All the women in this series are courageous. However, these two ladies showed their courage under the burden of war and great oppression.
As I have mentioned previously, to me the Book of Judges is actually a book of Fatherhood, or should I say lack of it. 1 Corinthians 4:15a, states, For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers:
It might seem a great distance between the Book of Judges and the Corinthian Church which Paul was addressing with this verse, but regarding the subject matter, I think you will find it is not so. Spiritual maturity is the same in any era. Over that approximate 300 years of the Book of Judges, the 'children' of Israel continually returned to the sin of idolatry.
As soon as the previous judge Ehud died, after having brought them 80 years of peace, they again did evil in the sight of the Lord, particularly by worshipping Baal the sun god and Ashtoreth (Mary). This time God sold them into the hands of Jabin, king of Canaan, who "mightily oppressed" them for the next twenty years.
Walking with God in the New Testament is the same as in the Old Testament. We use the law as a help to get us to understand how to rule our own lives righteously from within (self-rule). Self-rule is preferred by God far more than external rules and regulations, as he sees we are maturing as believers. If we develop this self-rule method we become the ruler of our own lives, with His laws now inside us.
The main problem with the children of Israel was that most of them didn't progress spiritually, so they always needed external laws and someone to administer them (Judges, prophets and kings).
Due to this issue, plus Satan ever-trying to destroy God's special tribe, no nation on earth is more accustomed to war than Israel. It is a reminder that any one of us seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness can also expect war on the inward parts.
Not everyone in Israel was wicked in these instances. As with any oppressive era, there are also godly people praying hard and trying to live a righteous life. Deborah was one of those as was Barak her Warlord, and Jael the woman so adept with a hammer and nail.
In the times of Deborah, communities were not safe. Judges 5:6-7 says people were too scared to use the main highways for fear of robbery or murder, or even come out of their houses for too long. That is until Deborah arose. Deborah had a strong sense of God's justice and dispensed it from under her palm tree Court. She must have been like a soft cooling rain encouraging parched souls. Her judgments would have stopped some of the thievery and oppression that was taking place between Israelites. We lament in our day when we don't find similar righteous leaders in our parliaments or courts.
God's people were enslaved and abused by Jabin and his ruthless warmongering warlord, Sisera. Jabin had much power and something needed to be done. Another war needed to be fought, but not without God.
To put Jabin's might into perspective, he had 900 chariots all made of iron. This may not sound like a lot, but to Israel's foot soldiers it was. Those chariots brought punishing compliance. Also, in their peacetime, the Israelites had completely neglected their army and armaments and were therefore easy to take over and control.
Judges 4: 1-7 sets the scene, which tells us about Judge Deborah and the battle God told her to initiate to throw off Jabin's satanically brutal regime. Would you be afraid? Would you fear even mentioning war without throwing out a 'Gideon's fleece' of confirmation?
This tells us a lot about Deborah's relationship with God, and it's something for us all to note. In spite of the wickedness around her, she remained attuned to God. When we read about the next Judge, Gideon, we see he needed several confirmations before going into battle. Deborah needed one prophetic word, and that was enough.
Thank God for people who not only maintain their relationship with God through all circumstances but keep the trust, faith and readiness to act.
Despite the Lord being with her, Deborah acted strategically like Joshua at Jericho in creating a battle strategy. Deborah told her warlord Barak to take ten thousand warriors of Naphtali and Zebulun and go to Mt Tabor, which happened to be on the borderline of those regions. Mt Tabor overlooks the famous Jezreel Valley, where so many battles have been waged. You might know it by its Greek name, Armageddon.
Barak said he would only go to war if Deborah came with him. It was not unusual for priests to attend the warzone, but Deborah was a judge not a priest. Nevertheless, Deborah agreed but ensured Barak understood that the battle success would go to a woman, not a man.
The strategy was to lure Sisera to battle through a rumour. They had Heber the Kenite, a descendant of Moses' father-in-law, show Sisera that Barak had gone up to Mt Tabor. There was peace between Jabin and Heber, though Jabin didn't realise there was also Moses' wife's bloodline running through Heber's veins. So Sisera took all his 900 chariots and many men to the River Kishon, which flowed through the Jezreel Valley. He thought another easy battle was in store.
Barak sprang his surprise attack. He came down to the field and 'discomforted' the enemy. He chased Sisera's troops and what was left of their chariots all the way back to Sisera's home town, eventually killing every single one of them.
Sisera, on the other hand, when he saw he was losing, ran from his troops and hid in Heber's Kenite tent. Jael, Heber's wife, now had a predicament similar to what Rebekah had with Isaac's deception. It's now or never.
Sisera, under the impression that Jael was friendly, was given milk and a blanket and told that everything will be ok. Just like we do with children. Though, when he was at rest, sleeping peacefully on his side, Jael selected a suitable nail and drove it through his temple with an equally suitable hammer. No longer would this bloodthirsty swine think evil. Israel was at peace again.
Spiritually, we see how battles rage for rule over our hearts. If we want God to rule, we need to keep righteousness and a strong commitment to holiness the goal, otherwise we go through a similar type of anguish and warfare as Israel.
The two chapters given to this story do not do justice to the faith required by these two women in their duties. Again, we have to read between the lines.
Try to imagine being a stand-alone righteous female judge in times like that; the only female judge on an all-male circuit. Think of the depth of trust Deborah needed to have in her God just to attend the battle. It would have taken the same sort of faith Daniel had when he went to the lion's den.
As the battle raged, she would have been praying and praising God for the victory, and I imagine she would have had a team of prayer warriors with her.
Jael had to overcome the fear of Sisera awakening and killing her and her husband and family. One grab of her ankle and she would not have survived. Her faith and trust in victory were as strong as Deborah's. Her resolve formidable, and of course, her tip-toeing was the quietest it had ever been.
Our sins are nailed to the cross of Christ. Sisera's to the floor of Heber's tent. Jael's determination to end the fighting 'right here and now' was identical to Barak chasing the troops to their death in this seamless joint effort. "No More!"I can hear them saying.
It would have been a great encouragement to Deborah, knowing she had a Jael in the background. I feel Jael would have known Deborah, as she lived in the region.
Judges 5:24 says of Jael, Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent.
Faith and courage are so indelibly sown together they become one. The overcoming of all fear of death by the faith of Deborah and Jael is an inspiration for us all.