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Judges 5:15-31 by Robert Dean
Series:Judges (2000)
Duration:1 hr 4 mins 42 secs

Victory over the Enemy; Most Blessed of Women – Judges 5:15-31

 

As you noticed, starting last week we do our annual homage to the season by singing Christmas hymns.  There are some other hymns that are related to people's various professions.  Take note because some of this may apply to you.  There is the Dentist's hymn, Crown Him with Many Crowns.  There is the meteorologist hymn, There Shall be Showers of Blessing.  There's the contractor's hymn, The Churches One Foundation.  There is the tailor's hymn, Holy, Holy, Holy.  The golfer's hymn, There is a Green Hill Far Away.  And we have the politicians hymn, Standing on the Promises.  There's the optometrist's hymn, Open My Eyes that I Might See.  There's the IRS agent's hymn, I Surrender All.  Then for some of you the gossip's hymn, Pass It On; and the electrician's hymn, Send the Light.  And then there is the shoppers hymn, Sweet Bye and Bye.  And for those of us who have lead in our right foot, there are hymns for speeding on the highway.  This was sent to me and the person who sent it to me said pay particular notice to the last section:  at 45 miles an hour God Will Take Care of You; at 55 mph it's Guide me O Thou Great Jehovah; at 65 it's Nearer My God to Thee; at 75 mph it's Nearer, Still Nearer; at 85 it now becomes This World is Not My Home, at 95 it's Lord, I'm Coming Home, and over 100 it's Precious Memories. 

 

Open your Bibles to Judges 5 and we continue the hymn of Deborah written in praise to God for giving them the victory over the armies of Sisera and Jabin, the king of Hazor.  This is a fascinating hymn for a number of reasons; one can get bogged down in the Hebrew because it is probably one of the oldest examples of ancient Hebrew that we have.  This is one thing that makes its interpretation so difficult and it's because the translation so awkward.  There are numerous Hebrew words here that are used only one time, this is the only time they're found in the entire Old Testament, that's called a hapax, from the Greek meaning once, it's used only one time.  And there are numerous other words that are used only one other time or two other times in the Old Testament. 

 

If you are using a King James Version or a New King James Version your translation in a few passages here radically differs from the New American Standard or the NIV, not because of textual problems, which is often the case when there's a difference between the NIV or the King James in the New Testament because in the New Testament the NIV relies upon Aleph and Codex B and Codex A which are the oldest and therefore in that view the best manuscripts and King James and New King James are based on Textus Receptus which is a different text background.  But that's not true in the Old Testament, and frankly I go along with many of the ways the King James translates this than the New American Standard and I think it makes a little more sense, but if we take the time to dwell on the Hebrew technicalities in this psalm that extends for some 31 verses we will be in Judges 5 perhaps until the rapture.  So I am glossing over many of the Hebrew technicalities to go straight for the interpretation and understanding what the poem is all about.  A few times I'll reference the Hebrew here or there but for the most part I'll try to correct the understanding and then drive for the application. 

 

Judges 1:1 expresses the title of the psalm; it is the psalm from Deborah and Barak that they sang after the victory.  We don't know who wrote it, it's very possible Deborah wrote the psalm, that's one of the difficulties because in places it refers to Deborah in the first person and in other places it refers to Deborah in the third person so if you're writing you would use a first person consistently, perhaps.  So that's just one of the many interpretive problems that exegetes have to deal with.  In Judges 5:2-8 we had the general proclamation or call on the nation to praise God, to praise Yahweh for His victory.  This recognizes the fact that Israel at this time had, at least for the previous period, had succumbed to apostasy and idolatry and had come under the fourth cycle of discipline, they were oppressed by twenty years by the military might of the king of Hazor and they were defeated.  So there was not much left among the nation and it is also during this whole episode, chapter 4-5 a critique, it's an indictment on the continued decline and deterioration of leadership in Israel. 

 

We need to plug it in again so we don't forget our overall framework for the book of Judges.  We studied the first three chapters, or at least down to Judges 3:6 as the introduction, then the next major division which is the body of this book is from 3:6-16:31, and then there's an epilogue from 17-21.  The introduction introduces us to the cycles of disobedience, discipline and deliverance that takes place in Israel, but the main body shows the breakdown, the collapse of leadership in the nation due to apostasy.  When a culture apostacizes, when they depart from the truth of Bible doctrine it affects everyone in the nation, from the top down, so that the leadership reflects the basic attitudes of the people.  So when this section indicts the leadership, the upper crust of the society for their failures to stand firm on the Word, for their assimilation and compromise with idolatry, it is an indictment on everyone in the nation.  It's not just the leaders who were apostacizing, it is everyone.  And a nation often has leaders that are simply mirrors of their own values and their own attitudes and their own failures.  Much could be said about that in our present political situation.  We often get the leaders we deserve, even though some of us may not go along with their political philosophies or background.  The last four chapters show the breakdown of the people, the consequences of apostasy among the population in general.

