Judges 5.1-31 Faithful Song

May 13, 2012 Series: Judges | {Un}Faithful (Part 1 of 2)

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Judges 5:1–5:31

Intro: The power of a Song
For those who were not here last week, Judges 5 is a commentary on Judges 4, providing us some clarity on what happens and why. So, let me give you the 60 second summary of what happened so that this makes sense. After the death the Ehud, the left handed Judge, Israel sins again. God sells them into the hands of Canaanite king named Jabin. His general, named Sisera, leads an army of 900 chariots and thousands of men, to rape, pillage, and oppress Israel cruelly for 20 years. Israel cries and God responds. Deborah, the first and only woman Judge, rises deliver Israel. She calls up a man named Barak, tells him to gather an army to fight Sisera, to which a fearful Barak responds with—I will only if come with me. Deborah agrees telling him that glory will go to a woman instead of him in the victory. They battle and, as promised, God destroys Sisera’s army who escapes on foot north. He tries to hide with the wife of an ally who eventually ends up murdering him as he sleeps and crushes his head with a tent peg.

Now, Deborah the prophetess (possibly temple priestess), and Barak a Levitical priest (possibly husband), sing a duet. The Hebrew actually indicates that Deborah is the one who writes and sings the song so Barakprobably plays an instrument to accompany her as some Levites were musicians. With Deborah on vocals and Barak on guitar, their two-person band tours Isarel and sings this song. We all know the power of songs. And as this song is sung from the mouth of the prophet, it is even more powerful and meaningful. This is one of God’s songs. Music and song are contagious and important aspects of culture. Some of the songs of our culture quite meaningful, others are quite foolish, but usually the best ones are so memorable that we end up believing them, repeating them, or even subconsciously allowing them to affect our convictions. That is because songs are sermons—they communicate and influence worldviews.

While many consider songs as mere entertainment, historically songs were used as a tool to seal, protect, and guard culture. Martin Luther once said that he did not care so much who wrote theologies as long as he could write hymns. Songs have an agenda—they intend to reform how you feel, how you think, or even how you act. That is the nature and power of art. In other words, this song is not intended to simply inform you about what happened—it is written to proclaim truth about God that demands a response.

(2-11) STANZA 1: Scary God and Scarier people
This song is broken into three different stanzas beginning in verse 2, 12, and 24ish… I’ll title the first stanza “scary God and scarier people”. The song begins by recalling what it was like when God originally led his people out of Egypt to the bottom of Mt. Sinai (Exodus 20.16ff). At the mountain, God met his people, and he did so through a powerful storm with lighting, rain, and earthquakes. This is important because the God of the Canaanites is Baal, the storm God. Yahweh is praised as a God who marches, a God who shakes the earth, a God who dwells with his people with rain, clouds, and lighting.
Yet, his people have gone after the new “storm” gods of the Canaanites. Let us never forget that their own sin, their FAITHLESSENESS. is what has brought about their oppression. And it is an oppression that has resulted in a world that is dark and dangerous. Highways are no longer safe and any sense of fruitful life has all but ceased. There are no warriors to fight or weapons to fight with. As we talked about last week, the oppression is led by a cruel man named Sisera. Jewish history speaks of Sisera as if he is a legendary villain—Darth Vader meets Hannibal Lector crossed with Conan the Barbarian. He was said to have conquered every country which he fought against. Some wrote that, when he bathed in the Kishon river, he would catch enough fish in his beard to feed his entire army. Most importantly, Sisera was said to have such a powerful VOICE that when he yelled the most solid wall would crumble and the wildest animal would fall dead. So, suddenly Barak wetting his pants when asked to go fight this guy starts to make a little more sense.

The Rise of Deborah
But everything changed with the rise of a woman, Deborah, the MOM for Israel. Why here? No men. No husbands. No fathers stand to challenge. We see that because of the failure of men, Deborah has to play the role of FATHER & MOTHER for a nation. Jewish legend says she was one strong woman: that Deborah was the only one who could withstand Sisera’s powerful voice; the only one whom it did not cause to stir from her place. You don’t mess with Mom. And, like a mother hen, or a mother bear, when her cubs are threatened, mama bear is not intimidated by anything. The image of a mother generates all kinds of meaningful connotations. But the one that is probably most important is that of life-giver—moms give birth. Israel is not simply being inspired to do act differently, they are being called to take on an entirely new life. This new life is going to come through responding her voice, which are Gods’ words. Life comes from God’s Words. God.

