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(Judges 4–5) Hooray for the Housewife

(Judges 4–5) Hooray for the Housewife

by Stephen Davey Ref: Judges 4–5

Do you know why God has given us armor to fight with? Because He wants believers to fight! God wants to teach us how to wage spiritual warfare! There is a fundamental principle in this; a timeless truth: God is more interested in developing His people than in displaying His power.


"Hooray for the Housewife:

Judges 4 &5

Samuel Clemens - Mark Twain gave this advice to parents of unruly children; put them in a barrel and feed them through a hole; when they become teenagers, plug up the hole.

Tempting - our nature to react against unruly children or adults; to shun that person who lies or cheats. . .

You would expect God to be reaching for a barrel!  The cycle had begun again!

Note 4:1-3.  Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, after Ehud died.

2.    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.

3.    And the sons of Israel cried to the Lord; for he had 900 iron chariots, and he oppressed the sons of Israel severely for 20 years.

So Israel was again because of rebellion was enslaved to a Canaanite - they were out-manned, outgunned and out-positioned; humanely speaking, a hopeless situation.  But remember, despite external appearances, Israel's primary problem was not military, but spiritual.  Their real need was not chariots and swords, but a living vital relationship with the God they had abandoned.  If they would trust Him, He would deliver them from even the most impossible situation.

To teach them that, God did a very unusual thing.  He did not raise up a great warrior like Shamgar who could take on 600 Philistines with an ox-goad; he didn't raise up an Othniel who came from Caleb's fighting stock and experience - he raised up the absolutely opposite kind of person you would expect to lead people to war - God chose a housewife named Deborah!

Note the last part of 5:7b.  The peasantry ceased, they ceased in Israel, until I Deborah, arose, until I arose, a mother in Israel.

Judges 4 & 5 is really a story of courage - a story of faith on the part of two housewives and an unexperienced general who had enough of sin, and were willing to fight!

Let's begin our study by taking a look at Israel's condition!

Four Illustrations of Israel's Condition:

1)    communication between tribes was virtually non-existent

v. 6. . . the highways were deserted, and travelers went by round-about ways.

2)    cities were overcrowded with uprooted/discouraged people

v. 7.  The peasantry ceased, they ceased in Israel.

The villages of England, dotted here and there on every landscape, and without the slightest protection, furnish the strongest possible evidence of the security and peace of  that nation.  Not so in Israel - there was no protection and thus the farmer and herdsman, the outdoorsman was forced to leave their roots and move to the city for protection.

3) cities were under constant threat of war

v. 8  New gods were chosen; then war was in the gates.

4)    combat forces in Israel were small and unequipped

v. 8b Not a shield or a spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel.  Two things:

  1. the army had been reduced in size to only 40,000
  2. the army was without weapons to wage war

And what did Jabin the Canaanite have - 900 iron chariots - state of the art battle equipment.

So the Israelites were disarmed, dejected, degraded, discouraged; why??!!!  We read the answer - look at v. 5:8. "New God's were chosen!"

We don't know a lot about Deborah - we are told nothing of her family or her ancestry or even what tribe she was from.

What we do know:

1)    her husbands name - but nothing about him

2)    her gift - referred to as a prophetess - the Old Testament records only three women who had this gift of receiving revelation from God - Miriam, Hula and Deborah

3)    her insight - verse 4:5 talks about her sitting and deciding a case.  Of all the judges, she seems to fit our typical perception of a judge.  It is interesting that when it comes to war, she herself does not fight, but God will raise up a general by the name of Bark who will lead the forces into battle.

And speaking of Bark - we know even less about him.  In verse 6 of chapter 4, Deborah summons Bark to her. . . we aren't told anything about the summons to Deborah's palm tree, no record of greetings exchanged; no hint of Bark's experience or whether he had taken ROTC in college. . . nothing!

Just simply, "Go fight Jabin, king of Canaan."

General Bark's response is a little embarrassing however - 4:8  Then Bark said to her, "If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go."  That doesn't sound like a warrior - that sounds more like a wimp.

But Deborah responds, probably patting him on his helmet:  4:9.  And 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."

What is recorded next is the success of the Israelites against their foe - Jabin, the Canaanite King and his brilliant General, Sisera.

