October 18, 2015
Pastor Jeff Struecker
This past Wednesday a news article broke across the country because Jennifer Lawrence, the famous actress, wrote an essay. Jennifer Lawrence is the star from The Hunger Games movies. She’s been in tons of blockbuster movies and her personal worth is estimated at $60 million. Lawrence said in this essay that she works every bit as hard as men in Hollywood but she makes less money than they do. After this essay came out, a number of other people who are famous actresses and entertainers said the same thing. In fact, Gwyneth Paltrow said the same thing as Jennifer Lawrence. Jennifer Lawrence’s essay was picked up by Forbes magazine. Forbes surveyed the paychecks from the top 100 celebrities in the world. They found only 16 women on this list. Now to quote from her almost directly, Jennifer Lawrence said she doesn’t want to sound like a feminist in this essay but even in progressive Hollywood it’s still a man’s world.
Today this sermon is for the ladies. Last week we started a sermon series called Chasing Lions. We will look at Judges Chapter 4 today. Here’s what I want you to hear right up front. We’re going to start with this and we’re going to end with this. Faith by it’s very nature has to be bigger than you. It has to be bolder then you can account for. It can’t be safe. It can’t be easy. If it’s really genuine faith it has to be a little bit insane to people who don’t share your faith. The question I asked last week that I want to come back to this week is, if somebody was sitting down and writing the book of First and Second Calvary or if it was our story recorded for the generations after us to read would it look like a series of short stories of men and women with insane faith? Or, would this look like a bunch of very timid, very safe people? What we’re looking at today is perhaps one of the greatest examples of bold faith in the Bible and she just happens to be a woman.
I. Look only to Jesus for your rescue.
If you have never been in need of rescue, you’ve never really found a Savior. it’s when you get to the point where you are in over your head and need help that a Savior is actually possible for you. That’s what you’re going to find in Judges Chapter Four. Let’s look at what life was like thousands of years ago in ancient Israel.
1 After Ehud’s death, the Israelites again did evil in the Lord’s sight. 2 So the Lord turned them over to King Jabin of Hazor, a Canaanite king. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-haggoyim. 3 Sisera, who had 900 iron chariots, ruthlessly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years. Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help.
You just heard a second ago from Kevin about this cycle of sin that’s recorded for us in the book of Judges. Let me take us back a little bit farther to the book of Joshua. God had promised his people a land flowing with milk and with honey. He said when they went into this land they were to annihilate the pagan nations that were there. One of those pagan nations was Canaan. He told them to not strike treaties with the people because their sin was so wicked that if the Israelites started to develop relationships with those people inevitably their sin would become the Israelite’s sin. That is what you have in Judges Chapter 4. The people of Israel have taken on the sin of the Canaanites. God is so angry with them that he used the people that they were supposed to punish as their punishers. Canaan became the military punisher over Israel. God used their very enemies, the ones that they were supposed to drive out of the promised land in the first place, to become the ones that he punished his own people with.
After 20 years of brutal oppression, the people finally cried out to God. Now you have to understand something about world history. At this point, this is the start of the Iron Age. Philistia and Canaan have mastered the military art of iron but Israel had not. When Israel went to battle against these two pagan nations they were outclassed and outnumbered. The battle was over before it even began because they went to war with brittle and soft weapons. Now Jabin, King of the Canaanite people, had an army with the 900 iron chariots. Just one chariot was a huge military advantage on the battlefield. He had 900 of them. There is almost no defense against chariots. He was pretty much untouchable with 900 chariots.
Here’s what Judges is trying to set up for us today. Jesus is bigger then your circumstances. Jesus is bigger than 900 chariots. Jesus is bigger than your health problems, than your financial problems, and than your family problems. He’s bigger than all of it. When you’re bold enough to step out on faith, Jesus shows up in ways that only Jesus gets the credit for. I want to remind you of something that I said last week from the author Mark Batterson who wrote the book In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day. He said, “You rob Jesus of his glory, when you don’t have the guts to step out on faith and chase a lion.” You don’t even give Jesus the chance to show up and get the glory when you don’t have guts like that.
II. Use your skills for Jesus’ glory
Barak was probably a great military commander. He understood enough about battle that what we read about next in the book of Judges is nothing short of insane and he knows it.
