By Faith Deborah
March 6th, 1960 @ 8:15 AM
BY FAITH DEBORAH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Judges 4, 5
3-6-60 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you who listen are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled By Faith Deborah. And you can easily follow the message if you turn to the Book of Judges, chapters 4 and 5. Chapter 4 tells the story of the battle, and chapter 5 is one of the ancient songs of all literature, the Song of Deborah, over the great victory they won over Sisera, who was captain of the host of the Jabin king of the Canaanites, whose capital was at Hazor. Now we shall read chapter 4 of the Book of Judges:
And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, when Ehud was dead.
And the Lord sold them 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 the Jabin had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.
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.
And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedesh-naphtali, 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 honor; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.
And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet: and Deborah went up with him.
Now we’re going to have the story of the fulfilling of Deborah’s prophecy that Sisera would not be destroyed by him, because of his timidity and trepidation, but God would deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman. Now you have that story:
Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father-in-law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh—
all this is up in the north part of Palestine, around Galilee—
And they showed Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam was gone up to Mount Tabor.
And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon.
And Deborah said unto Barak, Up, up; for this is the day in which the Lord hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the Lord gone out before thee? So Barak went down from Mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him.
And the Lord discomforted Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet.
But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left.
Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite.
And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle.
And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him—
I wonder if it was homogenized and fortified with A, B, C vitamins—
Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and inquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No.
Then Jael Heber’s wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.
And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will show thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples.
So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel.
And the hand of the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.
Then you have chapter 5: “Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying” [Judges 5:1], and I suppose that is about the oldest song that is found in the literature of mankind. So it closes, “And the land had rest forty years” [Judges 5:31]
Now we are introduced there to two unusual things. First, we are introduced for the first time to the great battlefield of the world. That battle was fought on the Plain of Esdraelon, the Plain of Jezreel, the plain before Megiddo. And it is referred to as the battlefield of the mount of Megiddo, Har Megiddo. And in the Greek language, and ultimately in the English, in the Book of the Revelation, it is called the battle of Armageddon [Revelation 16:16]. This is the first time that we are introduced to that great age-long, world-long battlefield in which is to be fought the last battle of the world. It is a remarkable thing. Beginning with this war between Israel and the Canaanites, fought in that vale of Megiddo, from that day until this, generation after generation after generation has fought its battles in that place.
After this story, on that same battlefield Gideon and the Midianites, Arabs from the eastern part beyond the Jordan River, had their great, great day of defeat and triumph [Judges 7:22-25]. It was in that battlefield that Saul died at the hands of the Philistines and that Jonathan was slain [1 Samuel 13:1-5]. It was in that battlefield that the wonderful king Josiah was slain by Pharaoh Necho [2 chronicles 35:20-24]. It was in that same battlefield that time and again the Ptolemies of Egypt, and the Seleucids of Antioch and Syria had their great warfare. It was in that battlefield that the Romans fought, as described by Josephus in his Wars, beginning the final and ultimate destruction of Judea, the Jewish nation, the temple, and Jerusalem. It was in that battlefield that the Mohammedans defeated the Greeks. And it was in that battlefield that Saladin, the head and leader of the Saracens defeated the Crusaders. And it was in that battlefield that Napoleon in 1799 waged one of his great campaigns. Through the years and the years and the years, this valley before Megiddo, Armageddon [Revelation 16:16], is fought the battles of the world.
It’s a very strange thing, that converging over there around that same battlefield, seems to be moving the might and the armies of the world today. Around that little area is deposited by far the majority of the vast riches of this earth in oil. And converging on it from the south and the north and the east and the west are the great powers of the world. Whatever happens in that little neck of the woods, in that little spot, on the surface of the topography and geography of the world, has its repercussion in all of the capitals of the civilized world. For the first time in this story, we are introduced to Armageddon [Judges 4:7, 13].
Now, this is a very unusual thing. Standing there in this plain, I wish you could see it; it would make a tremendous impression upon you. And if you can see it in your mind’s eye, and many of you I’m sure have been there, all of these stories just come to life when you can follow in your mind’s eye and memory or imagination the topography of that land. That valley of Megiddo, Esdraelon, Jezreel, is an extensive plain, and it is formed by a high ridge that goes from the Mediterranean clear to the Jordan Valley. On the Mediterranean side, you call it Mount Carmel. Mount Carmel starts, it juts out right into the Mediterranean Sea. Mount Carmel starts there at the Mediterranean and then falls downward toward the east. Then you have the pass of Megiddo, through which pass the great armies of the world have marched for the centuries and the centuries. Then the elevation of the land rises again into the mountains of Gilboa and then run down to the depression of the Jordan River. Now on the other side of that valley, you have all of those hills and mountains of northern Galilee. On one of those hills, you will find the city of Nazareth; and just in front of it, about six miles, you’ll find Mount Tabor, one of the most impressive mountains in this whole world, rising out of that flat plain. Then just this side a little more, you’ll find little Mount Hermon, Mount Morav, on which is located those little villages of Endor, where the witch of Endor lived [1 Samuel 28:7-8], and Shunem, where the Shunammite woman lived [2 Kings 4:8], and Nain, where Jesus raised the boy, the widow’s son, from the dead [Luke 7:11-14]. And all in that area is a flat plain just as flat as, just as flat as it is possible for a valley to be; and very extensive. On the south side of it, running right at the base of Mount Carmel, all the way through, is this little creek, this ditch, this river Kishon [Judges 4:13].
