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Women Who Win

Afraid of Iron Chariots?

(Judges 4,5)

 

 

 

Israel in Canaan needed repeated revivals. They were yoyoing all the time. Their flame would start flickering and God would raise up a person to trim their lamps and help them burn brightly. One such emissary of God was Deborah. Revival always starts with a single person and then catches up. Ehud led Israel and the nation had peace for eighty years. Following that Shamgar led. So, for almost 80-100 years, Israel’s hand was up.

Why does a revival come to a stop? It is because, it is not faithfully conducted to the next generation. Parents do not bring up their children in God’s ways. Parents are the first level leaders. If they lead their children in the right way, then revival will go on and on and on. The second line of leadership was the judges—or spiritual leaders. In our situation it is probably the church. The judges were restraining the people from doing evil (4:1). After Ehud and Shamgar there was no leader to guide the people. Fortunately Deborah had godly parents who ignited in their daughter a powerful sense of right and wrong. She was a spark in Israel to bring  a revival.

The Bible says that the people did evil, “in the eyes of the Lord”(4:1). The meaning is that God was seeing whatever they did. Do you know that God is seeing you inside out? He is seeing you in your office, in the bedroom, in the kitchen. He sees where you are going, what you are hearing, what you are seeing and doing and even what’s going on in your mind.

The Israelites were worshiping gods and goddesses and living in sin. So God gave them up into the hands of the imperious Canaanite king Jabin (4:2). They cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, whose raiding and violence made trade, travel, cattle rearing and farming impossible. They stripped the country virtually to the bone. May be some of the problems you are facing in life are due to your sin. We long for a trouble-free life, but we don’t want to wash our hands off our sin.

Deborah’s Holiness

Deborah lived during the time of spiritual and political decline of Israel, in a country of gray morality and blurred principles (5:8). There was idolatry and evil all around. Deborah grew up, not knowing the meaning of freedom. But she did not backslide along with others. The Bible says, “Israel” did evil. That means, the majority did evil. Amidst all the idolatory and wickedness flowing around her, Deborah found salvation and received the Holy Spirit (4:4). As we read in I Corinthians 14:1-3, she desired the gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. She was speaking to the people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. Is it possible? Yes, Deborah proves so. She led a holy life whatever the stituation be.

Never feel trapped or impotent because of the environment. Keep up your flame even if you see darkness all around. Whenever you see darkness, there is extraordinary opportunity to burn brighter. You may see wickedness all around — husband, wife, in-laws, coworkers, neighbours, churches, Missions. All vices of unbelievers may be found in believers. But you never compromise. Only then God can use you. You are not a family or community first. First you are an individual. Your responsibility is to be holier still. We all have a skeleton or two in some dark cupboard. Let’s clean up. It is important to be obedient to God, not just in big things but in little little everyday things as well. Be sensitive to the voice of the Spirit. Every day moral choices mean a lot.

Once when we were traveling, I saw a filthy pond covered with lovely purple water hayacinths. I collected some and put them in our garden. Sadly the colour started fading and it ultimately died. Then I realized that it needed dirty water to survive and glow in all its colours. Sometimes God places us in horrible situations to develop our rainbow colours and character. Without holiness there is no revival and that holiness should start in individuals.

Deborah’s Prayer Life

What was Israel’s first weapon against the enemy during the oppression? Prayer! For how long? For twenty years! “They cried to the Lord for help” (4:3). Prayer meetings became more crowded and God was suddenly in demand. What was their prayer? Come to I Samuel 12:10-11: “We have sinned; we have forsaken the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths. But now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve You.” Then the Lord sent Barak and delivered them. First comes confession, then comes the request and finally the promise to serve God. Certainly Deborah was there in the prayer meeting.

First, go down on your knees and get right with God. Secondly, we need to pray for a great deliverance and cry to God for a revival.  When Deborah prayed for the deliverance of Israel, did she think she was the spark that would set ablaze a revival? Revival should start in each of us. It is these little sparks that will ultimately become a sweeping revival. Thirdly, make a covenant with God to serve Him, as they did.

Deborah’s Word Life

Amidst the general backsliding there were a faithful few who came to Deborah, seeking the word of God and guidance. Word had spread that there was one woman who knew the laws and who could teach them, solve their problems and settle disputes.

If Deborah could have the copy of the Pentateuch all others could have had one and studied it too. But they bothered not. Deborah too could have slipped into selfpity and stagnated. But she was different. She loved the Word of God. This shows she was a highly educated woman and articulate too; she wrote a beautiful song of victory. As a young girl, wife and mother, Deborah always found the time to read, meditate, study assiduously and teach the law. This was the secret of her leadership. She had stuff.

