OLD TESTAMENT READING: Judges 4-5:31
THE THIRD CYCLE OF DELIVERANCE – DEBORAH
The sons of Israel once again turn away from the LORD and do that which is evil in His sight. As a result, the Lord sells them into the oppressive domination of Jabin, king of Canaan. His commander was Sisera. The enemy’s army had 900 iron chariots. They oppressed Israel for 20 years.
The people of Israel cry out to the Lord for deliverance (v.3). Deborah is judging Israel at this time, and she challenges Barak to obey the Lord and take ten thousand men to Mt. Tabor, where the Lord promised to draw out Sisera and give him into his hand.
But Barak balks at this, refusing to go unless Deborah goes with him.
She agrees to go but prophesies that the honor would not be his but that of a woman. “The Lord will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.”
God’s plan is to use both men and women in His purposes. Both are gifted with leadership. However, God’s pattern is to express His image as a male/female partnership with male headship in the church and the home (1 Corinthians 11:3-16; Ephesians 5:22-24).
Deborah and Barak, with 10,000 men, are able to rout out the army of Sisera. The Canaanite commander, Sisera, escapes on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. Jael invites Sisera to stay the night and then kills him with a tent peg while he is sleeping.
Later, as Barak is seeking to destroy Sisera, he comes to Jael, who shows him that the enemy he seeks to capture has already been killed by a woman, herself, according to the prophecy of Deborah.
In Chapter 5, Deborah and Barak sing of the victory that God gave His people (5:1-31).
They rejoice that God’s people rallied to the cause.
As a local pastor, I often think of these lines from Deborah’s song. They reflect my appreciation for the volunteers in the work of the church.
“My heart goes out to the commanders of Israel,
The volunteers among the people; (they offered themselves willingly)
Bless the Lord!”
How wonderful it is when all of God’s people are spiritually exercised and in the battle!
“That the leaders led in Israel,
That the people volunteered,
Bless the Lord!” (Judges 5:2)
We have instructive words in verse 23 of the song:
‘Curse Meroz,’ said the angel of the Lord,
‘Utterly curse its inhabitants;
Because they did not come to the help of the Lord,
To the help of the Lord against the warriors.’
There are situations and hours in which neutrality becomes criminal.
Jesus said if you don’t gather with him, you scatter.
Not too long ago, during the Communist’s rule of the Soviet Union, one orthodox priest wrote a letter:
“We are at the front, in the front line. And this front line is all around us because the enemy has surrounded us on all sides. We are surrounded by the press, art, theater, schools, official institutions; everything is occupied by the godless. The laws are designed to suffocate religion. We have been at the front line for a long time. Many of us have been taken prisoner. One might say that the whole front has been captured. Anyone who can hear us, respond. Do not believe those who are trying to dismiss the danger. The aim of the enemy is to destroy us. He has not other aims. But having destroyed us, he will destroy you as well.”
Do we give in to a culture where all do what is right in their own eyes? Do we condone spiritual compromise and idolatry in our own hearts? Do we stand with the Lord against the enemy? Or are we complacent, like Meroz? (5:13)
Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:11-12)
Due to Deborah’s leadership and Jael’s bravery, Sisera was defeated, and the land was in undisturbed peace for 40 years.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: Luke 22:35-53;
“The Last Supper” is over. Now there is a swift turn of events. There will be betrayal. There will be swords. And Jesus lets his disciples know that the prophecy of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53 refers to himself. He says:
Jesus and the eleven leave the upper room and make their way to the Garden of Gethsemane at the base of the Mount of Olives. It was His custom to pray there and on the mountain itself.
Jesus repeats His warning to His disciples twice: “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:40,46).
Assaulted by thoughts, feelings, temptations, and demonic oppression beyond our comprehension, Jesus agonized in persistent prayer.
Luke 22:44 (NASB) 44 And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.
His prayer on our behalf was one of absolute surrender, “Not my will but Thine be done.”
We know this prayer was answered. Supernaturally. Luke records that an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him (v.43). Jesus was not thwarted from His mission. He remained obedient to the point of death, as our Spotless Lamb of God. (Philippians 2:8).
While Jesus labored in fervent prayer, His disciples were “sleeping from sorrow.” Their emotions affected their spiritual and physical condition.
