Revivals: Deborah's Song: Judges 5

Judges 5  •  17 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Judges 5
Jehovah had wrought a wonderful deliverance through the instrumentality of two weak women, and a man lacking in character; the very feebleness of His instruments serving to magnify His grace and power. The victory, as we have said, is the signal for the awakening of the people, and the Spirit of God gives expression to it by the mouth of the prophetess. Deborah and Barak relate and celebrate the blessings recovered through Israel’s deliverance.
(v. 1.) “Then sang Deborah and Barak, the son of Abinoam, on that day, saying:”
The first thing that follows the deliverance is praise; very different, doubtless, in a day of ruin, from what it was at the beginning, when they went forth out of Egypt: “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord” (Ex. 15:11Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. (Exodus 15:1)). The whole nation joined their leader in the song of deliverance; not a voice was silent.
Imagine the harmony of those 600,000 voices, blended in one celebrating, on the sea shore, the victory achieved by the Lord! “I will sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously” (Ex. 15:11Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. (Exodus 15:1)). All the women, with Miriam at their head, joining in these praises, repeated the same words, “Sing ye to the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously” (Ex. 15:2121And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. (Exodus 15:21)). (Ex. 15:20, 2; 120And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. (Exodus 15:20)
2The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him. (Exodus 15:2)
2Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, (Exodus 1:2)
) What a contrast to Judg. 5! “Then sang Deborah and Barak” (vs. 1). One woman and one man-two by themselves-two witnesses of a time of ruin; but the Lord is present, the Spirit of God is there; and if these two are the witnesses of the ruin, they can, nevertheless, rejoice and celebrate the greatness of the work of the Lord. Renewal of praise is the mark of a true revival, and the children of God when restored in soul feel this their first need. Deborah and Barak do not isolate themselves, even though all the people are not with them; they acknowledge the unity of the nation, and their praise is the expression of what all Israel should have rendered.
(v. 2.) “For that the leaders took the lead in Israel, for that the people offered themselves willingly, bless ye the Lord.” (Revised Version.) The motive for praise is what the grace of God has produced in the leaders, and among the people. God recognizes that, and thus encourages His own, so vacillating and weak.
(v. 3.) “Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the Lord; I will sing unto the Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel.”
Praise belongs exclusively- to the saints. “I, even I,” they say. Kings and princes are invited to listen, but they have no part in the song, for the deliverance of Israel is their ruin.
(vs. 4, 5.) “Lord, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water. The mountains melted from before the Lord, even that Sinai from before the Lord God of Israel.”
These words recall the commencement of Moses’ song in Deut. 33, to which Psa. 68:7, 87O God, when thou wentest forth before thy people, when thou didst march through the wilderness; Selah: 8The earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel. (Psalm 68:7‑8) also refers. In these we find another important principle of the revival. Souls are led back to the first blessings, seeking again what God gave at the beginning. Instead of being guided by what passed before their eyes, they ask themselves, “What hath God wrought?” (Num. 23:2323Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought! (Numbers 23:23)). This is our safeguard in a day of ruin. Let us not say, like unfaithful Christians, we should adapt ourselves to the time in which we live. At a time of which the Apostle John said, “It is the last hour” (1 John 2:1818Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. (1 John 2:18)) (1 John 2:1818Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. (1 John 2:18). Revised Version), the saints had as a resource: “That which was from the beginning” (1 John 1:11That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (1 John 1:1)).
(vs. 6, 8.) “In the days of Shamgar, the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied,” etc.
Here we have a new principle. The faithful acknowledge the ruin in Israel. They neither attempt to palliate nor excuse the evil, but judge it according to God. Four things characterize the ruin: 1St, “The highways were unoccupied and the travelers walked through by-ways.” This is the result of the enemy’s yoke. The people could no longer walk safely along the highways, those roads on which all had walked together, for it was there that they met the enemy, and the travelers chose the by-paths, each one according to the choice of his own heart. Is it not this also which characterizes the church of God in our day?
