“And at that time Deborah, a prophetess the wife of Lapidoth, judged Israel.”
After the death of Joshua, exactly as the Word of God had foretold through His servant Moses, the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. They made affinities with the people of the land, forgot the power and majesty of Yehovah and forsook the Law and commandments. These events came to pass over a period of time as decreed of the Will of God and as a result the Lord delivered them into the hands of the very enemies they were commanded to utterly destroy when they took possession of the land.
The evil spoken of is not specifically indicated but since these people, which stand as a type of the natural man, were a stiff-necked and rebellious people from the beginning, there is no need for any further investigation in the matter; they were drawn away after the needs and passions of the flesh. The actions of the nation of Israel are indicative of the nature and characteristics of every child of Adam. Their minds are filled with the wants and cares of this temporal existence while their labours are centered in the accommodation of those needs. Everyone has been assigned a station in life and a time of that habitation. Their labours are commensurate to their purpose which has been decreed of Almighty God from before the foundations of the world and every step of each journey is directed of God, so, when Israel did evil in the sight of God, it was in complete harmony with His perfect will.
God had blessed the people to inherit a land where they lived in houses they did not build and ate of the orchards and vineyards they did not plant. His determinate council had decreed that this be an abundantly fruitful land with every necessary resource to sustain this people. He showed forth His majesty and power over all their enemies as Joshua utterly defeated the armies of the indigenous people of the land. This however, was insufficient to change the natural inclinations of man for the people forgot God. Therefore, as soon as the praise was gone and the reason for thankfulness was a distant memory (Ehud was dead), God sold the people of Israel into the oppression and servitude of Jabin the King of the Canaanites.
This man was raised up under the ‘observation of God’ (Jabin) for His divine purpose. He had brought this man into a position of power and leadership of the people of the ‘low lands’ (Canaan) and made him to dwell in an enclosed commune (Hazor – castle or enclosed village). This castle was located in a specific location but these people represent the indigenous population of the land Naphtali in the Land of Promise that were to be ‘utterly destroyed’, yet, instead of obedience to the commandment of God, the tribe of Naphtali was incapable of driving them out (Judge 1:30). God had left this people in the land to prove Israel. He made them tribute to the house of Naphtali but increased their number and organized them into a people who had a king and a central location for their governmental body. From here, Jabin commanded the captain of his armies who was an expert in the ‘battle array’ and the ‘field of battle’ (Sisera) “and for twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel” (4:3).
The military might of this army and the expertise of this man are all part and partial to the purpose of God. Sisera was a ruthless man who divided the spoils of his conquests, including the young females of the people he defeated, while he delighted in ‘versicolored’ (dyed) prey and needlework who also branded the necks of his victims so as to identify them as being conquered (5:30). His campaigns against the children of Naphtali endured for twenty long years before the cry of the children of Israel was attended to by the hand of God.
Many will ask, ‘Why did this last so long?’ Is not Yehovah God a God of love? Why should He cause His people, whom He claims to love, to suffer so long and so arduously under the hand of such a ruthless man?
If according to the understanding of Adam these events are to be explained there can be no continuity of the demonstration of what man conceives as love. The love of the Eternal Father is the same yesterday, today and forever because of His immutability. He demonstrates this love to His Beloved, as she is partaker of flesh and blood, by openly showing forth the vanity of this world, the impotency of the flesh and the limited nature and understanding of the carnal mind. In this the creature knows that the body of this death is corrupt, alienated from the commonwealth of the Israel of our God and without hope; therefore the child cries out for the Father. The longevity of the oppression of this is for the duration of the time of this habitation and yet, in the time appointed necessary of the Father, specific attributes of the nature of man are revealed and the child of grace is shown the “captivity of the law of sin in my members” (Rms. 7:23). This particular demonstration of the rebellious attitude of Adam in Israel lasted for twenty years before, in the fullness of time, God sent forth His deliverance.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ” (Gal. 3:28).
