Monday, April 25, 2016

Deborah - hearing God clearly

This week we will meet a lady that you may not have studied too much before; her name is Deborah.

Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came up to her for judgment. Now she sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali, and said to him, “Behold, the Lord, the God of Israel, has commanded, ‘Go and march to Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men from the sons of Naphtali and from the sons of Zebulun. I will draw out to you Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his many troops to the river Kishon, and I will give him into your hand.’” Then Barak 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.”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.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali together to Kedesh, and ten thousand men went up with him; Deborah also went up with him.11 Now Heber the Kenite had separated himself from the Kenites, from the sons of Hobab the father-in-law of Moses, and had pitched his tent as far away as the oak in Zaanannim, which is near Kedesh.12 Then they told Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor. 13 Sisera called together all his chariots, nine hundred iron chariots, and all the people who were with him, from Harosheth-hagoyim to the river Kishon. 14 Deborah said to Barak, “Arise! For this is the day in which the Lord has given Sisera into your hands; behold, the Lord has gone out before you.” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him. 15 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. 16 But Barak pursued the chariots and the army as far as Harosheth-hagoyim, and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not even one was left. (Judges 4)
Let's delve into the background on this story, for it has a lot to do with Deborah, the villain Jabin, and her advice to Barak.
First, let's look at the location of our story, and then we'll look at the characters.
I love to check out commentaries and articles, to find out more about what we are studying. This time I had a real geography lesson. My kiddos were always super awesome at geography; me? Not so much. Our story, at least the battle portion of the drama, takes place on "the" great battlefield of the world. What do I mean? Well, that area in our story is called by many names, depending on the language and the culture you are coming from . . . the Plain of Esdraelon, the Plain of Jezreel, the plain before Megiddo . . . and from the Greek into the English, it is called Armageddon. Generations have fought their battles here, and one final battle will be waged in the future!

In all that area, the plain is as flat as it can be, and very large. On the southern side, running along the base of Mount Carmel, is a river called Kishon. Sometimes this river is more like a creek; sometimes it rages with lots of water. It will be important in our story, so remember it!

Now, let's meet our main character: Deborah. The fact that she is a leader of the people runs contrary to the customs of that day. We don't have that many women who are statesmen and lead wars even today; but it was even more unusual at that time. Deborah was a prophetess; she was a consecrated and godly woman who prayed and knew the Lord. She lived in Ephraim, between Ramah and Bethel. Deborah was a wise woman: she heard God clearly, she had great faith, and she had a tremendous spirit. As she worked with and counseled her people, she saw the despair that was overtaking them. Why?

Let's meet our villain -- for it is he that is causing the people to despair. Jabin could be his name, but it is also (the scholars tell us) a title, similar to "pharaoh" or "emperor."  Jabin oppressed Israel mightily for twenty years . . . he was helped in this by his nine hundred chariots of iron.
Come again?
Yep, nine hundred of those bad boys. Probably decked out with all kinds of things that made them intimidating and menacing, too.
I guess it helps if we put ourselves in their shoes -- the people of Israel, I mean. Maybe the chariots don't sound so bad to us, but think about this . . . the people probably ran for the hills to seek shelter when the enemy armies came. So there they are, trying to eke out a living in the hills and the mountains. Now, a chariot wouldn't work well there; it wouldn't go over the gullies and ravines and such. But down there on the plain? Oh, yeah, those chariots could roll along and nine hundred of them would sure make the ground rumble!

Now, since he controlled the plain, Jabin had pretty much cut the country in pieces -- Dan and Asher were in the west, while Zebulon, Naphtali, and Issachar were in the north, and in the south were Ephraim, Benjamin, Judah, and Simeon. Since he controlled the plain, there was no way for them to communicate with each other. No way to travel to support or help defend each other. And the people peeked out and watched as the chariots rumbled around, and they lost heart. He seemed invincible. They began to despair that things would ever change.

But there was one thing that Jabin didn't count on. He probably strutted about and boasted, and felt like the little country of Israel was right under his thumb. But what he didn't realize was that the only reason he had any control over them at all, was that the Lord God allowed it. Israel had done evil in His sight, and the Lord gave Jabin of the Canaanites "free rein."

We'll continue our study of Deborah next time . . . join us, won't you?


Katie Isabella said...

I thoroughly enjoy your study an guidance in the women of the Bible.

Austin Towers said...

I fully remember standing at the top of Har Meggido looking down on the Valley of Jezreel. It was an amazing sight as we read the relevant passages in the scriptures. And it is very flat! You could imagine armies on horseback stampeding through the terrain!