The individual difference: Judges 4

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Today’s reading: Judges 3-5.

Individuals make a difference. God plus a dedicated individual is an overwhelming force that overcomes obstacles and wins the victory. That’s the message of Deborah, Barak, and Jael’s story.

Jabin the Canaanite king oppressed the Israelites with an iron fist for twenty years. God sold his people into Jabin’s hands because of their idolatry. The king’s weapon was an army of chariots, nine hundred strong and commanded by Sisera. God declared that the Canaanites remained in the land to test whether his people would obey him, and they were failing the test.

Then Deborah heard from the LORD. As a prophet she told forth God’s word for the present as well as foretelling his plans for the future. As judge she delivered justice and became the one who delivered her people.

She sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun.'” Judges 4:6

Deborah, a unique and individual person, listened for God’s word and then proclaimed it. She didn’t have the position to lead an army, but she summoned the man who did and laid the calling on him.

Barak, that individual, made a choice. He could have walked away, but instead he accepted the challenge to recruit and then lead an army against a powerful enemy. True, there was a condition to his response. Deborah would have to go with him. But there was wisdom as well as some waffling in his request, for her presence would lend credibility to his efforts and inspire the troops.

Finally, there was Jael. Her action may have been the most individual of all, for it went against all custom and family allegiance. Her husband’s family , though Israelite, held some favor with the King and Sisera. The battle goes terribly wrong for Sisera, and he seeks shelter in Jael’s tent. By custom she was bound to offer him hospitality, and she did, but along with a cup of kindness she also offered him a death blow as he slept. Did she secretly despise the King, or was she switching to the winning side? Either way, she took decisive action as an individual.

Behind all these individuals is the one LORD, speaking truth to Deborah, giving courage to Barak, and developing decisiveness in Jael. There were others from the tribes of Zebulon and Naphtali that played a part in Israel’s victory, but these individuals were the ones who made the difference.

What about you? Are you letting God use you to make a difference? Maybe you need to share truth from God’s word. Perhaps you need to take a courageous stand for him. Now may be the time to make the decision you’ve been postponing. With God’s help your individual action will make a difference.

Image: Alone by JB London on Flickr, CC by-nc 2.0

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7 thoughts on “The individual difference: Judges 4

  1. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: 15″THE LAND OF ZEBULUN AND THE LAND OF NAPHTALI, BY THE WAY OF THE SEA, BEYOND THE JORDAN, GALILEE OF THE GENTILES– 16″THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SITTING IN DARKNESS SAW A GREAT LIGHT, AND THOSE WHO WERE SITTING IN THE LAND AND SHADOW OF DEATH, UPON THEM A LIGHT DAWNED.”

    • I’ve always thought of that as foretelling Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. Is it still prophesy if it is about something (Deborah and Barak) that has already happened?

  2. Mark Shea observes this: Zebulun and Naphtali were the very first tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel deported by the Assyrians 700 years before Matthew wrote. It has been an extremely long time since that region was called the area of Zebulun and Naphtali. So to get the hang of how odd it is that Matthew describes the area in that way, imagine a modern-day writer referring to Paris as being in the “territory of the Franks”. We immediately grasp that Matthew is trying to get us to think historically. He then follows this up with a citation from Isaiah. And not just any part of Isaiah, but Isaiah 9:1-2 which is right in the heart of what scholars call “the book of Immanuel” found in Isaiah 7-11 and which Matthew has already quoted twice before. His point then? That Jesus — the son of David — is beginning his restoration of the Davidic kingdom (and his transformation of it into the kingdom of heaven) at ground zero where God’s covenant judgment had fallen seven centuries before.

  3. Pingback: BIBLE DAILY DEVOTIONAL – Judges 4 – The individual differences | ChristianBlessings

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