God established the man as the head of the woman but the man is nothing without the woman. Woman came from man but without woman man cannot continue. The promises of God came unto the fathers, Abram, Isaac and Jacob and this developed in the traditions of man into a patriarchal society. Women were indeed necessary but the work, the victories and the failures belonged unto the male leaders of Israel and the male heads of each tribe; so where was the head of the tribe of Naphtali?
Barak, the son of Abinoam was established of God as the head of the tribe of Naphtali. He was the ‘lightning’ and the ‘delight of my father’ but he could do nothing in this contest of the ‘wrestling’ or ‘struggle (Naphtali) until the appointed time. When this time came to pass and the duration of the oppression was full, he was not the offensive commander of the army who laid claim to the rights and memorials of Israel. He did not stand upon the mountain in defiance of the ‘battle array’ and cry ‘Is there not a cause?’ The lightning was silent until a woman called for him. A woman upon whom the Spirit of the Most High God dwelt who spoke the word of God and judged Israel.
How could this be? A woman as a judge of Israel? Yet in a land where the praise of Joshua and Moses permeated the customs and legions the anointing of the Spirit was upon a child of the Kingdom of God who spoke the truth. She was not sent off by her parents to the local seminary to learn how to be a preacher nor did she, failing at other endeavours, conclude in herself that she should dash off into the foreign mission fields. The Spirit of God dwelt in her, which is in the inner man, where she delighted in the law of God. Now as a prophetess, the standards and demands of the Law of Moses applied to her as it did to any other prophet. If the word spoken did not come to pass, then the false prophet was to be avoided and the people were not to be afraid of him (Deut. 18:22). If the prophet prophesy in the name of Yehovah and lead the people after other gods, he was to be taken out and killed in the sight of the people as a manifestation of his guilt before God (13::5). This was not the case with Deborah. Her word was true and as the “children of Israel came up to her for judgment” the Word of God was openly declared.
The principle of the unity of the body and her head is not something that theologians have discovered in the first century and the man Jesus did not introduce this idea of including women as an attempt to increase His disciple base. Many women were called and established as followers of Jesus and it is well to note that at His crucifixion, when all the male members of His followers had scattered (save John) the women stood at the base of the cross and wept as the Savior laid down His life and shed His blood as the propitiation for the sin of His people. The love of God for His Beloved is proclaimed in the beginning and it is has never been restricted to the male manifestation of Adam only and here in this male dominate patriarchal society as the people were looking to the lightning, God raised up a ‘bee’ (Deborah).
“And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Beth-el in mount Ephraim:”(4:5).
Deborah did not hang out her shingle and announce that she was open for business. She was establish of God as the wife of the “shinning torch” (Lapidoth) and her habitation was under a tall straight, deep rooted, fruit bearing tree. The fruit was not in her, that is in Adam, and her light was not of her own doing. She was of the light and one with the light as a torch in an earthen vessel. She was a ‘mother in Israel’ (5:7) whose praise was not unto her abilities or her labours but unto Yehovah God. This unpretentious ‘bee’ was the servant of the Most High God who proclaimed the truth upon the mount of fruitfulness as she dwelt under the fruit bearing tree and in the fullness of time the bee, led by the Spirit, summoned the lightning.
It should be noted how easily the eyes of the natural man are directed toward the exciting and magnificent things of creation. Peter’s line of sight was distracted when he saw the winds and the waves, which he had seen numerous times before, and he began to sink into the sea. Elijah looked for God in the mighty winds and the destructive earthquakes but He was not there and even today the logic and theology of Adam is centered on ‘lo here and lo there’ as the carnal mind of every child of the dust seeks visual proof in signs and wonders. The people of the wrestling were looking to the lightning to assemble the forces, swoop down on this tyrant with his chariots of iron and defeat him for Israel, but the lightning had no power. The armies of Jabin were too strong and his numbers too vast for any small band of the people of the ‘dwelling in the struggle’ (Zebulun & Naphtali) could even imagine of engaging let alone overcoming. Therefore the people continued in this oppression, crying unto Yehovah God for deliverance while the lightning, with all its brilliance and power, could not help.
