1:9. They've been out of fellowship, they've been disobedient to God and they cry out to the Lord and this term that's used to cry out, za'aq, is used later on in Judges 10:10, it gives us the content of the cry. The writer doesn't tell us everything in every passage and in Judges 10:10 he says they cried out and they confessed to God that they had been serving the Baalim and the Asherah.
So they confessed their idolatry, they're back in fellowship, and once they're back in fellowship …that's why confession is a problem solving device, because it moves us from a position of weakness where we're still under the control of the sin nature and making bad decisions from a position of weakness, to a position where under the ministry of God the Holy Spirit we can make good decisions from a position of strength. And the position of strength of being in fellowship, in the bottom circle under the filling of the Holy Spirit and led by God in applying the Word of God. So in the Old Testament situation by confessing their sin they are now coming back to the Lord and in effect what happens in confession is we are saying Lord, I need Your grace, I am incapable of handling the problem on my own, I have done that, this is what I have done, confession means simply that you admit your sin, this is what I have done and now I am relying upon the fact that Christ paid the penalty for my sins on the cross to…[tape turns] …my forgiveness and once I am forgiven I am in a position where you are going to give me strength and aid because of your grace. Now that's basically what we do whenever we confess our sin. That's the underlying mechanic.
Now what happens is they confessed their sin and it's a recognition that they need God's grace. But notice, God doesn't just come along and send a ball of fire from heaven or an earthquake to destroy the army of Jabin. Now God is going to use the natural elements in a supernatural way to bring about this victory but God does not do it apart from the actions, the individual actions and responsibilities of Israel. They're still responsible to go raise an army and to do what God says to do but God is going to work behind the scenes to bring about the victory. And this is what's important for us to understand. No matter how overwhelming the circumstances appear, no matter how superior the enemy forces might be arrayed against us, no matter how impossible the situation may seem, God says you do what I say to do and while you're in that position of obedience doing what I tell you to do, then I'm going to work behind the scenes to give you victory over that problem, that adversity, that difficulty in life. It's a basic principle that we find in Ephesians 6 when it comes to spiritual warfare.
When you look at passages like Ephesians 6 and 1 Peter 5 and a couple of passages over in James the issue in the spiritual life is to take up a defensive position, to stand firm in the strength of the Lord. It doesn't say to attack in the strength of the Lord, it says to stand firm in the strength of the Lord and put on the full armor of God. As the believer does what God says to do by applying all of the principles of doctrine that he knows and exercising the faith rest drill under the filling of the Holy Spirit, then God is going to work behind the scenes to deal with whatever the problem is to bring about a victorious solution. We may not know how He's going to do it; it may appear impossible to us but God says first of all you trust me by doing X, Y and Z and I will then bring about the victory, because as Paul noted in 2 Corinthians 11, God said "My strength is perfected in your weakness, and My grace is sufficient for you." So God is going to teach them the principle of His sufficient grace. First He provides a leader.
Judges 4:4, "Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth," so this identifies here both as a prophetess but also in terms of her family relationship, so we see that she is not portrayed as a woman who is outside of the leadership umbrella of her husband; that's the point of bringing out her marital relationship, that she is under the authority of her husband but she still is used by God in this particular way as a prophetess and a judge which indicates that these are not illegitimate functions for here. She's "a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time.
Judges 4:5, "She used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel," now the reason he calls it "the palm tree of Deborah" is because of the fact that she had sat there, by the time the writer writes this this had become the name of that location, "the palm tree of Deborah," and it was standard operating procedure in the ancient world that if you were a judge or if you were a prophetess then you would usually set up your place of operations in a grove of trees, a grove of palm trees, a grove of oak trees was typical in the Canaanite fertility worship so she is in a grove of palm trees and there she is adjudicating personal conflicts and legal conflicts in the nation. It is "between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came up to her for judgment."
Judges 4:6, "Now she sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali, and said to him, 'Behold, the LORD,'" she uses the term Yahweh which indicates and reminds Barak of God's covenant position as the God who entered into a covenant with Israel, "Behold, Yahweh, the God of Israel, has commanded, 'Go and march to Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men from the sons of Naphtali and from the sons of Zebulun.'" So he's to take an army of ten thousand to go against this army of at least 900 charioteers.
