Judges 5:1-31 (Part 3 of 3)
The Song of Deborah

Some of you may be old enough to remember when cigarette manufacturers were able to advertise on television. One of the most popular of the cigarette ad campaigns was the Tareyton brand’s campaign. The slogan was that “us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch!” This popular ad campaign was used by Tareyton’s manufacturer, the American Tobacco Company, for 18 years as the central theme to their advertising (1963-1981).

It would feature people with apparent black eyes while expressing the slogan which gave the impression that the people in the ads had just been in a fight. Of course, the whole idea was to develop brand loyalty to a cigarette brand that was second tier in sales and popularity. The popularity of the campaign came from the fact that it tapped into that spirit of independence and standing on principle. We have seen this spirit on both sides of the picket lines in Charlottesville and other places around the country over the past decade. There are extremes of both sides of the liberal and conservative spectrum that are standing on their equally misguided principles. Both spew pure hatred and intolerance and call it high moral principle and anyone who disagrees with them are labeled and discarded as communists or as ultra-right Neanderthals. They would rather fight than switch from their unflinchable positions.

However, the vast majority of Christians stand silently and watch our nation destroy itself by its most extreme elements. Neither side, as I said yesterday, displays Christian principles in these violent encounters. They are the Tareyton smokers of our day. However, the silent majority of Christians just watch. Most of us, including myself, watch the news in dismay at this incident in Charlottesville and sigh or throw up our hands. None of us are willing to take to the streets and call for reasonable dialogue about race relations in the United States and the real fear of some that the heritage that once was our country is now being amalgamized into something akin to the Orwellian future or akin to the community of the Stepford Wives in the name of tolerance. We are the key to solving our country’s problems. We, as Christians, are the key. I am not talking about people who loosely identify themselves as Christians but real Christ followers. We can move this country in the right direction if we just quit standing on the sidelines and had the kahunas to speak out publicly about what Jesus would do – not our personal opinions about what Jesus would do, but the real Jesus reaction to all of this based on prayer and study of God’s Word. We all have our stylized Jesuses and how we think, based on our personal feelings, Jesus would handle things if He came back right now. We must pray that we represent Him based on God’s Word and based on prayer for God’s guidance.

Jesus was not silent on that which was in opposition to the glory of God and that which was unholy in the sight of God. Jesus was very clear that the love of God and sacrificial love of others was that which glorified our Father in heaven. Jesus was very clear that anything that we put before God was a sin. Jesus went to the cross in love for each of us as sinners so that we may have a way to be reconciled to a holy and just God. That is what the world needs now is Christ followers who bring forth the debates in our country from a perspective of leading people to God’s truth. What we have in our country right now is not working. Maybe now people will be willing to hear an alternative. We need to be the mediators in the debate based on what God’s Word tells us and guides us to demonstrate to the world.

However, most of us sit silently and watch the world destroying itself with dismay and disgust and sit behind our church walls and say that the world outside has gone mad. Maybe, it has, but we cannot change it sitting quietly. Many of us Christians wonder why we have lost influence in our culture. Certainly, the KKK with their crosses have damaged the image of Christianity but that’s because no one else is doing the talking for Christianity. Sure, we have our spiritual leaders on a national scale speaking out but the rest of us are saying nothing. The reason Christian values have failed to influence our society is because we are too concerned about our mortgages, our boats, our new cars, our vacations than to stand out and speak out for Jesus Christ, the real Jesus Christ, in our society. We would rather that nobody bother us as we make money and come home to our climate-controlled homes. We watch TV and think with dismay about how our world is falling apart because of worshiping things other than God, but that’s it. As long as it does not affect my paycheck, my home, my 401k, and my summer vacations, we sit quietly and do nothing. We certainly are not the Christians of the first century who put their faith on the line to the point of death. They would not bow down to other gods and spoke freely about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. They loved their enemies. They showed the rich and the poor the way to Jesus Christ. They shared and gave and loved the world to the cross. They were distinctive and they stood out. They cared more about the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ than they did their safety and security. Where are these men and women of courage in Christianity today? Where are you and where am I?

This song of Deborah is a reminder to us that some of the Israelite tribes sat by quietly while other tribes were in distress, while their nation was in distress. God’s people sitting quietly by because they did not want get out of their comfort zone to help. Sounds familiar. Let us read this passage today with an eye toward those tribes that did not help out in this battle to free certain tribes of Israel from oppression.

Let’s read this passage once again in Judges 5:1-31 before we move on to the next passage:

5 On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song:

2
“When the princes in Israel take the lead,
when the people willingly offer themselves—
praise the Lord!

3
“Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers!
I, even I, will sing to[a] the Lord;
I will praise the Lord, the God of Israel, in song.

4
“When you, Lord, went out from Seir,
when you marched from the land of Edom,
the earth shook, the heavens poured,
the clouds poured down water.
5
The mountains quaked before the Lord, the One of Sinai,
before the Lord, the God of Israel.

6
“In the days of Shamgar son of Anath,
in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned;
travelers took to winding paths.
7
Villagers in Israel would not fight;
they held back until I, Deborah, arose,
until I arose, a mother in Israel.
8
God chose new leaders
when war came to the city gates,
but not a shield or spear was seen
among forty thousand in Israel.
9
My heart is with Israel’s princes,
with the willing volunteers among the people.
Praise the Lord!

10
“You who ride on white donkeys,
sitting on your saddle blankets,
and you who walk along the road,
consider 11 the voice of the singers[b] at the watering places.
They recite the victories of the Lord,
the victories of his villagers in Israel.

“Then the people of the Lord
went down to the city gates.
12
‘Wake up, wake up, Deborah!
Wake up, wake up, break out in song!
Arise, Barak!
Take captive your captives, son of Abinoam.’

13
“The remnant of the nobles came down;
the people of the Lord came down to me against the mighty.
14
Some came from Ephraim, whose roots were in Amalek;
Benjamin was with the people who followed you.
From Makir captains came down,
from Zebulun those who bear a commander’s[c] staff.
15
The princes of Issachar were with Deborah;
yes, Issachar was with Barak,
sent under his command into the valley.
In the districts of Reuben
there was much searching of heart.
16
Why did you stay among the sheep pens[d]
to hear the whistling for the flocks?
In the districts of Reuben
there was much searching of heart.
17
Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan.
And Dan, why did he linger by the ships?
Asher remained on the coast
and stayed in his coves.
18
The people of Zebulun risked their very lives;
so did Naphtali on the terraced fields.

19
“Kings came, they fought,
the kings of Canaan fought.
At Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo,
they took no plunder of silver.
20
From the heavens the stars fought,
from their courses they fought against Sisera.
21
The river Kishon swept them away,
the age-old river, the river Kishon.
March on, my soul; be strong!
22
Then thundered the horses’ hooves—
galloping, galloping go his mighty steeds.
23
‘Curse Meroz,’ said the angel of the Lord.
‘Curse its people bitterly,
because they did not come to help the Lord,
to help the Lord against the mighty.’