The sovereignty of Yehovah God is all inclusive and there is nothing that comes to pass but by the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11). He has ordained all things to happen, in time and space, at their appointed hour and He has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise (I Cor. 1:27). No sentient being would ever imagine that a tinny bee could command, lead and condemn the lightning, especially if that bee was but a servant, and yet by the counsel of the will of God Barak was sent for and made willing to respond to Deborah. He came to this woman not because he was seeking any advice or spiritual counseling but because the time had come to pass and this man was made willing. His cognitive abilities were encouraged to heed the call from Deborah who revealed unto him the Word of God; “behold upon the mountains the feet of him that brings good tiding that publishes peace! (Nahum 1:15).
“And that you may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men for all men have not faith” (II Thes. 3:2).
The power and open demonstration of the lightning is indeed attractive to the natural eye but it is completely under the command and control of Almighty God; “who has divided a watercourse for the overflowing of water or a way for the lightning of thunder;” (Job. 38:25). Barak had no thoughts in his heart as to how to facilitate the will of God in this matter. He was not seeking the Lord in prayer nor was he searching the scriptures daily to find the answer that would bring comfort to the people. He was summoned by the hand of God to come to Deborah and when she proclaimed the will of God in his ears, he did not believe her. Was she not established of God as a true prophetess? Had not her words been so tested as to prove that the Spirit of the Most High dwelt inn her? If not then why did this military leader come to the mount and ascend to speak to a bee?
The Word of God is set forth in all that He has created. He has openly manifested His majesty over all things and has revealed the invisible things of God, so that man is without excuse. But He has also filled the hearts and minds of man with the things of this world so that he cannot find out the work which God has done from the beginning. This battle was finished before the foundation of the world but Barak had not the faith of God to convince him of the certainty of the event. He laid a condition upon his obedience which is as preposterous as the fact that a woman could speak the word of God or a bee could command the lightning. He said he would follow after the Word of God as the captain of the host of Zebulun and Naphtali if the bee accompanied him. Now what benefit could a bee add to the magnificent brilliance and awesome display of the lightning?
Absolutely none for this battle was not of man nor of the will of man; the battle was Yehovah’s. The people of the tribes of Israel were shown that they could not drive out the inhabitants of the land because God had left them there to prove Israel. Now it is to be alleged that this man was to lead an army of the fractional size of that of Israel and defeat an inveterate foe? “This is the word of Yehovah unto Zerub-babel, saying, not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit saith Yehovah of Hosts” (Zech. 4:6). The conditions based upon the superstitions of Balak were his attempt to prove Deborah for if she refused to go with him, then the word was not true and if she went with him and fell in the battle or the battle failed then the fault was hers not his.
Sisera outnumbered the combined armies of the two tribes and naturally speaking, they had no hope in defeating him or even gaining recognition for a valiant try. He commanded nine hundred ‘teams on horseback’ which were skilled in the art of warfare. He himself was a brilliant tactician who understood the concepts and strategy of war. These were the necessary ingredients given by the hand of God for the purpose of raising up the king and the people with this mighty army that His name might be proclaimed throughout all the land.
“Now Heber the Kenite of the children of Hobad the father-in-law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites and pitched his tent unto the plain of Kedesh” (4:11)
God also provided the means whereby Sisera would be forced into battle and ultimately defeated. This son of Cain had infiltrated the nation of Israel and, for purposes unknown to him, he had severed his ties and identity as a Kenite. His father was ‘cherished’ and ‘fervently loved’ in the land and his heritage brought him back to an affinity with Moses. Yet when the fullness of time had come, this turn-coat fled to Jabin to disclose the actions of Barak and the army of the people. The word he was given was not at all false, in fact it was very accurate, for Yehovah God had decreed that this was the place where the battle was to be joined. Sisera, a brilliant tactician, would have never, on his own, taken his highly mobile army into a confined area where they could not use the strength of their mobility to their advantage. The word which Yehovah sent by way of this traitor was that the army was in Haroseth of the Gentiles unto the river Kishon which being interpreted means that they were between the woods and the winding river. Sisera was given not only to believe this man and his report but also to take his ‘chariots of iron’ into uneven and confined terrain. He went where God sent him to the place that Yehovah had afore prepared for his destruction and the deliverance of His people.
