Judges 4-5: Victory!
April 13, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Judges 4-5, Psalm 83, Mark 5:21-43, 1 Corinthians 9:13-27
The story of Deborah has troubled the conscience of those who believe in a male pastorate or eldership for many years, but it need not do so. First of all, the New Testament describes the role of women in ministry with eminent examples of Phoebe as a deaconess (Romans 16:1-2), as well as Priscilla and Aquila who taught Apollos the Word of God more accurately (Acts 18:2, 24-26). These do not violate the norms of male eldership and preaching in 1 Timothy 2-3.
Second, and more significantly, Deborah ascribes the leadership role to Barak, and it is only when (let us say it graciously) Barak wimps out of taking the initiative (4:8) that Deborah joins him and attests that by his action the honor of the attack would go to a woman. Whether that woman is Jael (who drives the peg through the temple of the enemy) or Deborah is not entirely clear, but it seems from the way in which this story is constructed—and indeed the way it is remembered—that the honor has gone to Deborah.
When Barak appears to be about to hesitate again, Deborah reminds him of the history, the track record, of God’s victories by an Israelite slogan: “Does not the Lord go out before you?” (4:14), a slogan that was intended to remind them that their great historic victories were not my might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of God. Remember, Christian, that our victories are not through our cleverness, erudition, strength of will, or personality, but through the power of God alone.
Deborah’s “song” in chapter 5 rather bizarrely, to our ears, celebrates the bloodshed of the victory. You can almost hear the rhythmic, chanted beat of verse 27. But we are to understand that, as Deborah concludes, these are not really Israel’s enemies, but God’s. “So may all your enemies perish, O LORD!” (5:31). They were acting as agents of divine wrath in a way that the New Testament church today cannot.
As a result of this reformation, “the land had rest for forty years” (5:31). A great victory has long lasting consequences. When the devil of evil comes, stand, and when you have done everything else, stand, for in the power of God’s might, he has given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and overcome all the power of the evil one (Luke 10:19).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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