Sunday, June 24, 2012

[Matt's Messages] "Run to the Battle: Shamgar, Deborah, Barak, and Jael"

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“Run to the Battle: Shamgar, Deborah, Barak, and Jael”
Downward Spiral: The Message of Judges
June 24, 2012 :: Judges 3:31-5:31

That’s where we left off before Family Bible Week. And now, we’re starting back up right there.

I’ve got a very looong title for you for today’s message:

“Run to the Battle: Shamgar, Deborah, Barak, and Jael.”

I tried to think of something shorter, but this was the best I could do.

These are the “good guys” (and gals!) in the stories we are about to read in Judges 3:31 through 5:31.

And one common denominator that runs through these stories is the theme of battles and whether or not someone runs towards them or away from them.

We’ll see what I mean by that as we go through it.

The exhortation for today is when God calls you: “Run to the Battle.”

Judges 3:31 is the one sentence story of the judge named Shamgar.

If there was somebody who didn’t run from a battle, it was Shamgar.

Let’s read his one sentence story.

“After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.”

There is a lot in that one sentence.

Obviously, Ehud died. We learned about Ehud the left-handed judge two weeks ago. The land had 80 years of peace under Ehud.

But then Ehud died. And, obviously, Israel was oppressed again.

The “cycle of the judges.”

Now, this doesn’t say that they cried out, but it says that the Philistines needed struck down. And God sent Shamgar son of Anath.

Most scholars believe that Shamgar was not a native Israelite. His name is not Hebrewish.

But v.31 says that “He too saved Israel.”

How did he do it?

He took a common farm tool and went to battle.

An oxgoad was a long stick, kind of like a paddle on one side with a sharp point on the other used to poke the oxen to get them where you wanted them to go.

Shamgar used it like a weapon and killed 600 men with it.

I think we’re supposed to assume that it this was at one time. In one battle.

Can you imagine that action movie of that battle?

For that one day at least, Shamgar was the superhero of Israel.  The savior of Israel.

Point #1 of just three this morning.

#1. REMEMBER THAT GOD IS DOING MORE THAN WE CAN SEE.

Why do I say that?

Because most of us have no idea who Shamgar was.

In fact, even if we have this verse memorized, we still have very little idea of who Shamgar was!

He was probably a legend in his own time. The little Jewish kids ran around with “I Want To Be Like Shamgar!” on their t-shirts.

He killed 600 men with a pitchfork!

Chuck Norris, eat your heart out!

But we don’t know that much about him.

We’ll see his name one more time in the whole Bible today in chapter 5, and we learn that his “judgeship” must have overlapped with Deborah’s and Barak’s.

Shamgar was probably mostly in the South and Deborah and Barak were mostly in the North.

Shamgar is mostly a “nobody” to us.

But he was a “somebody” to God.

And God used him to save Israel.

I take great comfort from that because I am a virtual “nobody” and yet I know that God can use me.

I expect to disappear from human history in at least 3 generations.

Nobody on Earth will remember me in 120 years if the Lord tarries.

I’ll just be a name in somebody’s genealogy.

Matt “Shamgar” Mitchell.

But to God I am a “somebody” that He loves and can use.

Does that help you?

Remember that God is “up to” more than we can see.

Right now around the world God is writing little one-sentence Shamgar stories through people’s lives.

We don’t see them. We don’t hear those stories.

CNN, FoxNews, and CBS don’t pick up on those stories.

But God is doing more than we can see.

And in His power, mighty things are being accomplished.

Amen?

What’s our job?

#2. RUN TO THE BATTLE.

And that brings us to chapters 4 and 5 and the story of Deborah.

Chapter 4, verse 1.

“After Ehud died, the Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the LORD. 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. Because he had nine hundred iron chariots and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the LORD for help.”

Let’s stop there for a second.

Notice, again, that it says that Ehud died. This is during the same period as Shamgar.

The Israelites once again did evil in the LORD’s eyes. In other words, they fell into idolatry.

