A Judge Named Deborah
After Ehud died, the Israelites sinned again. So God allowed Jabin, a Canaanite king from the north, to conquer and control them. He was a very cruel ruler with a strong military known for its 900 chariots made of iron. The commander of his army was a man named Sisera. Together, Jabin and Sisera oppressed Israel for twenty years. The judge who was leading Israel at the time was a prophetess named Deborah. (Her story is told in Judges chapter 4, and then repeated in a song of victory that she wrote found in chapter 5.) Deborah was a wife and a mom. But she was also a great leader. She had set up a court under a palm tree in the hill country of Ephraim. People came from all over Israel so that she could settle their disputes. One day the Lord gave her a message to give to a man named Barak. She met with Barak and told him, “God commands you to gather 10,000 men and take them to Mount Tabor. He will lead Sisera, the commander of the Canaanite army, to the plain below. There, by the Kishon River, he will fight you with his chariots and troops. But God will help you defeat him.” Barak balked. The idea of fighting a vastly superior army made up of hundreds of horses and 900 iron chariots on a wide-open plain seemed foolish. The Israelites didn’t have any horses or chariots! They didn’t even have swords or shields! Over the years, Sisera’s army had confiscated everything made of metal! “I will go, but only if you will go with me,” Barak insisted—thinking that Deborah’s presence might prompt God to bless them. Deborah agreed to go along. “But,” she said, “because of this choice, you won’t get the credit for killing Sisera. The Lord will give that honor to a woman.” A Kenite man named Heber warned Sisera that the Israelites were headed to Mount Tabor. The Kenites were descendants of Jethro, the father of Zipporah—the woman Moses had married when he was fleeing from Egypt (see #40). When the Israelites escaped from Egypt, Moses had invited the Kenites to come live with them. Historians tell us that the Kenites were well-known for their great metal work. But since there was no longer any metal in Israel, Heber had become a traitor. He moved north and began to work for the Canaanites. Somehow he learned of Israel’s plan, and he informed Sisera. Immediately Sisera headed to Mount Tabor to fight the Israelites. As Sisera gathered all his chariots and men in the huge plain below the mountain, Deborah yelled to Barak, “Now is the time! Attack them! God is with you!” Barak obediently led his men down the mountain. God helped the Israelites by causing an icy storm to confront the Canaanites. The head wind was so bad that they couldn’t even launch their arrows. As the Kishon River overflowed its banks, many of their horses and chariots became stuck in the mud. The soldiers tried to escape on foot, but Barak and his men chased them down. Soon every Canaanite soldier was dead . . . except for one!
Are you like Barak—unexcited to attempt a task that you don’t feel personally capable of accomplishing? Or are you more like Deborah—willing to attempt whatever God says is possible? God doesn’t want us to evaluate His commands in light of our own abilities and assets. Having Him in our lives changes any equation!