24
“Most blessed of women be Jael,
the wife of Heber the Kenite,
most blessed of tent-dwelling women.
25
He asked for water, and she gave him milk;
in a bowl fit for nobles she brought him curdled milk.
26
Her hand reached for the tent peg,
her right hand for the workman’s hammer.
She struck Sisera, she crushed his head,
she shattered and pierced his temple.
27
At her feet he sank,
he fell; there he lay.
At her feet he sank, he fell;
where he sank, there he fell—dead.

28
“Through the window peered Sisera’s mother;
behind the lattice she cried out,
‘Why is his chariot so long in coming?
Why is the clatter of his chariots delayed?’
29
The wisest of her ladies answer her;
indeed, she keeps saying to herself,
30
‘Are they not finding and dividing the spoils:
a woman or two for each man,
colorful garments as plunder for Sisera,
colorful garments embroidered,
highly embroidered garments for my neck—
all this as plunder?’

31
“So may all your enemies perish, Lord!
But may all who love you be like the sun
when it rises in its strength.”

Then the land had peace forty years.

In this passage, we see that four tribes were accused of not lending a helping hand in the battle. No reasons are given for their refusal to help their fellow Israelites. They may have been the same ones that refused to finish driving out the Canaanites from the Promised Land in the first place. Their reasons may have included lack of reliance on God for help, lack of effort, fear of the enemy, and fear of antagonizing those whom they did business with and thus prospered from. This disobedience showed both a lack of commitment to God’s plan and a weak faith in God’s power. How much do these tribes remind us of ourselves in today’s world where we as Christians are often quiet because we do not want to disturb our paychecks and 401k’s and our summer vacations in Florida and our kids wearing the finest clothes and having 500 channels on TV.

How dismayed are you and I about the radical polarization of our country? How dismayed are you about the loss of influence that we have as Christians in our culture? How dismayed are you about how people seem so willing to fight than understand their neighbor? How dismayed are you at how Christianity is characterized in our nation today? How dismayed are you at that feeling that our country is imploding upon itself because it has lost its way and turned from God?

Are you willing to stand up and stand out? Am I? We have got to change the mindset. No one else is doing the talking and we are more interested in preserving our cul-de-sac kingdoms that we are in truly representing Jesus Christ, the real Jesus Christ! What the world needs now is the love of Jesus Christ to prevail. We need to be doing the talking. We need to be expressing the love of Jesus Christ in our homes, in our schools, in the marketplace, in politics, in the media. It is time for us to be Christ followers who change the world just as our first century brethren did. We cannot make Jesus into what we want Him to be. We must conform to His image. We must represent the Jesus Christ of Scripture in a world that so desperately needs Him. The only voices that are being heard are the voices of those who worship other gods – on both the left and the right. It is time for us to come out of our cul-de-sacs and be witnesses to the real Jesus Christ. Where are you men and women of Christian courage? Where am I? It is time for us to care beyond our cul-de-sacs.

Amen and Amen.

Judges 5:1-31 (Part 2 of 3)
The Song of Deborah

When will it end? Violence for the sake of gods other than the true God. White supremicists who feel they have lost their voice in America and whose god is a time past in America. Liberals who praise the god of tolerance who are intolerant of anything not generically tolerant. And then there was one fool who thought driving a car into a crowd was OK because those on the other side so incensed him that they were dehumanized to him. Both sides of the protesting in Charlottesville were wrong. Both sides can itching for a fight and they got it. Both sides are intolerant of the other. Both sides worship something other than God. Lost in our polarized world today is the fact that we no longer worship God. We worship what we desire most and are intolerant of ideas other than what we desire most.

As a nation, we have become so enamored with ourselves and what we want that we cannot conceive of why another person believes differently than us. We demonize each other for believing differently than one another. Liberals stamp anything to do with the history of the South as wrong and are intent on re-writing the history of the South such anything that glorifies anything prior to the current century as racist rather than holding civil discussions about the balance of history vs. condemnation of what happened that was wrong in history. Extremists on the other side, white supremicists see the liberals as trying to take distinctives of a culture that no longer exists but should not be ignored. They see the liberals as trying to ram their revisionist tolerance down their throats where anything that is not according to their tolerance precepts must be wiped away from the earth. The gods that are being worshiped by each are not the God, the one true God.

All of the action that we saw in Charlottesville on Sunday is evidence of the idol worship of each side. The white supremicists may use the cross and talk of Jesus Christ and the church, but they do not worship the God of the Bible nor do they even understand who Jesus Christ is, nor do they represent Christ’s church in America. God does not value one race above another. God does not espouse the superiority of one race over another. We are all created equal in God’s eyes. He created us in His own image and each of us is offered saving grace through God’s own son, Jesus Christ. Salvation is not dependent on skin color. These supremicists worship what was once America. They worship the ideal of the past. They worship a time period that can never be recaptured. Because of economics, the idyllic South that they worship just can no longer exist. The South is now the fifth largest economy in the world and it is drawing people from all over the world because of the amazing opportunities here. The South is now a competitive marketplace but yet they yearn for a time when things were less competitive and was even harsh on non-wealthy whites. They worship an ideal that has nothing to do with God.

On the other side of the coin and the protest lines, the ultra left brandishes its sword of tolerance with equal disgrace. They justify violence because of their cause. Their violence is justified in the name of the religion of tolerance that they worship. We must all be the same in their eyes. There are no distinctives of culture and region. They worship sameness. They define what is right and what is moral. They define that which is acceptable and that which is not. They are characterized by having openly turned against God as an anachronism of the past that is no longer needed. It is they who define what is right now and anyone who does not subscribe to their view is a knuckle dragging bigot. They define that all things that were once wrong are now acceptable because the old ways oppressed free expression of self. The sad thing about the tolerance movement is the fact that they are so intolerant of those who do not subscribe to their brand of tolerance. Anyone who mentions faith or God or Jesus Christ or church is a backward Neanderthal who are vilified in the media. They worship something other than God. They worship the god of tolerance and it is they who define what is acceptably tolerant. In that sweeping tolerance of all things as they define, they define that we should all have access to everything for free because we deserve it. They worship a utopia of their own definition. Anything less is bigotry and open for ridicule.

The reason that I bring Charlottesville up today is because we are a nation that has strayed from God and we worship our own idols of the past or some idyllic present or future utopia to the exclusion of God. We worship idols. We may throw around God’s name but we do not worship Him. We worship ourselves and what we want. We define our own god now not the God who created us. What happened in Charlottesville over the weekend what done by what both sides see as morally right but yet are so both completely wrong. Charlottesville should be a clarion call to us as Christ followers to get out in the world and demonstrate to the world who God is, really is.