And God cares! He is jealous for their affections and won’t let them get away with it.

They are HIS people!

So, they were “sold” into the hands of Jabin, a Canaanite king. This is the cycle of the Judges.

And Jabin has a top generalissimo named Sisera who has a fleet of tanks, mobile killing machines called iron chariots. 900 of them!

And for 20 years, they run roughshod over Israel.

And, (cycle of the Judges) Israel cired to the Lord for help.

And God sent, this time, a team of judges.

And the first one mentioned is a classy lady named Deborah.

Deborah is the classiest lady in the book of Judges and, probably, the classiest character, under the LORD, in the whole book of Judges. V.4

“Deborah, a prophetess [that’s important], the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. 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.”

When I was finishing up seminary and looking to find a church to pastor, I was contacted an EFCA church in Pennsylvania that was looking for a pastor.

And one of the leaders of this church, the contact person for the search committee sent me an email saying, “Who was the wife of Lappidoth? And if you have to look it up, then you maybe you aren’t as smart as you think you are. Maybe you’ve still got a thing or two to learn, preacher boy!”

I didn’t end up going to that church!

I’m glad this church didn’t have a Bible trivia test to take to get this job!

But I’ve always been ready ever since.

“Who was the wife of Lappidoth?” This extraordinary prophet-lady, Deborah.

She was the only female judge. And people came to her for a word from God and for wisdom that only God can provide.

V.5 says that they came to have their disputes decided. That is they came for a decision, for a judgment.

And Deborah sent for Barak. V.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. 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.'’”

Now, what should verse 8 say?

What should it say?

Deborah is leading Israel. Deborah is wise. Deborah is (v.4) “a prophetess” speaking for the LORD.

What should Barak say?

“We’re on our way, ma’am!”

Run to the Battle!

God says, “Go?”  “We’re on our way.”

V.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.’”

Barak hesitates.

He is no Othniel. He is not even an Ehud.  The quality of the judges keeps going down from here on out.

Deborah is stellar.  But Barak hesitates.

He wants assurance. He wants Deborah, a lady(!) to go with him to assure him that things will go well in battle.

“‘If you go with me, I will go; but if you don't go with me, I won't go.’” v.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.’ [Assumedly Deborah herself, though she is not going to fight. She is not a warrior princess. She is a prophetess.] So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh, where he summoned Zebulun and Naphtali. Ten thousand men followed him, and Deborah also went with him.”

And they ran to the battle.

Side note. V.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.”

That sounds like a “what?” But hold onto this one verse story. It’s is foreshadowing.

Heber the Kenite. Remember the Kenites? Caleb was a Kenite. Acsah was a Kenite. Othniel was a Kenite. They are attached to the tribe of Judah though they are actually non-Israelites by lineage.

Heber has left the Kenites and is living (at peace!) with the bad guys up north near where all of this big battle is going to happen.  Don’t forget about Heber. V.12

“When they told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor [there are spies about], Sisera gathered together his nine hundred iron chariots and all the men with him, from Harosheth Haggoyim to the Kishon River.” 

Time for war.

“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.” 

Run to the Battle!

Now, 10,000 men sounds like a lot, but if Sisera’s got 900 chariots, he has a lot more men.

What will happen?  V.15. Key verse of this chapter.

“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.”

Now, we aren’t told here how this happened. Just that it did.

Chapter 5 will tell us poetically that there was some nature involved! Creational warfare.

But verse 15 gives us the most important data.

“The LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and army....”

We run to the battle, but the battle is the Lord’s.

Poor Sisera. 900 chariots, and he has take off on foot to try to get away.  V.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.”

Except the “mighty Sisera” himself.

Barak will not get the honor of striking him down.