There is a strong undercurrent of desire for education these days. Everybody wants to do M.A., M.Phil and Ph.D. That’s a good sign. All those who are highly qualified should invest their knowledge in Bible Study. They can better understand the Bible and better teach it. Each of us must teach the word to those around us.

This ministry is sadly lacking today. No wonder revival is not in sight. We should never think, “What am I going to do with my Bible knowledge?” God knows how to use you. When people soak themselves in the Word and start publishing it, there will be no stopping the revival.

Deborah’s Ministry

How did Deborah feel to see wickedness and idolatry all around? Lonely, flummoxed, discouraged, angry, powerless? Amidst all this she was faithfully doing her small job. She was crying to the Lord for help from oppressing enemies but at the same time she was helping those who came to her — one, two, four — not the masses. The backsliding all around did not throttle her. When there was no one to fill the void left by Shamgar and Ehud, she did not say, “I will be the leader.” (Remember Athaliah?). She was at her job. Don’t care for titles. Whatever your hand finds to do, be doing it faithfully. Someone who wants to be a leader is disqualified to be a leader. Leadership was thrust on her. Promotion comes from the Lord (Psa 75:6).

May be Deborah helped her neighbours first and then it had a ripple effect. She was doing whatever she could, keeping the little leaven into the lump. Did she expect the whole to rise? Rise it did! She could not have possibly forseen the incredible events of the future.

Don’t be stunned when you watch the World News. Think of what you can do in your neighbourhood. Without stepping out of your house into the neighbourhood, you can’t go to the uttermost parts of the earth. I don’t think Deborah was a super woman. She was a faithful woman.

Deborah’s Family Life

Deborah’s choice of a mate was very good. Lapidoth was a quiet man, very supportive of her ministry. If she had to spend time with people and if she was called the leader, Lapidoth’s ego would have taken a beating. Imagine a man knocking at their door. Mr. Lapidoth opens the door and a man politely asks, “Can I see your wife please?” If this repeats many times in a day, only a humble man could handle it.

On Deborah’s part, she had to be extra humble and good to him. She could not afford to be downsizing him by reciting her exploits.He was the house-husband. Morally she was impeccable that Lapidoth trusted her with other men. What testimony would she have if she was the leader for the country, while her private life was unravelling? He might have worried when she went to war, but trusted God for her safety. A woman minister must be a good wife, mother and housekeeper to the best of her ability.

Deborah’s Warfare

Striving for excellence in small assignments prepares one for greater responsibility. “Faithfulness in little things is a big thing,” says John Crysastom. So now, Deborah was facing a greater challenge. She had to awake out of her routine ministry to face the enemy (5:12).

The people of Joseph’s tribe requested more land from Joshua. When Joshua asked them to take the land of the Perizzites and Rephaites, they complained with trepidation that it was not possible because they had iron chariots. But encouraged by Joshua they finally overcame them (Josh 17:14-18; Jud 1:22-25). Iron chariots those days were like army tanks today. It was the 900 iron chariots of Jabin that made the Israelites tremble (4:3).

Why should we feel small before the enemy? Our God is the most powerful God in all the earth. Nothing should threaten us when we go against the enemy. We must have the spirit of David when we face Goliaths and the spirit of Joshua when we face the Canaanites.

During Deborah’s time people were afraid to travel because of the enemies. They took long routes to escape the enemy. Even during Shamgar’s time this was happening and their freedom was only partial (5:6). Village life — the women coming to the well, the get-togethers, the festivals were all stopped for fear. How long? Till Deborah rose as a mother, not as an authority figure. A woman should be a woman. People called Deborah a leader but she called herself a mother, though she was the brain behind the whole operation.

Deborah’s popularity swelled suddenly. There was another godly man, Barak whom Deborah sent for. That shows how much command she had over the people. Gradually she had won the confidence of the people. He travelled all the way from Kedesh in Naphthali to Ephraim, about 70 miles. Barak was a cautious pessimist and promised to go only if Deborah the optimist went with him. Now the responsibility was shifted to Deborah’s shoulder. Only if she went there was hope. Or else, Barak wouldn’t go. Then there’d be no war and no deliverance. The country was hanging in a balance. So she accepted the war which was considered a traditional male bastion. Sometimes one should consider crossing the line of convention. By God’s leading Deborah stepped into that role. When God entrusted a big responsibility, Deborah accepted it boldly.

They worked in tandem. Barak integrated the army. Deborah only gave moral support. God will always give us helpers. May be she kept on encouraging him, “Don’t worry, don’t fear, the Lord is with us. He has promised.” God’s plan was to honour Barak. But because of his hesitation to take a bold lead, the honour slipped to Jael. How many times we miss the honour due to us because of fear, hesitation or laziness!