This song of Deborah was a reminder to the Israelites that they had strayed from God and it was God that saved them, not themselves. They worshiped other gods than the one true God and it brought an inner decay that made them easy prey. That’s what I thought of when it comes to what happened in Charlottesville, the inner decay and idol worship that has become our country.

Let’s read this passage once again in Judges 5:1-31:

5 On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song:

2
“When the princes in Israel take the lead,
when the people willingly offer themselves—
praise the Lord!

3
“Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers!
I, even I, will sing to[a] the Lord;
I will praise the Lord, the God of Israel, in song.

4
“When you, Lord, went out from Seir,
when you marched from the land of Edom,
the earth shook, the heavens poured,
the clouds poured down water.
5
The mountains quaked before the Lord, the One of Sinai,
before the Lord, the God of Israel.

6
“In the days of Shamgar son of Anath,
in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned;
travelers took to winding paths.
7
Villagers in Israel would not fight;
they held back until I, Deborah, arose,
until I arose, a mother in Israel.
8
God chose new leaders
when war came to the city gates,
but not a shield or spear was seen
among forty thousand in Israel.
9
My heart is with Israel’s princes,
with the willing volunteers among the people.
Praise the Lord!

10
“You who ride on white donkeys,
sitting on your saddle blankets,
and you who walk along the road,
consider 11 the voice of the singers[b] at the watering places.
They recite the victories of the Lord,
the victories of his villagers in Israel.

“Then the people of the Lord
went down to the city gates.
12
‘Wake up, wake up, Deborah!
Wake up, wake up, break out in song!
Arise, Barak!
Take captive your captives, son of Abinoam.’

13
“The remnant of the nobles came down;
the people of the Lord came down to me against the mighty.
14
Some came from Ephraim, whose roots were in Amalek;
Benjamin was with the people who followed you.
From Makir captains came down,
from Zebulun those who bear a commander’s[c] staff.
15
The princes of Issachar were with Deborah;
yes, Issachar was with Barak,
sent under his command into the valley.
In the districts of Reuben
there was much searching of heart.
16
Why did you stay among the sheep pens[d]
to hear the whistling for the flocks?
In the districts of Reuben
there was much searching of heart.
17
Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan.
And Dan, why did he linger by the ships?
Asher remained on the coast
and stayed in his coves.
18
The people of Zebulun risked their very lives;
so did Naphtali on the terraced fields.

19
“Kings came, they fought,
the kings of Canaan fought.
At Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo,
they took no plunder of silver.
20
From the heavens the stars fought,
from their courses they fought against Sisera.
21
The river Kishon swept them away,
the age-old river, the river Kishon.
March on, my soul; be strong!
22
Then thundered the horses’ hooves—
galloping, galloping go his mighty steeds.
23
‘Curse Meroz,’ said the angel of the Lord.
‘Curse its people bitterly,
because they did not come to help the Lord,
to help the Lord against the mighty.’

24
“Most blessed of women be Jael,
the wife of Heber the Kenite,
most blessed of tent-dwelling women.
25
He asked for water, and she gave him milk;
in a bowl fit for nobles she brought him curdled milk.
26
Her hand reached for the tent peg,
her right hand for the workman’s hammer.
She struck Sisera, she crushed his head,
she shattered and pierced his temple.
27
At her feet he sank,
he fell; there he lay.
At her feet he sank, he fell;
where he sank, there he fell—dead.

28
“Through the window peered Sisera’s mother;
behind the lattice she cried out,
‘Why is his chariot so long in coming?
Why is the clatter of his chariots delayed?’
29
The wisest of her ladies answer her;
indeed, she keeps saying to herself,
30
‘Are they not finding and dividing the spoils:
a woman or two for each man,
colorful garments as plunder for Sisera,
colorful garments embroidered,
highly embroidered garments for my neck—
all this as plunder?’

31
“So may all your enemies perish, Lord!
But may all who love you be like the sun
when it rises in its strength.”

Then the land had peace forty years.

In this passage, we see that war was the inevitable result when Israel chose to follow false gods. Although God had given Israel clear directions, the people failed to put His words into practice. Without God at the center of their national life, pressure from the outside soon became greater than the power from within, and they were easy prey for their enemies. If you are letting a desire for recognition, craving for power, craving for popularity, or the love of money rule your life, you may find that you are willing to accept destructive behaviors into your life to satisfy these desires. As a nation, when we collectively stray from God, we no longer are willing to work for the common good and we desire our own way above all others. This passage reminds us that it is the Lord that gives us victory when we are submitted to His will and not our own.

Let us pray that we can demonstrate to the world who God really is. Let us pray that people do not see God in what happened in Charlottesville and how the two sides of our polarized America are just both wrong. We must return to the God of the Bible not the god of either side’s making. We have work to do as Christians to demonstrate who the real God is and who Jesus Christ really is. Our country has strayed so far from God that we have begun to define for ourselves who and what He is. Let us be the generation that ends this. Let us be the generation that saves our country and returns it to the God of the Bible. Let us be the generation that demonstrates that we are subject to God and not use a definition of god to suit ourselves. I pray that we as Christians do so in love but firmness. I pray for a reality check for our nation as to who God really is and not some hate filled god and not some god of intolerant tolerance. Let us return our nation to the true God, before we implode from within.

Amen and Amen.

Judges 5:1-31 (Part 1 of 3)
The Song of Deborah

Why is it that songs are so important to us as the people of God? Here, in this passage, we see a scene almost out of High School Musical or Grease or something like that where Israel breaks out into song after a battle victory. I always find musicals somewhat silly in that people just all of a sudden break out into song as if it is like the most normal thing in the world to do. Deborah, in Glee fashion, breaks out into song here in celebration of a mighty victory that ends 20 years of oppression of certain of the tribes of Israel.

It got me to thinking about the purpose of songs in musicals and in the Judeo/Christian tradition. In musicals, besides giving songwriters an avenue to get paid, songs break out to emphasize a point in the pathos of the story of the musical. A key issue in the life of one of the characters is brought to the forefront of the audience’s mind through song. It is the same with song in our faith. Songs were sung in the Old Testament to emphasize and memorialize what God had done for Israel. It was a way to preserve the oral traditions concerning the historical highlights of Israel’s history. It is the same today.

We have many great songs today that remind us of the greatness of our God and why we should believe in and trust Him. I have been a big Jesus Culture fan for much of this decade but here lately I have tended toward Elevation Worship. The album they released awhile back, “There Is a Cloud”, is my favorite album right now. The songs on the album are all great and I can listen to the whole album at least twice back to back as Elena and I take long trips in the car. The album title and the basic tenor of all the songs is based on the story of Elijah and his prayers for rain after it had been dry in Israel for three years and then he sees a cloud forming in the distance. That cloud is the hope of God. The idea of the songs is with God we can conquer any circumstances and as well that there are dry seasons in life and we must trust in the Lord to deliver us.