Three reasons they succeeded:

These are the same reasons any believer succeeds in his spiritual walk; these are also the same reasons that keep a church from growing stale and ineffective!

1)    the people volunteered without any hesitation

note 4:10.  And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali together to Kedesh, and 10,000 men went up with him; Deborah also went up with him.  In case you missed it, this verse tells us that 10,0000 men volunteered on the spot.

Note:          three tribes who went after it!

Issachar - 5:15.  And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah; As was Issachar, so was Barak; into the valley they rushed at his heels.

"Let's go. . .!"

Zebulun - 5:18a.  Zebulun was a people who despised their lives even to death.

This is a figurative use of a Hebrew word that means to literally abandon their lives to the point of dying for their cause.  Like the Kamakazi pilots who used their own planes; their own bodies as bombs.

Naphtali - 5:18b.  And Naphtali also, on the high places of the field.

No television ad campaign telling them how wonderful life in the army was. . . no motto like, "Join Barak's army and be all that you can be."

No, it was more like - you want to go fight Jabin and his iron chariots - God said, He'd be with us!

What motivated these tribes - what motivated Deborah - what motivated Barak - ultimately, what motivates you to serve effectively and diligently.  There can only be one over-arching motive. . . it's found in 5:31.  Thus let all thine enemies perish, O Lord:  the enemies they have been fighting); But let those who love Him be like the rising of the sun in its might.

THOSE WHO LOVE HIM!  Paul himself said, "The love of Christ compels/constrains me."  Jesus said to Peter after his resurrection, "Peter do you love ? Then feed my sheep, Peter do you really love me?. . ."

He didn't ask - Peter, do you really know how to feed sheep - do you have a degree in sheep nutrition; do you understand the tensions and nuances of interpersonal dynamics between shepherds and sheep.  No. . . do you love me.

There's a 99 year old lady in New York who prays for our church. . . "I am on my way to 100, she writes, and I hope to bring someone to Jesus Christ before my birthday."  What motivates her?  LOVE FOR CHRIST!

The truth is, the reason so many believers never get off the launching pad is because they have a religious love for the Lord - come on Sunday and feel good about God. . .

There's a second reason these people succeeded

2)    they trusted God without any explanations

Remember the fighting would take place in the plains of Esdraelon - a flat surface that included the dry river bed of Kishon - a perfect place for Sisera's chariot force - the worst possible place for a lightly armed Israelite footsoldiers.  That was like asking American forces to take on Iraq's tank force with squirt guns; to fight Russian migs with paper airplanes - it didn't make sense - but 10,000 men said - count me in!

Now  understand, their were some tribes who didn't get involved.  In fact, one of the saddest ingredients of Deborah's song is that she reveals the names of the tribes who wouldn't get involved:

I've come up with names for each of these tribes.

1)    The January 1st tribe - Reuben - I'll explain in a minute

v 5:15b.  Among the divisions of Reuben there were great resolves of heart.

v 16.            Why did you sit among the sheepfolds, to hear the piping for the flocks?  Among the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart.

New year resolutions don't lead New year actions!  There is a constant danger for Christians to be moved emotionally, to have great searchings of heart but never translate that into action. . . to leave the sheepfolds and head for battle.

2)    The Out of Sight-Out of Mind Tribe - Gilead

v 5:17. - Gilead remained across the Jordan. (one sentence/volumes)

Gilead isn't the name of one tribe but two tribes - Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh which had elected to stay outside of Canaan.  Remember an earlier study (Joshua 22) that revealed their desire to maintain a bond - built a huge altar - teach the next generation!

But now!  Well, that's their battle. . . don't want to get involved, "Boy, I wish we lived closer to the situation - we might help out!

3)    The I've Already Tried and Failed Tribe - Dan

Deborah continues her song and it reveals her anguished question - 5:17b - "And why did Dan stay in ships?"

The answer if found in chapter 1 that informs us of Dan's initial failure to drive the Amorites from their inheritance.  As a result, the tribe drifted into the mountains and eventually lost any hope of gaining the territory that was rightfully theirs.

Here we read their in ships - what a joke.  That's like an American soldier leaving for battle station and while he's packing, his wife is talking to the funeral director about flower arrangements.