4 Deborah, the wife of Lappidoth, was a prophet who was judging Israel at that time. 5 She would sit under the Palm of Deborah, between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites would go to her for judgment. 6 One day she sent for Barak son of Abinoam, who lived in Kedesh in the land of Naphtali. She said to him, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: Call out 10,000 warriors from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun at Mount Tabor. 7 And I will call out Sisera, commander of Jabin’s army, along with his chariots and warriors, to the Kishon River. There I will give you victory over him.”
The word ‘Lappidoth’ that we’re reading is a word that means fiery or torches. Maybe it means that Deborah’s husband had this fiery personality. Maybe it means that Deborah herself had a fiery personality. Maybe they shared this fiery personality.
There are a couple of things that are quite unique about what you just read in the Bible. One is Deborah, not about her gender, that alone is pretty amazing. In fact, you almost never hear women mentioned in ancient eastern literature. The great Bible and Hebrew scholar Trevor Butler says, “The writer does everything the Hebrew language allows to emphasize that this is a woman, not a man.” That alone is staggering. If you read carefully the rest of the book of Judges, you will notice that Deborah is the only judge in this book that doesn’t have some massive character flaw. The writer is trying to show us that it is this woman’s character and not her gender that makes her pretty unique in ancient Israel.
What she said was nothing short of insane to Barak. What God was calling Barak to do was staggering! Barak was to take 10,000 warriors, who were poorly equipped and poorly trained, and go march out to battle on this little valley floor against a numerically superior force that had better weapons than they did. Not only did they have better weapons but they had tanks that were armor clad. There’s nothing in their arsenal that could touch that weapon. It’s the equivalent of having the atomic bomb. Israel would march out with pitchforks and with bronze swords to go fight them. You can imagine the kind of courage that God was asking Barak to display through Deborah. Barak says, “This is crazy Deborah! You’re crazy! God is crazy for asking this of me.”
I think we have some work to do here about Deborah herself. Why are we reading in the book of Judges that Deborah is a prophetess? It’s not usual in the Bible. Miriam is listed as a prophetess in Exodus 15:21. Huldah is listed as a prophetess in Second Kings 22. Isaiah’s wife is listed as a prophetess in Isaiah 8. You also have an example of a prophetess in the New Testament. Anna in Luke 2 is recorded for us as a prophetess. That alone is quite unusual but here’s what’s really, really unusual about this passage. Deborah’s not just the prophetess she’s a leader in Israel. A Judge was the leader in Israel. Perhaps the only other example of a woman leading God’s people in the Old Testament is Miriam, who was both song leader in Israel but she was also co- leader in Israel. In Micah 6:4 God tells his people he was sending them three leaders, Moses, Aaron and Miriam, as a gift to lead his people. Deborah functions in the Old Testament a lot like Phoebe functions in Romans 16 this deaconess in the church. She functions a lot like Priscilla, who with her husband Aquila, the great apostle Paul says are co-laborers with him in Christ. She functions a lot like the people that God would choose to be the first witnesses to the greatest event in human history, the witnesses to the resurrection of his Son, which were exclusively women. The women went to tell the men about Jesus’ resurrection.
Although this is highly unusual, it says a lot about God and it also says a lot about God’s role for women. So ladies listen to me very carefully. God has placed you right where you are in a very specific circumstances. He wants you to use the skills that he’s given you to bring King Jesus glory. He wants you make an impact right now right where you are for his Son in your neighborhood, in your home, at work, and in this church. Use the gifts and the talent that God is giving you to make an impact for King Jesus.
III. Be courageous in your faith
Typically, in our society today, men demonstrate courage through physical strength. They do physical things that show courage. Women typically show courage of the heart. By that I mean they love deeper and they’re willing to endure more heartache because of who they love. This is demonstrated graphically for us in the Bible when Jesus goes to the cross and all of the men that were his followers ran away scared with the exception of John. The women stayed right by his side and ministered to him until the moment of his death. Look at what happens next in the story. Deborah becomes very much like an Israelite version of Joan of Arc.