One of my favorite songs from that album is the song entitled, “Overcome”. The lyrics go something like this:

Now the darkness fades
Into new beginnings
As we lift our eyes to a hope beyond

All creation waits
With an expectation
To declare the reign of the Lord our God

We will not be moved
When the earth gives way
For the risen One has overcome

And for every fear
There’s an empty grave
For the risen One has overcome

Now the silence breaks
In the name of Jesus
As the heavens cry let the earth respond

All creation shouts
With a voice of triumph
To declare the reign of the Lord our God

We will not be moved
When the earth gives way
For the risen One has overcome

And for every fear
There’s an empty grave
For the risen One has overcome

He shall reign forever
Strongholds now surrender
For the Lord our God has overcome

Who can be against us?
Jesus our Defender
He is Lord and He has overcome

He shall reign forever
Strongholds now surrender
For the Lord our God has overcome

Who can be against us?
Jesus our Defender
He is Lord and He has overcome!

We will not be moved
When the earth gives way
For the risen One has overcome

And for every fear
There’s an empty grave
For the risen One has overcome

We will not be moved
When the earth gives way
For the risen One has overcome

And for every fear
There’s an empty grave
For the risen One has overcome…

Sometimes, we need to be reminded of the greatness of our God. We get so wrapped up in our own problems. We get so wrapped up in our tunnel vision. We get so wrapped up in trying to control our own lives, even as Christ followers. Sometimes, we need to be reminded of what we believe about God and who He is and who we are in Him through Jesus Christ. This is the God that raised Jesus from the dead. In that fact, we have hope eternal. There is nothing so great that we face that when we trust it to the Lord that we cannot overcome it. What’s the worst that could happen to us? We die and go to heaven. We can overcome through Christ, the victor over sin and death. God’s resolution of our situations may not always look like the way WE want them to but God is greater than we are. His plans are greater than ours. When we trust in the Lord who overcame the grave, we are trusting that His outcome is the one that will benefit us the most. Songs like this remind us that even in our darkest moments, God is working to give us His victory over that which oppresses us.

I could go on and on with songs of hope that have been written in the Christian tradition since the dawn of our faith. The great theological centerpieces of worship that the songs of what we call traditional church music now written back in the 1700’s and 1800’s. These are songs of great hope and wonder at who God is and expound upon why we believe what we believe. The great Negro spirituals of the 1800’s are amazing in their depth and richness of faith in the face of seemingly insurmountable persecution. The camp meeting songs of the 1930’s-1950’s. The campfire songs of the church youth movement of the 1960s. All have evolved now into the music we call modern contemporary Christian music. All of it is the rich tradition of song as the uplifter of the Christian soul. I love modern Christian music and how it reaches people in the music style of our day. All Christian music is adapted to age in which it is written. What we consider traditional church music now was considered radical back in its day. Some of the greatest hymns from the 18th and 19th century were amazing theological treatises set to the music of the day just so as to capture people’s attention with familiar kinds of music so that they would sit and listen to the words and be moved by them. One of the tragedies of modern worship though is that we don’t use these great hymns in their entirety. We may “modern them out” by borrowing lyrics from these as bridges in otherwise modern lyrics of currently written contemporary songs. But we as the modern church do not use these great hymns in whole. It’s just not who we are and would not fit in too well with the style of worship that we have in modern church.

However, that does not stop me from appreciating some of the great hymns of the past. My favorite old, traditional hymn is “How Great Thou Art!” I have already told my wife that although my funeral should have a thoroughly modern worship flare to it, I do want this one traditional hymn sung in its entirety and not modified. You can play it with drums and guitars but the tune and the lyrics are to be left as written. These lyrics are beautiful and I have the version by Carrie Underwood on my playlist. Just love the power of this song and its lyrics:

O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

And when I think of God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And lead me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
[Album version:] Then I shall bow with humble adoration,
[Live version:] Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And then proclaim, “My God, how great Thou art!”

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

Aren’t those lyrics just totally powerful. I am drawn to these words. When sung with power and belief in the words, it is an amazingly moving song. This is why we sing. To move the soul. To honor God for the amazing God that He is. That though He is pure and wondrous and great, He still loves us lowly sinning human beings enough to save us from ourselves through Jesus Christ and through His intervening guidance in our lives. My God, how great you are! We must sing your praises in the temple courts for you are great and you have saved your people. We owe You so much!

Song inspires us to remember what God has done for His people. That’s what Deborah is doing here. Reminding us that it is God who is great not us. It would come across more lyrical I am sure in the original Hebrew, but the feeling is still there. Let’s read her lyrics now as presented in English in Judges 5:1-31:

5 On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song:

2
“When the princes in Israel take the lead,
when the people willingly offer themselves—
praise the Lord!

3
“Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers!
I, even I, will sing to[a] the Lord;
I will praise the Lord, the God of Israel, in song.

4
“When you, Lord, went out from Seir,
when you marched from the land of Edom,
the earth shook, the heavens poured,
the clouds poured down water.
5
The mountains quaked before the Lord, the One of Sinai,
before the Lord, the God of Israel.

6
“In the days of Shamgar son of Anath,
in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned;
travelers took to winding paths.
7
Villagers in Israel would not fight;
they held back until I, Deborah, arose,
until I arose, a mother in Israel.
8
God chose new leaders
when war came to the city gates,
but not a shield or spear was seen
among forty thousand in Israel.
9
My heart is with Israel’s princes,
with the willing volunteers among the people.
Praise the Lord!

10
“You who ride on white donkeys,
sitting on your saddle blankets,
and you who walk along the road,
consider 11 the voice of the singers[b] at the watering places.
They recite the victories of the Lord,
the victories of his villagers in Israel.

“Then the people of the Lord
went down to the city gates.
12
‘Wake up, wake up, Deborah!
Wake up, wake up, break out in song!
Arise, Barak!
Take captive your captives, son of Abinoam.’

13
“The remnant of the nobles came down;
the people of the Lord came down to me against the mighty.
14
Some came from Ephraim, whose roots were in Amalek;
Benjamin was with the people who followed you.
From Makir captains came down,
from Zebulun those who bear a commander’s[c] staff.
15
The princes of Issachar were with Deborah;
yes, Issachar was with Barak,
sent under his command into the valley.
In the districts of Reuben
there was much searching of heart.
16
Why did you stay among the sheep pens[d]
to hear the whistling for the flocks?
In the districts of Reuben
there was much searching of heart.
17
Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan.
And Dan, why did he linger by the ships?
Asher remained on the coast
and stayed in his coves.
18
The people of Zebulun risked their very lives;
so did Naphtali on the terraced fields.

19
“Kings came, they fought,
the kings of Canaan fought.
At Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo,
they took no plunder of silver.
20
From the heavens the stars fought,
from their courses they fought against Sisera.
21
The river Kishon swept them away,
the age-old river, the river Kishon.
March on, my soul; be strong!
22
Then thundered the horses’ hooves—
galloping, galloping go his mighty steeds.
23
‘Curse Meroz,’ said the angel of the Lord.
‘Curse its people bitterly,
because they did not come to help the Lord,
to help the Lord against the mighty.’