Barak and the Army
OFTEN we see that strength OR weakness of many a man’s FAITH often comes through the voice of a woman—it’s either helped or hurt. We see that with our first parents. A woman possesses a power to lead a man toward God or away from Him. The voice of Deborah not only strengthens a cowardly Barak, it serves to inspire much of Israel to fight. Neither Barak or the army is a collection of warriors. Barak is from a levitical city, meaning, he’s a levitical priest. And from this song we learn that he is a priest with a guitar. The change occurred with the call of God. Through Deborah, God calls Barak into service. And this musician-priest is a bit apprehensive about going up against Sisera the great. But as much as we want to say he was faithless—the book of Hebrews commends him for his faith. What does that mean? It means that, though he may have not demonstrated the level of faith we think he should have, he exercised enough faith for God to commend him. This musician-priest, in response to the Word of God, becomes a general of the army with a strong woman by his side encouraging him with the Word of God.

Not only does Deborah’s voice inspire Barak, she inspires the common people to join the daunting but exciting mission of God. His army is not a battle-hardened group of warriors—it is peasant army.

(12-22) STANZA 2: Warriors and Wimps
But not everyone responds. The second stanza begins to identify who responds to the call to mission—will call it “the warriors and the wimps.” Imagine as this song was sung over the years. The same song about God’s victory would forever bring to mind in some a sense of pride and in others a sense of shame. The army is an assortment of nobleman, leaders, commoners, even artists. It brings to mind the image of William Wallace, calling men to a big mission. And the song is very specific, detailing the contributions, or lack thereof, of each tribe.
1. Ephraim – contributes loyal warriors once disloyal
2. Benjamin – “small” contribution
3. Manessah (Machir) – contributes commanders
4. Zebulun/Naphtali – contributes administrative staff
5. Issachar – take the front lines with Deborah

Then Deborah SINGS about those who did not come, those who did not participate in the mission, those who did not follow God or sacrifice on the battlefield for one reason or another. It was not for lack of opportunity OR understanding of what the mission was, it was for lack of faith. In summary, you have three kinds of people who refuse to follow God on mission: 1) the indecisive 2) the preoccupied 3) the risk-averse. The Ruebenites talked and talked and talked about whether they should go on mission, but that is all they did. Even if they thought about coming to Mt. Tabor, they decided it just wasn’t good timing—it never is. Then are the tribes of Gilead including Gad, Dan, and Asher. The bottom line for them was, they were simply too busy with the day to day things of life to be bother with God’s mission. Finally, there was Meroz who is condemned as worst. Meroz refused to come to the aid of the army. No one knows where exactly Meroz was, but it is assumed they were closer than anyone else during the battle—they watched and played it safe. In trying to preserve their life and “not risk or get involved”, God took life from them.

What we see is that God is the one who fights, but God’s invites and expects his people to actively participate in his mission. Jesus + nothing = everything, but it does not equal DO NOTHING. We are not saved FROM or by our works, but we are saved FOR good works that God does through us and for us. So, we are not called to sit and ponder about whether or not we should be on mission—that is unfaithful. We do not sit and fill our lives with so much busyness that we cannot follow God when he clearly says go—that is unfaithful. We do not sit and wait while people need help, while the innocent, or our brothers and sisters suffer—that is unfaithful. Those who are God’s people, respond to God’s call, and orient their lives completely differently. And even if we don’t play THE role, everyone plays a role—contributing whatever they you have to fight together.

