The Book of Judges Part 3
Henry Steedman, Birmingham
Like the man from Baal-Shalisha, our contributor brings not only bread, but full ears of corn for the reader to thresh out for himself.
In chapter 3 the sons of Israel did these three unholy things: (1) They dwelt among those nations. (2) They took their daughters to be their wives and gave their daughters to their sons. (3) They served their gods (vv. 5, 6). They did evil, forgot Jehovah their God, and served Baalim and the groves. In hot anger Jehovah sold them into the hands of the King of Mesopotamia eight years.
The warnings and predictions of Deuteronomy being unheeded, servitude followed. As known of Jehovah they were punished for their iniquities (see Amos 3). Chushan-rishathaim (Blackness of Double Wickedness and Mesopotamia (between two rivers) speak to us of the prince and god of this world—the devil,—who would attract and enslave us between the two rivers of worldly pleasures and human philosophy religiously. The spiritual man is ever in reserve with God to displace the natural as led of God. “Howbeit, that is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural, then that which is spiritual.” This is seen in 1 Cor. 15. 44-49.
The first man—the second man.
That which is earthy—that which is heavenly.
The image of the earthy—the image of the heavenly.
Let us look to ourselves lest the spiritual is forced into the background and rendered useless. Long since had Abram left Mesopotamia, he and his seed, never to have returned. Alas! such chains are forged by God's backsliding people in their departure from Him and their unholy alliances with the world, its altars and social bonds.
Now they cry and the Lord hears them and, in His faithfulness, raises up a Saviour in Othniel (Lion of God) and, note, the younger brother of Caleb—the whole-hearted. In the “younger “we have the unexpected coming forward in divine sovereignty—not the first-born who is the beginning of man's strength. The choice lay with God and always does.
Apparent weakness and defect marked most of the Deliverers and the means they used. Following Othniel we have a left-handed man, Ehud—the “Confessor,” son of Gera—“rumination.” So all true confession becomes effective as the result of rumination of the Word of God. Good work is done by those who are weak in themselves but strong in the Lord and in the Spirit, being nourished from the Word.
Though a Benjamite—son of the Right Hand—he is shut, lame, or bound of his right hand. Nevertheless he with the “instrument of destruction” made by himself—a two-edged dagger—figure of the spoken Word of God (Eph. 6), returns from Gilgal—self-judgment and death to the flesh—and stabs through the fleshly foe Eglon, King of Moab—a relative as to the flesh of Lot (Gen. 19). See too the ox goad in the hand of Shamgar—a stranger. Only such as are indeed strangers here and not of the world can deal the decisive blow of deliverance for the people of God. It is strength—Christ's strength perfected in weakness and His power resting upon us (2 Cor. 12). “Made strong.”
More than a century of rest followed the deeds of those brave men. This brings us to another bondage broken by the hands of two women and one man. Here God for the moment turns from His usual course in using men and employs a woman. Confusion and weakness and cowardice marked the men who should have given the lead for God. These exceptions were never meant to become permanent rules. Neither are women in the church authorised of God to take license and usurp man’s place and responsibility. All leadership, teaching and preaching is the privilege and responsibility of the men among us (1 Cor., chaps. 11 and 14; 1 Tim. 2. 11,12).
At the same time women are called upon to become “mothers in Israel,” such as are seen in Mary and John—John 19. 26; Phebe in Rom. 16. 1. The mother of Rufus—Paul says, “his mother and mine” (Rom. 16. 13). Many young women to-day call for, or stand in need of training and counsel from the aged women, spiritually, morally and domestically (Titus 2. 2-4).
Deborah—the Word, or eloquent; Jael—the climber, one who ascends, as the goat; and Barak—lightning. The weaker vessels are to the front. The initiative is with Deborah and Jael clinches the Victory in pinning Sisera to the ground with her tent pin. She put her hand to the nail and her right hand to the workmen's hammer, she dealt with his head and his temples; Sisera—Jabin’s Captain—fell at a woman’s feet. Jabin, King of Canaan, is also quenched, although he mightily oppressed Israel. Judge Deborah arose, a “mother in Israel,” and that from beneath her Palm Tree, between Ramah—the High Place,—and Bethel—the House of God. Set as it were in Elevation, Victory and Piety, she leaves her husband Lapidoth—a flaming torch,—and as raised up of God Deborah leads Barak—lightning—into battle; he is “out of Kedesh—Napthali,”—Sanctuary of the Struggler. How significant is all this to the spiritual mind.
The Sanctuary is the place where with God warriors may settle all for their battles before they enter the field to fight. Jacob was with God before he met Esau with his four hundred men (Gen. 32. 22-32). Daniel and his companions had dealings with God before they faced their opponents, kings and princes—men to be reckoned with. So we need to have our times with God in the sanctuary before we stand before men.
All this was the result of Israel’s failure to drive out wholly the Canaanites. Barak's faith was weak. Still it is Barak's name which appears in the list in Hebrews, chap. 11. God chooses, uses and God concludes all.
The Song of Deborah and Barak in Judges 5 is inspiring! Only a few notes can be heard here. It is a song of Triumph opening with praise and closing with the sun-like saintly warriors in brightest splendour. The song is addressed to kings and princes. Israel's low estate is depicted in its first part. How sad!
It is striking to observe how “the highways became unoccupied in those days, and travellers walked through crooked ways.” Have we not descended from our high places and highways and come down to the crooked byways of the world. Carnality and Conformity to the world, walking as men. The true distinctive and heavenly traits of Christ lacking in our walk and conduct. Let us arise from among the dead that Christ may shine upon us. May God make our feet like hind’s feet to walk upon our high places—Hab. 3. 19.
How fittingly the willing people and willing governors are mentioned (vv. 2 and 9). The righteous acts of the Lord are rehearsed by many (vv. 10 and 11). The attitude of various tribes to the Righteous Conflict is discriminately brought in. Zebulun and Naphtali jeopardised their lives unto death (v. 18). Individuals from other tribes gave help, Reuben makes resolutions but remains inactive. Gilead abode beyond Jordan. Dan (Judge) is occupied with commerce and other things.
The voice of the Angel of the Lord is heard to say, “Curse ye Meroz . . . because they came not to the help of the Lord against the mighty ones” (v. 23). Jael is blessed above women. Love of the world, ease and indifference had affected the many while others fought and won.
Shall we indulge ourselves in things which perish in the using and go not forth to the good fight? Remember how David on the house top became a victim to the lust of his eyes and flesh while others went forth to battle. Callous indifference is a most dreadful thing when divine and spiritual issues are at stake for the people of God.
Surely these all reflect on us today, and the Day of Reckoning is at hand, THEN shall the Righteous shine forth in the Kingdom. The song ends:—
“So let all Thine enemies perish, O Lord. But let them that love Him be as the Sun when he goeth forth in his might.”