 

To put this in perspective we started off the period looking at the first judge, Othniel who delivered the nation from a Mesopotamian oppression.  Then Ehud, the second judge delivered them from a Moabite oppression.  Then we had this brief verse, Judges 3:31 of Shamgar who was not a Jew, not a judge, but was a Gentile unbeliever used by God to control the Philistine threat on the southwest flank of Israel so that they would not be distracted while they were also going through oppressions from the north and the east.  Then this is the third judge, Deborah.  She is the judge and Barak is the general.  There's a cycle of deterioration of positive volition through this period, each judge gets progressively worse, and we have to keep that in mind, that these judges while there are certain spiritual values to them that they have times in their lives when they trust the Lord, with each successive judge the condition just gets worse and worse in the nation, so that while they are exemplified as heroes of faith, trusting God at one particular time in their life, Hebrews 11, the writer of Judges is not portraying them to us as those who are without spot or blemish.  They are mostly with spot and blemish, it is just on occasion that they trust God. 

 

That is an example of God's grace to us because that's the way most of us are most of the time.  We are not nearly as faithful, as trusting, we do not apply doctrine nearly consistently as we hope we do, and as we delude ourselves into thinking we do.  And yet God is ever faithful and ever gracious so we must align ourselves with and understand His grace; that we live, breathe, walk, eat, go to work, drive our cars, all by means of the grace of God and that no one else is any better than we are, and so we have enough to worry about in terms of our spiritual life without worrying about what someone else is doing or not doing, what their failures and successes might be.  We know that our job is to fight the assimilation of pagan thought into our mentality, just as it was in the ancient world.  And we should take a note, not only encouragement from the grace of God in the lives of the judges but also a warning of what happens to those who succumb to the temptation to assimilate, to compromise and to go-along-to-get-along philosophy with the world around us.

 

Judges 5 gives us a tremendous descriptive praise psalm of how God delivered Israel from the oppression.  And the point of doctrine for us is that God is the One who always gives us victory over the adversity in life and we also see in the context of this what happens when we fail to trust God and that outside of pressure of adversity is converted into stress in the soul and produces fragmentation because what we're going to see in these next verses is a picture of the internal fragmentation of Israel.  We always have to remember that this picture of Israel at war in the Old Testament is used in the New Testament to portray the believer's engagement in spiritual warfare.  It's a picture of our spiritual life.  So we use this by analogy to illustrate principles of spiritual warfare and the believer's walk with the Lord.

 

In Judges 5:2-8 we saw the proclamation and all to praise God and then starting in verse 9 down through verse 30 it's the main body of the hymn, and this is the report of deliverance by Deborah.  There is, in verses 9-11 a brief summary which challenges the listener to listen carefully and to pay attention to what is said in the psalm and what is said in praise of God and how God delivers.  Then in verses 12-15 we see a listing of the various tribes who obeyed, volunteered for military service, praise for those who obeyed.  Starting in 15b we see condemnation and criticism for those who failed to volunteer, for those who were the equivalent of draft dodgers, by analogy went to some foreign country instead of standing firm and defending the nation against her enemies. 

 

We read in Judges 5:12 a call to Deborah.  Now here we see Deborah referred to in the third person so this statement comes from God, it is a rehearsal of God's call to Deborah to go to Barak and to invite him to lead the armies of Israel against the enemy.  "Awake, awake, Deborah; Awake, awake, sing a song!"  You catch the meter, the beat in the Hebrew, it speeds up, all of a sudden there's an intensity here; there's a tremendous amount of emotion throughout this whole psalm because the people are excited, they're supposed to sing this, they've had victory, God has delivered them from twenty years of slavery to this foreign power.  And we studied that the reason a nation becomes enslaved ultimately comes from spiritual principles.  Once you, as individual citizens in a nation succumb to the temptation of the sin nature you become a slave of the sin nature, that's Romans 6, and a nation who's stays in slavery to the sin nature develops a mentality of a slave and they become soul slaves and it's not long before a nation of soul slaves enslaves themselves to some foreign power or to their own government and gives them the authority to tyrannize them. 

 

We have to watch because that is the direction our nation is headed, the more we give the federal government power to make decisions, to control things and to legislate safety, you can't legislate responsibility or safety past a certain point.  This is one thing that I've noted as a trend over the last twenty years, part of it you see with the insurance industry, with the excessive litigation, nobody wants to accept blame for their own failures and accidents, it's always somebody else's so let's take them to court so we have increased litigation and that produces all this excessive legislation.  I would hate to be a child today and have to wear all the encumbrances…how did the rest of us ever survive to adulthood?  For years I worked at a Christian camp down in central Texas and for several summers I was a wrangler there, and I enjoyed going back there; for years I went back there; I would teach at summer camps.  The last time I was there I walked into the barn and there were a stack of what looked like motorcycle helmets.  I said what's that for?  Well, when we take the kids out on trail rides now they've got to wear a helmet if they get on a horse.  I mean, they can't wear just like a cowboy hat like people have done for centuries?  No!  I thought that's it, I just can't handle modern reality any more; that's the last time I've been back, I just can't stand the new approach to everything.  But we're obsessed with safety and living long in a nation that no longer has a concept of eternal life through salvation.  We're afraid of death as a culture so what we do is we have more and more legislation directed towards trying to keep every­body healthy and alive for as long as possible because we've lost any concept of an after life and that's one way in which it affects our culture.  That's the aspect underlying all of this legislation that nobody ever talks about.  Legislation ultimately and always will reflect some view of spiritual reality. 