So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh, Barak’s place. Word went to Sisera that Barak was coming. Sisera must have thought brazenly, “The Israelites are led by a woman. I will scatter them.” He knew not that the Almighty was with her. Sisera came to dash with the Israelite army with “all” his ravenous men and “all” his iron chariots in high gear (4:13). He didn’t want to take a risk. He went with his army to Kishon river, which was just a stream then. God said, “I will lure Sisera to the river,” and lure He did (4:7). Deborah risked her life by going with the army to Mt. Tabor, just 20 miles from Sisera’s place.

Deborah gave a timely nudge to Barak. She had to give the gun-shot signal ‘Go’  — “This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” The question suggests that Barak was hesitant to go and Deborah had to give him a push. “So” Barak went (4:14). The timing was perfect and thereafter things happened with bewildering rapidity.

The initial army was 10,000. But seeing their courage and effect more people joined the parade. They had only swords with which they could fight face to face. But among the 40,000 none had a shield to protect himself or a spear that could be used on an enemy at a distance(5:8). Whereas the enemies were armed to the teeth. The enemies had prevented them from making any of these. The Lord alone was their shield. The message the soldiers remembered on D-day (D-Day stands for the day the military operation began in the II Word War) was, “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” Let’s go in the name of the Father who is seated on the heavenlies.

“At Barak’s advance,” the Lord routed out Sisera. If Barak hadn’t budged, the Lord’s hands would have been tied (4:15). Now Barak grew courageous and beat them back to their place.

How did the Lord flatten the intrepid enemy army? Everything went preposturously right. There was a heavy downpour. The meandering river Kishon which was just a shallow stream when Sisera and army crossed it, was flooded due to incessant rain. It was the first of many coincidental oddities. The soft ground quickly became a huge bog. The chariots became bogged in the mud, the horses went haywire and enemy soldiers drowned in the rushing avalanche. We don’t see stars in the daytime especially when it is raining. But we see here stars coming down to fight againt the Canaanites. The rain was no dampner to the Israelites. There was an earthquake too. It was utter pandemonium ending in a catastrophic loss of lives. From there, it was britht lights all the way. Sisera’s plans went awry. His army wound up as carrion for the buzzards.

Even though some Israelites were selfish, complacent or gutless, others threw away their lives. Zebulum and Naphthali risked their lives. Risk taking must be in our blood. God is our defence. Don’t fear.

“March on, my soul, be strong” (5:21). Why? Heaven is helping you to flagmarch. Expect unusual miracles. Deborah is overcoming her fear by talking to herself. How many of you have this habit? David had. He encouraged  himself in the Lord. Quote Bible promises to yourself.

“To help the Lord against the mighty” (5:23). God needs our cooperation. If we go, God will takeover. The enemy is mighty, but God is Almighty (1 Ki 18:39; Psa 83:9). God can save a nation through a committed, faithful, bold few. Backsliding brought slavery and war. But a committed few, especially one woman of indomitable attitude, saved a nation. That’s the power of one. Individuals can make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others. Ordinary individuals are capable of extraordinary acts.

The basic quality of Deborah, Barak, Jael, Zebulum, Naphthali and other warriors was love for the Lord (5:31). Let that love never cool down. We serve God, not because we receive a salary, not because we want to accomplish something, but because we love our Lord!

After the enemies bit the dust, the spirit of jubilence returned. There was gathering in the watering places as in their heyday. They recited the victories of the Lord. Village life that had ceased was springing back. The Lord’s name was glorified (5:11). God will make you a testimony. The enemy had no plunder, only loss. They came with the expectation of gathering lots of garments, jewels, girls. When you risk for God, you don’t lose anything.

Deborah’s song gave credit to all winners. Her story was not over with a war victory. Under her leadership the afterglow lingered, until they got King Jabin off their backs. Deborah didn’t let the revival die. It continued all her life. She kept the flame of freedom burning brightly for 40 years, radiating beyond her circumference. In that case we may guess that Deborah was around 30 when she started to lead Israel.

Today we hear of leaders rising up like shooting stars and coming down like falling stars. But if love for the Lord is your focus, you will fight any battle, overcome any temptation and you will be like the sun when it rises — the morning sun, not the evening sun (5:31). Your sun will never set. You will glow, grow, flow and go up to God!

William Booth, Founder of the Salvation Army said: “My best men are women.” You can be a Deborah. Why not?

 

 

 

 


   Address for Correspondence & Contributions:

Lilian Stanley
13 Church Colony
Vellore 632006, India
Tel: +91 9843511943
Email: lilianstanley@gmail.com

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