The ‘bee’ then ordered the ‘lightning’ into action “for this is the day in which Yehovah has delivered Sisera into your hand: Is not Yehovah gone out before us?” (4:14). The word which the prophetess had spoken was confirmed to be true as the events came to pass and Barak, the skeptic, was empowered by God to act accordingly. This little band of men came to the mound (Tabor) as Yehovah discomforted Sisera and all his chariots and all his hosts with the edge of the sword before Barak so that the mighty military general lighted down off his chariot and fled away on foot. The victory was so complete that not one man was left in the woods of the nations. Sisera, however, fled on foot to the tent of the wife of the traitor.
The battle location, duration and severity were so precisely ordered of God that this haven of protection was nigh unto it and the Commander and Chief of this formidable army was given a mind, the directions and the strength to run to it for protection. Any sentient being must be given to inquire as to just how much protection could be afforded from a canvas or animal skin tent from the lightning that is pursuing him? Nevertheless, this man was convinced in his heart and mind that this was not only the logical choice but the best avenue for his escape. Thus the footsteps of his walk were appointed unto this location where Heber dwelt with his wife. Heber was not home nor was his wife objectionable to this stranger entering her tent because God had given peace to the house of Heber and Jabin the king of the Canaanites.
Jael, the ‘mountain goat’, came forth out of her tent and lured Sisera inside with the pretense of protection and when this tired, frustrated and fearful man fell down after entering the tent, instead of giving him water, the mountain goat took a skin of sour milk and he did drink. This caused Sisera to fall fast asleep, an indication of utter fatigue, while Jael took a tent stake and nailed him to the ground.
“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and the weak things of the world to confound the mighty” (I Cor. 1:27).
The Canaanites, who were tributary to Naphtali and Zebulun, became the oppressors of the people. The bee commanded the lightning and the mountain goat killed the master of the field of battle. Yet there are those who will protest the necessary axiom that Yehovah God cares about the little things. Every detail was meticulously attended to by the purpose of God and brought to pass according to the counsel of that will. Without the attention to the most diminutive of details the work would fall into chaos but thanks be unto our God who has interwoven every detail and who causes all things to come to pass for good, to them that love Him, to the called, according to His purpose (Rms. 8:28).
Man is arrogant in his pride, wherein he is deceived, to think that He who created the eye cannot see and He who has fashioned the ear cannot hear but the comfort and praise of the children of the King of the Israel of our God is that the “Lord God Omnipotent reigns. Let us be glad and rejoice and give honour unto Him for the marriage of the Lamb is come and His wife has made herself ready; and to her it was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and brilliant, for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints. And He said unto me, write blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb, and He said unto me, “These are the true sayings of God” (Rev. 19:6ff).
The woman is neither a weak nor a foolish thing of this world; it is the arrogance of man to think himself superior to his help meet. The comfort in Zion is that in Him the distinctions which prejudice the mind and heart of man do not exist for, even though each is a particular member of the body, yet the body is one as the head is one; “for as the body is one and has many members and all members of that body being many are one body, so also Christ” (I Cor. 12:12).
Yehovah God is in complete control and absolute command of every jot and tittle, every thought and intent and the breeze which causes the speck of dust to light exactly upon the flee that sits upon the horn of the bull sleeping in the field. God is seated in the heavens as He rules over the kingdoms of this world, giving them to the basest of men. His dominion is eternal and none can stay His hand or say unto Him, “What are you doing?” (Dan. 4:34ff).
Your servant in Christ,
(Elder) Chet Dirkes
February 21, 2016