How I love the book of Judges, chock-full as it is of stories of God’s heroes and heroines!
My class of young Sunday church students stays spellbound when we study the lives of Ehud, Gideon, Samson, Deborah, and Jael.
No-nonsense Deborah was a prophetess and judge who generally spent her time settled under a palm tree, hearing the Israelites’ disputes and listening for messages from God.
But after she received such a message for a military leader named Barak, her office expanded from tree to mountaintop, and her focus from cerebral to physical.
And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedeshnaphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun? And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand. – Judges 4:6,7
God had already promised deliverance to Barak, but he balked at going into battle against an enemy equipped with nine hundred iron chariots.
Perhaps because of Deborah’s direct link to God, Barak promised that he would fulfill God’s command only if Deborah would go into battle with him.
She agreed, but with one stipulation.
And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. – Judges 4:9
Perhaps Barak assumed that the woman of whom she spoke was Deborah herself.
As God had promised, the battle soon turned in the Israelites’ favor, much to the surprise of the Canaanite military leader, Sisera.
And the Lord discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet. – Judges 4:15
Hoping for protection, the cowardly captain fled to the tent of an ally, Heber the Kenite, who was not at home – or Sisera’s story may have ended quite differently.
Instead, Sisera was met by Heber’s wife, Jael.
And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle. – Judges 4:18
Jael then offered Sisera a nice drink of milk, and as she must have hoped, the general fell fast asleep.
Then Jael Heber’s wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary.
So he died. – Judges 4:21
(I so enjoy the understated way the Bible phrases things at times.)
The thought that anyone could commit such a brutal act is a bit shocking, but consider this: Jael’s husband, Heber, had betrayed his people (Heber was descended from the father-in-law of Moses) by making peace with the Canaanite king.
But Jael herself was still loyal to the Israelites. She saw an opportunity to rid the world of the military leader of her people’s oppressors, and she used the tools she had at hand to accomplish that task.
She had charm, courage, and nerves of steel – and some milk, a mallet, and a tent nail.
Jael seized her opportunity and destroyed an enemy of her people.
She and Deborah both inspire me to fulfill my mission, whatever it may be for me each day. These two ladies remind me not to procrastinate or hesitate, but to push on and accomplish what God asks of me.
Even when it’s so far out of my comfort zone that it’s scary.
Even when I’m scraping the bottom of my barrel of faith.
What inspires you about these incredible ladies? I’d love to hear from you.