The Days Of The Judges (3): Deborah
Once again we are confronted with something that is unusual. Previous to this record we found that the Lord raised up men to lead and to guide and to fight for Israel in their need, but here we find Deborah, a woman, a prophetess, sitting under her palm tree and judging the nation of Israel. This was a very, very unusual condition of things. It indicated that men were somewhat wanting in leadership, in courage and in direction from the Lord.
An old brother in Port Seton often taught us that man represents position in Scripture, and woman represents condition. He often quoted Mary of Magdala at the sepulchre of the Lord on the morning of the resurrection. The disciples were found wanting, they were His servants, He had chosen them, but they were not at the sepulchre, they did not anticipate the resurrection, neither had they that intense love that Mary of Magdala had for the Lord. But she was found there because she was in the right condition; she loved the Lord, and because she was found there she received that wonderful message from the Lord, "go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God" (John 20:17). The Lord did not say to Mary, 'Now you go and get one of My disciples, they will go and carry this message'; she was available, she loved the Lord and she received this commission. Her condition was right.
Now similarly here, in the days of Deborah, we read a verse where it speaks about forty thousand men, "Was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand of Israel?" (Jud.5:8). The inference is that among forty thousand men of war, there was not one who was prepared to stand up and represent the Lord and His interests in that evil day. "Until I, Deborah, arose, arose a mother in Israel" (v.7), a woman with the interests of the Lord at heart. She was prepared to take this stand. Perhaps in the previous two addresses, in connection with Othniel, Ehud and Shamgar there was a great deal of encouragement for the brothers, but I would think that in connection with Deborah there is a great deal of encouragement for the sisters, that they too can stand up and be faithful to the Lord and do something for the Him for His interests.
Deborah - the Prophetess
"And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time." (Jud.4:4)
Deborah is described as a prophetess. The study of prophetesses is an interesting study in the Old Testament and in the New. We have not time tonight but we will just mention them.
- In Exodus 15, when Moses sang his song of exhortation and joy, we find it is said that "Miriam the prophetess..... took a timbrel in her hand" and she praised the Lord too (vv.20-21).
- Josiah, wanting to know the mind of the Lord, went to Huldah the prophetess and she very definitely gave the mind of the Lord (2 Ki.22:14, 2 Chr.34:22). It was not a particularly encouraging prophecy because it indicated that the Lord was angry with those who were refusing to obey His word, but there was some encouragement for Josiah, that although judgment was coming, he personally would be spared.
- We also find in Isaiah 8, the prophetess, the wife of the prophet, she bare two sons whose names represented different phases in the history of Israel.
- Then we have Deborah, the prophetess, and I think these are the four in the Old Testament who indicate the prophetess character.
- There is another one, Noadiah, in the book of Nehemiah (6:14), she is linked with Tobiah and Sanballat, the enemies of the truth of God, in their opposition to the man of God and his work.
When we come to the New Testament we find that
- Anna is described as a prophetess in Luke 2:36. She prayed, she fasted, she sang praises and she spoke of the Lord to all those who waited for redemption in Israel. She was quite a remarkable woman and she was not young by any means, in fact she was very old, but we are impressed by the energy and the spiritual vitality and life that she had.
- Then we find in the Acts of the Apostles that Philip the evangelist had four daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:9). I would think they prophesied at home, because the Scriptures tell us plainly that women are to keep silent in the assemblies (1 Cor.14:34-38, 1 Tim.2:11-12), so if they exercised their prophetic character then it must have been at home or in some private capacity by which they were able to convey the mind of the Lord to those who required it at any given moment.
I think that these six instances concerning nine women would cover the teaching concerning prophetesses in Scripture, it is a very interesting study, and I commend it to you.
The Nature of Prophecy
We have now to ask, what is prophecy? I suppose most people would say, 'It is the foretelling of future events', and we would need to say, yes, that is one character of prophecy but it is not the only character because prophecy is the giving forth of God's word for the moment, the bringing to bear of the word of God so as to help the people of God in any particular situation (1 Cor.14:3). It is not merely quoting a verse out of the Bible, that is always very precious and we would not seek in any way to underestimate the value of that, nor is it giving a word on many things that we have heard over and over again, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Peter says, 'I think it fitting.... to stir you up by putting you in remembrance' (2 Pet.1:13), but there is such a character of ministry that deals with relevant problems that are particularly connected with the people of God at any particular moment. This is the present application of prophecy.