Because he hesitated, tat honor will go to a woman. V.17

“Sisera, however, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of [dun ta dah!] Heber the Kenite, because there were friendly relations [peace] between Jabin king of Hazor and the clan of Heber the Kenite. [Sisera thinks he should be safe here.] 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. ‘I'm thirsty,’ he said. ‘Please give me some water.’ She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up. ‘Stand in the doorway of the tent,’ he told her. ‘If someone comes by and asks you, 'Is anyone here?' say 'No.'’

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.

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.

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

Just like God said.

Now, Judges chapter 5 tells the same story over again but, this time, in a poetic song format.

Judges 5 gives us a very different perspective. Not conflicting but complementary, but very different. And it also gives us more details.

Chapter 5, the Song of Deborah.

“On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song: [Should I sing it? Don’t worry, I won’t!” ‘When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves–praise the LORD!”

What is she saying?  “When the leaders of Israel run to the battle, praise the Lord.

When they volunteer to fight for the LORD, praise the Lord! V.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. 

‘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.  The mountains quaked before the LORD, the One of Sinai, before the LORD, the God of Israel.”

Deborah and Barak’s song starts way back at Mount Sinai as God majestically marches with His people up from Sinai, up through Edom, up to the Promised Land.

That’s a flyover of the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy and Joshua.

And then it lands here in Judges. V.6

“‘In the days of Shamgar son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the roads were abandoned; travelers took to winding paths. Village life in Israel ceased, ceased until I, Deborah, arose, arose a mother in Israel. When they chose new gods, war came to the city gates, and not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel.”

Life had become very difficult.

You couldn’t take the highway because the Canaanites rules the land. Yo uhad to take the back roads.

And why?  Because Israel had chosen new gods and it brought, not peace and prosperity but war.

And they had disarmed us. No shields or spears for the troops.

“What will happen?” Deborah sings!

“My heart is with Israel's princes, with the willing volunteers among the people. Praise the LORD! ‘You who ride on white donkeys [rich, leader types], sitting on your saddle blankets, and you who walk along the road, consider 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.

'Wake up, wake up, Deborah! Wake up, wake up, break out in song! Arise, O Barak! Take captive your captives, O son of Abinoam.'”

Run to the battle!  Run to the battle, you “willing volunteers.” v.13

“‘Then the men who were left came down to the nobles; the people of the LORD came to me with the mighty [Deborah sings. Who came?].”

“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. 

[Do you see what she’s doing?  All of Israel had been called. Who answered the call?]

“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. [Should we? Or shouldn’t we?] 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.

Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan. And Dan, why did he linger by the ships? Asher remained on the coast and stayed in his coves.

The people of Zebulun risked their very lives; so did Naphtali on the heights of the field.

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

Because God ran to the battle.

From the heavens the stars fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera. 

The river Kishon swept them away, the age-old river, the river Kishon. March on, my soul; be strong!

Then thundered the horses' hoofs–galloping, galloping go his mighty steeds.

'Curse Meroz,' said the angel of the LORD. [A city in the North that should have come to aid of Barak] 'Curse its people bitterly, because they did not come to help the LORD, to help the LORD against the mighty.'”

Curse Meroz but bless Jael. She ran to the battle. V.24

“‘Most blessed of women be Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, most blessed of tent-dwelling women. He asked for water, and she gave him milk; in a bowl fit for nobles she brought him curdled milk. Her hand reached for the tent peg, her right hand for the workman's hammer. [Can you see it?] She struck Sisera, she crushed his head, she shattered and pierced his temple.

At her feet he sank, he fell; there he lay. At her feet he sank, he fell; where he sank, there he fell–dead.”

There is one more verse to this song.

A song of triumph and victory over cruel, Satan-powered enemies. V.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?'

The wisest of her ladies answer her; indeed, she keeps saying to herself,

'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?'”

No! That’s not what’s going on. Sisera and his men are not raping Israel once again!

Sisera has been defeated by a woman with bowl of milk and a tent peg. V.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.”

Do you see the pattern?

If you run to the battle, you will be blessed.

But those who did not run to this battle were not blessed.

They were called out and chastened by the Deborah.

And some of them even cursed by the LORD.