As Jesus is betrayed with Judas’ kiss and surrounded by the Temple guard, the disciples expect orders to fight. Peter acts impulsively and cuts off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s slave.
But Jesus exclaimed, “No more of this!” (v.51) and He heals Malchus’ ear (John 18:10).
Warren Wiersbe notes that “Peter had been sleeping when he should have been praying, talking when he should have been listening, and boasting when he should have been fearing. Now he was fighting when he should have been surrendering. He was fighting the wrong enemy with the wrong weapon. The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, is what we need when we wrestle not with flesh and blood but against the cosmic powers that rule over this present darkness.”
Jesus said these scathing words to those who came to capture him as if he were a dangerous revolutionary; “This is your moment, the time when the power of darkness reigns.” (Luke 22:53)
We can be thankful for the promise that Christ will overcome the world, that though the world has its moment in which the power of darkness reigns, it is just ‘for a moment’ and “joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5).
READING FROM THE PSALMS- Psalm 94:1-23;
Our thoughts are not God’s thoughts. The Psalmist understands this. We may think that God does not understand our plight or hear our prayer. We are the ones who are senseless when we think such things! Yet this Psalm is one that cries for vengeance. It is generally accepted that this Psalm was written in the days after the Babylonian exile when the remnant had returned to the promised land. There were plenty of foes during the time of resettling the land and rebuilding the temple. Some of them are named in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. But we don’t know for sure which enemies are spoken of here. In the second temple, we are told that this Psalm was sung every Wednesday, the middle day of the week. May it remind us to cry to the Lord to deal with our troubles while we are in the midst of them!
Psalm 94:14 (NASB) 14 For the LORD will not abandon His people, nor will He forsake His inheritance.
READING FROM PROVERBS
Proverbs 14:3-4 (NASB) 3 In the mouth of the foolish is a rod for his back, But the lips of the wise will protect them. 4 Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.
There are times that things get messy in the ox stall. There is the hassle and expense of maintenance. You have to put up with the stench and straighten out the stall. But having the ox is worth it. We might think of the ox as the work of the Holy Spirit. Yes, things can get messy when God is at work among us. But it is worth it! God’s work cannot be accomplished without Him.
Do you prefer your own view of ‘tidiness’ over God’s call to be productive in the harvest?
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS – from the Prayer Guide “OPERATION WORLD”
Republic of Colombia
More Answers to Prayer
The church continues to grow, even out of Colombia’s history of crime, lawlessness, terror and murder. From a tiny minority in 1960 (0.6% of the population) evangelicals have grown to 7.5%, and charismatics now number an estimated 18% of the population. Such growth is all the more wonderful considering that Christians have often been the targets of drug cartels, guerrillas, paramilitaries, and others. The greatest denominational growth has been within indigenous Colombian churches, which have sprung up locally.
The success story of Bellavista Prison, a maximum-security prison in Medellin that was often called “Hell on earth,” is an inspiration. Through prayer and bold Christian witness, the prison has seen a remarkable turning of hardened criminals to Christ and the end of rampant murderousness. Many inmates are now believers, and there is regular prayer, fasting, evangelism, and even a Christian radio station. A Bible Institute has formed in the prison, training inmates to minister in prison and after release.
More Challenges for Prayer
The upheaval from political and drug-related violence has had a terrible human cost. Tens of thousands have died, producing many orphans and widows. Colombia has the world’s second highest number of internally displaced people (3 million). Three million more Colombians who have fled the country exist largely in conditions of poverty and a precarious immigration status. Pray for all who suffer from loss, that the Lord might meet their needs and that they might find in their Creator hope and restoration.
PRAYER: Lord, may we never become indifferent, or just sit on the fence, when you call us to participation with Yourself and Your purposes. Even now, we pray and cooperate, saying, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.” You are teaching us and training us for spiritual battle. Help us to discern the enemy’s tactics, resist the devil, flee temptation, and engage with Your commandments with ready obedience. In Jesus’ Name. Amen
Yours in the harvest,
So, naturally, we proclaim Christ! We warn everyone we meet, and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about him, so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ. (Colossians 1:28, J.B. Phillips paraphrase)
New Life Community Church, 221 Baker Ave. Concord, MA 10742