 

So what we have here is a cry to Deborah to come forward, to step into the gap of leadership and to Barak, and the cry for him is "Arise, Barak, and take away your captives," this is viewed proleptically, going back and reviewing the call initially to Barak that Deborah had promised him victory and said that God would give him victory; that's back in Judges 4:6, "Now she," that is Deborah, "sent and summoned Barak, the son of Abinoam from Kadesh-naphtali, saying to him, Behold, the LORD, the God of Israel, has commanded go, and march to Mount Tabor; take with you ten thousand men from the sons of Naphtali, and from the sons of Zebulun, [7] And I will draw out to you," notice God doesn't say we will see what will happen or perhaps, He says "I will draw out to you Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army, with his chariots and many troops to the river Kishon, and I will give him into your hand."  That's not what Barak hears, he hears a maybe and he says well Deborah, I'll do it if you go with me, and he demonstrates that he doesn't really have the courage, the battle necessary to take on the task because what has happened in paganism is that it has eroded the confidence of the people in God and it has eroded the leadership in the nation.  That was the whole point in the Shamgar reference in Judges 3:31. 

 

At that time I spent some time talking about what happens in paganism and paganism is a term I use that's roughly synonymous to human viewpoint, cosmic thinking, worldly thinking, all of that is basically the same thing.  What happens when a nation succumbs to human viewpoint or cosmic thinking is that they start redefining sexual roles.  You see it in the pagan gods and goddesses of the ancient world and you see it working its way out in our own culture.  As a result of that, we live in a society where men aren't sure what it means to be a man; women aren't sure what it means to be women and some women thinks that it should mean that they are men.  So we have role reversals and we have problems with authority and we have breakdowns in marriage and family as a result of that.  At the time we went through that I made a point to remind everybody and to point out to the men that the men are placed by God as the spiritual head of the home.  That means that men are ultimately going to be held responsible for the spiritual welfare of the home; for the training in the home and to see that the kids and everybody in the family gets to Bible class and makes doctrine the number one priority. 

 

Now when I said that and when I taught this in the past and I had failed to remind people of this when I taught that, there are always males in the congregation who have not been living up to that responsibility and sooner or later there is always one, either on tape or sitting here who gets gung-ho and says well, I'm going to go do it and they run home and then all of a sudden, after five, ten, fifteen years of failing to be a leader in the home they decide to grab the bull by the horns and they're going to start running everything.  That's a guaranteed recipe for failure because what you've done, you've created a culture of non-leadership and passivity for however long you've been married and you can't reverse that overnight.  The path to recovery is slow.  As long as it's taken you to sow the seeds of spiritual failure and leadership, that's how long you need to take to reverse the damage. 

 

There are three principles you need to remember.  First of all, men we lead by example; we lead by example!  That means we start making doctrine a priority in our lives, not just as James says hearing the Word but being appliers of the Word as well.  That means we're going to make doctrine the number one priority and before we start trying to ram doctrine down the throats of our wives or our children because we're gung-ho about being the spiritual leader again we need to make sure that we are seeing the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and Bible doctrine in our own lives.  So you start off by making sure you can get things squared away and demonstrating that by example. 

 

Secondly, if this has not been the way you have done things you're going to have a lot of problems.  You have to remember that not only have men in our culture been culturally programmed and prepared to be passive and effeminate and not function as spiritual leaders in the home, you have to realize that your wife has the opposite problem.  She has been programmed and prepared by her culture to be the spiritual leader in the home, for the most part, I'm talking in generalities, and you've probably aided and abetted the cosmic system in that by your passivity over the years.  So one of the things that often happens and I see it as a guy gets a little gung-ho about his role as the leader in the home and he runs home and he starts trying to put things into practice and even if he does it in somewhat of a gentle, sensitive manner he runs into resistance.  He can't understand why—well, the reason why is because often wives are skeptical, wait a minute, what are you trying to do here, what are you trying to pull, I don't trust you.  Second, they've been culturally prepared that that's their role, not your role, and thirdly we have a little problem called the curse from Genesis 3 which says that the natural tendency of women is to try to usurp the leadership of the male, where it says that the woman will have a desire for the man, that word there in the Hebrew is a word that is not a sexual desire, it is a desire to control.  So guys, you're going to run into a little bit of resistance because of the spiritual conflict so you go softly and you walk gently and you look first and foremost to your own spiritual life and your own spiritual growth.

