1716.) Judges 9

November 30, 2015

Shechem: a great fortress-temple has been excavated there, the largest found in the land of ancient Canaan, with walls 17 feet thick. Evidence of massive destruction has been found from the time of Abimelech.

Judges 9 (New International Version)

Abimelech

1 Abimelech son of Jerub-Baal (that is, illegitimate son of Gideon) went to his mother’s brothers in Shechem and said to them and to all his mother’s clan, 2 “Ask all the citizens of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you: to have all seventy of Jerub-Baal’s sons rule over you, or just one man?’ Remember, I am your flesh and blood.”

He goes to sweet talk his brothers on his mother’s side.

3 When the brothers repeated all this to the citizens of Shechem, they were inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our brother.” 4 They gave him seventy shekels (that is, 1 and 3/4 pounds) of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, and Abimelech used it to hire reckless adventurers, who became his followers. 5 He went to his father’s home in Ophrah and on one stone murdered his seventy brothers, the sons of Jerub-Baal.

He kills his brothers with start-up money provided by maternal relatives.

But Jotham, the youngest son of Jerub-Baal, escaped by hiding. 6 Then all the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo gathered beside the great tree at the pillar in Shechem to crown Abimelech king.

Q:  Will you be our king, please?

A:  Well, duh, who else? And will somebody dispose of the bodies of my 69 half-brothers?

7 When Jotham was told about this, he climbed up on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted to them, “Listen to me, citizens of Shechem, so that God may listen to you.

Jotham was the only son of Gideon to escape the massacre at the stone (see v. 5). Here he told a parable to rebuke the men of Shechem for their choice of Abimelech as a king. He made this speech from the top of Mount Gerizim, the mountain from which Israel heard the blessings of God pronounced upon the obedient (Deuteronomy 11:29 and 27:12; Joshua 8:33) about 150 years before.

–David Guzik

8 One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’

The olive tree was content to grow where God has planted it.

The olive tree was content to grow where God had planted it.

9 “But the olive tree answered, ‘Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and men are honored, to hold sway over the trees?’

10 “Next, the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.’

The fig tree was satisfied to produce the kind of fruit God desired.

11 “But the fig tree replied, ‘Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?’

12 “Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be our king.’

The vines refused to tear themselves from the soil in a presumptuous act of self-promotion.

13 “But the vine answered, ‘Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and men, to hold sway over the trees?’

14 “Finally all the trees said to the thornbush, ‘Come and be our king.’

The thornbush produces nothing of value and is worthless as timber.

15 “The thornbush said to the trees, ‘If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!’

As if a low, thorny bush (like a bramble) could supply shade to anyone, particularly to real trees!

16 “Now if you have acted honorably and in good faith when you made Abimelech king, and if you have been fair to Jerub-Baal and his family, and if you have treated him as he deserves- 17 and to think that my father fought for you, risked his life to rescue you from the hand of Midian 18 (but today you have revolted against my father’s family, murdered his seventy sons on a single stone, and made Abimelech, the son of his slave girl, king over the citizens of Shechem because he is your brother)- 19 if then you have acted honorably and in good faith toward Jerub-Baal and his family today, may Abimelech be your joy, and may you be his, too! 20 But if you have not, let fire come out from Abimelech and consume you, citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and let fire come out from you, citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and consume Abimelech!”

21 Then Jotham fled, escaping to Beer, and he lived there because he was afraid of his brother Abimelech.

“In Jotham’s parable the trees represented Gideon’s 70 sons, and the thornbush represented Abimelech. Jotham’s point was this:  a productive person would be too busy doing good to want to bother with power politics. A worthless person, on the other hand, would be glad to accept the honor—but he would destroy the people he ruled. Abimelech, like a thornbush, could offer Israel no real protection or security” (Life Application Bible notes).

We don’t hear of Jotham again, but his curse/prophecy is fulfilled three years later. Keep reading!

22 After Abimelech had governed Israel three years, 23 God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem, who acted treacherously against Abimelech. 24 God did this in order that the crime against Jerub-Baal’s seventy sons, the shedding of their blood, might be avenged on their brother Abimelech and on the citizens of Shechem, who had helped him murder his brothers. 25 In opposition to him these citizens of Shechem set men on the hilltops to ambush and rob everyone who passed by, and this was reported to Abimelech.

26 Now Gaal son of Ebed moved with his brothers into Shechem, and its citizens put their confidence in him. 27 After they had gone out into the fields and gathered the grapes and trodden them, they held a festival in the temple of their god. While they were eating and drinking, they cursed Abimelech. 28 Then Gaal son of Ebed said, “Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should be subject to him? Isn’t he Jerub-Baal’s son, and isn’t Zebul his deputy? Serve the men of Hamor, Shechem’s father! Why should we serve Abimelech? 29 If only this people were under my command! Then I would get rid of him. I would say to Abimelech, ‘Call out your whole army!’ ”

30 When Zebul the governor of the city heard what Gaal son of Ebed said, he was very angry. 31 Under cover he sent messengers to Abimelech, saying, “Gaal son of Ebed and his brothers have come to Shechem and are stirring up the city against you. 32 Now then, during the night you and your men should come and lie in wait in the fields. 33 In the morning at sunrise, advance against the city. When Gaal and his men come out against you, do whatever your hand finds to do.”