24
“Most blessed of women be Jael,
the wife of Heber the Kenite,
most blessed of tent-dwelling women.
25
He asked for water, and she gave him milk;
in a bowl fit for nobles she brought him curdled milk.
26
Her hand reached for the tent peg,
her right hand for the workman’s hammer.
She struck Sisera, she crushed his head,
she shattered and pierced his temple.
27
At her feet he sank,
he fell; there he lay.
At her feet he sank, he fell;
where he sank, there he fell—dead.

28
“Through the window peered Sisera’s mother;
behind the lattice she cried out,
‘Why is his chariot so long in coming?
Why is the clatter of his chariots delayed?’
29
The wisest of her ladies answer her;
indeed, she keeps saying to herself,
30
‘Are they not finding and dividing the spoils:
a woman or two for each man,
colorful garments as plunder for Sisera,
colorful garments embroidered,
highly embroidered garments for my neck—
all this as plunder?’

31
“So may all your enemies perish, Lord!
But may all who love you be like the sun
when it rises in its strength.”

Then the land had peace forty years.

Music and singing were an integral part of the Israelite culture. It helped preserve the history of Israel so as to pass it along to the next generation but the main point of it all was to give glory to God. This is a victory song of God’s deliverance.

May we all just break out into song when we think of what God has done for us. He has delivered us from many dangers, toils, and snares. He has given us eternal security through our acceptance of the grace of Jesus Christ. We can overcome all things in Christ. We can do all things in Christ who strengthens our every step in times of trouble. Up from the grave He arose with the mighty triumph o’er his foes. He arose! He arose! What can hurt us if God is with us! For whatever you are going through He is Lord and He will overcome. I end with part of the song, Do It Again, by Elevation Worship:

I know the night won’t last
Your Word will come to pass
My heart will sing Your praise again
Jesus You’re still enough
Keep me within Your love
My heart will sing Your praise again

Amen and Amen.

Judges 4:1-24 (Part 3 of 3)
Deborah Becomes Israel’s Judge

It is not whether pain and suffering will come into our lives; it is a matter of when. There was a world of difference between how I handled my first separation from my second wife and the final breakup of our marriage. The first time that we split up was in February 2000 and it lasted until November 2000. The final time came in August 2004. In between the two breakups, I accepted Christ as my Savior and Lord in December 2001. In between December 2001 and August 2004, I did a lot of growing up. I learned during that time that in Christ I had value in and of myself. I learned that the world did not revolve around my second wife. I do not blame her for it now. As we have seen in my last two blogs, women often take leadership roles because men abdicate their role as leader of the home or they take leadership roles because no man is there to lead. I allowed her to take the leadership role in our home because I was afraid that leadership would endanger my access to her physical and emotional approval. In this extent, I made her my god. My value was drawn from whether she approved of me from moment to moment.

So, when she wanted and demanded a separation in February 2000 (after some stupid financial decisions of mine and secrets about them came out all came out), I was devastated. I literally had my reason for living, my reason for existence taken away from me. While she was out living the party girl lifestyle with her single friends from her new place of employment (after 5 years as a stay at home mom). On the other hand, I was an emotional and literal hermit. I lived much of those nine months as a hermit especially early on. It was work that kept me going but there was this aching emptiness that nothing could fill. Even dating was a lost cause because I was still withdrawing from having my god taken away from me. You would think that it was time that I would have cried out to God for real for the first time in my life. But no. That nine month separation in 2000 should have been when I saw the Lord. I was at my lowest point ever emotionally in my life at that time. But idol worship is a hard thing to break. I felt that if I just did what my god told me to do, we would get back together. I was waiting and pining away. If she said come home at any time during that nine months I would have come running. Do you or can you imagine how empty a life that was during those nine months. I literally felt empty inside and all I wanted to do was sleep, especially on weekends. It was the lowest point in my life. You would think I would have found Jesus then but the stranglehold of idol worship is great and we keep expecting our idols to satisfy our needs so we ignore God when we are not ready to see Him. It was only when her idol of flirtation and being validated by new and different people ran dry that we got back together. We were a sick couple. I worshiped her as an idol and her idol was constant validation from others that she still “had it” which meant that no marriage would last for her. We were indeed a sick couple who could not see God though we knew He was. Our idols were more important.

It was not until 13 months after we had agreed to live as husband and wife again that I accepted Christ as my Savior and Lord. It was only then that I began to see that I had made an idol of my second wife and to the exclusion of everything else in my life, including my children. It was not until life situations forced me to choose between my idol of a second wife and my responsibility to my oldest child (who lived with us) who was in college. Instead of being a man about it as a Christ follower should have been, I reverted to secrets and supported my daughter at college against my second wife’s will behind her back. It all came to head in July 2004 and we broke up for good within a month. This time, I was clear as to why we broke up and life this time was different. I actually began to mature as a Christ follower. It was a slow, slow process (oh my! How I look back and see how slow it was! It makes me shudder at who I was as a baby Christian and what I found as normal and acceptable!). But the slow process would have never started until God allowed circumstances to happen where I would have to choose between my idol, my second wife, and what was morally, ethically, and spiritually right for my child.
We make our own idols. They do not create themselves. They do not have existence outside the power that we imbue them with. They only take on the life and the power that we give them. And we give them up and we look back and see the stupid things we do and did to satisfy our idols we are amazed at our own stupidity. However, when idol worship is working for us, we won’t listen. When we are stuck in the spell of the idols of our lives, and, even when things are not going well, we keep expecting our idols that we worship to come back to us if we only worship them better and harder.

It is often only when we are presented the choice between what we know to be morally and ethically right (that God imprints in our souls when we are knitted together in our mothers wombs) and satisfying the idols in our lives that we finally see our idols for what they are. It is often though only when the cookie of our life has crumbled all around us.

Therefore, when we read through Judges and how stubborn and stiff-necked the Israelite people were, we laugh at them because they seem so stupid. They were God’s chosen people! How could they be so stupid as not to recognize Him. Look at your own life. What are you idols? Even after salvation, we still have our idols that God must remove from our lives, one struggle with us at a time. We should know God but even as Christ followers we try to keep our idol strongholds. It takes a lifetime of sanctification by the Holy Spirit for us to rid ourselves of all the things we place priority on instead of God. We are just as stupid as the Israelites. We have the knowledge but the Holy Spirit has to work hard with some of the idols that we refuse to give up. It usually comes down to when the Holy Spirit presents us with a choice between right and wrong, good and evil, that we can no longer deny, that we no longer can delude ourselves about.

Let’s read about it now as to why Israel did not cry out to God for twenty years with that idea of us not being ready to give up our idols that we worship:

4 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, now that Ehud was dead. 2 So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Sisera, the commander of his army, was based in Harosheth Haggoyim. 3 Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help.