There is shame in verse 15-17 on Reuben and Gilead, and Dan, And Asher.

And v.23 on Meroz. Because they didn’t run to the battle.

God called them to do something, and they didn’t show up.

They didn’t volunteer. They weren’t willing. They wimped out.

They “thought” about it!

V.16 says that in the district of Reuben there was much searching of heart.

But they couldn’t be counted on when it counted.

Are you running to the battle?

We don’t have to discuss Jael methods much because we know that our battles today are not with flesh and blood like Jael’s was.

But God definitely pronounced her “blessed” because she lifted her hand against God’s enemies.

Where the men of Reubun and Meroz couldn’t be bothered to leave the nice whistling  songs by their campfire, Jael took up a tent peg in the service of the LORD.

“Most blessed of women be Jael.”

When you run to the battle, you are blessed.

The battle against sin.
The battle to share the gospel with the world.

We have some a Shamgar and Jael here with us today.

These two ran to the battle for the last 8 years.  They went to the frontlines and we celebrate them. Thank you for serving the LORD.

But you don’t have to go there to be on the frontlines either.

So many of you ran to the battle at Family Bible Week.

You could be counted on.

Thank you for serving the LORD.

We need willing volunteers for the Good News Cruise.

Will you show up for the battle?

How about a work this week?  That’s the frontlines, too.

Not just to make a buck, but to witness for the Lord in word and deed.

It’s scary. I know. I’m scared, too.

It’s easy to get up here and preach at you, but it’s a lot harder to talk about Jesus “out there.”

But that’s where the blessing comes.

It comes when we run to the battle.

But what about Barak?

He hesitated. Was that good?

No. He forfeited blessing that could be his.

And so do you and I.

We don’t realize what blessing could be ours just because we trusted God and ran headlong into the battle.

But Barak was blessed, too.

Because he had faith.

He did go!  He hesitated and then he ran forward.

If you have hesitated to run into the battle, don’t fear that all is lost.

Just do it now.

Go. Get into the game.

Get out of the bleachers and into the playing field.

I don’t know what that means for you specifically, but I’ll bet you do.

Run to the battle.

The author of Hebrews says in chapter 11 that he doesn’t have time to tell about the faith of guys like Barak who “through faith” conquered kingdoms and became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies (vv.32-34).

Barak believed! And he was blessed.

Run to the battle.

Because, we run to the battle, but the battle is the Lord’s.

Number Three and Last:

#3. REJOICE IN THE LORD’S VICTORY OVER HIS ENEMIES.

That’s the point of chapter 5, the song of Deborah.

The battle was won by GOD!

He stirred up the river Kishon and swept away the 900 chariots.

He arranged the battleground.

He brought His own weapons against His enemy, Sisera.

The stars fought!  The river fought!

God sovereignly arranged where Heber would live.

And though Heber made a treaty with Jabin, his wife sure didn’t!

Sisera “just happened” to run by Jael’s tent!

V.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.’”

Rejoice in the Salvation of the Lord.

Rejoice in the Lord’s Victory of His Enemies.

Sing! God did it. God saved His people.

V.3 “Hear this, you kinds! Listen, you rulers, I will sing to the LORD, I will sing; I will make music to the LORD, the God of Israel.”

If these guys should rehearse the salvation they received and rejoice in the victory of the LORD over these bag guys, then how much more should we rehearse the details of our salvation and rejoice in the LORD’s amazing victory over Satan and our sin at the Cross?!

Christians should write the best songs.

Because we have the best thing to sing about.

The victory of the Lord over all of His enemies: past, present, and still to come.

Rejoice!

God did it!

It looked like Jabin would win.
It looked like Sisera would win.
It looked like Satan would win.

Jesus died on the Cross.

Died!

The serpent struck his heel.

But the seed of the woman crushed the serpent’s head.

So may all of your enemies perish, O LORD! But may those who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength.

Run to the Battle and then Rejoice in the Lord’s victory!


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