The time of Judges in the Bible is a period I particularly enjoy reading about because I love Super Heroes. I mean let’s be honest, that is what is happening in these stories. There is a cycle that goes on over and over and over after the Hebrews settle in the Promised Land. All of it happens because God’s people didn’t exterminate their enemies in the first place, so now they are caught in a loop.
The people did evil in the Lord’s sight.
All of the stories start the same way. Things start going good for Israel and they ignore God. Just like us. We start to kid ourselves that things are going well for us because we are awesome and not because of the grace of God. Also, the Israelites got in the habit of marrying or becoming close to the people who served other Gods and rather than influencing them toward God, the “pagans” influenced Israel.
Their enemies rise up.
Of course, once your lose the divine protection from God you realize how vulnerable you really are. The thing that was always amazing about a Hebrew victory is that they never had better weapons, tactics or bigger armies. They were the smallest people group. They were a primitive, tribal people with no king or governing body. So when God stops fighting the bully for you, that has real consequences.
A hero emerges to put everything right.
Then enter “The judges.” Individuals who were not heroes in their own right. It seemed as if they had more power than others because the power God provided all Israelites was contingent on their faithfulness. These judges were awesome because in their faithfulness God gave them supernatural protection and wisdom. What is funny is that the judges were not there to pass judgement on the enemies. They were there to pass judgement on Israel. To call Israel, not just to a military victory, but to repentance. Because as we just discussed, there would be no military victory without God.
These are some of my favorite stories. I tell them to my girls at the dinner table when they say, “Dad, tell us a story.” Their favorite is Ehud and the fat king. My favorite is Gideon, but there is also a story in between those two that doesn’t get a lot of press.
It is the story of Deborah. When you read this story I don’t know what you picture. But I read the words “tribe” and “wise woman” and picture that wise, crafty old crone with her walking staff. Or maybe the nobility of an Athena-like advisor. It says that she held court under a tree, the Tree of Deborah.
If you read chapter 6, The Song of Deborah, you read that Israel was leaderless and Deborah arose… she awoke as the mother of Israel. Don’t let anyone tell you women were second-class citizens in God’s nation. Deborah was God’s instrument of justice for over 40 years. She passed judgement in tribal disputes and discerned the Lord’s will.
And when the Lord spoke to her she sent for a young soldier named Barak. Deborah told Barak that the Lord had a plan to deliver Israel, but just like all the stories of the judges… there was not honor for the soldiers… only for God. She told Barak that even though their were 40,000 Israelites that could fight he should only call out 10,000. And even though they only had bronze weapons that they should charge headlong into 900 iron chariots. And Barak was afraid. “I’ll only go if you go with me… mommy of Israel.” So she said, “Fine, fine these old bones will go but it won’t make a difference. There is no honor for soldiers here because that’s not how God works.”
Yahweh topples kingdoms with a left-handed outcast’s single dagger. He will have Gideon take 300 men with pots and pans to defeat three armies that have joined forces. He is a God that uses long hair, donkey jaw bones and fat rolls to bring glory cause when things like that happen you know something supernatural was happening. So don’t sweat it Barak, some random woman is going to kill this undefeated enemy general just so everyone knows it is not your 10,000 men… it is God.
So sure enough. They charge and God confuses the enemy supernaturally. The general flees and stops for water, at a house where the husband was a turncoat Israelite on friendly terms with the enemy. But his wife Jael is faithful to God. She doesn’t give the enemy refreshing water but some milk to help him sleep. Then she gets a hammer and a 9 inch tent peg and puts it through his temple. The undefeated general was not killed by a soldier or a weapon, but a housewife.
It kind of puts a few things in perspective. The seemingly undefeatable enemies in our lives sometimes seem so intimidating. The enemy has better weapons, more resources… but God doesn’t need any of that to win. He is like MacGyver. “Well, I have a tent peg, a house wife and some milk. Now I just need a diversion.” Don’t forget that when you think, “Well, I’m not the prophetess and I’m not the soldier…” For God to get the glory. He just needs you to be you.
Oh, and I hope you’re not squeamish.