34 So Abimelech and all his troops set out by night and took up concealed positions near Shechem in four companies.

Zebul advised Abimelech to organize a surprised attack against the rebels of Shechem.

35 Now Gaal son of Ebed had gone out and was standing at the entrance to the city gate just as Abimelech and his soldiers came out from their hiding place.

36 When Gaal saw them, he said to Zebul, “Look, people are coming down from the tops of the mountains!”

Zebul replied, “You mistake the shadows of the mountains for men.”

37 But Gaal spoke up again: “Look, people are coming down from the center of the land, and a company is coming from the direction of the soothsayers’ tree.”

38 Then Zebul said to him, “Where is your big talk now, you who said, ‘Who is Abimelech that we should be subject to him?’ Aren’t these the men you ridiculed? Go out and fight them!”

39 So Gaal led out the citizens of Shechem and fought Abimelech. 40 Abimelech chased him, and many fell wounded in the flight—all the way to the entrance to the gate. 41 Abimelech stayed in Arumah, and Zebul drove Gaal and his brothers out of Shechem.

42 The next day the people of Shechem went out to the fields, and this was reported to Abimelech. 43 So he took his men, divided them into three companies and set an ambush in the fields. When he saw the people coming out of the city, he rose to attack them. 44 Abimelech and the companies with him rushed forward to a position at the entrance to the city gate.

With the resistance of Gaal defeated, Abimelech would find it easy to establish his control over the city of Shechem again.

Abimelech then turned his fury against the people of Shechem; he killed as many of them as he could and he demolished their city.

Then two companies rushed upon those in the fields and struck them down. 45 All that day Abimelech pressed his attack against the city until he had captured it and killed its people. Then he destroyed the city and scattered salt over it.

46 On hearing this, the citizens in the tower of Shechem went into the stronghold of the temple of El-Berith. 47 When Abimelech heard that they had assembled there, 48 he and all his men went up Mount Zalmon. He took an ax and cut off some branches, which he lifted to his shoulders. He ordered the men with him, “Quick! Do what you have seen me do!” 49 So all the men cut branches and followed Abimelech. They piled them against the stronghold and set it on fire over the people inside. So all the people in the tower of Shechem, about a thousand men and women, also died.

A massacre.

Do you remember?

The city of Shechem plays a significant role in many Old Testament events. An important commercial, political, and religious center, it was located in the Hill Country of Ephraim, about 30 miles north of Jerusalem. Today the city is identified with Nablus, the largest community in the occupied West Bank.

~Abraham passes through here  (Genesis 12:6-7).

~Jacob buys a plot of land here and his daughter, Dinah, is raped  (Genesis 34).

~Jacob’s sons tend sheep here, then go to Dothan where Joseph eventually finds them  (Genesis 37:15-17).

~The covenant is confirmed here during the conquest  (Joshua 8:30-35).

~The city is named as a levitical city and set aside as a city of refuge  (Joshua 21:21).

~The mummy of Joseph is brought from Egypt and buried here  (Joshua 24:32).

50 Next Abimelech went to Thebez and besieged it and captured it. 51 Inside the city, however, was a strong tower, to which all the men and women—all the people of the city—fled. They locked themselves in and climbed up on the tower roof. 52 Abimelech went to the tower and stormed it. But as he approached the entrance to the tower to set it on fire, 53 a woman dropped an upper millstone on his head and cracked his skull.

54 Hurriedly he called to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and kill me, so that they can’t say, ‘A woman killed him.’ ” So his servant ran him through, and he died.

“A woman breaks the skull of Abimelech” by James Tissot, 1900 (Jewish Museum, New York)

An ignominious ending!

Abimelech was killed by a woman (not by fighting);  he was killed by a domestic tool (not a weapon). And despite his final request, that is how he was remembered:

2 Samuel 11:21 (New Living Translation)

Wasn’t Abimelech son of Gideon killed at Thebez by a woman who threw a millstone down on him from the wall?

55 When the Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, they went home.

“But commentators observe it for a just hand of God upon Abimelech, that upon one stone he had slain his seventy brethren, and now a stone slayeth him: his head had stolen the crown of Israel, and now his head is smitten.” (Trapp)

56 Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelech had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers. 57 God also made the men of Shechem pay for all their wickedness. The curse of Jotham son of Jerub-Baal came on them.

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Music:

By now, you probably want something to get the taste of blood out of your mouth! To counter this chapter full of scheming, murder, war, deceit, curses, and general unholiness, I offer you a hymn which shows us true faith and true love.

In the early 1880’s, Louisa M. R. Stead spent an afternoon the beach with her husband and  four-year-old daughter at Long Island Sound in New York. As they ate their picnic lunch, they heard a boy crying in distress. Mr. Stead went into the water to save him — and both were drowned.  Out of her sorrow came this testimony to God’s goodness, “‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.”  HERE  it is sung by the Altar of Praise Men’s chorale.