Now, the second thing that we are introduced here for the first time is we are introduced to the leadership of a woman. This whole story runs contrary to the customs of the day and of the time. That any woman should stand in the forefront of statesmanship and of war is a very, very unusual thing, even today; but a thousand times more unusual in that day. If a man cannot be found, if a man fails, then seek out a woman; a consecrated, godly woman that can pray and that knows the Lord. And you have one here in Deborah, the prophetess, who lived in Ephraim under the palm of Deborah, between Ramah and Bethel, just a little north of Jerusalem [Judges 4:4-5]. This woman was very wise, intuitively she was. And she was an unusual leader, with great faith and tremendous heart and spirit. Deborah, as she judged the people, saw the wrinkles deepening in their faces and the men bending their backs under invisible burdens; the people were in despair. It says here that this Jabin, that’s a title like the pharaoh or the czar, the Jabin of the Canaanites, who reigned out of Hazor [Judges 4:2], which was the great city just to the east of the Lake of Galilee, up there in the hill country of the northern part of Palestine. It says here that this Jabin mightily oppressed Israel for twenty years; and he was able to do it because he had nine hundred chariots of iron [Judges 4:1-3].
Now that thing doesn’t mean much to us, but can you imagine what it meant to these oppressed Israelites? Up there in the hills and in the mountains where they lived, it meant nothing at all to have an iron chariot; you couldn’t use the thing, you couldn’t drive it over the gullies and the ravines and straight up those craggy, rocky mountains. You couldn’t use a chariot at all. But down there on that flat Plain of Megiddo, the thing seemed to have been made on a purpose for those chariots to roll in. And those people of Israel peeped out from behind their rocks and from the lofty crags of their mountains, and looked down there on those plains, and when Jabin had all nine hundred of those chariots of iron a’rolling, they shook and made the whole earth to tremble and to quake. Why, it scared those Israelites to death, those nine hundred chariots of iron! [Judges 4:3].
Now what this Jabin had done was this: he was threatening the very national existence of Israel itself. He had cut the country exactly in two. Up to the north you had Dan and Asher, I mean to the west you had Dan and Asher, those maritime tribes; and to the north you had Zebulun and Naphtali and Issachar; and then to the south you had Ephraim, and Benjamin, and Judah, and Simeon; and that Jabin had cut the country exactly in two. And there was no access, there was no intercommunication with anywhere because the Jabin had cut off all the routes of access to the mountains. He held the plains. It was a tragic thing. And with his nine hundred chariots, Israel had no heart and no disposition and no faith that they could war against such an invincible enemy.
And can you imagine this Jabin? I can just see him: he had his place in the sun. As he reviewed his nine hundred chariots of iron, I can just see him boast to himself that he was the lord of the whole earth. And when he counted up his riches, when he looked at his store, he put little Israel down for some kind of a plain price. And as he added it up, this little thing of Israel, “This little oppressed people that I’ve got under my thumb, working for me and paying me tribute,” this little plain Israel he counted up for so much in the coming and going of things. What the Jabin didn’t realize was the only reason he had anything to do over Israel at all was because of this sentence: “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord . . . and the Lord gave them, sold them, into the hand of Jabin the king of the Canaanites” [Judges 4:1-2]. Israel had built a black temple out of black stones to serve the devil in; and that’s why the Jabin, with his nine hundred chariots of iron, was even able at all to oppress these people of the Lord.
But there’s another side to this story. It never ends like that. God’s people never ultimately fail, never. That’s one of the plainest, truest, most emphasized of all the doctrines of the Book of God: they don’t ultimately, finally fail. Now they may fall into all kinds of depressions, all kinds of sin, “And they did evil in the sight of the Lord; and again they did evil in the sight of the Lord” [Judges 4:1]; they may fall short, and they may stumble around, but they never ultimately fail. And when you get over there into the New Testament, you’ll find that doctrine of unavailingly, unwearyingly, unceasingly, unexceptionally applied to the Christian soul. The man that is really born again, that is a Christian, that is saved, that is regenerated, ultimately does not fail of the purposes of God and the gates of heaven. He may stumble, he may stagger, he may fall; but God has His hand on his soul and on his heart and on his life. And the story doesn’t end until God has delivered His redeemed people into the Promised Land, and in our case, in our souls, into the gates of glory. There’s another story here; there’s another chapter to the oppression of the Jabin.