Secondly, “The inhabitants of the villages ceased” (vs. 7). The places where the people were wont to dwell in peace, surrounded by their families, were deserted. This visible unity of the people had disappeared until the day that Deborah was raised up for the partial restoration of Israel. Is the unity of the family of God more apparent at the present day? Alas! although a faithful few may act upon it, it exists no longer in its entirety, except to faith and in the counsels of God.
Thirdly, “They chose new gods; then was war in the gates” (vs. 8). Yes, idolatry had become the religion of the people who had forsaken God, the eternal God. Israel, having offended the Lord, was chastised by war, and by a relentless enemy.
Fourthly, “Was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?” (vs. 8). No longer were there weapons to combat evil. Where now are the weapons? What has been done with the sword of the Spirit? Where is the power of the
Word to resist the false doctrines swarming in the very midst of Christendom, eating as they do like a canker, and trampling in the dust the wondrous name of Christ? “How long,” says the Psalmist, (4:2), “will ye turn my glory into shame?” Even the shield of faith has been cast down to the ground, evil is in the ascendancy, and the people of God powerless to withstand it.
In the confusion which exists, the part of the faithful is to apprehend the magnitude of the evil, and bow their heads in humiliation. It is not enough to realize our heavenly blessings, God would have us, who are His people, fully know how greatly, in the existing state of things, we have dishonored Him, in order that we may separate from it. If we are in the testimony of God, we withdraw from evil. The most terrible characteristic of the last days is not open immorality, although the state of things is deeply corrupt, but more particularly false doctrines. 2 Timothy exhorts us especially in regard to the latter, to depart from iniquity, and to purge ourselves from vessels to dishonor. But this is not enough; the prophetess adds:
(v. 9.) “My heart is toward the governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people.” This is another principle. The soul sees what the Spirit of God has wrought, and associates itself with it. The heart of Deborah is with the faithful in Israel. She takes her place openly with those who offered themselves willingly; and, recognizing what God has wrought amidst the ruin, she says: “Bless ye the Lord!” (vs. 9). happy to see here below this little testimony among the governors. May all our hearts appreciate it, and may we be able to say with her: “Bless ye the Lord” (vs. 9).
(vs. 10, 11.) Then, turning to those who were in the peaceful enjoyment of recovered blessings, the prophetess says: “Meditate, ye that ride on white asses” (margin), an indication of wealth and prosperity; the sons of noble families and of the judges possessed this privilege. (c. f. 10:4; 12:14.) It is like an appeal to those who enjoy, without fighting, the fruit of the victory. “Ye that sit on rich carpets” (Revised Version), those who have the advantage of the rest and quiet with their attendant blessings. “Ye that walk by the way,” (vs. 10) those who enjoy the security that has been gained. Deborah, I say, addresses herself to these, and invites them to “meditate.” They have done nothing in this victory but taste its fruits, for some only had fought, and their voices were heard in the division of the spoil, in the places of drawing water. It must not be forgotten, that however blessed these times were, they were not the restoration of Israel, any more than the revivals of our days are the re-establishment of the church. If the conquerors could rehearse the righteous acts of the Lord towards the unprotected cities of Israel, if the people had arisen to go down to the gates and confront the enemy, it was none the less a time of ruin and of but partial restoration. Ah! how needful it is for the people of God in our days to remember these things!
But there are still greater blessings for us. The spirit of the song becomes more and more filled with fervor, in rapidity of utterance do the words flow forth from the mouth of Deborah.