The Bible is a very large book, and if a man or woman is guided by the Spirit of God to give an appropriate word bearing upon the condition of the saints at any given time then they are prophesying - they are giving a word of prophecy to meet particular needs.
1 Cor.14:3 tells us that prophecy is for three things, firstly, it is for edification, that means for building the saints up, building them up in their affections towards God, in their knowledge of the truth, in their responsibilities, and in their privileges. Secondly it encourages, or as the Authorised Version says, 'exhorts', it stirs up, engages the affections, the desires and the exercises of the people of God. The word of God brought to bear upon them exhorts or encourages them to further activity and further devotion in the things of the Lord. Finally, it consoles. It has been aptly said that it builds up, it stirs up and it binds up. Sometimes the saints need encouragement or help or comfort, and the word of prophecy is able to bring that to them.
One would think that when we come together upon special occasions, such as 'open' meetings for ministry, as we call them, meetings when the Lord guides some servant or servants to give a word of ministry, we should expect ministry of such a character that would help us in our particular needs for that day. I think it would be very wrong for a brother to prepare a certain message prior to coming to the meeting and feel, 'Well, I am going to give this prepared message'. Rather we should come together waiting humbly upon the Lord that He would give His servant or servants the appropriate word that is necessary for us at that time. It is not simply the unfolding of truth, although it is that in a sense, but it is a specific word to meet a specific need. That being so, how much we need to be cast upon the Lord and to have that waiting, not a rushing to make sure that I am going to speak, but waiting humbly before the Lord to get the Lord's mind, to give Him, we say reverently, the opportunity to speak, He Himself; and He speaks through servants. Now if we can only sit back quietly and humbly and have much prayer and exercise prior to those meetings, then I think we would find the Lord would give us the ministry that is necessary for us. This, I believe, is New Testament prophecy according to its present usage.
Strictly speaking, the time of prophets and the time for prophetic ministry is passed. The assembly was "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets" (Eph.2:20). Now you do not lay a foundation twice. If the foundation is laid, it is laid deep, it is laid strong, and on the foundation is reared the building. The apostles' and prophets' ministry was the foundation of the church. We must remember that in those early days they had not the New Testament in their hands as we have it. Many of the Christians were slaves, many could not read or write, but they could certainly listen. This is why Paul says to Timothy, "Give attendance to reading" (1 Tim.4:13), that is, Paul's letters were read by Timothy to those who could not read, he would make them aware of the mind of the Lord. Now the New Testament apostles and prophets, guided by the Holy Spirit, spoke the word of the Lord as it was necessary. Now we have the revealed mind of the Lord in our hands in the New Testament. It has all been revealed to us, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and consequently any 'prophecy' that is given today is not of an inspired character, but really comes within the scope of what has already been revealed, the Holy Spirit takes from the inspired word and presses it upon our hearts and consciences, bringing a blessing to our hearts. Thus Deborah, being a prophetess, was able to convey the mind of the Lord to the people as they required it.
The Oppressors - the Canaanites
"And the Lord sold [Israel] into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles. And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel." (Jud.4:2-3)
If ever the people of God required all this, it was at the time of Deborah. Here was this mighty king of the Canaanites, Jabin, and for twenty years he had held the nation of Israel in bondage. The meaning of the name Canaan is 'merchant', and all through the Bible we find people who make a trade of things, whether it is the people of God, or the truth of God, or any other kind of thing, and generally they are portrayed in a very bad character. The worst of all, of course, was Judas, who was prepared to trade his master for thirty pieces of silver (Matt.26:15). Surely this is the most outstanding incident and illustration of this kind of thing.
When we come to the book of Revelation, we see great Babylon judged, the smoke of whose torment goes up to heaven, and we find that all the traders of the world have done business with her (Rev.18:9-19). All the different trades and all the different materials and all the things of value have been connected with this great, evil system that is against God. The book of Revelation presents two cities, Babylon and the New Jerusalem (Rev.18-19, and 21:2-22:5), the question to ask is which city are we seeking to promote? For what are we building? We either promote the one or the other. If we are not those who make a trade of the word of God, that is, using it for our own benefit, we are trading for Christ, we are working for Him, we are sacrificing, we are working, we are doing the things that are pleasing in His sight. We are not marked by the spirit of the Canaanite, personal gain or selfishness, but rather sacrificing and seeking to promote the things of the Lord.