And God says, Judges 4:7, "I will draw out to you Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his many troops to the river Kishon, and I will give him into your hand.'" Notice, God has already promised him victory; he doesn't say figure out how you can do it, he says I will give you victory. But the problem we see here is that in an apostacized nation that has been overwhelmed by a human viewpoint cultural and pagan cultural concepts you see a role shift take place between men and women. The women here have risen to a level of leadership; the men have become feminized, as exemplified in Barak, and he doesn't want to assume the mantel of leadership and so we see Barak, the wimp in verse 8.
Judges 4:8, "Then Barak said to her, 'If you will go with me,'" see, he's not trusting God; God has already said you go, I'm going to give you the victory but he says I'm not going to go unless you go with me, "'then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.'" Well, she went along with him but there's a penalty that Barak is not going to benefit from the blessing of his victory.
Judges 4:9, "She said, 'I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.'" Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh." And what she is saying is that in that culture it was dishonorable for a man, it was shameful if the woman stepped in and did something the man would do and Barak is going to gain the victory but he is not going to gain the honor that goes with it because he will not be the one to kill Sisera. So they go to Kedesh which is located somewhere up here, in this sort of northeast quadrant here and that is not the same Kedesh as his home. Now if we go back to verse 6 it's interesting that she summons Barak, "the son of Abinoam, out of Kedesh-naphtali. You see, his home town is located up here in the north.
He is chosen because he would have personal knowledge, he's right near Hazor, he would have personal knowledge of the enemy, he would have personal knowledge of their customs, he would have, over the last several years he would have viewed their activities, and so God is not just choosing somebody in a vacuum, He's choosing someone who is prepared. He is choosing someone who has taken the time and has been in a situation that has prepared him for this job. Now the fact that Barak fails and he doesn't exercise his leadership fully is a secondary point but God chooses him because he is someone that God has uniquely prepared for this particular role by putting him in a situation where he would be familiar, he would have good intelligence on the operations of Sisera and Jabin.
It sort of reminds me of Norman Schwarzkopf; I read his autobiography and it's interesting how God raised up this man, his father was attached to central Iran during World War II and attached to the corps to the Shah, and it was during that time that Schwarzkopf was growing up and after World War II his father was still a military attaché to the Shah and so Schwarzkopf spent his adolescent years making many contacts with Arabs in that part of the world, understood the Arab culture, understood how to deal with the Arabs, and then over the course of his military career was sent back to that same general area in the Middle East many times. So God uniquely prepared him to understand the cultural dynamics that were going to take place and I think that because of that he was able to get past various problem situations that came up during Desert Storm but it just shows how God can prepare a man for a particular situation.
So they go down and they engage in battle and what basically happens is that they come to this situation and God causes an event to take place upstream here, it's going to flow downhill which means the wadi flows this way, and Sisera brings his troops in here, it's in the springtime, he doesn't expect a flood, and he is trapped as he comes this way to meet the Jewish forces from Mount Tabor, God causes a tremendous thunderstorm upstream and this is going to wipe out the army of Sisera. [Judges 4:10, "Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali together to Kedesh, and ten thousand men went up with him; Deborah also went up with him."]
In Judges 4:11 we see another scenario taking place, verse 11 is parenthetical and we're told about a man named Heber, the Kenite. Now he's not Jewish, he's a Kenite, he's a Midianite, from the clan of the Midianites and he's related to Moses through Moses' wife, who was a Midianite. "Now Heber the Kenite had separated himself from the Kenites, from the sons of Hobab the father-in-law of Moses, and had pitched his tent as far away as the oak in Zaanannim, which is near Kedesh." So that's in the same general area to the east. And he has allied himself with Israel, the picture is that he is a worshiper of Yahweh.
Judges 4:12, "Then they" now the "they" here is not Heber, the "they" here is Sisera's intelligence team, they "told Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor.  Sisera called together all his chariots, nine hundred iron chariots, and all the people who were with him, from Harosheth-hagoyim to the river Kishon.  Deborah said to Barak, 'Arise! For this is the day in which the LORD has given Sisera into your hands; behold, the LORD has gone out before you.'" In other words, for the believer God has given us victory, He has promised victory over any situation in life but the issue is to apply doctrine in the situation and as we apply doctrine in the situation, no matter overwhelming the odds, even though you have ten thousand untrained soldiers with you going up against a trained veteran army God is going to work behind the scenes to bring about the victory. ["So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him."]
