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JUDGES 4:1-24
Series:  Heroes of Faith - Part Two

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 19, 2005

This morning is our second Sunday looking at Heroes Of Faith.  Today we’re going to look at 900 Iron Chariots, Lightening, And A Honey Bee.  To give you an idea of where we’re going with all that I’d like to share with you about Hasem Sharkar.

Hasem Sharkar lives in Bangladesh.  He was raised as a Muslim.  At the age of 45 Hasem put his trust in Jesus as his Savior.  Hasem came to realize that Jesus could answer the questions that Mohammed couldn’t.  Hasem says,
“I love Him because Jesus is the only Savior.  I understand that, and I accepted Jesus.  I love this gift!”

Hasem invited some young Muslim men from his village to a place where the Gospel was being shared.  They trusted in Jesus as their Savior.  Which made the other Muslim villagers angry.  When they discovered that it was Hasem who was behind the Muslims becoming Christians - they badly beat Hasem - battering him and abusing him.

Despite the abuse in his own village - circumstances that should be overwhelming - Hasem goes on faithfully sharing the Gospel with Muslims.  In the first six months after coming to trust Jesus, Hasem has led 30 others to salvation.  Now, Hasem is studying the Bible using a hand-cranked audio cassette player.  (1)

When we hear about a brother or sister in Jesus - like Hasem - do you ever wonder if - given similar circumstances - could we do the same?  To go on like them?  Do you ever wonder that?

We face circumstances that can be overwhelming.  Our spouse says that she or he doesn’t love you and is leaving - often its for someone else.    Circumstances of abuse - from those who should love us - those we should be able to trust.  The ongoing emptiness - the heartbreak of kids who turn against parents - and God.  Death - separation - ongoing no-hope-of-a-cure illness.  Stuff at work - or the lack of work.  Debt.

We’ve all been there - circumstances that are heavy upon us - threaten to overwhelm us.  When feeling overwhelmed - we’re tempted - to question God - to doubt Him - to turn away from Him - to hold back from following Him - to trust ourselves - even sometimes to turn back to what we know is sin.

Today we want focus on overcoming in overwhelming circumstances

Try that together: 
“Overcoming in overwhelming circumstances.”

If you would - please turn with me to Judges chapter 4 - starting at verse 1.  As you’re turning I’d like to put this passage in the context of Judges for you.  Then we’ll move through the account and then come back and share two thoughts of application for our lives.  But, to begin - let’s put this passage where it fits in Judges.

You’ll remember from last Sunday that in the Book of Judges there are 7 complete cycles of sin - which mirror our own walk with God.  The cycles run like this.  First, Israel would sin in the sight of God - idolatry - paganism - immorality.  Second, God would send punishment - war - captivity.  Something to get His people to turn back to Him.  Third, Israel would cry out to God.  Fourth, God would send a Judge - someone to deliver them.  Fifth, Israel would enter a time of peace and rest.

Last Sunday we looked at Ehud.  Ehud is part of the second cycle of sin.  God’s people are in sin.  God allowed them to be overwhelmed by the Moabites.  When the people cried out to God - God sent Ehud.  Through Ehud God delivers His people and for 80 years there was peace..

So the next part of the cycle is what?  Sin.  Which brings us to Judges 4 - and the third time through the repeated pattern.

Judges 4:1: 
Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, after Ehud died.  Part one of the cycle - sin.   And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; and the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim.

Second Part - punishment - God hitting His people over the head with a 2X4 - trying to get them to turn back to Him.  In this cycle the 2X4 is King Jabin - the Canaanite - and Sisera - the Philistine - the commander of Jabin’s army.

Verse 3: 
The sons of Israel cried to the Lord; for he had nine hundred iron chariots, and he oppressed the sons of Israel severely for twenty years. 

900 chariots was a huge number for that day. When Pharaoh went after Moses and the people at the Red Sea - Pharaoh - King of Egypt - only had 600 select chariots.  This is huge.  That they were iron was even more impressive.  These are the most advanced chariots of the day.  They’re superior to anything else that’s around.

Another thing about iron that’s important.  The Philistines were the ones who knew how to make iron - not Israel.  Sisera - the Philistine - has the monopoly on iron.  God’s people had to go to him for plowshares and tools - the stuff they needed to make a living.  So, Jabin and Sisera not only have military control over the people - but they also control the economy.

In Judges chapter 5 we’re told that the joy is gone from God’s people.  They’re living in fear of Jabin’s power.  Commerce is at a standstill.  (Judges 5:6) 

For 20 years Jabin and Sisera have been oppressing God’s people.  Not just oppressing them.  But, severely oppressing them.  These are overwhelming circumstances.

So, part three - God’s people are crying out to God for deliverance.

Part four is what?  God delivers His people.  Which comes in verse 4: 
Now Deborah - our hero of faith for today - Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time.  She used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came up to her for judgment.

The name Deborah means “Honey Bee.”  Think Mohammed Ali: 
Floats like a butterfly...  Stings like a bee.”  Deborah is hard working - producing the sweetness of God’s blessing for others.  But, don’t underestimate her.