(v. 12.) “Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song: arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Ahinoam.” The 68th Psalm, that magnificent song, passages of which re-call that of Deborah (c. f. verses 8, 9, 13, 18), celebrates the full millennial restoration of Israel, consequent on the exaltation of the Lord. It is there said that the Lord will dwell in the midst of his people: “The Lord will dwell in it forever” (Psa. 68:1616Why leap ye, ye high hills? this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the Lord will dwell in it for ever. (Psalm 68:16)). ... “The Lord is among them” (Deut. 31:1616And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them. (Deuteronomy 31:16)). Whence can this blessing come? The prophet replies, “Thou hast ascended on high, thou has led captivity captive: thou has received gifts in the man (margin); yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.” Now the words of this Psalm, which celebrates the fullness of future blessings, we hear proceeding from the lips of a weak woman in a day of ruin, when the Lord has marked Israel’s forehead with the sign of lost blessings! “Arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Ahinoam.” What encouragement for us! The highest truths of all are the special portion of faith, in the low state of the Judges, as they are now for us in the perilous times through which we are passing. The song of Moses, overflowing with the joy of a redeemed people, after the passage of the Red Sea, celebrated deliverance by death, to bring the people to the dwelling place of God; and later on, to the sanctuary which His hands had established. Marvelous song, the song of a soul just delivered, as it contemplates the victory of which the cross is the antitype; hymn where the heart, like ointment poured forth, ascends in the praises of deliverance-a deliverance which no hymn can fully express.
It is a woman who, in a day of obscurity and ruin, sounds forth a song which rises above death, the hymn of deliverance by resurrection. Of whom, in “Arise, Barak,” is she speaking here? Is it merely of the son of Abinoam? For our part we do not doubt that Barak is a type, somewhat obscure it may he, of Christ ascended to God’s right hand, having led captivity captive. (Eph. 4:88Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Ephesians 4:8).)
A dark and sorrowful state of things had supervened since the song in Exodus but here the prophetic intelligence of a woman directs us heavenward, in the type of a risen Christ. She awakes; her eyes are opened to contemplate a glorious scene, Barak rising up to lead the vanquished captivity, faint image of that liberty into which a victorious Christ introduces us to enjoy eternally with Himself. If the things spoken of at the beginning of this chapter characterize the awakening of the present time, one at least of them should especially predominate, and that is, the knowledge of a glorified Man ascended to the right hand of God, One whom our eyes and our hearts follow in that heavenly scene, into which He, as victor, has entered, after having delivered us by His death and resurrection. Once more, beloved, far from being discouraged, have we not cause to repeat with Deborah, “Praise ye the Lord” (vs. 2)?
(v. 13.) “Then came down a remnant of the nobles and the people; the Lord came down for me against the mighty.” (Revised Version.)
Now Israel is called to come down to the place she was in at the beginning, to fight and to bear testimony in the midst of a scene where God is still leaving her. We cannot expect, even in a time of religious awakening, to see all the people come down. It will never be but “a remnant of the nobles,” but how great the privilege, for God reckons this remnant “as His people,” for it is in His eyes the blessed representation of them. What joy of heart should it not be to the faithful to see even one witness separated to God from the mass, which, like Reuben, “abode among the sheepfolds” (vs. 16). However much we may desire it, we must not expect more, for otherwise it would not be a day of ruin. And, moreover, what a portion is ours! “The Lord came down for me against the mighty.” Brethren, should not that suffice us? He who has ascended on high, is the same who comes down with us to give us the victory in every fresh conflict.
(vs. 14-18.) God notes those who have been for Him, and those who, for one motive or another, have remained behind. Ephraim, Benjamin, Zebulun, and Issachar came down, with undivided hearts, in the Lord’s path. But, lo! Reuben hesitates at the frontier to consider.
Wherefore this indecision? “Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks?” (vs. 16). The trumpet calling the people together had no voice for the heart of Reuben. His prosperity was such, that he preferred remaining in the peaceful enjoyment of his acquired wealth, resting among the sheepfolds, stopping at the watercourses (Revised Version), which formed his boundary. Fellow Christians of the present day, is that our position? Have we followed the nobles who have shown us the way? Have we been content with “great searchings of heart?” (vs. 16). Are we lacking in decision in testimony for Christ?