Look at Judges 4:15, it states, "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." Now we miss something here by not knowing the Hebrew. If you look at this word for rout it's used in a number of other military type situations with Israel.
For example, in Exodus 14:24, referring to the destruction of the Egyptian army at the Red Sea we read: "And it came about at the morning watch that the LORD looked down on the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud, and brought the army of the Egyptians into confusion," into disarray, and then He is going to wipe them out, He is going to cause problems, the wheels are going to fall off of their chariots as they are coming across the dry ground through the Red Sea and He's going to get them trapped at the Red Sea. So we see that there is a supernatural element there where God is going to be using natural circumstances and natural situations in a supernatural way. By that I mean timing and circumstances in order to bring about victory for Israel.
It happens again in Exodus 23:37, God is promising Israel in relationship to their future holy war in the land of Canaan, "I will send My terror," this is fear, anxiety, an irrational fear in the enemy, "I will send My terror ahead of you and through into confusion," there's our word again, "throw into confusion," it doesn't mean simply to rout, it means to, through various means, cause the enemy to become completely disoriented to the battle scene, to be overwhelmed by fear and anxiety and then to use natural forces as well in order to bring defeat, "to throw into confusion all the people among whom you come and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you."
Deuteronomy 2:15, "Moreover, the hand of the LORD was against them," this is in a context of discipline on the Jews, "the hand of the LORD was against them," that is the disobedient Jews, "to destroy them form within the camp until they all perished." Moses is talking about the fact that the disobedient generation, the Exodus generation that disobeyed God would be disciplined by God until all of them were wiped out and annihilated before the rest of the nation, their descendants could go into the land.
Joshua 10:10, it's talking about the battle in the south around Gibeon, "the LORD confounded them" that is He brought confusion before the enemies of Israel, and He "slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and pursued them by the way of Beth-horon, and struck them as far as Azekah, and unto Makkedah." What we see as we can go through all of these various passages is that God has made it clear that He is going to give this victory using whatever means necessary. The first part is that the Jews needed to be in a situation God had defined and then God would bring about the miraculous victory.
1 Samuel 7:10, "Now Samuel was offering up the burn offering and the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel," this is at the famous battle of Aphek, "but the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day against the Philistines and confused them." So you see, the Lord uses a storm here to bring confusion and fear on the Philistines so that they were "routed" before Israel; that's our word "routed." So God uses a supernatural means of a storm to bring a flood to wipe out the chariot army of Sisera.
Judges 4:16, "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 even one was left." Now Sisera has to flee on foot, Judges 4:17, "Now Sisera fled away on foot to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite," and this is one of the most dramatic episodes in the Old Testament because he comes to her for help and when he comes to her she invites him in. Now she's in an interesting situation. Some people who get all squeamish about this situation say well, she lied to him and she committed murder, and they forget the context. First of all, there is a war going on. Secondly, if she is seen aiding and abetting the enemy, the Jews had just had a victory, then she is going to become an enemy of Israel. She is involved as a non-combatant but she is put in a particular situation where she can finalize the victory for Israel. So there is nothing seen here as negative. And this is a picture of Jael after she has killed Sisera.
Sisera comes in and she feeds him and gives him what would be yogurt for us, curds and milk and he comes in he goes to sleep because he's exhausted after the battle, and so comes up and grabs a tent peg and a mallet and she drives the tent peg through his head and, I guess this is the origin of the phrase "he got nailed. So she is the one who has the final honor and victory and she is praised as "blessed among women above all women" in the song in Judges 5. Next time we'll look at that.
Remember the point of this is not simply an interesting battle story but that it is a story of how God today still gives us victory over our adversaries. As believers our responsibility is to learn doctrine and to apply doctrine and it is God's responsibility to come in and give us the victory over whatever problem that may be. We may not understand how He can do it; it may seem impossible to us, it may seem as if the circumstances are all arrayed against us, but if we are obedient to God He is the One who has promised that He will give us peace, He will give us His joy and He will take care of the problem. With our heads bowed….