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New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
Shechem.  http://bibleplaces.com/shechem.htm
crown.    http://www.faqs.org/photo-dict/photofiles/list/420/789crown.jpg
olive tree.     https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/05531-olive-tree.jpg
fig tree.    http://heavenawaits.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/fig-tree.jpg
vineyard.    http://www.rvforsaleguide.com/images/temecula-california-vineyard-picture.jpg
thornbush.    http://farm1.static.flickr.com/40/93650804_07df1d0d94.jpg
map showing Shechem.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/shechem.jpg
Tissot.    http://www.visualphotos.com/photo/1×6726483/a-woman-breaks-the-skull-of-abimelech-james-tissot-1836-1902-french-jewish-museum-new-york-city.jpg

1715.) Judges 8

November 27, 2015

Oh, I thought it was ZEBRA and Zalmunna!

Judges 8 (New International Version)

Zebah and Zalmunna

1 Now the Ephraimites asked Gideon, “Why have you treated us like this? Why didn’t you call us when you went to fight Midian?” And they criticized him sharply.

2 But he answered them, “What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren’t the gleanings of Ephraim’s grapes better than the full grape harvest of Abiezer? 3 God gave Oreb and Zeeb, the Midianite leaders, into your hands. What was I able to do compared to you?” At this, their resentment against him subsided.

Proverbs 15:1 (NASB)

A gentle answer turns away wrath.

4 Gideon and his three hundred men, exhausted yet keeping up the pursuit, came to the Jordan and crossed it.

“Let us also serve the Lord when every movement is painful, when even to think is wearisome. These men were faint. You know what it is for a soldier to be faint; it is no nonsense, no presence, it is real fainting. Yet to go running on when you are ready to faint, to keep right on when you are ready to drop, this is very trying work; yet let us do it, friends, by God’s grace. Some people only pray when they feel like praying; but we need most to pray when we feel that we cannot pray. If we were only to preach, some of us, when we felt like preaching, we should not often preach.”

–Charles Haddon Spurgeon

5 He said to the men of Succoth, “Give my troops some bread; they are worn out, and I am still pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.”

6 But the officials of Succoth said, “Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your troops?”

7 Then Gideon replied, “Just for that, when the LORD has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will tear your flesh with desert thorns and briers.”

8 From there he went up to Peniel and made the same request of them, but they answered as the men of Succoth had. 9 So he said to the men of Peniel, “When I return in triumph, I will tear down this tower.”

10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with a force of about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of the armies of the eastern peoples; a hundred and twenty thousand swordsmen had fallen. 11 Gideon went up by the route of the nomads east of Nobah and Jogbehah and fell upon the unsuspecting army. 12 Zebah and Zalmunna, the two kings of Midian, fled, but he pursued them and captured them, routing their entire army.

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Music:

The group True Worshippers is a pioneer of Christian contemporary praise and worship music in Indonesia.  They are affiliated with the Jakarta Praise Community Church, and they have toured on four continents.  Watching them sing, I think of Psalm 117:1 — “Praise the Lord, all you nations, Praise him, all you people of the earth!”

HERE  is the song “God Is Our Victory” and the lyrics follow.

You’re the One who stands before us
You’re the One who brought us out
From the darkness
You’re the mighty God who saves us
When the storms and fires are
Raging all around us

If God is for us
Who’ll stand against us?
Who can separate us
From the love of Christ?

If God is for us who can divide us?
You have overcome the world
By Your great love

Let God arise, let God arise
Let us behold Him and bow down
He leads us all through battles won
God is our victory and we shall rise

God is our victory

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13 Gideon son of Joash then returned from the battle by the Pass of Heres. 14 He caught a young man of Succoth and questioned him, and the young man wrote down for him the names of the seventy-seven officials of Succoth, the elders of the town. 15 Then Gideon came and said to the men of Succoth, “Here are Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me by saying, ‘Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your exhausted men?’ ” 16 He took the elders of the town and taught the men of Succoth a lesson by punishing them with desert thorns and briers. 17 He also pulled down the tower of Peniel and killed the men of the town.

18 Then he asked Zebah and Zalmunna, “What kind of men did you kill at Tabor?”

“Men like you,” they answered, “each one with the bearing of a prince.”

19 Gideon replied, “Those were my brothers, the sons of my own mother. As surely as the LORD lives, if you had spared their lives, I would not kill you.” 20 Turning to Jether, his oldest son, he said, “Kill them!” But Jether did not draw his sword, because he was only a boy and was afraid.

21 Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Come, do it yourself. ‘As is the man, so is his strength.’ ”

1.  Being killed by Gideon would be less humiliating than being killed by a boy.

2.  Being killed by an experienced fighter would be swifter and less painful than death at the hands of an incompetent swordsman.

So Gideon stepped forward and killed them, and took the ornaments off their camels’ necks.

Gideon’s Ephod

22 The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian.”

23 But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you.”

Q:  Will you be our king, please?

A:  No.  God is your king.

24 And he said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.)

25 They answered, “We’ll be glad to give them.” So they spread out a garment, and each man threw a ring from his plunder onto it.

Gideon receives the gold — miniature illumination, c. 1430

26 The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels (that is, about 43 pounds),  not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks. 27 Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.

Why would Gideon do this? And why would the Israelites worship it?