8 Barak told her, “I will go, but only if you go with me.” 9 “Very well,” she replied, “I will go with you. But you will receive no honor in this venture, for the Lord’s victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 At Kedesh, Barak called together the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali, and 10,000 warriors went up with him. Deborah also went with him.
Most scholars believe either Deborah was right by Barak’s side in his camp serving as a military advisor or some believe that she was actually on the frontlines fighting the battle along with these warriors of Israel. When she went up with them she basically said, “Okay Barak, I’m going to do this but this is not the way God wants it to go down.” By the way, Barak could’ve been and probably should’ve been a future judge in Israel if he had been faithful to God. However, Barak instead of trusting God reached out to the closest person around and starts the trust in a person, Deborah, instead of God. When you’re really, really struggling with circumstances it’s natural to reach out to somebody close to you but God always want you to go to him first. He always wants you to go to him foremost. It’s okay to reach out to people around you when you’re struggling but not to go to them before you go to God, not to trust in them more then you trust in God which is what you’re reading here in the book of Judges.
I want you to hear me very clearly. Ladies, you are not second-class citizens with God. Ladies, you are not second-class citizens in the Bible. Ladies, you are not second-class citizens in Jesus’ church. I want to be honest about how things are working here at Calvary. Often what churches will tend to do is they’ll gravitate towards the easy wrong answer when asked the question of what should women be doing in the church instead of the harder right answer. There are some examples of great women in Scripture who took incredible roles of leadership in the church. Essentially what women can and can’t do can be boiled down to one phrase, Scripture prohibits women from occupying the office of pastor/elder, from teaching men with pastoral authority. Our denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, put it this way in the Baptist Faith and Message, the document that all Southern Baptist churches typically agree on. To quote, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” So the question is not what can women do in the church it’s what can’t women do. I’ll be very simple with this answer – exercise pastoral authority over men. How that plays out in the church is really complex and really hard to answer. I can’t say it enough around here. Ladies, you are not second-class citizens – not here, not in the Bible, and not with King Jesus.
IV. Look for the opportunities that God brings
Those opportunities may be terrifying right now but they also may be the way that God shows up and God gets the credit for what happens next.
11 Now Heber the Kenite, a descendant of Moses’ brother-in-law Hobab, had moved away from the other members of his tribe and pitched his tent by the oak of Zaanannim near Kedesh. 12 When Sisera was told that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, 13 he called for all 900 of his iron chariots and all of his warriors, and they marched from Harosheth-haggoyim to the Kishon River. 14 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Get ready! This is the day the Lord will give you victory over Sisera, for the Lord is marching ahead of you.” So Barak led his 10,000 warriors down the slopes of Mount Tabor into battle. 15 When Barak attacked, the Lord threw Sisera and all his chariots and warriors into a panic. Sisera leaped down from his chariot and escaped on foot. 16 Then Barak chased the chariots and the enemy army all the way to Harosheth-haggoyim, killing all of Sisera’s warriors. Not a single one was left alive.
Sisera was running scared for his life. His entire army, every single one of them, was annihilated on this valley floor. I want you to see this picture. It was taken recently from Mount Tabor. You have to imagine what this looked like with just trees and grass and no buildings there. Deborah was on this mountainside where you’re looking out from. She looked at this valley floor and she called Barak. Barak assembled his army at this mountainside and basically said, “Down on the valley floor you see 40,000 enemy soldiers. “We’re outnumbered four to one. They have iron weapons. We’re outclassed. They have tanks.” Any tank commander will tell you on the battlefield nothing stops a tank except for another tank or perhaps aircraft. Israel didn’t have any of that. As long as tanks can continue to maneuver on the battlefield, nothing beats a tank unless the tank can’t move anymore. Then the tank becomes a sitting duck. Barak and Deborah are on the side of this mountain with 10,000 warriors and down in that valley is a massive military force with better weapons. Deborah tells Barak to go down there and defeat them because God is down in that valley with you.