 

The third point is that this does not mean, men, that you now become the pastor-teacher for your little fledgling congregation at home.  That means it's not your job to start teaching doctrine to everybody; you don't come in and get out the Bible and sit down at the breakfast table and say okay, I'm going to sermonize for about 15 minutes every morning and start teaching doctrine to everybody.  That's not what the passage says.  The passage says that men are to train up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and if you want to understand what that's about you have to go back to Deuteronomy 4, 5, and 6 where it talks about the responsibility of the parents in teaching and training their children in doctrine under the Mosaic Law, that they were to talk about the Word in their rising up, in their lying down, that wherever they went, in their goings and their comings, in the morning and at night they were to talk about the Word; it's a lifestyle pattern of talking about…when you have decisions to make you exemplify the application of doctrine in the decision making process and that becomes evident to both your children and your spouse and the process.  It's an example, it's showing that doctrine makes a difference in how you make decisions and you're going to demonstrate that by example.  And then when your kids come along and they say well Dad, I've got a problem, I need to make a decision, then you say okay, what do you think the Bible says about this.  You don't necessarily preach at them and say "Well the Bible says…"  You sit down and you say okay now what have we learned that Scripture teaches and encourage them to start learning how to think biblically and apply doctrine to the decision that they have to make.  One of the ways that you can guarantee that when your kid becomes an adolescent that they go through a period of rebellion against your spiritual leadership is to try to ram it down their throats, especially when they're younger.  You try to encourage them, you teach them.  I think it's a great thing for fathers to be able to go in at night, especially when the kids are younger, and to read Bible stories to them and just make points here and there, application.  Don't try to become the pastor of your own little congregation. 

 

So those are just a few little words of advice in terms of application as we seek to deal with the fact that men are the responsible leader in the home.  And I always emphasize leadership aspect as opposed to the authority aspect.  You see, so often when we come to passages in the New Testa­ment which talk about the fact that wives are to be submissive to the husbands, the husbands are to love their wives, it's like the Bible is brought out as some kind of club on the women, that they need to be submissive and I try to reverse the fact, that it's that the men need to start exercising spiritual leadership and exercising leadership has a different nuance and dynamic than exercising authority.  A husband is not the newly appointed drill sergeant to make sure that the wife now understands all of the basics and gets her life in line.  That application has been tried a few times, unfortunately, and it's a misapplication and misrepresentation of the Scriptures.  A marriage is a loving relationship; it is not a military barracks situation.  So the man must exercise a little bit of wisdom and intelligence in the application of doctrine. 

 

And this is clearly a slap in the face on Barak because Barak is mentioned second in the passage, whereas Deborah is still given priority and that was the announcement of divine judgment for his effeminate cowardly response in Judges 4:9, Deborah said I will go with you, nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey, you're not going to get the honor for the victory because you have failed to seize the initiative and take your responsibility, you're functioning more like the pagan effeminate man and not like the spiritual hero who has confidence in God; the honor the victory will not go to you, it will go to a woman.  And at that point perhaps he thought that she was referring to herself and we learn that she was referring to someone else.  So there is this nuance here, this implication in just the order of the names that Barak is playing second-fiddle, as it were, and he is in the background.  Now he is told to "take away your captives," so this is a reference to the fact that he will have victory and he is the one who will lead his captives in a victory parade. 

 

In Judges 5:13, "Then survivors came down to the nobles; The people of the LORD came down to me as warriors."  This again is a sample of synonymous parallelism in Hebrew poetry where the two clauses are roughly parallel.  But in the first clause, the "survivors came down to the nobles," there is a hint there of the devastation that has occurred in Israel due to the discipline of the fourth cycle of discipline during the previous twenty years.  The word translated "survivors" in that passage can also mean escapees, and it is the Hebrew word sarid, and sarid is a picture of those who have survived a catastrophe.  If you look at a group of refugees who have fled a country because of some military or national disaster, that's the picture of this word.  These are not people who are militarily trained, who have nice shining well-pressed, well-turned out uniforms; this is a picture of a motley crew of survivors and refugees who have managed to pull themselves together to make a sort of ragtag army.  And yet in the eyes of the world people would say, the world system would say, well that can't solve problems, that's just this ragtag bunch of people, they have no military training, they have no weaponry. 

 

We know from the passage back in verse 11 that they had…it's translated in the New American Standard "the sound of those who divide flocks" and we saw in the Hebrew it's at the sound of the archers, that's another one of those problem passages but it should be translated archers, so they had bow and arrow but they didn't have chariots, they didn't have the latest weaponry, they didn't have any iron, they didn't have any steel, all they had was wood spears and bows and arrows to attack the army, so they are pitiful in comparison to the well-trained, well-turned out Canaanite army.  So human viewpoint says well, if you're really going to solve problems in life and you're going to handle the adversities of life, then you have to have all the latest, greatest weaponry and all the latest greatest tools and techniques for handling problems so we have to march ourselves down to whoever just graduated from the counseling school, psychotherapy, we have to go down to the self-help section of Barnes and Noble or whatever the local bookstore is, get on Amazon.com and page through and find out what the latest greatest cycle babble technique is for solving the problems in our lives.  What this passage is pointing out is the God is the One who gives the victory and it's not up to human resources to solve the problem because human resources are inadequate; it is God's grace alone that is sufficient.