This is, of course, the spirit of the Lord Himself. In the words of the parable, He sold all that He had in order to gain the treasure that was in the field (Matt.13:44) and to obtain the pearl (Matt.13:45-46) for Himself; the Lord Jesus Christ who was so rich, and yet became so poor in order to enrich others (2 Cor.8:9). This is contrary to the Canaanite. The Canaanite is prepared to get more, and more, and more. Suppose he makes others poor? That does not matter as long as he makes a gain, that is all that matters.
Now this is the kind of spirit that was holding the nation of Israel in bondage, and nobody seemed to care. Forty thousand spears in Israel, and not one lifted up in defence of God and His interests until this woman arose, Deborah, the prophetess.
The Person of Deborah, the Fourth Judge - "Sitting under the Palm Tree of Deborah"
"And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment." (Jud.4:4-5)
Now it says that she "dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah". Now when the Spirit of God writes things in the inspired Scriptures there is a particular reason for it. It could have been an oak tree, it could have been any other kind of tree, but the Spirit of God has indicated to us there is something special about this tree, it is not just a palm tree, it is the palm tree of Deborah. There is a particular reference to it. She sat there and she judged Israel. They came to her with their problems and she helped them. So what do palm trees represent?
The first reference to them is in Exodus 15, where the Israelites came to the wells of water and the seventy palm trees (v.27). Now as far as Israel was concerned, that was a tremendous blessing. They were thirsty, parched, hungry perhaps they had travelled through the wilderness, and they came to this place of refreshment and fruitfulness, a place of shade, a place of rest. When Solomon built the temple for God, the palm tree was very prominent in the decoration (1 Ki.6:29,32,35, 7:36, 2 Chr.3:5). When we turn over into the New Testament, we begin to get some insight as to what this means. You remember when Jesus was entering into the city of Jerusalem, they cut down palm leaves and they strewed them in the way as He entered, the victorious Messiah into His city (John 12:12-13). But there is another reference which I think finalises this thought in our minds, the idea of victory. In Revelation 7, John the prophet is given a vision into the future of a vast company of people who are saved out of the tribulation, they are martyred in the tribulation but they belong to the Lord, and they are standing before the throne and are singing His praises and they all have palm leaves, or palm branches in their hands (v.9) - victory has been secured, the battle has been won, they are through all the difficulty and trial, they have remained faithful, and in their hands is the emblem of victory. We believe this is what the palm tree represents above all else, victory.
Now, if we think of that in our minds, here was a woman who had the spirit of victory in her heart, she was sitting under her own palm tree, and she was judging Israel. It is most remarkable that in the Bible we find many servants of the Lord who exalt and triumph before ever the fight had started. When Jehoshaphat saw the tremendous army that was against Israel, he prayed to the Lord and the Lord guaranteed him that there would be a victory and before ever they began to fight Jehoshaphat got all the army into position and he sent the singers in front and they began to praise the Lord for the victory (2 Chr.20:1-30) and the battle had not even started! Now that is faith.
The apostle Paul, although he passed through tremendous exercises and problems could rejoice. Think of him in the prison at Rome writing to the Philippians is telling them to rejoice (4:4). 'Why, Paul? you are a prisoner, the enemy has overcome you, you are no longer the servant of the Lord, why do you exhort the people in this way?' 'Well,' he says, 'I am still serving the Lord, I am writing to the Philippians.' I do not know if that dear man could look down the ages and anticipate the millions of Christians who would derive comfort from his letter written from a prison but there he was rejoicing in spirit no thought of defeat. He goes on to say in that epistle, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our lowly body, that it may be fashioned like his glorious body, according to the working by which he is able even to subdue all things unto Himself" (3:20-21). The tyrants of the future will all bow before the power of this glorious Man, who is at the right hand of God. Paul was not imbued in any way with the spirit of defeat, rather the opposite, "we are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Rom.8:37).