Gideon’s Death

28 Thus Midian was subdued before the Israelites and did not raise its head again. During Gideon’s lifetime, the land enjoyed peace forty years.

Hebrews 11:32-33 (New Living Translation)

How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets.  By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them.

29 Jerub-Baal son of Joash went back home to live. 30 He had seventy sons of his own, for he had many wives. 31 His concubine, who lived in Shechem, also bore him a son, whom he named Abimelech. 32 Gideon son of Joash died at a good old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

33 No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals. They set up Baal-Berith as their god and 34 did not remember the LORD their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side. 35 They also failed to show kindness to the family of Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) for all the good things he had done for them.

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New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
zebra.    http://animals.timduru.org/dirlist/zebra/aey50038-Zebra-Face_closeup.jpg
cat and goat nuzzling.    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/46/57/96/465796f614842c0ba5163dde35f16ca3.jpg
pick your poison.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/e16e1-pick-your-poison-home.png
crown.    http://www.faqs.org/photo-dict/photofiles/list/420/789crown.jpg
miniature.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/8-clear-mini1.jpg
walk by faith.     http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2332/2330771133_84e0a2570e.jpg

1714.) Psalm 136

November 26, 2015

P136 God is love

Psalm 136   (NIV)

For you on this Thanksgiving Day! God is good, today and every day, and we thank him with all our hearts!

What makes this psalm unique is that the second member of each of the twenty-six verses is the same antiphonal response, “for His mercy endures forever.” “If one everlasting is not enough,” wrote Thomas Goodwin, “there are twenty-six everlastings in this one psalm.”

It is known as the Great Hallel, the singing of which was a regular part of the observance of both Pesach and Rosh Hashanah—the Jewish Passover and New Year celebrations. It was also used in their daily worship.

The repetition of the theme is not tiresome; it says to us that the steadfast love of the Lord needs to be constantly before us and that the subject can never be exhausted. His kindness, loyalty and fidelity never fail.

–William MacDonald

This psalm is an antiphonal liturgy with the memorable refrain, “his steadfast love endures forever.” A priest or soloist would chant the first part of a verse, and the congregation would respond with the refrain. Performances of the liturgy would have been powerful and moving, as the priest added example to example of God’s praise. (The Reformation Bible)

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

P136 Earth
God is good as Creator:

to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.
who made the great lights—
His love endures forever.
the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.
the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.

P136 crossing-red-sea
God is good as Redeemer:

10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
His love endures forever.
11 and brought Israel out from among them
His love endures forever.
12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever.

13 to him who divided the Red Sea asunder
His love endures forever.
14 and brought Israel through the midst of it,
His love endures forever.
15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;
His love endures forever.

P136 Pillar Fire Cloud
God is good as Guide:

16 to him who led his people through the wilderness;
His love endures forever.

P136 King-of-Kings
God is good as Champion:

17 to him who struck down great kings,
His love endures forever.
18 and killed mighty kings—
His love endures forever.
19 Sihon king of the Amorites
His love endures forever.
20 and Og king of Bashan—
His love endures forever.
21 and gave their land as an inheritance,
His love endures forever.
22 an inheritance to his servant Israel.
His love endures forever.

P136 helpGod is good as Helper:

23 He remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
24 and freed us from our enemies.
His love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.

A friend said to me:  “I believe it would be a great exercise for our family to write our own Hallel — naming specifically the Lord’s faithfulness to us. It might help us to remember instead of worrying anew with each new crisis.”

Thank you, Sue! Let’s start today as we are around the feasting table!

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Music:

Join in  HERE  — “His Love Endures Forever.”

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New International Version (NIV)   Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Images courtesy of:
God is love.    http://cordof3strands.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/GodIsLove-1207912618.jpg
Earth hanging in space.    http://stuffpoint.com/space/image/277328-space-earth-from-space.jpg
crossing the Red Sea.    http://mudpreacher.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/moses-crossing-red-sea.jpg
pillar of fire and cloud.    http://dailyprayer.us/photos/Pillar_fire_cloud_david_ascalon.jpg
King of kings.    http://www.christianbanners.com/product_images/uploaded_images/King-of-Kings-Point-Burgund_md.jpg
God is my help.    http://www.mssscrafts.com/memoryverses/2001_4/psalm54_4.gif

1713.) Judges 7

November 25, 2015

“Gideon Attacking” — Marie Odile de LaForcade, 1991.

Judges 7 (New International Version)

Gideon Defeats the Midianites

1 Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. 2 The LORD said to Gideon, “You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, 3 announce now to the people, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’ ” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.

4 But the LORD said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”

5 So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the LORD told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink.”

6 Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.

7 The LORD said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place.”

Now the Israelite army was less than 1% of its original size and the proportion was 400 Midianite soldiers to each Israelite soldier. Gideon could only trust in God because there was nothing else to trust!

8 So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites to their tents but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.

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Music:

What must Gideon be thinking??!! From 32,000 men, to 10,000 men, to 300 men — how on earth can he go up against the Midianites, who lie in the valley “thick as locusts,” we will soon read. Life with God! What an adventure! What are you up against? “Glory, honor, power, and strength belong to the Lord,” and through the Lord, to you.