 

The second principle we learn here is that it is always God who gives the victory, despite our inabilities, our failures, and our flaws.  And that tells us that if we're still alive, no matter how badly we fail, no matter how much we screwed up in life, no matter what the disaster is, if we're still alive God still has a plan for our lives and there is recovery.  That's what has happened in Israel.  And so this ragtag bunch of sarid survivors, these refugees who don't have any weaponry and they just have makeshift weapons that they pulled out of their home, God is going to still use them to provide a tremendous victory.  That's a picture of the believer who has gone through a period of reversionism and backslidden and carnality and has really messed his life up to the maximum by piling one bad decision upon another, yet God still in His grace provides victory and recovery.  So this is a tremendous sign of God's grace and encouragement.

 

In Judges 5:14 we read about the praise for those who came to the aid and responded to the call.  "From Ephraim," that's the tribe of Ephraim, "those whose root is in Amalek came down, Following you, Benjamin, with your peoples; From Machir commanders came down, And from Zebulun those who wield the staff of office."  So these are four different groups that are singled out here for praise.  Ephraim operated in the hill country somewhat north of Jerusalem but still in the central highlands, and they had been plagued by Amalek.  That's that awkward, "those whose root is in Amalek," this refers to the Amalekites, another group of Canaanites who are continuously oppressing Israel and would until Saul finally wiped them out in a major battle that's covered in 1 Samuel 15 or 16.  Amalek was a large group of Bedouin Arabs that were like desert tyrants who marauded through the ancient world.  And when I mean a large group I think that their armies numbered in excess of a hundred thousand, perhaps.  We know from when the Jews were coming out of Egypt and on their way to Sinai that they met an Amalekite army that was headed east and it scared them to death because of their military prowess and because of their cruelty and it was a major pitched battle and we know from the census that Moses took not long after that that Israel probably had an army of three or four hundred thousand men that they were fielding against the Amalekites and yet they were afraid of being overpowered and losing the battle.  So Amalek is not just some minor little group of Palestinian herdsmen living up in the hill country in the central highlands.  This is a major military force and this is just another one of the ethnic groups that was continuously aligning themselves against Israel.  So Ephraim had had problems with Amalek and yet they disengaged and came to this battle and then the tribe of Benjamin also in the south, they came with their people. 

 

Machir is a reference to part of the tribe of Manasseh.  Manasseh was one of Joseph's sons, and if you remember, there is no tribe of Joseph.  Joseph had two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and this represents the tribe of Manasseh.  Manasseh's oldest son was Machir, in Genesis 50:23, who was also in turn the father of Gilead.  Numbers 32:39-40 tell us that Machir captured the land of Gilead which is on the Transjordan, that's east of the Jordan, and Moses assigned that land to him.  So this name, Machir, becomes a name for half of the tribe of Manasseh that had their territory across the Jordan on the east side of the Jordan.  Remember that because the Gileadites, which is the other half of the Manassas tribe does not come to the forefront in this battle.  So half of Manasseh comes out and responds to the call and musters their forces and the other half does not. 

 

The praise goes on, "From Machir commanders came down," so this is talking about the upper echelon, the officer corps was provided by Machir and by Zebulun.  The phrase here that is translated "from Zebulun those who wield the staff of office," should probably best be translated "those who mustered with the staff of the commander."  So the field officers were provided by the tribe of Zebulun. 

 

Judges 5:15, "And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah; As was Issachar, so was Barak," and what that means is that just as Barak was at the forefront of the battle, so was Issachar.  Where Barak went, Issachar went, "Into the valley they rushed at his heels;" as they led the charge they were right with him; this is a picture of their faithfulness.  More lines are devoted here to Issachar more than any other tribe so it indicates their faithfulness, their loyalty, their courage and their willingness to stand in the gap and come to the battle.  All of these tribes understood the priority, the nation was their priority.  There's the establishment application here that freedom comes through military victory and they were willing to give their lives for the freedom of the nation.  But the spiritual principle is that these tribes understood the spiritual reality and they were willing to trust God and they were willing to put doctrine first and put their own personal pleasure and their own personal lives second.  They had their priorities straight. 

 

In opposition to that, you come to the last half of verse 15 and we see the criticism of the tribes who were just too preoccupied; they were too busy, their jobs took precedence, their education took precedence, their families, their sports activity, their personal pleasure, whatever it was, it was more important to them than the application of doctrine.  This is the negative side and this reveals to us the fragmentation in the nation as a result of the way that they had failed to handle life.  They had failed to apply doctrine and as they succumbed to more and more human viewpoint and pagan thought it fragmented the nation, and this is exactly what happens in our lives.  When we succumb to human viewpoint thinking, that's tantamount to sin nature control of the soul, we're out of fellowship, and as we encounter more and more adversity the result is that it is transferred into stress in the soul and starts producing fissures and cracks and fragmentation in our soul so that we become ineffective and when it comes time to step to the plate we have created a habit pattern of compromise and so when the real battle is joined we would rather stay home with the flocks.  That's the picture of verse 16. 