“The children of Israel cried unto the Lord” [Judges 4:3]. I don’t know how it is that God is made, but He is made like this: whenever the least of His children cry unto Him, they may not be worthy, they may have fallen into disgrace and sin, but when the least of God’s children cry unto Him, God hears them, always and forever. “And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord” [Judges 4:3]. And the Lord spoke into the heart of this godly consecrated praying woman, Deborah, and said, “Deborah, Deborah, send for Barak, a great soldier, send for him, and tell him, on Mount Tabor to call ten thousand of the children of Zebulun and the children of Naphtali, to meet thee. And I have already in the courts and decrees of heaven delivered Sisera the captain of Jabin’s host, and all of his kingdom, and all of his army, I have already delivered them into Barak’s hand” [Judges 4:6-7]. Isn’t that a strange thing? There you go again: you can’t ever, you can’t ever unravel the elective purposes of God from human history. Up there in the book, it’s already written; down here it hasn’t happened. God said, “I have already delivered the Jabin and Sisera into the hands of Barak. Tell him so, and call him to the war” [Judges 4:6-7].
Now the thing happens down here to us day at a time, instance at a time, moment at a time; and we see it happen piece at a time. But God looks on the whole thing up there in heaven from beginning to ending, and He has got it written in His book, just exactly like it’s going to come out.
“Oh, but you don’t know, preacher, these things surprise God.” You don’t know! There never was anything that surprised God. He saw it from the beginning. He knows all about it, and He has got it there plain before Him as He looks on the page. To us it happens day at a time, incident at a time; but to God it has happened from the beginning of the creation.
God says to Deborah, “Send for Barak, tell him to call ten thousand of his soldiers from Naphtali and Zebulun, and I have already delivered the Canaanites into his hand” [Judges 4:6-7]. So she sent for Barak. And Barak came and said, “No, I’m not going to do it. No.” And Deborah said, “But Barak, God says, God says the victory is yours.” And Barak replies, “Deborah, you are a consecrated woman, and a woman of prayer, and you’re a woman of great faith, and you are a godly woman, but you’re not a soldier. And I’m telling you as a soldier, I’m speaking to you as a soldier, I’m telling you that, I’m telling you that you can’t go against a man with nine hundred chariots of iron and hope to overwhelm him. You can’t do it.”
I’ve been told that around here dozens of times by these men. “Now preacher, you are a preacher, but I’m telling you as a businessman, it can’t be done.” When I first came here to this church, I begged our men to buy the Riley Building. I had an option on it for $65,500. I begged our men, “Buy that Riley Building. Put it in the budget, and forget about it, and we’ll have it.” They appointed a committee, came back and reported to me, “It cannot be done.”
“Oh,” I said, “it’ll make ten percent net on its investment.”
“No,” said those men, “it’s a poor business proposition.”
Isn’t that funny? Isn’t that the beatenest thing you ever tried to put up with? Isn’t that the awfulest thing that you have to listen to? Why, just as an overwhelming thing, it’s an astounding thing!
“Now,” says Barak, “I am a soldier, and I’m telling you, Deborah, as a soldier you can’t fight against nine hundred chariots of iron. It cannot be done.” And Deborah said, “Barak, it’s not a question of nine hundred chariots of iron, nor is it the question of foot soldiers fighting against horses and chariots; the imponderable of God is in this thing. And we are doing the work of the Lord and carrying out the great commission of God. Now Barak, forget your trepidation, and forget your fear, and forget your withdrawings and your tremblings, and up! God says, On!” And Barak finally said, “Deborah, I don’t have the faith. I don’t have the commitment. I don’t have the dedication. Deborah, if you will go with me, I will go” [Judges 4:8]. Law me, imagine a man going to war with a sword in his hand, and ten thousand soldiers around him, and he says, “I’m afraid. I’m afraid. Deborah, if you’ll go with me, I’ll go. But I’m afraid.”