Three things about Deborah.  First:  She’s a prophetess - telling people what God thinks.  Speaking with God’s authority before the people.  Second:  She’s a wife - which means she understands husband - wife relations.  She understands family.  She’s suffering right along with her people.  Third:  She’s a judge.  She’s the one appointed by God to call his people back to Him - to speak truth and deal out wisdom and justice.  Deborah is holding court under a palm tree between Ramah and Bethel - which was in the far south of Ephraim.

Verse 6: 
Now Deborah sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali - which is way up north above the Sea of Galilee - and Deborah said to him, “Behold the Lord, the God of Israel, has commanded, ‘Go and march to Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men from the sons of Naphtali and from the sons of Zebulun.  I will draw out to you Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his many troops to the river Kishon, and I will give him into your hand.’”

There are two things here that are important for us to notice.

First:  King Jabin is ruling from Hazor.  Which is a large city about 9 miles north of the Sea of Galilee - up in the country God gave to Naphtali.  Barak is in Kadesh.  Kadesh is so close to Hazor that Jabin could’ve kept Barak up at night with his snoring.

Point being that Barak is right there.  He’s got the king in his cross-hairs.  He’s even in the land of Naphtali where his 10 thousand man army is suppose to come from.

The name Barak means “lightening.”  But, this guy is not too swift.  Instead of moving quickly - “lightening” leading the troops - he’s hiding out - living in fear - overwhelmed by the circumstances - hesitant - waiting for someone else to do something.

Second important thing to notice:  What Deborah tells Barak.  Deborah summons Barak down from the far north - all the way down south to Ephraim.  The King James Version does a really good job translating what Deborah tells Barak - here in verse 6.  It’s a question.  It goes like this,
“Hasn’t God commanded you to take 10 thousand men from Naphtali and take out Jabin and his army?  Didn’t God tell you He would make you victorious?  20 years of oppression is enough.  What are you waiting for?”

Going on in verse  8.  Notice Barak’s response. 
Then Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.”  That’s being overwhelmed and not trusting God.  “I’ll only go if you go.”

Verse 9: 
She - Deborah - sweetness with a stinger - she said , “I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hands of a women.” - ouch - stinger - then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh - back to the far north.  Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali together to Kedesh, and ten thousand men went up with him; Deborah also went up with him.

Verse 11: 
Now Heber the Kenite had separated himself from the Kenites, from the sons of Hobab - Jim-Bob, Billy-Bob - Hobob the father-in-law of Moses, and had pitched his tent as far away as the oak in Zaanannim, which is near Kedesh.

Verse 11 is a tidbit of information that we need because it becomes important later.  The Kenites were relatives of the Jews through Moses’ father-in-law. (Joshua 19:33)  Usually they lived as nomads way down in southern Judah.  Probably by an act of God, Heber is living by this tree which is way up north in the country of Naphtali. 

Verse 12: 
Then they told Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor.  Sisera called together all his chariots, and all the people who were with him, from Harosheth-hagoyim to the river Kishon.

Sisera is in the west - assembling and moving his army to the northeast.

Verse 14: 
Deborah said to Barak, “Arise!  For this is the day in which the Lord has given Sisera into your hands; behold, the Lord has gone out before you.”  So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him.  The Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army with the edge of the sword before Barak; and Sisera alighted from his chariot and fled away on foot.  But Barak pursued the chariots and the army as far as Harosheth-hagoyim, and the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not even one was left.

Picture this.  Sisera - with his superior 900 iron chariots - plus army - is moving up the valley of the Kishon River - moving up from the west.  Barak is up on Mount Tabor.  Mount Tabor rises 1300 feet above the valley.  Barak and his 10 thousand volunteers have a front row seat to watch this advance.  They can see the dust.  They can hear the rumble.  Its like being a tender corn stock and hearing the locusts coming.  Overwhelming.

But what does verse 15 say? 
“The Lord routed Sisera.”  Say that with me, “The Lord routed Sisera.”

When all this took place it was probably summer.  In the spring the Kishon River - with all the rain and runoff - in the spring the Kishon River floods and the land around it becomes a muddy swamp.

But its summer - so Sisera probably figured he was safe running his chariots up that valley.  But Judges 5:21 says that there was a deluge.  Its raining in the mountains - the water is rushing down the hills - a flash flood swelling the dry river beds.  The Kishon river becomes a wall of water.

The word here for “rout” is the Hebrew word “hamam.”  The same word used in Exodus 14:24 to describe what happened to Pharaoh's chariots in the Red Sea.  The word means “confusion” - “panic.”  The chariots are moving forward.  Sisera’s seeing what’s coming.  He’s trying to call them back.  Suddenly the 900 iron chariots are stuck in the mud useless deathtraps.  Panic breaks out in Sisera’s army.

As Deborah sounds the advance -
“Arise!”  Note that - Deborah not Barak - as Deborah sounds the advance - Barak and his poorly armed volunteers storm down the mountain and totally decimate Sisera’s army.  “The Lord routed Sisera.”

Verse 17: 
Now Sisera fled away on foot 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.

Sisera probably thought he was safe there.  But he didn’t know what we know - because we read verse 11.  Heber’s a relative of the Jews.  Blood is thicker than a peace treaty.

Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said to him, “Turn aside, my master, turn aside to me!  Do not be afraid.”  And he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug
.  He said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty.”  So she opened a bottle of milk and gave him a drink; then she covered him.

Chapter 5:25 describes this milk drink in more detail.  Basically its curdled milk - yogurt and water.  Bear with me on this.  Some of you have been exposed - for better or worse - you’ve been exposed to the Armenian drink we call “Tan.”  This is Tan.  Maybe only an Armenian could say this.  But, there’s nothing better than ice cold Tan on a hot day after loosing a major battle.

Jael goes the extra cubit to make Sisera feel at home - safe - even giving him “tan” instead of water.

Verse 20: 
He said to her, “Stand in the doorway of the tent, and it shall be if anyone comes and inquires of you, and says, ‘Is there anyone here?’  That you will say, ‘No.’”  But Jael, Heber’s wife, took a tent peg and seized a hammer in her hand, and went secretly to him and drove the peg into his temple - smashes his head - and it went through into the ground; for he was sound asleep and exhausted.  So he died.  Understatement - this guy is dead.  (see also Judges 5:26-27)

Verse 22: 
And behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him and said to him…  And we could almost see her doing this in a kind of nonchalant - its no big deal - Sisera ain’t so tough - kind of way.  “Oh.   Barak.  Oh, come on in and I’ll show you the man you’re looking for.”  There’s Sisera lying dead with this tent peg shoved through his head.  “Barak, would you like some Tan?”

The point is that Barak - Mr. Lightening who is none-too-swift - is totally humiliated.  Just as Deborah said, it was this woman - wife of a nomad - a tent dweller - who does what God commanded Barak to do.  Jael - Heber’s wife armed with a tent peg - who gets the glory.

Verse 23: 
So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the sons of Israel.  The hand of the sons of Israel pressed heavier and heavier upon Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin the king of Canaan.

Part five of the cycle - God’s people are at peace - at rest - living in God’s blessing.

Thinking about the struggles we have when we’re overwhelmed.  There are two thoughts of application that I’d like to emphasize.

The first is this: 
The Importance Of Sizing Up Our Circumstances.  Try that with me, “The importance of sizing up our circumstances.”

Mrs. Monroe lives in Darlington, Maryland.  She’s the mother of eight children.  And except for a few interesting experiences, she’s just like any other mother across America.

She came home one afternoon from the grocery store and walked into her home.  Everything looked pretty much the same, though it was a bit quieter than usual.  She looked into the middle of the living room and five of her darlings were sitting in a circle - exceedingly quiet - doing something in the middle of the circle.  She put down the sacks of groceries and walked over closely and saw that they were playing with five of the cutest skunks you can imagine.

She was instantly terrified and yelled,
“Run, children, run!”  Each child grabbed a skunk and ran in five different directions.  She was beside herself and screamed louder.  It so scared the children that each one squeezed his skunk.  And - as we all know - skunks don’t like to be squeezed. (2)

Overwhelming circumstances are not the measure of a situation.  There’s no power in the circumstances - except the power we give them.  Fear does that.  Focusing only on ourselves does that.  When we look at our circumstances from a horizontal level they really do become overwhelming - really do threaten to consume us.

Like Balak - it becomes easier to doubt God - to turn back from what He’s called us to - to hesitate and disobey on the verge of certain victory.

We need to put our circumstances into God’s perspective - to look vertical.  We could be facing 900 iron chariots or terminal illness.  God and God alone holds the power.  He’s the only One who has authority over our circumstances.  He alone is the One who is able and willing to deliver us.

Second thought of application: 
The Importance Of Trusting God.  Try that with me, “The importance of trusting God.”

Years ago a submarine was rammed by a ship off the coast of Massachusetts.  It sank immediately.  The entire crew was trapped in a prison house of death.  Every effort was made to rescue the crew, but all ultimately failed.

Near the end of the ordeal, a deep-sea diver, who was doing everything in his power to find a way for the crew’s release, thought he heard a tapping on the wall of the sunken sub.  He placed his helmet up against the side of the vessel and he realized it was Morse Code.  He attached himself to the side and he spelled out in his mind what was being tapped from within.  It was repeating the same question.  The question was, from within: 
“Is...there...any...hope?” (3)

Overwhelmed - we often wonder if there’s hope.

Deborah is great example for all of us.  Because most of the time we find ourselves in the role of Balak.  But Deborah - who’s living in the same circumstances as Balak - Deborah is looking for the victory.  Expecting it.  Trusting God for it.  Not just crying out to God - but committing herself - without distraction - to pursue God’s path to victory.

We need more Deborahs.  Who will say to us,
“Arise!”  Pray about this when you’re overwhelmed.  “God send me a Deborah who will be bold enough to summon me - to encourage me to keep obeying - to keep faithful - to move forward trusting You.”

We need to be a Deborah.  That’s a challenge.  Something to ask God to show you.   To whom do I need to be a Deborah?




1. The Voice Of The Martyrs - June 2005
2. John Haggai, How To Win Over Worry
3. Ben Patterson, The Grand Essentials

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.