What is Deborah the MOTHER teaching her children? God’s kid’s not only to get along and love one another like family, they are sent and empowered by God to fight God’s enemies, to bring healing, to set captives free, to proclaim the glories of God in a dark world. But all too often we will ONLY act if we will personally benefit from it. Barak proceeds knowing that he will not personally benefit—a woman will get the glory he may have. But knowing that, Barak proceeds to do exactly what God said to do and, in the process, helps to set the stage for Israel’s deliverance. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned in Barak’s faithfulness. Perhaps this is why he is commended in Hebrews. In essence, we see Barak accepting that he is a role player–something he is not used to. Ultimately, he will not be recognized, he will not be commended, and he will not be glorified for the work that he does. Instead, his faithfulness results in someone else being recognized, someone else being commended, and someone else being blessed and someone else being glorified. This is the VERY ATTITUDE of CHRIST.

(24-31) STANZA 3- Super Woman and Psycho Mom
The final stanza of the song is called “super-woman and pyscho-mom”. The good mother Deborah joyfully sings about the aftermath following the battle. Sisera flees north to the tent of Jael who, for one reason or another, exposes herself to great risk and harm, and kills him. And the anxious thoughts of Sisera’s PSYCHO MOM sober us to what Jael probably experienced. Psycho mom wonders aloud about why her rapist son has not returned with new clothes for her wardrobe. Her statements have led some scholars to understand verse 27 as a graphic description of rape. But this time, the abuser is killed and the once powerful voice of Sisera is silenced with a peg in his mouth. Deborah celebrates this deed by calling Jael BLESSED OF ALL WOMEN. There is no indication that she acted in faith, but God still used her to save his people. And contrasted with the people of MEROZ—this is a convicting challenge for those who are called disciples of Christ. When the faithfulness of the pagans surpasses yours…there’s a problem. Praise God he is bigger than our unfaithfulness. That is not an excuse, rather, it should be an inspiration for us to fall forward knowing even our own sin cannot stop God’s mission.
In the end, this is the TALE OF TWO MOMS. A mom is not just someone who gives birth; we don’t know if Deborah had children, but she acts as a mom (and Dad) for million like God himself. In the Psalms, songs, how God cares for his people is often compared to how a mother bird gathers, cares, feeds, and protects her young. Deborah is a godly woman and mother; Mrs. Sisera is a psycho and sinful. But they BOTH use their voices to powerfully shape their children—one toward giving God glory and one toward robbing God of his glory. One uses her voice to push her children to find hope in the Word of God and to give their lives for His mission, the other pushes her children to find strength in their own words, and to preserve their life by abusing anyone who gets in your way. One is the path to life, the other the path to death.

Conclusion: Crushed or Called
Considering this is a song to be sung in Israel, and knowing the brutality of what happened, we may find the final words of Deborah’s song a bit disturbing. She almost sounds as if she is reveling and celebrating and for the the death of God’s enemies. She writes: “So may all your enemies perish, O LORD! But your friends be like the sun as he rises in his might.”
The song of Deborah is a song about Jesus, sent by a loving Father to save us from our sin. Jesus did not come to subdue our enemies or bargain with our enemies.. He came, lived, and died to crush our enemies. By sinning, everyone who has ever lived as chosen to align themselves with the Sisera, His Mom, and Satan in their war against God. And our sin has led to a cruel oppression. We have worshipped false gods we thought we could control, and now we are enslaved to them—some of us for many years.

The same Word of God that came from Deborah’s mouth came in the flesh to free us. Jesus, the Word, is the only one who stayed faithful to God. Jesus is the only one who never changed teams. Jesus is the only one who ever resisted temptation perfectly and remained sinless. Jesus is the only one who can and will defeat Satan, free us from our slavery to false gods, and bring us into rest. Jesus rescued us from the kingdom that we wrongly fled to by dying in our place for our sins and therefore defeating the enemy. Colossians 2:13-15 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

That is something to sing about…but not just in the shower. Even now, God is calling his children to mission. He is gathering another peasant army, those who are his friends, all of whom have something contribute, that TOGETHER we might continue to fight God’s enemies, to bring healing to the broken, and to set captives free by singing the song of God to those who have not heard.

Benediction: Psalm 40.1-5

More in Judges | {Un}Faithful (Part 1 of 2)

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