“Gilead abode beyond Jordan” (vs. 17). Those days were past when Gilead, equipped for war, accompanied his brethren in their conquests of Canaan. Now, satisfied with his worldly position -shall I say, worldly religion?-outside the limits of the land strictly speaking, beyond Jordan, he is unconscious of any further need, and remains where he is. “Asher continued on the sea shore, and abode in his breaches” (vs. 17). When it was a question of fighting, where was Asher to be found? Occupied with his own concerns, his business. He had not made the least sacrifice in these in order to take part in the Lord’s battle. However, Deborah does not linger in the recital of evil. Full of joy, she delights in relating every instance of devotedness to the Lord. (v. 18.) “Zebulun and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field.”
Then in verses 19-22, we have another characteristic of faithfulness. They do not glory in, nor think of, themselves; but the victory was attributed to God only, in the proclamation of its heavenly character.
“They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera” (vs. 20).. This part of the song closes with an unqualified malediction on Meroz. “Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty” (vs. 23). Those who in these troublous times do not take sides with Christ; those who identify themselves with His name and that of God’s people, and whose hearts are at the same time indifferent to Himself, let them be cursed. “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha” (1 Cor. 16:2222If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha. (1 Corinthians 16:22)). (1 Cor. 16:2222If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha. (1 Corinthians 16:22).)
Now (verses 24-27) Jael is honored, that which has a little strength is blessed. “He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish” (vs. 25). When the enemy of the people of God comes to her, this woman shows grace. Bringing forth the best thing she has in her tent in recognition of Sisera’s rank, she hands him the refreshment in a lordly dish. Is not this the very opposite of contempt? Is it not thus that we should act towards the enemies of God, giving them for their thirst and their nourishment even more than they ask? God’s witnesses go on with grace beyond the worst enemies of Christ.
Jael is celebrated because she acted thus; but let us read what follows: “She put her hand to the nail and her right hand to the workman’s hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples.” Ah! the heart of Jael was unreservedly with the God of Israel, with the Israel of God: when it became a question of the truth, and of treating the enemy as such, she displayed the greatest energy. This woman is, at this juncture, in the contracted sphere of the house, the real leader of the armies of Jehovah. She is in the foremost rank, honored of God to gain the victory, for she has an undivided heart for His people. Curse ye, Meroz; but blessed be Jael.
(Verses 28, 30.) Another scene is taking place in the palace of Sisera’s mother, whose pride is humbled to the very dust.1
The song of Deborah closes with these words: “So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord; but let them that love Him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might” (vs. 31). Here we have one more recovered blessing which characterizes the awakening: Deborah proclaims her hope. She looks on to that glorious day, when the Lord having executed judgment, the saints in Israel shall shine forth as the sun itself, like Him whose countenance was, in the eyes of the prophet, “as the sun shineth in his strength” (Rev. 1:1616And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. (Revelation 1:16)). (Rev. 1: 16, c. f. Matt. 13:4343Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 13:43).)
Amid the darkness of this world’s night we have too, beloved brethren, but far better than Deborah, this hope very near. Already the morning star has arisen in our hearts, already the eye of faith, piercing the veil, rejoices in the wondrous scene that is still concealed, but which is summed up in the ineffable words, “So shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:1717Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:17)).
1. N. B.-It may be observed in passing. that in spite of the eminent position given her of God. Deborah maintains her character of a mother in Israel, and manifests remarkable intelligence as to what comes within the province of her sex, celebrating that which honors Jael, the woman of faith, and proclaiming what draws down judgment on the haughty woman. Later on, another woman, the Queen of Sheba, welcomed by Solomon, did not review the armies of that king, but gave her attention to "the house that he had built, and the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his cupbearers, and his ascent by which he went up unto the house of the Lord. (1 Kings 10:4, 54And when the queen of Sheba had seen all Solomon's wisdom, and the house that he had built, 5And the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his cupbearers, and his ascent by which he went up unto the house of the Lord; there was no more spirit in her. (1 Kings 10:4‑5).) Showing an intelligent appreciation of what belonged to that sphere.