HERE  is “The Battle Belongs to the Lord,” sung by the Maranatha Singers.

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Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley. 9 During that night the LORD said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. 10 If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah 11 and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.” So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp. 12 The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.

13 Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.”

Only the very poor ate barley bread. The vision meant that the camp of the Midianites would be knocked over by a humble nobody.

14 His friend responded, “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.”

How many Hebrew soldiers does it take to defeat a superior army of Midianites and Amalekites?

300. One to throw the barley loaf and 299 to watch it roll into camp!

15 When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped God. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The LORD has given the Midianite camp into your hands.” 16 Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside.

17 “Watch me,” he told them. “Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. 18 When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, ‘For the LORD and for Gideon.’ ”

“The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon” — by Sir Stanley Spencer, 1921 (Tate Collection, London)

19 Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. 20 The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” 21 While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled.

The Midianite soldiers awoke to an explosion of noise, light, and movement coming down on them from all directions. No wonder they thought they were being attacked by an army even bigger than they were.

22 When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the LORD caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. 23 Israelites from Naphtali, Asher and all Manasseh were called out, and they pursued the Midianites. 24 Gideon sent messengers throughout the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites and seize the waters of the Jordan ahead of them as far as Beth Barah.”

So all the men of Ephraim were called out and they took the waters of the Jordan as far as Beth Barah. 25 They also captured two of the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb at the winepress of Zeeb. They pursued the Midianites and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon, who was by the Jordan.

. . . and Gideon was so thrilled with the victory that he went up and down the whole land, putting Bibles in every hotel room!

The Gideons International was founded in Wisconsin in 1899. Since most of the early members were traveling men, they decided to furnish a Bible in every hotel room of the nation. Now, The Gideons have members in more than 180 countries around the globe, and print Scriptures in more than 80 languages. More than 1.3 billion Bibles and New Testaments have been placed by The Gideons so far, in hotels and motels, schools and universities, medical offices and hospitals, convalescent homes and domestic violence shelters, police and fire stations, jails and prisons . . .

My parents were long-time members of The Gideons. I remember them sharing stories at the dinner table of people who had encountered a loving, forgiving God in the pages of a Gideon Bible, and had their lives changed for all eternity. These stories were fascinating to me! What a great God we serve, who cares about each and every one of us, even (or especially) in our darkest moments!

If you would like to hear a couple stories of lives wonderfully changed by the fact that someone placed a Bible in a public place, or handed out a Bible or New Testament and asked God to put it into the right hands — click HERE.

_________________________

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica
Images courtesy of:
LaForcade.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/7-landron_gedeon_a_l_assaut.jpg
Reggie, the RV dog, lapping water.    http://www.barksentry.com/blog/uploaded_images/ReggieLappingWater_092649-733428.jpg
round loaf of barley bread.    http://thehealthyeatingsite.com/wp-content/uploads/barley-bread-loaf.jpg
Spencer.    http://www.tate.org.uk/servlet/ViewWork?cgroupid=999999961&workid=13683&searchid=4860&tabview=image
Gideon Bible.    http://mommylife.net/archives/Hotel_Bible.jpg

1712.) Judges 6

November 24, 2015
“Gideon (sketch)” by Anton Franz Maulbertsch, 1794 (Episcopal Palace, Szombathely, Hungary)

“Gideon (sketch)” by Anton Franz Maulbertsch, 1794 (Episcopal Palace, Szombathely, Hungary)

Judges 6 (New International Version)

Gideon

1 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites.

God brought Israel into bondage through the oppression of the Midianites. This was an example of God’s grace and mercy to Israel because the oppression would make them turn back to God. It would have been worse if God had just left them alone.

–David Guzik

2 Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. 3 Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. 4 They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. 5 They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count the men and their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it.

The Midianites were a desert-dwelling people and they dominated Israel because of their effective use of camels!

6 Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help.

“Well, I guess there’s nothing left to do but pray.” Forgive us, Lord, when we have this same attitude.

7 When the Israelites cried to the LORD because of Midian, 8 he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 9 I snatched you from the power of Egypt and from the hand of all your oppressors. I drove them from before you and gave you their land. 10 I said to you, ‘I am the LORD your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.”

The real problem is not the Midianites. It is the lack of obedience on the part of the Israelites.

_________________________

Music:

How many times have we read that God says to the Israelites, “I am the Lord your God”?  What an encouragement for Gideon!

How many times have we read that Christ says to us “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”?  What an encouragement for us!

“I AM” by Mark Schultz is a favorite song at our house!  HERE  it is.

_________________________

11 The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites.

This was both difficult and humiliating. Wheat was threshed in open spaces, typically on a hill-top so the breeze could blow away the chaff. Wheat was not normally threshed in a sunken place like a winepress.

–David Guzik

“And there came an angel of the Lord, and sat under the oak” by James Shaw Crompton

“And there came an angel of the Lord, and sat under the oak” by James Shaw Crompton

12 When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

13 “But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.”

14 The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

Gideon indeed had might, but not as we might normally think.

