Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Sep 11 2011 - E100.27 – Judges 4:1-5:3, Deborah, Barak and Jael

The Israelites had turned from the worship of the God of Abraham to adopt the gods of the Canaanites among whom they lived. Far from securing their acceptance, they found that without the Lord they were suppressed by the Canaanites who probably feared the presence of these foreigners in their land as Pharaoh had feared their ancestors in Egypt. Like the Egyptians, the Canaanites had a well organised army with chariots and horses. The army with its nine hundred chariots fitted with iron was under the command of Sisera.

After twenty years of oppression, the Israelites cried out to the Lord to help them and he raised up a judge to lead them. The judge was a prophet called Deborah – Israel was to be lead by a woman, chosen and equipped by God. At God's command, Deborah called upon Barak to lead an army of ten thousand men from the northern tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun to go out in battle against Sisera. Barak is given a promise from the Lord that Sisera, his army and his chariots will be delivered into the hands of Israel. But Barak won't go unless Deborah goes with him; it's as if the word and promise of God are not enough for him. Deborah is content to go with him but declares that because of his request, the honour of defeating Sisera will not be his; the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.

And that's what happens. Sisera went out to meet the army of Barak and was routed. As his men were being put to the sword, Sisera jumps from his chariot and flees on foot from the battlefield. He seeks refuge in the tent of Heber the Kenite since Heber was a friend of Jabin, the Canaanite king of Hazor. Heber is evidently not at home, but Sisera is welcomed into the tent by his wife Jael who gives the exhausted man milk to drink and a blanket under which to rest. Soon he is asleep, at which point Jael takes a tent peg and a stone for a mallet and drives the peg through Sisera's temple and into the ground below. Sisera is dead, killed at the hands of a woman.

In Israelite society, women were not expected to take a lead, but God raises up Deborah to lead Israel and uses a foreign woman to destroy the commander of the Canaanite army. Ironically, it is only Barak who gets a mention among the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11:32. But God does things in his own way – in unexpected ways – to demonstrate his own power.

Do we still seek to lay down fixed patterns for leadership among the people of God, or are we ready to recognise those through whom God chooses to work and display his own grace and power?

Sovereign God, shatter my rigid expectations. May your Spirit open my eyes to discern those in whom and through whom you choose to work for the establishment of your kingdom. Help me gladly to play my part in your work for the glory of your name.

Peter Misselbrook