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Year 1, Week 26, Day 4

I have a brief observation for today’s reading of Judges 4-5.

Today’s reading continues tracing the pattern of downward deteriorating cycles that Israel experienced during the period of the Judges. Today’s reading combines two chapters that describe one mighty act of deliverance, very much like Exodus 14-15 are two related chapters that described the mighty act of deliverance from Pharaoh and his chariots. Judges 4-5 is patterned after Exodus 14-15. In each passage, the historical actions are described and are then expressed through a song of praise to the LORD. Both passages depict the LORD as a warrior for His people. The God who delivered His people from Egypt is the same God who delivers His people still: “So may all your enemies perish, O LORD! But your friends be like the sun as he rises in his might” (Judges 5:31). 

One of the things that struck me from today’s reading is the LORD’s presentation as a warrior for His people: “Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me” (Psalm 144:1-2). The warrior-like qualities of the LORD were explicitly stated when the LORD routed Pharaoh: “I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him. The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name” (Exodus 15:1b-3). 

The parallels between the defeat of Pharaoh and that of Sisera even includes the mention that each enemy possessed many chariots. Concerning Pharaoh, it was noted: “So he made ready his chariot and took his army with him, and took six hundred chosen chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them” (Exodus 14:6-7). Now concerning Sisera, it is noted: “The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim. Then the people of Israel cried out to the LORD for help, for he had 900 chariots of iron and he oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for twenty years” (Judges 4:2b-3). But those chariot-enhanced armies were no match for the LORD who fought for His people. Deborah’s words to Barak are infused with a strong promise: "Up! For this is the day in which the LORD has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the LORD go out before you?” (Judges 4:14a). Moses’ words to Israel reflected the same assurance: “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:13-14). And fight the LORD did! Sisera and His chariots are routed: “And the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army before Barak by the edge of the sword. And Sisera got down from his chariot and fled away on foot. And Barak pursued the chariots and the army to Harosheth-hagoyim, and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not a man was left” (Judges 4:15-16). This too is reminiscent of how the LORD routed Pharaoh and his chariots: “The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained” (Exodus 14:28). In fact, Deborah’s song of praise refers to a torrent that destroyed Sisera’s chariots: “The torrent Kishon swept them away, the ancient torrent, the torrent Kishon. March on, my soul, with might!” (Judges 5:21).

But Sisera got away and fled to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. The set up for what happens next is connected to Barak’s hesitancy to rise up against Sisera in the first place, and his insistence that Deborah go with him. In response, Deborah declared: “I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman” (Judges 4:9). Now we see how Deborah’s words got worked out: “But Jael the wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand. Then she went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple until it went down into the ground while he was lying fast asleep from weariness. So he died” (Judges 4:21). This act of violence reflects a great truth concerning the promises of God’s purposes. While Israel is completely unworthy of the LORD’s faithfulness, He is still faithful to a primary promise: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). The LORD reaches back to His promise to crush the head of the serpent and provides a clear testimony that He is still committed to do as He has promised. Deborah bears witness to the faithfulness of the LORD by interpreting Jael’s actions in light of the LORD’s promises: “She sent her hand to the tent peg and her right hand to the workmen's mallet; she struck Sisera; she crushed his head; she shattered and pierced his temple. Between her feet he sank, he fell, he lay still; between her feet he sank, he fell; where he sank, there he fell—dead” (Judges 5:26-27). This promise is still in play: "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (Romans 16:20). While this head-crushing defeat has features yet to be implemented, the certainty of it has already been achieved: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8b).

What struck you in today’s reading? What questions were prompted from today’s reading?

Pastor Joe