This Sermon today is based on Judges 4 and 5. I will explain in a minute why there are two different chapters for one story. But first let me share a little background on the book of Judges. The commentators for The New Interpreter’s Bible said in the introduction, “It is a book of political intrigue and assassination, lies and deceptions, rape and murder, courage and fear, great faith and idolatry, power and greed, sex and suicide, love and death, military victories and civil wars.” It sounds a great made for TV drama doesn’t it?
There are 19 female characters many with leading roles in the book of Judges. The most of any in the Old Testament books. The word Judges means a couple different things. It could be like we think in which the judge rules over disputes or arbitrates a settlement. But it also means rule or ruler in the Hebrew. There is a cycle that occurs during this period. The people have come into the Promised Land of Canna. Yet just because they are there, it does not mean that it’s all hunky-dory. They fight with each other and they fight with the indigenous people that are in the territory.
The people of Israel does evil deeds, God sends an army to defeat the Israelites, they wallow in their mess for a while, then they cry out to God for God to save them. Then God sends a Judge to lead the people out of their mess. They win, and they thank God and they do alright for a little while and then they do evil again and the cycle repeats. God repeatedly punishes Israel for its continued evil and yet God can not let Israel go into ruins either. God promised to never break the covenant of God’s people.
The story of Deborah is one in which we have two versions of the account. One is a prose version or a history lesson style of telling the story. That is chapter 4. Chapter 5 is a poem about the great event that is called a song. Probably written after the events, yet it might actually date to be older than the account in chapter 4. It very well could be the earliest song to survive from the Israelites and is recorded here. Some parts of the story are added to and taken away in each version. Instead of reading the two stories separately and then trying to play teach and compare and contrast, I thought I would just tell you the story, adding the two chapters together, would that be ok?
Story of Deborah
The artist’s rendition of Deborah
How do we make room for God? First if we realize that God was in control of the events as they took place in the story of Deborah. Even though Jael was the one to kill Sisera, it was all a part of God’s plan in the prophecy that Deborah told that a woman would deliver the victory over this army of Canaan. Yet we also can see that God is able to adjust the divine plan to make room for human freedom and decisions. In the end God’s will for the world will prevail, but God also makes adjustments to human freedom and actions along the way.
As the people of God, we can be confident that the prayers, words, actions of faithful individuals, leaders, and communities will be taken seriously and incorporated into the larger plans of God to bring about change and redemption in line with the purposes of God. God will always do God’s part. We are the ones who must make room for God to act. When we close our minds and believe we can fix it all by ourselves, then we do not make room for God. Many of us believed when we heard the story that Deborah was the one who was going to get all the glory from God because she was going to go with Barak. The real story was that Jael was the one who killed Sisera. A woman did get the credit for the kill but it was God who brought the storm that caused the Wadi of Kishon to flood and took the great war machines, the chariots out of the picture.
Trusting God to be present in all situations is never easy. We know that in life often times the last thing we do is throw up our hands and ask for help, even ask for God’s help. It is the same cycle that is repeated in the book of Judges. We try and fix it ourselves and when all else fails we take it to God, often out of total frustration. We should try the opposite. When we are confronted with problems, issues, big decisions, we should go to God first. When we grow in our faith, we will begin to do that. There is hope for us. We can make spaces for God in our everyday lives. Because the good news in all of this is that God is completely in control. Amen.