 

Judges 5:16, "Why did you sit among the sheepfolds," this is the indictment of the tribe of Reuben, why did you stay home with the sheep.  Literally, "To hear the piping for the flocks?" and the Hebrew here is a word that is only used one other time in the Old Testament and that is in Jeremiah 18:6 and there it has a negative nuance.  This is a pejorative term, it indicates the rights of hissing in Jeremiah 18:6 and it indicates the idea that what the author is communicating here is derision and disrespect for what the Reubenites have done, they've just sat at home with their sheep listening to the piping of the flocks, everything was calm, everything was peaceful, let's stay at home and watch TV tonight, we can just relax, let's not go to…[tape turns]

 

…whatever the reason we're just going to stay home and we're going to put a show of positive volition, that we were concerned, that's the indication of the last part, "Among the divisions of Reuben, There were great searchings of heart."  Read this with sarcasm.  If Deborah wrote this she's being very sarcastic, you sat at home in the sheepfolds and oh, you just tossed and turned at night, you put on this great show of how concerned you were with the rest of the nation and how important spiritual realities were but when it came right down to it you stayed at home.  You put on a great show but it was just a fraud.  That's what happens with so many Christians, they talk a lot about Christianity, they talk a lot about going to church, they talk a lot about how important the Word is in their life but that's all it is, is talk. 

 

The indictment of the tribes that failed to come out continues in verse 17.  Judges 5:17, "Gilead remained across the Jordan; And why did Dan stay in ships?"  See, Gilead is the other half of the Manasseh tribe, and they didn't come forward, "And why did Dan stay in ships," Dan's located in the northwest along the sea coast of the Mediterranean, and fishing was just too good, we'll lose too much money, I can't take off from work to come help everybody else; doctrine is not just a priority, income is.  "Asher sat at the seashore, And remained by its landings."  Dan's out fishing, Asher is running the home base seafood processing plants and both tribes are pictured as being more concerned with material gain and their careers and what's going on in their commercial endeavors than the overall health of the nation.  So that gives us the condemnation of those tribes.

 

Starting in Judges 5:18 ["Zebulun was a people who despised their lives even to death, And Naphtali also, on the high places of the field."  We see the statement of praise for the two key tribes that provided the greatest number of soldiers for the fight, Zebulun and Naphtali.  "Zebulun was a people who despised their lives even to death;" they had their priorities right, doctrine was right, they were going to apply the Word, the relationship with the Lord, the nation Israel was first and foremost even if it cost them their life.  The Hebrew word means to disdain, to despise, to count as nothing.  They recognized that the plan of God was everything, their personal agenda and their personal plan was nothing.  So they were willing to put their lives in jeopardy for the plan of God. 

 

Judges 5:19, here we see the description of the battle itself.  "The kings came and fought; Then fought the kings of Canaan; At Taanach near the waters of Megiddo; They took no plunder in silver."  So they're not plundering the enemy but they are killing him and they are going to destroy the 900 iron chariots that are brought against them and wipe out the Canaanites, but they're not in it for personal plunder, they didn't get anything out of it.

Then in Judges 5:20 we have an interesting description; this shows us that the battle is not merely a physical military battle; this is a function of the angelic conflict and that there are indeed forces behind the scenes involved in the battle.  "The stars fought from heaven," the "stars" here is a reference to the angelic forces, "From their courses they fought against Sisera."  So this opens up, as it were, the curtain a little bit to show us that what's going on in the physical dimension is also being mirrored in a spiritual dimension.  Now the problem with this today is that as part of the mysticism and all of the religious babble that goes on today, especially from the charismatic crowd as to put such an emphasis on this. 

There was a guy who wrote a book, a novel on spiritual warfare about 10 or 12 years ago that sold an inordinate number of copies for the garbage theology it was, it just shows that people will read and buy anything, and in that he was trying to show that we're involved in spiritual warfare and that there are things that go on behind the scenes in the angelic dimension.  But his theology was…I'll be nice and just say it was pathetic, and I was amazed at how many people I know who were trained Biblicists, trained theologians in places like Dallas Seminary, professors who read this and went oh it's great, it's a great encouragement to get out in spiritual warfare…so when the guy says that the angelic forces are strengthened by the prayers of the believer and if the believer doesn't pray then their forces are weakened.  Do you agree with that?  No, that's not Biblical so why are you saying it's a good book.  I mean, it just was loaded with error after error after error, but oh, it's just fiction.  Well, the parables are fiction, just because it's fiction doesn't mean that absolves it from teaching spirituality and spiritual truth.

 

What we see here is that there is a spiritual dimension, and that is that when the believer, i.e. here Israel, is in engaged in proper obedience to God, they're back in fellowship, they have confessed their sin when they cried out to the Lord, they are back in fellowship, they are obedient to the Lord, then God is the One who gives us the victory.  We don't know what goes on in the spiritual dimension, we can't second guess it.  That's why we have to do exactly what God says to do.  God tells us to stand firm and in the process of standing firm what he means is do what I tell you to do and don't go beyond that.  It's not your job to go out and try to engage in some sort of one on one spiritual battle with the angels.  It's not up to us to rebuke Satan, that's not ever mentioned anywhere in the Bible; Jesus is the only one who can do that.  But we get involved in the battle to the degree that we know what the priorities are, we learn do, we apply doctrine through the filling of the Holy Spirit, we advance to spiritual maturity and then God, in the spiritual realm, unseen and unbeknown to us deals with whatever else is going on in the spiritual dimension.  It is not for us to know, speculate, about or be concerned about.  God deals with it. 