4 Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading[a] Israel at that time. 5 She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. 6 She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. 7 I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’”

8 Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”

9 “Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 There Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali, and ten thousand men went up under his command. Deborah also went up with him.

11 Now Heber the Kenite had left the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ brother-in-law,[b] and pitched his tent by the great tree in Zaanannim near Kedesh.

12 When they told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, 13 Sisera summoned from Harosheth Haggoyim to the Kishon River all his men and his nine hundred chariots fitted with iron.

14 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him. 15 At Barak’s advance, the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot.

16 Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, and all Sisera’s troops fell by the sword; not a man was left. 17 Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite.

18 Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket.

19 “I’m thirsty,” he said. “Please give me some water.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up.

20 “Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’”

21 But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.

22 Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead.

23 On that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan before the Israelites. 24 And the hand of the Israelites pressed harder and harder against Jabin king of Canaan until they destroyed him.

Today in this passage, we see that, after 20 years of unbearable circumstances, the Israelites finally cried out to the Lord for help. However, God should be the first one we turn to when facing struggles or dilemmas. The Israelites chose to go their own way and got into a mess. We often do the same. Trying to control our own lives without God’s help leads to struggle and confusion. By contrast, when we stay in daily contact with the Lord, we are less likely to create painful circumstances for ourselves. This fact is a lesson that the Israelites never fully learned. When struggles come our way, God wants us to come to Him first, seeking His strength and guidance through His Word and through prayer.

When we do not read God’s Word and when we do not pray, we will continue to see our idols as OK and as OK to keep along with God himself. It is only through regular reading of His Word, His Alive Word, and through prayers to God and not at God that we begin to see what our idols really are.

What are your idols that you are still OK with? What do you not see now that you should be seeing? Even in your suffering right now, are you still worshiping your idol(s). Is your life being destroyed by your idol(s) and you don’t even see it yet? Open your eyes! Let God’s Word and God’s Voice shine upon it through the Holy Spirit conviction! Open your eyes and come into the Light! Beg forgiveness from the one who should be ruling your life – the only True God! The God with a capital G!

Amen and Amen.

Judges 4:1-24 (Part 2 of 3)
Deborah Becomes Israel’s Judge

Today, in this passage, we see a woman taking over the leadership role over Israel. It was a time when no male leader wanted to take the mantle of leadership. Deborah saw what had to be done and she did it. It makes me think over several single moms, like little sisters to me, that I am so very proud of for how they have taken the role of being both dad and mom at the same time. These ladies all were forced into these roles when they did not want single parenthood. But in this day and age where some women dump their kids off on whomever they can so that they can live the party-going, manhunting lifestyle, these ladies that I know are examples to us all of putting our personal desires aside for the benefit of their children – not too unlike Deborah in our passage for today who put her personal desires aside because her nation needed someone to step up.

These ladies that I know are each single mom and have been for a while – Karen, Kelly, Desiree, and Shelley. Each one is human and certainly not perfect but they are doing what is right by their kids. Each one is a beautiful lady so it’s not like they have a lack of options. However, the kids are the priority with these ladies. Karen has been a single mom for 20 years or so. Even though her kids are grown, she has always placed their needs over her own and it stands as an example to us in this “me” lifestyle we have in our nation now. Karen has made innumberable sacrifices for her kids and now her grandkids. So many of us have married, been betrayed, divorced and remarried and some like me married multiple times. But Karen always kept the focus on her kids and being the best parent she could be. The fact that she has been single so long, the world will say that she is a spinster (though only in her late forties) and probably just a hardass. However, I think Karen has just let the focus be raising her kids and if a man comes along that is right she will entertain the idea. She longs to be a Christian wife again and willingly submit to the right man as her husband, but God has seen fit to make her life a ministry of what a single woman can do when her mind is on her kids and not necessarily her own desires.

Kelly is another one. This lady has two adorable boys that she is very proud of and she makes them her priority above all else. She had a difficult beginning to life having to give her first child up for adoption when she was very young. But later in life she married a man that she thought was it. She was ready to have a normal life and she had two little boys with this husband. Next thing you know their life falls apart because of his issues and now she stands alone as a single parent. She is another who sees providing a normal life for her kids the most important thing. She has managed to start her own cleaning business which she has become successful at. She started this business because she wanted flexibility to be able to be with the boys when she needed to and when she wanted to. Although she could have given up on life after the circumstances of her first marriage ending, but she stepped up. She did not freak out and try to relive her lost youth. She stepped up. Those boys of hers are all-American well-rounded boys because of her. Like Karen, Kelly wants to be a wife and would love to submit to his leadership of her family. However, Kelly waits because not just any man she will allow to be around those precious boys. Their environment and their well-being is the most important thing to her.

Desiree is another. She is one of those classic beauties that almost doesn’t seem like she is a real person. But though Dez is stunning, she is a great mom. She may not be perfect but there is no doubt about her love for her one and only child, Ave Claire. Although Desiree is from our GSP area, she moved to Charlotte a couple of years ago for an opportunity to provide for her daughter better. Although her ex-husband is more participatory now, there was a time when it was all on her. She was another one that I feared that would leave the child-rearing to a parent or a grandparent while she sought out the party lifestyle and a new man. Although there are times when she does let off some steam, there is nothing more important to her than Ave Claire. Her default priority in all things is Ave Claire. She recently worked hard to pass her real estate licensing exam so she could become a real estate agent. Why? So, she could have more flexibility to meet Ave Claire’s increasingly more active social life. Desiree stepped up. Desiree is placing the needs of her child above her personal deisres.

Shelley is the final one of this group of my little sisters that I am proud of. She is the youngest of the group. She has a warped sense of humor like mine so that is how we became friends after my wife introduced her to me. Shelley struggles at times being a single mom. She did not want this. She is relatively new at the game compared to Desiree, Kelly and Karen. Shelley is honest about her struggles and I love that about her. And sometimes through her honesty, you wonder if she is going to make it. Elena invests in her. I don’t say much but just watch and observe. For all her struggles, Shelley loves her child. She can’t even think about relationships right now because just the volume of the struggle of being a single mom with a child is about as much as she can handle. She loves Bri and regardless of the struggles of life, Shelley would die for that child and if you mess with Bri, you mess with Shelley. She too like the others did not want to be in this position, but life hands us crap at time and we must make a soufflé from it. Shelley keeps her sense of humor about it all but you know she desires to be a wife again at some point and share the struggles of parenthood. But for now, it’s all about Brianna and waiting for the right one that is right for their family and not just Shelley. She didn’t want to be a single mom, but she has stepped up. She is placing Brianna’s needs above her own.