The Person of Barak
"And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedeshnaphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun? And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand. And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go. And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh." (Jud.4:6-9)
And so Deborah sat under her palm tree, a spirit of victory in her heart. "And she sent and called Barak, the son of Abinoam, out of Kadesh-naphtali", and she said a very significant thing to Barak: "Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward Mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun? And I will draw unto thee, to the river Kishon, Sisera, the captain of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand" (vv.6-7). Now there is not a single evidence of doubt, uncertainty, or hesitancy in this message from Deborah, it is as clear and distinct as it is possible to be. She said, 'The Lord has commanded you Barak to go with those two tribes, Zebulun and Naphtali. He has even indicated the precise number who are to be called out of those tribes, and you are to go and fight, and the battle is won. The Lord will deliver him into thine hand'. Now that is a very wonderful message for anyone to receive, she was a prophetess, she had received it from the Lord, and now she was directing a man, and he had the right to be there, this is where the man should have been, in the leadership, directing affairs, and it really was an indictment against the manhood of Israel that a woman was giving this message.
Well, what kind of man was he? Well, he said, "If thou wilt go with me, then I will go; but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go" (v.8). What a pathetic kind of man! How he failed to appreciate the message that had been delivered to him. The message was one of certainty, of power, it had nothing to do with Deborah, it was all about the Lord, what the Lord would do, and if only Barak had received the message in the way in which it was delivered what an opportunity he had to shine in his leadership. Instead of that, God's government came in, and the prophetess gave another word, 'All right, Barak,' she said, 'I will go, but you have missed your opportunity. Now God will deliver the captain of Jabin's army into the hands of a woman.' That is the story as we take it down to the end of the chapter. Deborah gave the message of the Lord. It came to pass as she said it would. The army was defeated, the captain of the army was killed by a woman, and the Lord subdued Jabin, the king of Canaan, at that time.
The Song of Deborah and Barak
"Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying..." (Jud.5:1)
It is quite interesting that, when we turn to the Hebrews 11, it is Barak who was commended for his faith (v.32). We cannot question the inspired word of God, perhaps if we had written it we would have said Deborah was entitled to this commendation for faith, but I suppose Barak too was credited with it because in chapter 5, when the song was sung, Deborah and Barak were both together.
Perhaps we say mistakenly that this was Deborah's song because it says, "Then sang Deborah and Barak, the son of Abinoam, on that day". They were joined together then. They were joined together in the action that overcame the Lord's enemies, Deborah directed, Barak followed, the battle was won, the enemies were destroyed, and that was a time for celebration. It reminds us of that exalted song in Exodus 15, one would say much more exalted than this song, a wonderful song of praise and worship to God because victory had been accomplished. This is the only song in the book of Judges. To tell the truth, after the death of Joshua, there was not much to sing about! There was much to be sad about. Many grievous things were done in the nation of Israel. But it is always true that in the Bible, when victory is achieved, then singing begins.
And it has been true right down through the history of the testimony. There are many hymnbooks in use today amongst Christians, and most of the hymns that are sung are the products of revivals of one kind or another. Whenever there is a real revival amongst the people of God, with the power of the Spirit in activity amongst them, with blessing for the unconverted, blessing for the saints of God, we find that there is a rich addition of hymns to the Lord and to God, the Father, because of what has been achieved. If you search this out you will find that this is true. Take, for instance, the marvellous enrichment to hymnology in the Methodist revival through the hymns of Charles and John Wesley; hymns that are still being sung today with fervour and feeling and value. The brethren revival too has contributed many rich hymns of worth and depth and value, and many other revivals have contributed in the same way, hymns of worth, the product of conflict and victory. And we would trust that there would yet be a revival of interest amongst the people of God. There will yet be a time of blessing in answer to the end of Revelation for the unconverted, "let him that is athirst come" (22:17). We would desire to see this before the coming of the Lord, and if it were so, then I think we could anticipate many spiritual compositions of worth and depth and feeling.
"For that leaders led in Israel..... Bless Jehovah!" (Jud.5:2, J.N.D.)
Now I do not know anything at all about textual criticism and the ancient languages of Hebrew and Greek, and I find it very difficult to understand how the Authorised says, "Praise ye the Lord for the avenging of Israel", and Mr Darby's translation says, "For that leaders led in Israel... Bless Jehovah!", but I, for the moment, would like to use what Mr Darby rendered, that leaders led, and when the leaders led, the people willingly offered themselves. Now this is always true. It is true in secular history that when a man of courage arises, whether it be in Scotland or England or any other place, you always find that there are people that are willing to be led. Prior to the leadership there seems to be an acquiescence in the conditions that prevail, whenever a man of courage rises up and says, 'Now look, this is what we ought to do, we are not going to accept these conditions of tyranny and bondage; I am prepared to do something for it, who is going to follow me?' And we do find in secular history that this was often the beginning of freedom from bondage.