I could not tell you the number of times that I’ve talked to a strong man, pleading with him to come down that aisle and give his heart to Jesus and his life to the Lord, and he look at me and say, “Preacher, I’m afraid I couldn’t hold out. I’m afraid.” And there’ll be a little girl over there, and a little boy over there, and there’ll be a little timid woman over there, coming down that aisle, standing up for God, giving their hearts to Jesus; but that big, strong man, “I am afraid, preacher, I am afraid. I’m afraid I couldn’t hold out. I’m afraid of a whole lot of other things.”‘
And Deborah replied, “Barak, God says because you tremble in your shoes, and your sandals, because you’re afraid, God is going to give you the victory like He said; but, Sisera is going to be destroyed by a woman” [Judges 4:9]. Now that was meant for an insult. To us, why, we’ve got so accustomed to women carrying on everything until we don’t pay much attention about it today; they have a great part in running things. But that was an insult. “God is going to deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.”
So they went out. And Deborah said unto Barak, “Up, up, this is the day in which the Lord hath delivered Sisera into thine hand. Up!” [Judges 4:14]. And the battle was joined. Now, I don’t know where that time goes; I’ve just got to my sermon. I want to show you how the imponderables of war are always on the side of God, always; never fails. It’s not a matter, it’s not a matter of the biggest battalion, as Napoleon says, “God’s on the side of the biggest battalion”—that’s one of the most interesting developments I’ve seen in this church—God is not on the side of the biggest battalion, as Napoleon says, but the issues of war and of national life always are centered in the elective purpose of God.
Now you look at this war: there wasn’t any opportunity by logistics or by military strategy that a man could think of whereby a foot soldier could war against an iron chariot. How would you, put yourself in the same place, add yourself to it, imagine you with a club or with a spear or with a short sword, standing in front of a great host of horses pulling iron chariots, and in those iron chariots men with long javelins, and spears, and darts, and bows and arrows. Why, you’d hardly have any opportunity at all. But God, but God, the great imponderable in war lies in God.
Now you look; here you’ll find more about the war in the fifth chapter, in the song, than you will in the story of the battle itself. There came together Zebulun and Naphtali, in the eighteenth verse, “who jeopardized their lives unto death” [Judges 6:18]. Then, “They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera” [Judges 5:20]. There are great throngs, and great armies, and great chariots, and multiplied units of God’s host that war; and if they’re against us, we are lost no matter how much we have. If they are for us, we will win no matter how little we have. “The stars in their courses fought against Sisera. And the river of Kishon swept them away” [Judges 5:20-21]. I wish you could see that—we have to close—I wish you could see that river of Kishon. If you were within five yards of it, you would not know it was there. It’s a little ditch; it’s a ditch not as big as a ditch, it’s just a little ditch. You wouldn’t know it was there. When they had that awful battle at Waterloo, the reason Napoleon lost was there was a sunken road, there was a sunken road, and when Napoleon sent his cavalry, when Napoleon sent his cavalry into the fray, that ditch there that nobody paused before, nobody looked at, it wasn’t on the map, nobody’d seen it, those first horsemen fell into that ditch, and stumbled into it; and then the next wave stumbled over them, and the next wave stumbled over them. And the entire forces of the horsemen of Napoleon destroyed themselves in an imponderable that the greatest military strategist—Napoleon was the greatest that ever lived—never thought for, that little old ditch there, that little old creek there that you couldn’t see five yards away. The thing became a flood. And it swept away the great army of the Jabin [Judges 5:21]. Can you imagine what happened when God poured His thunderbolts and God poured His rain and God poured all of the waters of heaven down? I can just see those chariots bogging down. I can see those horses struggling and neighing. And I can see those men crying out in panic. The destiny of our life and of our nation does not lie in the multitude of our arsenal, our weapons, our armories, our bombs, and our tanks, and our planes, but it lies in the choice and the elective purpose of God. Now that’s what I wanted to preach about this morning.
What we ought to do as a people and as a nation is to look up to heaven, look up to God, to the armies of the Lord, in prayer, in committal, guiding our destiny not by the might and wisdom of man, but by the might and the wisdom of God. Oh, what a strength, what a power, when a nation lets God be the Captain of their hosts and the Spirit of Jesus lead their armies and their national life. “Others may trust in horses and in chariots: but our trust is in the Lord” [Psalm 20:7], as the psalmist says.
Now we sing one stanza, one stanza. On the first verse of the first stanza, on the first verse of the first stanza, somebody this morning to give his heart to the Lord, somebody to put his life into the fellowship of the church, somebody to come down that aisle and take Jesus as his Savior, on the first note of the first stanza, would you make it now? Make it this morning. As God shall say the word and lead the way, would you make it now? While we stand and while we sing.
BY FAITH DEBORAH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Judges 4, 5
I. New battlefield – Esdraelon, Jezreel, Megiddo
1. Battles fought there throughout history
2. Site of Armegeddon
II. Leadership of a woman
1. Extremely unusual in that day for a woman to be a leader
2. Great faith
3. Israel oppressed by Jabin
III. Cry unto the Lord
1. Mount Tabor, the rendezvous
3. God’s people working together
IV. Song of Deborah