These four little sisters of mine, Karen, Kelly, Desiree, and Shelley, all demonstrate that sometimes in life, women are forced into positions of leadership because no one else is there and they must lead. That’s the thing I see in these four ladies and it is what I see in Deborah. She becomes a judge for God’s people. It is God’s plan that leadership is the man’s responsibility and his sacrifice for the good of his family and for the good of his nation. Women are made equal in God’s sight but He designed them to be nurturers and caregivers and the passion of life and the beauty of life and they are designed to be home to family. Yes, women can lead as well as men and no doubt there have been great women leaders throughout history. And no doubt that are awesome female leaders right now. Most women though think first of family and home before they think of career. They are designed that way by God. And in the Bible, when you see a woman step up and be a leader, it is because of the lack of or the spinelessness of the men of the era. Deborah stepped up because there was no one else who would. Sometimes, because of the fallen nature of man, God’s order of things gets messed up. Deborah is an example of that. She was a godly woman for sure, but she had to take on a role because no one else was there who would. Let’s read about it now:

4 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, now that Ehud was dead. 2 So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Sisera, the commander of his army, was based in Harosheth Haggoyim. 3 Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help.

4 Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading[a] Israel at that time. 5 She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. 6 She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. 7 I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’”

8 Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”

9 “Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 There Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali, and ten thousand men went up under his command. Deborah also went up with him.

11 Now Heber the Kenite had left the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ brother-in-law,[b] and pitched his tent by the great tree in Zaanannim near Kedesh.

12 When they told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, 13 Sisera summoned from Harosheth Haggoyim to the Kishon River all his men and his nine hundred chariots fitted with iron.

14 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him. 15 At Barak’s advance, the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot.

16 Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, and all Sisera’s troops fell by the sword; not a man was left. 17 Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite.

18 Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket.

19 “I’m thirsty,” he said. “Please give me some water.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up.

20 “Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’”

21 But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.

22 Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead.

23 On that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan before the Israelites. 24 And the hand of the Israelites pressed harder and harder against Jabin king of Canaan until they destroyed him.

Today in this passage, we will ask the question, how did Deborah command such respect? She was responsible for leading the people into battle, but more than that she influenced the to live for God after the battle was over. Her personality drew people together and commanded the respect of even the military general, Barak. She was also a prophet, whose main role was to encourage the people to obey God. The amazing thing about Deborah was that she was true leader in that she was concerned about the people themselves and not success. Success by itself is no driver but having passion for a cause or a people can lead us to do great things. All the while, Deborah was filling a role because no man would do it. Sometimes, in life, women are forced into roles that are typically reserved for men and we must pray for them when they are in those positions such as single parenthood.

What can we do when we are forced into a situation that we don’t want to be in and somehow seems unnatural to us? We pray for God to restore order in the long run but we pray for God to give us the strength to get through situations that we are not well suited for. This is true for all of us not just Deborah and not just for these four single moms of which I have spoken. We all can be in situations that we are not designed by God for because we live in a fallen world. Sometimes, circumstances are forced upon us by others that do not seem fair and we could just throw up our hands and give up. Single dads out there raising daughters and sons on your own. I see you too. You have to be a mom when the situation calls for it even though you are definitely not wired for that. All of us whether single moms or single dads have been in situations that were long-term that we are ill-equipped by our very nature to handle.

We live in a fallen world. We live in a world where people are going to dump on us. We live in a world where life is not fair to us at times. We often have to deal with the consequences of other people’s stupid decisions and there is nothing that we can do about it. I think that is where we learn dependence on God. When we do not have the innate talent to handle a situation because of what sex we are, when we do not have the innate talent to handle a situation because the talents needed are not the ones that God naturally talented us with, that’s when we learn dependence on God. Otherwise, if we could handle it, we are less likely to see God’s power in our lives. I would imagine that there are times as single moms, my friends, my little sisters, Karen, Kelly, Desiree, and Shelley, can attest to God miraculously delivering them through a situation with their kids or with life in general that they thought that they’d never make it through.

Are you in a situation that you don’t want to be in and feel as though you are not going to make it through it, hold on to the mainsail post and the storm rages. God will pull you through it. He will show you that you are strong through Him. One day you will reach the smooth waters, but for now, depend on God. Step up and don’t give up. God will never leave you or forsake you even when you are getting through the valley where you do not have the natural abilities to get through it. Depend on God to light your path. Depend on Him to make you strong through His strength.

Amen and Amen.

Judges 4:1-24 (Part 1 of 3)
Deborah Becomes Israel’s Judge

For the last few days, as part of my fall semester readings for my D.Min. program, I have been reading the book, Trained Up in the Fear of God, by Randy Stinson and Timothy Jones. It is a collection of essays that they have gathered together concerning family ministry and family discipleship and the biblical roots thereof. There are a few of the essays that struck deep chords with me. Certainly, one of them was the essay by Randy Stinson himself about gender roles in discipleship. He takes us back to Genesis and shows that each, man and woman, was created in the image of God. Therefore, we are equal in the sight of God. However, God gave us each equally important but differing roles in the family household. As men, we are given special responsibility to shepherd our families (to protect, defend, provide, ensure safety, and to be the ministers of our families). The other essay that was just as tonal with me was the essay by Kevin Smith, a black pastor and leading figure in the Kentucky state Baptist association as well as a professor of church history at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His essay was about how slavery really screwed up the family unit for black families and how those centuries of institutional slavery set the pattern for how black families are organized now. Because of slavery, fathers were often stripped away from their families and familial bonds among slaves were of no account to slaveowners. The only bond they allowed to continue was between mother and small child (which was not benevolence but simple practicality). However, because many black children only knew their mothers, slavery had a byproduct effect on black families that still exists today – matriarchal rule. The black female is the centerpiece of most black families even into the 21st century. Because of the fathers being bought, sold, traded and shipped around the South, they lost their attachment to family nor could they even find their way back to their families. Kevin’s conclusion was that for there to be a restored biblical order, black churches must invest mightily in the discipleship of men so that they will take up their rightful role in their families and their churches. The surprising thing to me was, when thinking about, Kevin’s essay could be written about society in general and not just black families.

Both of these essays were interesting to me because not only in the black community but in our society in general, there is a growing trend of male detachment from the rearing of their children much less rearing them in the ways of the Lord. Even if we men are not simply being baby daddies, we are often divorcing our first wives whom bear our babies and leaving the parenting job to them. Many men today are weekend Disney dads and that’s it. They leave the tough work of parenting to the mothers that bore them so that we can go off and conquer a newer, slimmer, trimmer female. Even when remain married to the mother of our children we are often abdicating the role of leader of our families to the wife. Often, it is because we are disengaged from our own households. We just want the fun of being a dad but none of the responsibility.

It is that thought of what God created us from the beginning to be, leaders of our homes, and how often we as men abdicate our roles as leaders is what came to mind as I read through Judges 4:1-24 today for the first of three reads> Let’s read it now together:

4 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, now that Ehud was dead. 2 So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Sisera, the commander of his army, was based in Harosheth Haggoyim. 3 Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help.

