By Mike Kemper
Interim Pastor, First Baptist Church, Dyer
Sooner or later we all face some of life’s challenges. The question is not, will battles come? But, when will they come? How can believers prepare? We need a biblical perspective, rather than an emotional or logical response. Deborah demonstrated encouraging and influential faith in the midst of catastrophic events.
God had brought His people into the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua. However, this new generation had not understood the power of God or their agreement with God. The result was weakness as the people drifted away from God, so God turned them over to King Jabin of Canaan, whose pagan commander, Sisera, had 900 iron chariots, and for 20 years they were “harshly oppressed.”
At this time, Deborah was “a prophetess,” and the current successor to Moses, which gave her authority as “judge” and spokesperson for God to the nation. The ministry of Deborah at this critical time helps us know that God always has “a voice” through good times and bad times. Deborah’s influence was strategic and encouraging.
Someone once said: “who can tell where the influence begins and where it will end?” She calls on Barak, probably a humble farmer, but also known as a leader in Naphtali. She challenges Barak with God’s Word and a plan to raise an army of 10,000 and positioning them on Mount Tabor.
God’s promise was that He would “hand them over.” Halfhearted and fearful Barak agrees, but only if Deborah will also go thus assuring the “presence of the Lord.” She agreed, however she makes an unusual anonymous pronouncement that God would defeat the enemies, but Barak would not get the credit. Instead, “the Lord will sell Sisera to a woman.”
God has always honored His Word. With Deborah’s encouraging influence, Israel’s leaders and people did what should always be done — obey and trust the Lord! The miraculous battle was won, not by Israel but by the Lord Himself as Sisera’s army was drawn in and immobilized by a flooding rain and easily overcome by Israel. We can see once again what has often been said, “where God leads, God provides.”
The enemy commander, Sisera, ran to hide in the tent of a Kenite woman named Jael. While he slept, thinking he was safe, Jael killed him by driving a tent peg into his head, thus fulfilling Deborah’s previous word that “the Lord will sell Sisera to a woman” and Barak lost the honor of claiming the victory over the chief rival commander.
The victory over the Canaanites brought about what has been called the “Song of Deborah,” a song of thanksgiving and praise. She sang “when leaders lead, when people volunteer … listen kings, pay attention princes,” hear and know about the God of Israel and His amazing victory. Everyone should look and learn. We too can be encouraged and sing praises to the Lord even before the battle begins! Because as 1 John 4:4 says, “greater is he who is in you, than he who is in the world.”
From the story of Deborah and Israel we can learn that God loves His people and is always working to bring them back into right relationship with Himself. Through difficult times, regardless of what the battle is, God has a plan to bring us safely through. God often uses individuals to lead and be an influence on others to do the right thing in obedience to the Lord. We too can use our influence for God’s Kingdom and His honor.