Posts Tagged ‘How Christians must find their voice’

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.

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