4 Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading[a] Israel at that time. 5 She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. 6 She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. 7 I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’”

8 Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”

9 “Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 There Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali, and ten thousand men went up under his command. Deborah also went up with him.

11 Now Heber the Kenite had left the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ brother-in-law,[b] and pitched his tent by the great tree in Zaanannim near Kedesh.

12 When they told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, 13 Sisera summoned from Harosheth Haggoyim to the Kishon River all his men and his nine hundred chariots fitted with iron.

14 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him. 15 At Barak’s advance, the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot.

16 Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, and all Sisera’s troops fell by the sword; not a man was left. 17 Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite.

18 Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket.

19 “I’m thirsty,” he said. “Please give me some water.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up.

20 “Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’”

21 But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.

22 Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead.

23 On that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan before the Israelites. 24 And the hand of the Israelites pressed harder and harder against Jabin king of Canaan until they destroyed him.

Here, we see that Barak, for whatever reason, was willing to hand over the authority that rightfully should have been his to Deborah, the prophetess and now judge of Israel. Why is it that he did this? Was Barak a coward. He abdicated his role as a man and somebody had to fill the vacuum. Deborah stepped up.

When I think about all the single moms out there, my heart aches for them. I know that they are carrying a burden that they were not designed to carry. When I think about the moms who have their husbands at home but who take the attitude that the kids are mom’s deal and are withdrawn from the parenting process. What reading this book this week has reinforced in my mind is that we as men are designed by God from the beginning of humanity to be the shepherds of our family. Anything else and the family is damaged in some way or we are forcing the women of our society to carry physical and emotional burdens alone that they simply weren’t designed for. We have a growing generations of children now where there is no strong fatherly influence in their lives among black and white families alike. Women are being forced to fill the vacuum that we have created by abdicating our God-directed charge in life – to raise up families who know and love and obey the Lord God. That is our job designed by God. We must return to our family position, men. Being a leader of a household requires that we love our families more than ourselves and that we are willing to sacrifice anything for them. We must be willing to discipline and guide our children in the ways of the Lord. We must be willing to be more than Disneyland dads. We must be fathers. We must be husbands who are the leaders of our families – a job that our wives and daughters want us to take. Unless we take our role, our God-designed role, much like Deborah in this passage, women will fill the vacuum out of necessity.

The task that we have as Christian men is to step up and be men who love our wives as Christ loved the church. We must be the priests of our household. We must lead, guide and direct our families. We must take our God-commanded role. We must take on the whole job – the not so fun stuff as well as the fun stuff. Let us quit being so self-centered and love our families as Christ loved the church. That involves make tough decisions. That involves discipline of children. That involves being the spiritual leaders of our home. That involves discipling our wives and our children. That is where we as the church universal must invest our time and our resources is in the discipling of men to willingly step up to the their God commanded role in their households. The fate of our nation and the fate of the church in general hangs in the balance.

Amen and Amen.

Judges 3:31
Shagmar Becomes Israel’s Judge

Have you ever wondered why some passages are in the Bible? That’s me today. Why is there this one-liner about Shagmar inserted in here between the more developed stories of Ehud and Deborah? It’s like mentioning a billboard that you say on a trip between two adventures of your life and not really saying anything other than that you saw the billboard. In the male world, we just give the bare minimum of facts. In the female world, you get all the background information like the colors and the smells and what people were wearing and what their facial expressions, what the air temperature was, how humid it was, all to paint a complete picture of what the experience was like not just what happened. This one-verse passage is like a man telling a story.

What is the significance of it though? It is kind of like the class gardens that you find at Clemson University, one of my favorite places in the world. Around campus, you will find various gardens that were funded by and built by a graduating class or a group of graduating classes from the university. As you walk along the bricked walkways you noticed that the individual bricks are embossed with the name or names of the individual classmates who contributed to the building of the garden. These are beautiful places for observing the beauty of nature and the beauty of the campus of Clemson. But if it were not for each contribution represented by the names embossed on each brick, this particular garden that you are walking through would not be possible. Each brick plays its role. Each brick is necessary for the beauty of the entire garden. The garden would not be complete without each brick in the garden. Shagmar’s story is the same way.

Maybe, he was not a judge that long. Maybe, his reign as judge was not that eventful or memorable. Maybe, he was like Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys. He had one great season and parlayed a lucrative but mediocre career out of it. Maybe, Shagmar’s story is one where his military exploits swept him into office as judge but as a judge he did not handle it well or he was just average. Maybe, it was just a time where he had to maintain. Maybe he was a Gerald Ford as President. A president that steered the ship back into navigable waters and that was it. Nothing eventful but very necessary like each brick in the gardens at Clemson.

31 After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox goad. He too saved Israel.

In this passage, we see that to kill 600 Philistines with an ox goad was quite a feat. An ox goad was a long stick with a small flat piece of iron on one end and a sharp point on the other. The sharp side was used to drive the oxen during times of plowing, and the flat end was used to clean mud off the plow. In times of crisis, they could have easily been used as spears. Ox goads are still used in the Middle East today. Aside from this explanation being longer than the passage itself, we know little else about Shagmar, other than he was a judge that led Israel.

We do not have to be memorable figures to be used by God. We may not get whole chapters or books of the Bible written about. We may not be the preacher up on stage. We may not be the megachurch preacher known nationally. We may not be Billy Graham known the world over. We may just be a brick in the path of a garden walkway. But just because we are not internationally, nationally, regionally, or even locally famous Christ-followers, we are necessary. We are the silent warriors of the faith. We are fathers raising our kids up right in the ways of the Lord. We are mothers nurturing our children so that they will know unconditional love, the love that Jesus Christ has for us. We are volunteers on Sunday at church with no major role. We are the quiet ones who get the job of the kingdom done. We are the video switcher on Sundays’ internet broadcast of the church service. It is a such a completely necessary job but yet it goes virtually unnoticed. We are useful to the kingdom. And God notices even if man does not. If we are following the Lord for the celebrity of it, we will drop away soon. But if we are in it to give glory to God, give thanksgiving to Him who has saved us, to spread the gospel, we don’t really care who here on earth notices. We know that every brick in the garden is important. Every step in the pathway through the garden must be filled with an embossed brick with our name on it that not everybody is going to notice. But we will be noticed by God when we our journey is done. When we have lived for Him and not for popularity. When we have lived for vertical approval from God and not horizontal approval from people, we will hear “well done, my good and faithful servant!” That’s all that really matters, my friends! Not how much pub we get here on earth. Our real audience is an audience of One. The One. He notices the names on every brick in the garden, the garden filled with the names of those who lived for Him throughout human history. He knows your name. He knows who you are. He knows how much you love Him. He will know your name on your personal day that your arrive at judgment. He will call you by your name, and make you famous in heaven. He will say this one is mine.

Amen and Amen.