  • Gideon had the might of the humble, threshing wheat on the winepress floor
  • Gideon had the might of the caring, because he cared about the low place of Israel
  • Gideon had the might of knowledge, because he knew God did great things in the past
  • Gideon had the might of the spiritually hungry because he wanted to see God to great works again
  • Gideon had the might of the teachable, because he listened to what the Angel of the Lord said
  • Gideon had the might of the weak, and God’s strength is perfected in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)

–David Guzik

from Experiencing God Day-by-Day,
by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby

In Gideon’s mind, victory over the Midianites was an impossibility, and he was absolutely right! The Midianites, along with their allies, overwhelmed the feeble Hebrews. Yet the moment God told Gideon to fight them, victory was no longer an impossibility!

When Jesus commanded His small group of followers to make disciples of all nations, was that possible (Matthew 28:19)? Certainly, if Jesus said it was! When Jesus told his disciples to love their enemies, was He being realistic? Of course, because He was the One who would achieve reconciliation through them (2 Corinthians 5:19-20).

Do you treat commands like these as implausible? Do you modify God’s word to find an interpretation that seems reasonable to you? Don’t discount what is possible with God (Philippians 4:13). When God gives an assignment, it is no longer an impossibility, but rather it is an absolute certainty. When God gives you a seemingly impossible task, the only thing preventing it from coming to pass is your disobedience. When God speaks, it can scare you to death! He will lead you to do things that are absolutely impossible in your own strength. But God will grant you victory, step by step, as you obey Him.

How do you respond to assignments that seem impossible? Do you write them off as unattainable? Or do you immediately adjust your life to God’s revelation, watching with anticipation to see how He will accomplish His purposes through your obedience? God wants to do the impossible through your life. All He requires is your obedience.

15 “But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

16 The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”

Someone once asked Francis of Assisi how he was able to accomplish so much. He replied, “This may be why:  The Lord looked down from heaven and said, ‘Where can I find the weakest, littlest man of earth?’ Then he saw me and said, ‘I’ve found him. I will work through him, and he won’t be proud of it. He’ll see that I am only using him because of his insignificance.’”

God is looking for ordinary people for extraordinary work.

–from Our Daily Bread, March 28, 2010

17 Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. 18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.”

And the LORD said, “I will wait until you return.”

19 Gideon went in, prepared a young goat, and from an ephah  of flour he made bread without yeast. Putting the meat in a basket and its broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to him under the oak.

“The Sacrifice of Gideon” by Francois Bouchert, 1728 (The Louvre, Paris)

“The Sacrifice of Gideon” by Francois Bouchert, 1728 (The Louvre, Paris)

20 The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And Gideon did so. 21 With the tip of the staff that was in his hand, the angel of the LORD touched the meat and the unleavened bread. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the LORD disappeared. 22 When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the LORD, he exclaimed, “Ah, Sovereign LORD! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!”

23 But the LORD said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”

24 So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

2 Peter 3:14-15 (NASB)

Be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.

25 That same night the LORD said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old.  Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. 26 Then build a proper kind of altar to the LORD your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.”

In Gideon’s community, Baal was worshipped right along side of Yahweh. God called Gideon to get his own house in order first.

27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the LORD told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the men of the town, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.

28 In the morning when the men of the town got up, there was Baal’s altar, demolished, with the Asherah pole beside it cut down and the second bull sacrificed on the newly built altar!

29 They asked each other, “Who did this?”

When they carefully investigated, they were told, “Gideon son of Joash did it.”

30 The men of the town demanded of Joash, “Bring out your son. He must die, because he has broken down Baal’s altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.”

Ancient Israel worshipped Baal because he was thought to be the god of weather, and they relied on the weather for agricultural prosperity. In the hard economic times because of the Midianite oppression, people worshipped Baal all the more, not understanding that they only made things worse by not turning to God.

31 But Joash replied to the hostile crowd around him, “Are you going to plead Baal’s cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning! If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.” 32 So that day they called Gideon “Jerub-Baal, ” saying, “Let Baal contend with him,” because he broke down Baal’s altar.

Gideon’s father made a very logical argument for preserving his son’s life. Since Baal was the offended party, he could defend himself.

This is similar to what happened during a great move of God in the South Seas in the 19th Century. One tribal chief was converted to Christianity and he gathered up all the idols of his people. He told the idols he was going to destroy them, and then he gave them the chance to run away. He destroyed all the ones that sat there like dumb statues.

–David Guzik

33 Now all the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples joined forces and crossed over the Jordan and camped in the Valley of Jezreel. 34 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon,

and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him. 35 He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, calling them to arms, and also into Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, so that they too went up to meet them.

Gideon pointing to the fleece — illustrated manuscript from the 1170’s (Getty Museum)

Gideon pointing to the fleece — illustrated manuscript from the 1170’s (Getty Museum)

36 Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised— 37 look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” 38 And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—-a bowlful of water.

39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew.” 40 That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.

We've been fleeced!

We’ve been fleeced!

