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Few events in the history of Israel, are more interesting than what this Chapter contains, of the defeat of Sisera ' s army by Barak, under the animated zeal of Deborah. Here are the several particulars related which gave birth to that war; with the event of it, in the conquest over the enemies of Israel, by a wonderful interposition of the Lord for his people.
The chapter begins with a melancholy account of God's people. They did again evil. Alas! God's people are by nature children of wrath, even as others. My people, saith God, are bent to backsliding. Hosea 11:7 . Is it so, my soul, that there is in thy very nature a tendency to evil? Oh! precious, precious Jesus, what but for thee and thy perfect, all-satisfying, soul justifying righteousness, would be the hope of all thy people?
I beg the Reader not to overlook the expression, "the Lord sold them." Yes! every event, as well afflictive as prosperous, is of the Lord's appointment. Painful as the Lord's corrections sometimes are, yet, when his hand is traced in them, and the heart is enabled to say, I know, Lord, that thy judgments are right, this brings the soul up to its proper frame. Psalms 119:75 .
Observe how grace works. The cry of the soul, and that cry, directed unto the Lord; these are sure marks of grace. If the Reader would see the contrast of this, it will not be far to find. Carnal men will cry out, in their affliction, and by reason of the multitude of oppressions, complain. But their cry is not to God for deliverance; none of them saith, where is God my Maker? Job 35:9-10 .
The Holy Ghost hath thought proper to render this woman's name illustrious in the Church. Some have thought that, as Lapidoth is not a very common name for a man, and rather means light, and illumination, the expression is symbolical, for the extraordinary degree of grace imparted to Deborah, and particularly on this occasion, of delivering Israel. Be this as it may, certain it is, that she was highly esteemed; for the people came to her for judgment.
Under the impression of the Holy Spirit of the Lord, Deborah evidently sent this message to Barak. And it should seem that in it, by the manner of her expression, in which she asketh, as it were, the question of Barak, both Barak and the children of Israel understood it to be of the Lord. Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded? Reader! do observe, I pray you, the antiquity of that most precious doctrine, of the divine drawings. Yes! blessed God! it is thy drawings which alone inclines the heart to Jesus, and by which the souls of thy people are kept near thyself. Song of Solomon 1:4 ; John 6:44 .
I do not think that Barak, by this answer, manifested fear; but rather, it arose from the confidence he had, that by her accompanying him, the people would be the more convinced that the thing was of the Lord.
Though the Lord's army were, by the express orders of Deborah, to be gathered from those two tribes, yet from some expressions we meet with after in Deborah's song, it should seem t hat there were others, who were, perhaps, volunteers in this sacred service. See Judges 5:15 .
The account of this Kenite is very properly introduced here, in order to explain what afterwards follows in the history, Judges 4:17 .
Deborah had promised Barak that the Lord would incline Sisera to the battle. And hence the sign of victory is instantly held out.
Oh! what lively faith did this animated woman possess! Observe the expression, Is not the Lord gone out before thee? Reader! what may we not insure to ourselves of success, in all the battles of our enemies, when we can see Jesus going before us, and leading on to victory? This is the apostle's direction, under the Holy Ghost, looking unto Jesus. Hebrews 12:2 .
Such, Reader, will be, and such even now is, the sure event of the wars of God's people, who fight under the banner of Jesus. There shall not a man be able to stand before thee all thy days. So run the words of the royal charter to our Joshua Jesus, and his people in him. Joshua 1:5 .
The peace here spoken of only implies that Jabin did not tyrannize over Heber's house, as over Israel's. The relationship on account of Moses, between Heber and Israel, could not have made Jabin ' s cruelties to Israel very pleasing.
Perhaps Jael was on the lookout, to show mercy to any poor Israelite which might have fled, from the battle. And if so, what must have been her surprise when she found Sisera at her door? Her hospitality to this sworn foe of Israel was no doubt intended for the better, and more easy accomplishment of the purpose, which probably by this time, when she saw his reduced strength and fatigue, she had conceived in her mind to perform.
That this thing was of the Lord, no one can doubt, who considers that Deborah had before pointed out, under the Spirit of prophecy, that the Lord had sold Sisera into the hand of a woman. See Judges 4:9 . And from the eminent blessings which, under the same authority, Deborah proclaimed in her song of victory, should be bestowed upon her. See Judges 5:24 .
I leave the Reader to his own reflection, to consider what must have been the thoughts of Barak, concerning divine mercies, when he beheld Sisera dead before him, and was enabled to trace the Lord's hand in the whole battle. And I would equally leave the Reader to his own reflections, if he will make a comparative view of this subject, with the circumstances of his own life, if so be the Lord hath brought him acquainted with the spiritual conflicts in the life of grace, and hath at any time found such a glorious and unexpected deliverance as this from them. Oh! how sweet, how very sweet is it, to the true soldier of Jesus's little army, when he speaks of his grace as sufficient for him, and when the Lord's strength is literally made perfect in human weakness. 2 Corinthians 13:9 .
How beautifully the subject ends as it begun. It was not Deborah, nor Barak, nor the ten thousands of Zebulun and Naphthali, which got themselves the victory; but God himself which subdued their enemies, and brought down the king of Canaan under them. Sweetly doth the Holy Ghost teach Israel to sing upon another occasion, which corresponds to this: Psalms 44:1-4 .
READER! I would call upon you while I desire grace to call up at the same time all the finer affections of my own heart, in the perusal of this chapter, to contemplate with fresh satisfaction, the renewed love and attention of the Lord to his people. Again, the Holy Ghost records, Israel did evil. And again, the Lord visits their offences with the rod, and their sins with a scourge. But oh! my soul do not forget, though it be the rod, it is the rod of the covenant. It is the rod of chastisement, the correction of a father, not the scourge of an enemy. For though the Lord raiseth up enemies to correct his children, those enemies are but his instruments, and can act no further than he commissions them. Oh! for grace to remember this, in all the gentle chastisements of his love. Dearest Lord! do thou, wherever needful, hedge up my way with thorns, that I may not find my path, when my way is perverse before thee. Bring me into the wilderness, and plead with me face to face, until that thou hast purged out the rebels, and the lusts of transgression; and until, by the sweet influences of thy Almighty grace, thou hast wrought a change in my soul, that I may say, I will go, and return to my first husband, for then was it better with me than now.
Blessed Lord! teach me, in the view of the humble instruments thou wert pleased to make use of for the deliverance of thy people, never to despise the day of small things, but to learn the full assurance of that precious doctrine, that it is not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord. Oh! for grace to be forever leaning upon thy strength, thou dear Redeemer, and to know, that thy strength is perfected in weakness. Ever, dearest Lord, be thou my strength, my hope, and song of rejoicing. I shall be more than conqueror through thine arm helping me.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Judges 4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34