In the 11.00 am service this week, we had the joy of witnessing a baptism, more to follow later.
On Sunday evening, we began a new series from the book of Judges. All of our recent series have been taken from the New Testament so it marks a change of emphasis.
The obvious question is why bother with the Old Testament when the action is in the New? Any serious reading of the New Testament will reveal that it’s loaded with references from the Old Testament. Furthermore Paul in 1 Corinthians when writing about the Exodus and the passing through the Red Sea writes; “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11)
In other words the Old Testament is more than background reading it has a direct relevance for us in the twenty first century. There are battles to be fought today, not for land and power but for hearts and minds. Paul again; “In purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left.” (2 Corinthians 6:6-7)
Deborah lived roughly 1200 BC and she was one of fourteen or fifteen Judges (depending on who is counted) who led Israel in the period before Saul, the first king. Most commentators believe the key phrase in Judges is found in 17:6 and 21:25 “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” The book chronicles the sad decline from the heights under Joshua.
Unfinished business. Israel had conquered Canaan one hundred years earlier under Joshua and Hazor itself had been destroyed (Joshua 11:10-13). However pockets of resistance remained (Judges 1) and it seems that the Canaanites reoccupied Hazor. This represented a real problem to northern Israel as it was a powerful city with 900 chariots and dominated and oppressed the northern tribes. Most of the enemies at this time attacked from outside Israel’s borders whereas this enemy is centred within Israel (the picture shows the remains which are currently being excavated).
Like Israel it is possible to leave areas in our lives that are unconquered, to give some of our lives to God but leave parts that are ours. Problems often arise when we compartmentalise our lives, these problems rarely resolve themselves and the teaching of scripture is that it’s no good placing Christ at number one on our list when Christ should never be on a list even at number one, he is Lord of all. Paul writes;
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)
Unnecessary suffering. In Judges Israel treads a well worn path, sin, suffering, supplication and salvation. The drift into rebellion and idolatry (sin) followed by suffering as the nations oppress Israel, then supplication or crying out to the Lord for help who then graciously rescues them from their oppressors.
It is clear that the Lord allowed Israel to suffer under the hand of Jabin (Judges 4:2), the Lord always has a purpose and here it is to bring his people back to himself. “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” (Hebrews 12:5-6). To deny discipline and boundaries to our own children is not showing love instead it shows neglect.
Not all trials are from God yet here in Judges 4 he is responsible in order to bring his people back to himself. Is God challenging our hearts through a trial?
Unlikely heroes. Deborah was a prophet and a judge (Judges 4:4), some commentators suggest that Barak was the real power but is that imposing a view on the passage? Verse 6 tells us that she sent for Barak indicating that Deborah was real judge and leader.
To be fair to Barak, he was eventually willing to fight against overwhelming odds and obey the instruction of a woman in military matters. Not many would choose two women to play crucial roles in a military campaign but the Lord did use two women in this victory.
From Genesis to Revelation God chooses unlikely heroes, he chooses people with failings and those with no confidence and if he actively chooses them in bible times and throughout church history. He can choose weak people today, unlikely heroes.
“Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)
Unwilling servants. The victory belonged to the Lord (Judges 4:14), chapter five would suggest that he used a flood which would have made the chariots useless. The real miracle is that the Lord asks for the help of mere people in the battle (Judges 5:23) when he could easily have just won the battle without any human involvement. Some who had searched their hearts did not participate (Judges 5:15-16) and Deborah curses them in chapter five.
What an opportunity missed like the words of Henry V in Shakespeare’s play of the same name where he pities those who would miss out on the victory;
“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”
How much more will we regret missing the opportunity of serving in the battle and being coworkers with Christ?
Ultimate victory. The victory of Deborah and Barak foreshadows the victory of Christ over sin and death
|An unbeatable foe (900 chariots)||Sin and death Ephesians 2:1-3|
|God chose a woman, Deborah||God chose a woman, Mary Galatians 4:4|
|The enemy’s head was crushed||In his death Christ crushed Satan’s head Genesis 3:15|
|The land had peace||He made peace through the cross Colossians 1:19-20|
Let us learn the lessons from Deborah and Barak so that we can be more effective in our service of the Lord because though the battle may be fierce, victory is assured.