Now this is exactly the principle in Deborah's song. Deborah arose, Barak arose under her direction, and the people, especially Naphtali and Zebulun, willingly offered themselves and something was achieved for the Lord.
Leadership is seen for us in the New Testament most definitely in apostolic authority, in the ministry that Paul, James, Peter and John provided for us, and also the others who were not apostles but were inspired of the Lord to give us the New Testament books. Now there we have, first of all, the authoritative leadership inspired by the Holy Spirit. In a lesser sense we have those who are called leaders, rulers, elders, pastors, overseers - people who are concerned about leading, directing or caring for the people of God. Now when this is done in a spiritual and proper manner, that is leading people to Christ, it is a great thing. I do not mean in conversion, that is the office of the evangelist, what I am referring to are elders, bishops/overseers and leaders/guides, these people are leading the saints of God to Christ. They are directing them to His glory, His power and His offices, that they might get the gain of all that is in Christ for their testimony and for their privileges. What a responsible position to be in. This is the place for mature, experienced Christians, and this is their responsibility in relation to the flock of God; not their flock, but the flock of God. And so when this is done in a spiritual, humble manner, subject to the leading of the Holy Spirit and the direction of the Lord, the people will willingly offer themselves; or will they?
They did not all willingly offer themselves here, as we shall see, but, thank God, there will always be those who will respond to true ministry that finds its centre in Christ. If it does not find its centre in Christ it will be doomed to failure eventually. It might be a very good idea, it might be a very reasonable idea, but if it is not centred in Christ it will be bound to fail. And so we find that the object of all those persons mentioned in the New Testament, who have responsibility in relation to helping the saints of God, is to lead them to Christ. In the thirteenth chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews the saints were exhorted to obey their leaders and to follow their conversation (Heb.13:7), says Paul, 'imitate them'. And what was the source or the substance of their conversation, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (v.8). 'Follow their example', says Paul, 'these are the men who are seeking to lead you, not leading you astray like false shepherds, but leading you to the Lord and into the fullness of His thoughts'.
"I Deborah, arose, arose a mother in Israel...... They chose new gods; then was war in the gates. Was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?...... then shall the people of the Lord go down to the gates." (Jud.5:7-8,11)
What a contrast! Poor weak woman, the weaker vessel that Paul speaks about, what an indictment against the forty thousand. She arose, they did not, here are two references to gates, and we have to ask, what does this mean? If you read the book of Ruth, you will remember there came the time when Boaz wanted to have Ruth for his wife but there was another man who had a prior claim according to kinship, and this matter had to be gone into; so they went up to the gate (4:1). The gate in the Old Testament represented the place of administration. In the Middle East, in many of the arid countries, this kind of thing still exists, this is where the elders of the village meet to discuss problems; I suppose very much like the local council in our own towns and cities, where they come together to discuss matters of policy and matters that require attention. So it was in Old Testament times, the gates were the places where they met together to discuss matters and to regulate them according to the mind of the Lord.
Now what does this mean for us today? It means that we do not let things slide along in a haphazard fashion in connection with any company of Christians, and hope that everything will work out all right in the end. 'Ah, yes, the Lord will look after everything. He is capable of doing this'. Of course He is quite capable; but He expects us to do what we can in relation to His interests in any place where we are set, and when the saints come together to discuss His affairs they ought to be conducted with due reverence to the kind of business we are conducting. It is not an opportunity to express our opinions in a democratic or communistic fashion, we are there to discuss the things that relate to the Lord. It is His business. I say so reverently. They are His affairs, and they have to be studied, they have to be considered, they have to be arranged and settled in a manner that is consistent with His holy name. We gather to His name, and so the gates would be the considered attention that we give to the interests of the Lord.
"For the divisions of Reuben there were great thoughts of heart. Why abodest thou amongst the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks? For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart. Gilead abode beyond the Jordan." (Jud.5:15-17)
Now, we come down to a few people who are mentioned here. In the history of Israel, when they came to the river Jordan there were nine and a half tribes who definitely settled for going over it to take possession of their inheritance, but there were Reuben and Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh who said, 'The grass is beautiful on this side of the Jordan, this is ideal for our flocks, let us settle here' (Num.32:1-5).