Here we are reading about Gideon and his fleece of wool. Actually, Gideon asks for, and receives, three signs from God. First, the angel of the Lord causes a fire to miraculously appear and consume his offering. Second, his fleece of wool gets wet from the dew while everything else stays dry. Third, the situation is reversed and the fleece stays dry while everything else gets wet from the dew. This is interesting reading, but it isn’t a lesson in how we’re supposed to deal with God. We’re to be people of faith, trusting in God and learning to hear his voice.  We’re not supposed to be sign-seekers and deal-makers.  The star of this story is not Gideon, a near heathen who keeps getting signs from God confirming what he’s clearly already been told to do.  The Star is God, who is patient even when Gideon keeps asking him to prove his own words.  I’m thankful for a patient God who puts up with my shallowness even as he works to produce in me a more mature relationship with himself. Generally speaking though, I need to just do whatever it is God has made clear to me without “putting out a fleece.”

by Pastor Scott Cundiff

http://nazareneblogs.org/pastorscott/tag/book-of-judges/

_________________________

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
Maulbertsch.    http://www.oceansbridge.com/oil-paintings/product/2350/gideonsketch1794
Crompton.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/6-crompton.jpg
the battle is won.    https://aviesplace.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/the-battle-is-already-won.jpg
St. Francis of Assisi.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/6a00d83454ad5369e20105353a8a6a970c-320wi.jpg
Boucher.    http://www.culture.gouv.fr/Wave/image/joconde/0001/m503604_97de24045_p.jpg
Be at peace.    http://notesalongthepath.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/be-at-peace-god-is-in-charge.jpg
altar, broken idol.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/6-altaridolbroken.jpg
Holy Spirit of God.     https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/3-holyspirit2.jpg?w=450
Gideon pointing to the fleece.    http://www.jesuswalk.com/gideon/images/gideon_getty_ms223x300.jpg
fleeced alpacas.    http://carolzahn.com/FinalProject/images/alpaca6.jpg

1711.) Judges 5

November 23, 2015

“Deborah: Words, Women, and War” by Nathan Moskowitz

Judges 5 (New International Version)

The Song of Deborah

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

Judges chapter 5 tells the same story as Judges chapter 4, but in poetic form.  Scholars consider this to be one of the earliest examples of Hebrew poetry (12th century BCE).

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 will sing to  the LORD, I will sing;
I will make music to  the LORD, the God of Israel.

Psalm 27:6 (ESV)

And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts ofjoy;
I will sing and make melody to the LORD.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is “Deborah’s Theme”  by Italian composer  Ennio Morricone, conducting.  From the movie Once Upon a Time in America.

_________________________

4 “O LORD, when you 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 roads were abandoned;
travelers took to winding paths.

7 Village life  in Israel ceased,
ceased until I, Deborah, arose,
arose a mother in Israel.

“I Arose a Mother in Israel” painting by Elspeth Young, who gave Deborah a sword as a symbol not of fighting, but of the Word of the Lord and His promise of deliverance.

8 When they chose new gods,
war came to the city gates,
and 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  at the watering places.
They recite the righteous acts of the LORD,
the righteous acts of his warriors  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, O Barak!
Take captive your captives, O son of Abinoam.’

Hebrews 11:32-33 (NLT)

How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets.  By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them.

13 “Then the men who were left
came down to the nobles;
the people of the LORD
came to me with 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 staff.

15 The princes of Issachar were with Deborah;
yes, Issachar was with Barak,
rushing after him into the valley.
In the districts of Reuben
there was much searching of heart.

16 Why did you stay among the campfires
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 heights of the field.

19 “Kings came, they fought;
the kings of Canaan fought
at Taanach by the waters of Megiddo,
but they carried off no silver, no plunder.

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’ hoofs—
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.’

“Jael and Sisero” by Artemisia Gentileschi, 1620 (Budapest Museum)

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.

“The Mother of Sisera Looked Out a Window” by British painter Albert Joseph Moore. Ah, there are many victims in a war.

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 girl 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, O LORD!
But may they who love you be like the sun
when it rises in its strength.”
Then the land had peace forty years.

_________________________

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
Moskowitz.    http://www.womeninthebible.net/1.8.De1.jpg
quill pen.    http://mozziestar.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/ink.jpg
music staff.    http://www.clipartbest.com/cliparts/di7/gz6/di7gz67i9.gif
Young.    http://alyoung.com/Art_Gallery/Elspeth_Young/Women_in_Scripture/Deborah.jpg
walk by faith.     http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2332/2330771133_84e0a2570e.jpg
Gentileschi.     https://www.sartle.com/sites/default/files/images/artwork/1000125.jpg
Moore.    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5b/Moore_Albert_Joseph_The_Mother_of_Sisera_Looked_out_a_Window.jpg

1710.) Judges 4

November 20, 2015

I picture Golda Meir (prime minister of Israel 1969-1974) and Deborah as being quite similar; both were national military leaders and “mothers of Israel.”

Judges 4 (New International Version)

Deborah

1 After Ehud died, the Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the LORD.

Seeing the continual drift to disobedience makes one less and less confident of man but more and more impressed with the mercy and grace of God. Though Israel kept forsaking Him, He kept working with them.

–David Guzik

2 So the LORD sold them into the hands of Jabin, a king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth Haggoyim. 3 Because he had nine hundred iron chariots and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, (note: 20 years!!) they cried to the LORD for help.

4 Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading  Israel at that time.