One more tribe:

4)    The Tribe that was Busy Doing the Wrong Thing - Asher

v 5:17c. - Asher sat at the seashore, and remained by its landings.

Asher lived on the Phoenician coast, and they were focused entirely on their work - on their ships, on their docks on their business of trading.  But wait, "God gave me this land, He gave me these boats, He gave me this business!"  Right! But for a moment He wants you leave it and go fight a battle!

What sounded reasonable was in reality a lack of vision for God's work, no sense of God's program, no understanding of the mission God wanted to accomplish. . . thus, no volunteers!

The tragedy is that Asher, except for one brief mention with Gideon, vanished from the scene. The tragedy is that Dan nosedived into apostasy.  The tragedy is that the tribes called Gilead were repeatedly overrun and defeated in the battles that came their way.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if you refuse to become involved in the work and mission of Christ, if you refuse to show concern for other believers; if you refuse involvement in the lives of God's people and the cause of God's church - you may not realize it, but you will shrivel up within your own shell.

Review -     1)         they volunteered without hesitation

2)    they trusted God with explanation

3)    they gave God the credit without any reservation

On the very same day of victory, Deborah composed a poem that expressed the hearts of the all the Israelite's who had been freed that day.  Chapter 5 is that poem and verse 3 spells out who they believed was responsible for victory:  "Hear, O kings; give ear, O rulers!  I to the Lord, I will sing, I will sing, I will sing praise to the Lord, the God of Israel."

The question remains!!!!

What exactly did happen that day - chapter 4 doesn't say anything other than what you find in 4:15.  - And the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army, with the edge of the sword before Barak; and Sisera alighted from his chariot and fled away on foot.

Chapter 5 again provides the answer 5:19.  The kings came and fought; then fought the kings of Canaan at Taanach near the waters of Megiddo; they took no plunder in silver.

v 20. The stars fought from heaven, from their courses they fought against Sisera, (reference to supernatural intervention - form is told)

v 21. The torrent of Kishon swept them away, the ancient torrent, the torrent Kishon.  O my soul, march on with strength.

In other words, Kishon - a dry river plain experienced a sudden storm at just the right moment.

Josephus, the Jewish historian that lived and wrote during the time of Christ referred to this storm as one including hail, rain and thunder; no ordinary tempest, but a storm of great violence!

  1. Rob Roy writes, "Certain tracts of this plains surface is like strong adhesive mud.  Now when horses and mules pass over such places, they are often unable to pull out their feet.  If a horse's foot is buried in the mud long enough to allow the clay to close over it from above, he finds it extremely difficult to draw his leg out again, and he instantly changes his gait to a series of plunges, with rapid, short, and jerky steps, snorting and groaning the while with terror, and panting and steaming in the wildest excitement."

What makes it even more interesting is that Baal was the god of the storm - yet this storm defeated the Canaanite army!

What was a suicidal battle plan - lightly armed foot-soldiers against heavily armed chariots - became a brilliant plan.

Sisera, the great General runs for his life and stumbles into the tent of another housewife by the name of Jael.  While he sleeps she takes his life. 

Before we close I want to go back to a very important passage - Turn  3:1 and hold!

I have a question - why didn't God just wipe out Jabin and Sisera the moment Israel cried out for help.  Why did God require volunteers to step forward and ultimately rush down a mountainside into the face of prancing steeds and iron chariot forces?

Why the rescue at the 11th hour?  Why put His people through all that trouble?

Why does He do the same with you -

v 3:1.          Now these are the nations which the lord left, to test Israel by them, that is, all who had not experienced any of the wars of Canaan;

v 2.  Only in order that the generations of the sons of Israel might by taught war, those who had not experienced it formerly.

WOW! Why didn't God just smooth out all the bumps?  Why didn't He wipe out the entire enemy. . . instead He left nations to fight and troubles to overcome?

In fact, why not rid the land of all enemies as soon as the Israelite prays!

FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE:  God is far more interested in developing His people than in displaying His people.

In other words, God is interested in teaching us how to wage spiritual warfare. . . how to fight; how to stand!

Gary Richmond - LA Zoo - "remember how it got up"

So stand up!  and fight!  And don't ever forget. . . in the final analysis, the battle is the Lords!


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