Now, said Moses, 'If you settle here, it means you are not going to go over Jordan to possess the land that God, in His sovereignty, has give you. You are not going to answer to the mind of God for you. If you do this, you will need to answer to your obligations. I will need to accede to your request but there are responsibilities that belong to you. First of all, you will go over and help your brethren to fight to obtain the land, and when you have done that, then you can come here and dwell in Gilead, but if you do not do that, be sure that your sin will find you out' (vv.6-23). Here the sin of Reuben and Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh was found out. They abode in Gilead. There was great resolve of heart on the part of Reuben.
I suppose you could imagine the elders of the tribe of Reuben saying, 'Oh, we must do something about this. Oh, we must go over to help our brethren. Oh, remember, we made a promise to Moses that we would do this kind of thing. Yes, we will need to gather our army together, get the spears ready, get the swords ready'; but they did not move an inch! There was great resolve of heart to do something but that was as far as it got. They never did a thing to help Barak and Deborah in this fight against the enemy. Well, this kind of thing can happen to Christians. How often has the Lord laid an exercise on our heart, perhaps to visit someone, perhaps to help someone, perhaps to give some tracts away, perhaps to do some form of service for Him, and we have had great resolve of heart. It seems so great to do this service for the Lord, but somehow or other it is never done. The Bible says, "The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat" (Prov.13:4). When Deborah gave directions to Barak she said, 'Up, time to do something. Time to do this for the Lord. ' And here was Reuben, great resolve, great ideas, but nothing was accomplished. What a sad thing if that is true of us in our Christian experience.
"......and why did Dan remain in ships?" (Jud.5:17)
Why did Dan remain in ships? I suppose it was because he was too busy looking after his fishing or trading. I suppose he must have said something like, 'Well, I am too busy to be occupied with this battle. Let them get on with it. Zebulun and Naphtali are quite able to look after this affair, I have got to carry on my business, I have got to look after my affairs. This is righteousness. It does say that we are to be diligent in our business'. It is so easy to quote a scripture when it suits us, but here was a tribe who had the opportunity to serve the Lord, and they lost it, they abode in their ships, they looked after their own personal interests.
"Asher continued on the sea shore, and abode in his breaches (creeks)" (Jud.5:17)
One gets the impression, 'Well I am sticking here, I could not care less, I am not really interested. I am abiding here; this is my place, my circle, my affair, and I am not interested in what is going on in this battle against Jabin and against Sisera'.
When the time of commendation came, those who were really active were the persons who were worthy of it, and so we find "Zebulun and Naphtali were a people who jeopardised their lives unto the death in the high places of the field" (v.18). Naphtali means 'wrestling' (or 'concern' or 'exercise') and Zebulun means 'dwelling' (or 'habitation'). Here was Naphtali, a tribe who was true to its name, they were concerned, they were exercised. For us today it means we pray, we do what we can, we are concerned as to how we can promote the Lord's interests and make the local company better by our own personal exercise. We are always greatly concerned that somebody else might make it better. Brother so-and-so, sister so-and-so, they do not show much interest. We are always greatly concerned about them, perhaps rightly so; but how right it is to be deeply concerned oneself, and to make sure that we contribute in spiritual power and exercise in relation to the Lord's interests. So Zebulun and Naphtali were worthy of commendation. What a wonderful commendation Paul gives in the sixteenth chapter of Romans to men and women who were concerned about the work of the Lord. They laboured in the Lord, some laboured much in the Lord, and many other things, they were men and women who did much for the Lord's interests.
"They fought from heaven." or "From heaven was the fight." (Jud.5:31)
Now, if we had been left to our own resources here as Christians, the testimony of Christianity would have failed long ago. Thank God there are resources that come to us from heaven, where Christ is, "My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Phil.4:19). "I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me" (Phil.4:13). There is strength and resource coming from heaven to help every Christian, whoever they might be, to do something for the Lord for maintenance of His interests, to fight against the enemy, the enemy that we seek to overcome - "From heaven is the fight".
"So let all Thine enemies perish" (Jud.5:31)
We would all say, 'Amen' to this. Thank God, when all the antichrists have gone, their power is overcome; thank God, when Christ rules in the world, supreme in the place that is rightfully His, when all enemies shall be under His feet. "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matt.13:43). How wonderful to look forward to that day. There is a time of victory, there is a time of reward, of commendation, and it will be when our glorious Head, our Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour, the Man who will occupy the throne, the One who once occupied the cross, is supreme.