The Bible tells us of several other prophetesses: Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), Anna (Luke 2:36), and Philip’s four daughters (Acts 21:8-9).

5 She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites came to her to have their disputes decided.

Psalm 92:12 (ESV)

The righteous flourish like the palm tree.

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 the way to Mount Tabor. 7 I will lure 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.”

Not that Barak is afraid!

No, he is relating to Deborah the way a king of Israel should relate to the prophet of God.  The king stands under the Law of Moses, like anyone else, and he must share leadership with God’s prophet.  As it says in Deuteronomy 18:15 — “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites.  You must listen to him.”

Or as Moses modeled for us how to obey the Lord in Exodus 33:15 — “If Your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”

9 “Very well,” Deborah said, “I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this,  the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh, 10 where he summoned Zebulun and Naphtali. Ten thousand men followed him, and Deborah also went with him.

_________________________

Music:

DWELLING readers know that I am a Ken Medema fan!  HERE  is one of his edgier songs, written for a youth event several years ago. Love the layers of this piece!

Is this a good song for honoring Deborah? I think so, and I hope it helps us to consider, in our own time and place, how we ought to pick up some of her courage and “Color Outside the Lines.”

_________________________

11 Now Heber the Kenite had left the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ brother-in-law,  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 gathered together his nine hundred iron chariots and all the men with him, from Harosheth Haggoyim to the Kishon River.

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, followed by ten thousand men. 15 At Barak’s advance, the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera abandoned his chariot and fled on foot.

In the next chapter we learn what happened:  The Lord sent a rainstorm and allowed the Kishon River to overflow; all the iron chariots got stuck in the mud and had to be abandoned.

16 But Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim. All the troops of Sisera fell by the sword; not a man was left.

17 Sisera, however, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there were friendly relations between Jabin king of Hazor and the clan 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 put a covering over him.

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 here?’ 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.

“Jael and Sisera” by Felice Ficherelli (Uffizi, Florence, Italy)

22 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.

“Study of Jael in red chalk” by Carlo Maratta (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

from Peculiar Treasures:  A Biblical Who’s Who
by Frederick Buechner

JAEL

A Canaanite war-lord named Sisera had recently been trounced by an Israelite strong-man named Barak and was heading for the border to save his skin. On the way, he was invited to hide out with a Kenite woman named Jael, who belonged to a tribe which had not been involved in the skirmish at all. This was his second bad break that day.

Jael was all smiles as she issued her invitation and gave him the red carpet treatment. She fixed him a drink and suggested he stretch out for a while on the couch. While he was asleep, she crept in and disposed of him by the ingenious if cumbersome technique of hammering a tent-peg in one temple and out the other.

The female judge Deborah wrote a song in her honor in which she referred to her as “most blessed among women” for the job she had done, and Jael has been remembered as a great hero and patriot ever since.

In view of the fact that her victim (a) was her guest and (b) asleep and (c) had never harmed a hair of either her head or her people’s, it would seem that to call her deed heroic is to stretch the term to the breaking point. As for calling it patriotic, if she had done it for love of country—maybe. But (a) her country had no quarrel with Sisera and (b) if she killed him for anything but kicks, it was out of love for nothing more exalted that the idea of maybe getting a pay-off from the Israelites the next time they hit town. It is not the only instance, of course, of how people in wartime get medals for doing what in peacetime would get them the chair.

23 On that day God subdued Jabin, the Canaanite king, before the Israelites. 24 And the hand of the Israelites grew stronger and stronger against Jabin, the Canaanite king, until they destroyed him.

from Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain:

Somewhere in this part of the country—I do not know exactly where—Israel fought another bloody battle a hundred years later. Deborah, the prophetess, told Barak to take ten thousand men and sally forth against another King Jabin who had been doing something. Barak came down from Mount Tabor, twenty or twenty-five miles from here, and gave battle to Jabin’s forces, who were in command of Sisera. Barak won the fight, and while he was making the victory complete by the usual method of exterminating the remnant of the defeated host, Sisera fled away on foot, and when he was nearly exhausted by fatigue and thirst, one Jael, a woman he seems to have been acquainted with, invited him to come into her tent and rest himself. The weary soldier acceded readily enough, and Jael put him to bed. He said he was very thirsty, and asked his generous preserver to get him a cup of water. She brought him some milk, and he drank of it gratefully and lay down again, to forget in pleasant dreams his lost battle and his humbled pride. Presently when he was asleep she came softly in with a hammer and drove a hideous tent-pen down through his brain!

“For he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.” Such is the touching language of the Bible.

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New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
Golda Meir.    http://www.knesset.gov.il/mk/images/members/meir_golda.jpg
palm tree.    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2608/4080312692_c39d2deb21.jpg
Vaya con Dios  (Go with God).     http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41np8fwcSFL.jpg
rain.    http://nickbaines.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/rain.jpg
Ficherelli.    http://www.oceansbridge.com/oil-paintings/product.php?xProd=53396&xSec=16&xCmd=gallery
Maratta.    https://torahsparks.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/jael_study-of-jael-in-red-chalk-by-carlo-maratta.jpg
Mark Twain.   http://bolstablog.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/mark-twain-white-hair.jpg