 

Now here we see a picture that Israel is not out there trying to bind Satan or rebuke Satan or tie up the demons, they're not engaged in any of this mumbo-jumbo pseudo witchcraft that the charismatic crowd…and that's what it is, when you start getting involved in that kind of attitude toward angels and demons that has to do with magic and witchcraft which is where it comes from and it doesn't have to do with Biblical Christianity.  You don't see the Jews doing that.  They do what God says to do, get together, go into battle and attack the enemy but don't worry about what's going on, I'm going to tell you what's going on and that is that the reason you won is because the angelic forces came to your aid and through deception, bringing deception upon Sisera, he took his troops into a wadi, the Kishon, and then the angels who controlled the weather brought out a major rainstorm up in the highlands that brought a flashflood and wiped out his army.  [Verse 21, "The torrent of Kishon swept them away, The ancient torrent, the torrent Kishon.  O my soul, march on with strength."]  Now that wasn't something they prayed for; they were praying for victory but they did not understand what was going on in the invisible realm, let's say.  And we're not supposed to be concerned about that; our focus is what is material and physical and we are to apply doctrine and not go beyond that in illegitimate and inordinate speculation.  But that is just one example of how mysticism has invaded and is destroying contemporary Christianity.  Let's move on.

 

Judges 5:22, we see a further image here, "Then the horses' hoofs beat," the word in the Hebrew indicates a panic; this is not the horses running away from the flood, this is the absolute calamity and panic that ensues as the flash flood comes down and the horses could smell the water coming and all of a sudden they panicked, and they're running into each other and the chariots are turning over and the soldiers are being cast aside and ran over by the panicky horses pulling the chariots behind them, and the whole scene is one of absolute catastrophe and then all of a sudden they're overwhelmed by the flood.  The same kind of picture that you get from the Exodus with the destruction of Pharaoh's army after Israel crossed the Red Sea.  [22b, "From the dashing, the dashing of his valiant steeds.]

 

Judges 5:23, there is a curse on Meroz, which is a town located near there, because of their failure to come into the battle.  "'Curse Meroz,' said the angel of the LORD," remember the angel of the Lord is the preincarnate Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity; the angel of the Lord is not just any angel but is the messenger of Yahweh and it's clear from a number of passages that this is the preincarnate Lord Jesus Christ who is the head of the Israelite armies; it is the angel of the Lord who is the commander.  And so the angel of the Lord commands not only the physical troops of Israel but also the holy angels, the elect angels who are involved in the spiritual dimension.  So the picture here is of the battlefield on the earth.  We've seen a glimpse into what's happening in the heavenlies and over all, the battlefield; everything is being directed by the commander in chief who is the angel of the Lord.  And there is one town located here, Meroz, and as the army of Sisera is wiped out and he escapes, he goes through Meroz and they lose and they do not take advantage of this fantastic opportunity to kill Sisera and to finalize the victory.  So there is a curse pronounced upon them because they did not come to the help of the Lord, "'Utterly curse its inhabitants; Because they did not come to the help of the LORD, To the help of the LORD against the warriors.'"

 

But in contrast to their failure we come to the great praise section of this psalm, beginning in verse 24 and this is a praise of Jael.  Now one of the things that just seems to amaze me sometimes when I get involved in reading certain things by certain Christian writers and ethicists is they just get into such emotional and intellectual gymnastics when they come to a passage like this; oh, she's deceptive, she suckered this guy in and got him in the house and fed him and acted like everything was good and then she drove a tent peg through his head, oh how can God praise her, how can this be right to use deception like this.  They don't understand it's war and just as with Rahab under war conditions, those kinds of peacetime ethics issues are irrelevant.  They just wring their hands over a passage like this and it's just… you guys would never make it in the military; you need to get a taste of reality somewhere.  But Jael is pictured as a woman who is loyal to God and loyal to the covenant with God, understands the divine issues and that this is the enemy of God and her job is to take him out. 

 

Now as a woman she is not a match for him strength for strength, so she has to devise a strategy in order to take him out.  And she does, and she is never condemned for the strategy.  In fact, she is called "most blessed of women," a title that is given to only one other woman in the Scripture and that's the mother of the humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Mary is called "most blessed among women" so if you're going to wring your hands over the fact that she was a little deceptive here… a question occurred to me; what in the world do these guys do when some guy is going to do a fake pass, you get out there in a football game and I'm going to throw a fake…oh, I've got to confess that, that's a sin, I'm just going to get all caught up in all kinds of introspection and forget reality.  Do these guys never play chess, try to fake somebody out to think that I'm going to go this way and now my moves are going to that way, oh, that deceptive, I can't do that.  These guys must be absolute failures in life if you consistently apply their concepts of ethics.  It's just absolutely pathetic; no wonder the Christian church is in the mess it's in.