The next chapter in the book of Judges is the song of how the battle unfolded. God caused it to rain when his people got down in the Valley. The land got soft and the Kishon River flooded its banks. Pretty soon they couldn’t move those tanks anymore. The men got scared and they started to run. This little ragtag army of 10,000 Israelite warriors defeated this incredibly powerful military force because God showed up and God received the victory. When you risk it all on King Jesus, he shows up in ways that only he gets the credit for. Deborah doesn’t get the credit for this battle. Barak doesn’t get the credit for this battle. God showed up and fought on his people’s behalf. God gets the glory for it. Yes, it’s terrifying but it’s also thrilling when you’re placed in a circumstance that you have to exercise insane faith. When God shows up only God gets the credit for how it turns out.
V. Use your situation to bring Jesus glory
Here’s where the story gets good. Remember Deborah tells Barak he won’t get the credit for the victory a woman will. She wasn’t referring to herself. She was referring to another woman.
17 Meanwhile, Sisera ran to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because Heber’s family was on friendly terms with King Jabin of Hazor. 18 Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come into my tent, sir. Come in. Don’t be afraid.” So he went into her tent, and she covered him with a blanket. 19 “Please give me some water,” he said. “I’m thirsty.” So she gave him some milk from a leather bag and covered him again. 20 “Stand at the door of the tent,” he told her. “If anybody comes and asks you if there is anyone here, say no.” 21 But when Sisera fell asleep from exhaustion, Jael quietly crept up to him with a hammer and tent peg in her hand. Then she drove the tent peg through his temple and into the ground, and so he died. 22 When Barak came looking for Sisera, Jael went out to meet him. She said, “Come, and I will show you the man you are looking for.” So he followed her into the tent and found Sisera lying there dead, with the tent peg through his temple. 23 So on that day Israel saw God defeat Jabin, the Canaanite king. 24 And from that time on Israel became stronger and stronger against King Jabin until they finally destroyed him.
In Judges 5:3 the people sing the song of Deborah instead of singing the song of Barak because Barak was trusting in Deborah not trusting in God. It’s not actually Deborah, Barak or even Jael that gets credit for this military victory. God does because God shows up and does something that only God can do. God gets the glory for it. This is what insane faith looks like. This is what Jesus calls us to from time to time. He wants us to act in such a way that if he doesn’t show up it’s going to be an incredible disaster but if he does he gets all of the glory and everybody else stands back in total amazement at how it turned out.
I want to introduce you to a lady by the name of Lottie Moon. Her real name is not Lottie; it is actually Charlotte. From the time that she was a child growing up in Virginia in 1840 everybody just called her Lottie. She came from one of the wealthiest families in the south. This woman had it made. She had everything that she wanted. As a young lady she fell in love with Jesus. She had a man that was pursuing and courting her for marriage. He was perhaps one of the most eligible bachelors in the south at the time. He was studying to become a pastor. They had a deep relationship with one another. However, she broke it off before the marriage because she felt his faith was not strong enough for her to marry him. As a 32-year-old young single woman, she left everything that she knew and she went to the country of China. She started to minister to these two little towns in China, the towns of Tengchow and P’ingtu. The people hated her. They rejected her. She used a woman’s touch and started to bake cookies. She would open the windows to her house and the people would smell the sweet cookies. They started to come to the window and she would hand them cookies. Eventually she invited them into her house. When they came in her house, she started to talk to them about her Savior Jesus. She adopted the Chinese language and started wearing Chinese dress. She took on the Chinese culture and she spent the rest of her life ministering to the Chinese people for 39 years. She died at the age of 72 years old after decades of ministry to these two little villages in China. Millions of people have been been influenced by this woman hundreds of years ago and continue to be influenced by this lady today and her insane faith.
Are you going through health problems? Are you having financial difficulties? Are you struggling in your marriage, at work, or at school? Jesus is bigger than those circumstances. If your bold enough to chase lions, he’s big enough to show up in ways that only he gets the credit for.
- I want to start a walk with Jesus today. Today, I commit my life to Jesus for the first time.
- I want to be a woman who makes a difference in my family, my church and my city.
- I have been playing it safe. As God leads me, I will be bold in my faith in Jesus.
- Why was Israel being ruled by King Jabin? (If they are God’s special people, why would he allow them to be defeated?)
- Who is/ was the most influential woman in your life? Why?
- Why do you think that God called Deborah to be a prophetess and Judge?
- What does this say about the role of women among God’s people?
- Who was the real champion in this chapter? Why?
- Pray for the women in your life, that they would be bold for King Jesus.