 

Judges 5:24, "Most blessed of women is Jael, The wife of Heber the Kenite; Most blessed is she of women in the tent.  [25]  He asked for water and she gave him milk," I'm not just going to give you water, I'm going to go a step further, I'm going to give you milk and then you have an expanded parallelism here, an emblematic parallelism where the second line expands on the first, "In a magnificent bowl she brought him curds."  So she honors him, she brings out the best crystal that she has, the best china, and she puts the yogurt in that, that's really what it is in our culture, she puts the yogurt in there and then after he eats he's sleepy, the calcium had its effect on his brain and he's tired from his journey in the battle and he lies down thinking he's in a place of security.  And the pace slows down, the pace has been fast, awake, awake, you can almost hear the beat of the horse hoofs all the way through up to this point and then you get to about verse 25 and whoa, we slow down and we're going to put all of our attention on what this fantastic woman did because she understood the spiritual priorities, she's got divine viewpoint in the soul and she understands what the issue are and that gives her courage.

 

There are three different kinds of courage; there's battle courage, battlefield courage and almost anybody can have battlefield courage.  Then there's moral courage and a lot of unbelievers can have moral courage, but the courage that overrides everything and undergirds the other two and makes us strong is spiritual courage and that only comes from right orientation to Bible doctrine in the soul and orientation to the plan of God, and she is oriented to doctrine and to the plan of God so as soon as Sisera starts snoring she reaches over and grabs a tent peg.  Now the tent pegs then, I don't know if you've been camping lately, we have these little aluminum tent pegs, but these were large tents, this is about a three or four foot long wooden tent peg and she grabs the workman's hammer, that's a big mallet and she just stands over him and positions this tent peg right over his temple and then she just drives it right through his head and into the ground, just skewers him, nails him to the ground.  Then she struck Sisera, she smashed his head, she shattered it and pierced his temple.  This is tremendous graphics here.  Remember, this is Scripture. 

This is probably going to make some people squeamish and the liberals, this is one of the passages the liberals think that oh, the Bible is so horrible, we shouldn't have children read it because it has passages like this, but remember this is inspired by God the Holy Spirit for our benefit, to teach us a little bit about how to behave in combat. 

 

Judges 5:26, "She reached out her hand for the tent peg, And her right hand for the workmen's hammer.  Then she struck Sisera, she smashed his head; And she shattered and pierced his temple. 
[27] Between her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay;" such a tremendous image here, it's not that he fell down, it's that this is where he died.  That's the idiom there, "he lay, between her feet, he bowed, he fell; Where he bowed, there he fell dead."  Which is interesting, this is a stair step parallelism where it builds to a crescendo to his death.  And then there is this remarkable shift of scene as we move from his death, his destruction in the tent of Heber the Kenite to looking at the grief of his mother. 

Judges 5:28, "Out of the window she looked and lamented, The mother of Sisera through the lattice," and there's a contrast here because earlier in the psalm Deborah is referred to as the mother in Israel, so it's looking on how the godly mother leads the nation and influences them to apply doctrine and to move to victory in contrast to the values of the pagan mother.  She's looking for Sisera out through the windows and she's waiting for him to come home, and she's saying why doesn't come home, where's his chariot, why is there a delay, why don't I hear the hoof beats.  She's waiting and waiting and listen to what she says. 

 

Judges 5:29, "Her wise princesses would answer her, Indeed she repeats her words to herself," she says oh, I know what the problem is, [30] "Are they not finding, are they not dividing the spoil?"  I know what's happened, they've just got so much booty from these Israelites that they're dividing the spoil, so much so that they're taking all the women, "A maiden, two maidens for every warrior;" my son is out there raping as many women as he can, this is her value…that's why he's late, he's out there engaged in taking all of these Jewish women for himself.  So we see how decadent her values are, what paganism does to destroy the value system of a culture.  She says, "To Sisera a spoil of dyed work, A spoil of dyed work embroidered, Dyed work of double embroidery on the neck of the spoiler?"  So she's thinking about all the spoils and plunder that's going to come to him as he rapes and pillages the Israelites. 

 

And then the conclusion of the writer is Judges 5:31, "Thus let all Your enemies perish, O LORD; But let those who love Him be like the rising of the sun in its might."  And then we have the conclusion, those who trust the Lord have rest, there is peace and stability in the land, it is undisturbed for forty years, not because of Israel's greatness, not because of their military prowess, not because they had a great political leader, not because they had a great military leader but because the solution was the opposite of what caused the problem.  The problem was caused by spiritual apostasy and the victory comes because they trust God, not because of their own innate systems or talent.  It is always God who gives us the victory, as Paul learned in 2 Corinthians 11, God's grace is sufficient for us, that His strength is made evident in our weakness.  The divine solution is the only solution and the human solution always leads to self-destruction and failure.