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When Men Don't Lead: A Look at the Life of DeborahThe Tent Peg

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss with a question a lot of us ask ourselves while doing the mundane tasks of life.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: What is my life contributing? What difference is my life making? What am I doing of value? I’m just trying to keep these kids from killing each other. Could I remind you as you’re doing what God called you to do, wherever it is and whatever it is, you play into the plan of God? As you fulfill your part, your reward will be great.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, October 11.

Over the next few minutes we’ll hear about a woman whose days were filled with normal, everyday tasks. Does that sound like your life? One day God called this woman to do something quite unusual, and she was ready to obey. Here’s Nancy to tell us more in a series called, When Men Don’t Lead: A Look at the Life of Deborah.

Nancy: Well, we’re coming down to the end of the story of Deborah, Judges chapter 4 and 5, and today we come to the aftermath of the battle—the conclusion. This is where now that God has won a great victory and has routed the enemy armies under the leadership of Barak, who was inspired by the encouragement and the faith of Deborah, now we come to the destruction of Sisera, the Canaanite commander, at the hands of another woman, who’s a character we’ve not yet met in this story.

Her name is Jael (J-A-E-L). I have to tell you that this part of the story raises more questions than I have answers for. So I’m not going to answer anything that you ask, but I’ll just tell you what has come to my heart and what I think are just some obvious observations from this portion of the Scripture.

Now to give us a context here, we’re in Judges chapter 4, and in the middle of that passage describing the preparation for the battle and then the battle, there’s a parenthesis in verse 11. It’s a verse that really doesn’t relate to what goes before or what goes after, but it’s important because it’s setting us up for a later part of the story.

Verse 11 of chapter 4 says,

Now Heber the Kenite had separated from the Kenites, the descendents of Hobab the father-in-law of Moses, and had pitched his tent as far away as the oak in Zaanannim, which is near Kedesh.

Now, if you’re just joining us for the first time in this series, you probably think, “What in the world have I tuned in to, and is she even speaking English?” because of all those names that are different to our ears. But we know that we have the Israelite army here that’s going to do battle against the Canaanites.

And God brings about this decisive victory where the enemy is routed. Their chariot wheels get stuck in the Kishon River that overflows. All the Canaanite soldiers flee on foot. The Israelite army decimates the fleeing soldiers—but one, Sisera, the commander, the most powerful, human man in this story, or the one who thought he was.

What is going to happen to him? Well, to set that up, we’re told about these Kenites, who were probably—they were distantly related to the Israelites, but they weren’t really Israelites. They had apparently struck up a peace agreement with the Canaanite forces.

You read about this beginning in verse 17 of chapter 4,

But 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.

So this is a household that apparently has declared neutrality—“we’re not on either side.” They probably had struck up this peace agreement because they didn’t want to be run over by the Canaanites. So Sisera flees away on foot. He’s running from the Israelite army. God has given this incredible victory, and he heads east to the place—this Zaanannim, which is near Kedesh. It’s east of the battle.

He runs away on foot, and he goes to this tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, which he thinks will be a safe place for him to hide.

Verse 18:

And Jael came out to meet Sisera and said to him, "Turn aside, my lord; turn aside to me; do not be afraid." So he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug. And he said to her, "Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty." So she opened a skin of milk and gave him a drink and covered him. And he said to her, "Stand at the opening of the tent, and if any man comes and asks you, 'Is anyone here?' say, 'No'" (vv. 18-20).

Now as the story goes on—and some of you know where it’s headed—what starts out as an apparent act of hospitality turns into this man’s death and destruction and undoing. The assumption is that the whole time that Jael was providing this hospitality for Sisera, that she had this plot in the back of her mind that she was going to kill him and that she was luring him into this trap.

It’s possible that that’s the way it happened but not necessarily. It’s possible that she really was just extending Eastern hospitality and doing what she thought she should do and really genuinely welcoming him and that at the next moment—which we’re going to read about in verse 21—that God moved on her to become an instrument of God in this case and turn her heart and her thinking to put this commander to death.

Now whatever the truth is about that, and we don’t know, what we’re about to read is not recommended behavior for you when you have a guest in your home, no matter how ungodly he may be. But in this context, this was something that God did bless and that fulfilled His purposes in this particular situation—of course, a situation where they did not have nearly the revelation of the Word and the ways of God that we do today.

Verse 21: "But Jael the wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand.” Now these Kenites were Bedouins, and the women often had the task of setting up the tent. They knew how to swing a hammer, and they knew how to drive in a tent peg. This was something she’d probably had some experience doing.

Then she went softly to him [some of this terminology is really challenging] and drove the peg into his temple until it went down into the ground while he was lying fast asleep from weariness. So he died. And behold, as Barak was pursuing Sisera, Jael went out to meet him and said to him, "Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking." So he went in to her tent, and there lay Sisera dead, with the tent peg in his temple (vv. 21-22).

Now as gruesome as that is, and as unthinkable as it is, from our perspective, when we come to chapter 5 and they’re singing the victory song, look at the description of this incident, beginning in verse 24 of Judges 5.

Most blessed of women be Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, of tent-dwelling women most blessed. He asked water and she gave him milk; she brought him curds in a noble’s bowl. She sent her hand to the tent peg and her right . . .

Now they’re singing this song! You’ve got to get the context here. This is a song of Deborah and Barak that they’re leading the Israelites in singing. I don’t know what tune you’d put to this, but verse 26,

She sent her hand to the tent peg and her right hand to the workmen’s mallet; she struck Sisera; she crushed his head; she shattered and pierced his temple. Between her feet he sank, he fell, he lay still; between her feet he sank, he fell; where he sank, there he fell—dead (vv. 24-27).

Her act becomes a part of the praise hymn that the children sing after the victory has been won. Now let me say, as Mathew Henry suggests in his commentary on this passage, that if God, by an immediate impulse upon her mind, directed her to do this act, he said that we are not to rely on such impulses today.

We have the Word of God to direct us, and God has other ways of dealing with His enemies today. Apparently, the fact that this woman—who was not a native of Israel and whose family had tried to be neutral and had a relationship with the enemies of God—the fact that she sided with God, against His enemies, was something that God found praiseworthy.

Again, how we do that today would be with different means. We would implement that differently, but I think the principle is there that she took her stand with God against His enemies. We look at some of those Old Testament passages, and we think, “How could God do such things to His enemies?” I’m not going to get into an explanation of that, but I think if you and I knew how holy God is and how sinful man is, then we would not think it particularly disturbing that God would destroy those who hate Him and resist His holiness.

What we would find astounding is that God doesn’t do the same thing to us, that God shows mercy on some. We’re more offended at the justice of God than we ought to be, and we’re less enthralled with the mercy and the grace of God than we ought to be.

I think also this points out that—let me read here a quote from Mathew Henry—“That those whose lot is cast in the tent, in a very low and narrow sphere of activity, if they serve God in that, according to their capacity, they shall in no wise lose their reward.”

Jael in the tent wins as rich a blessing as Barak in the field. She was in her tent, in her place, doing what God gave her to do at that moment, and she got as much reward, as much commendation, as much blessing as Barak did for leading those 10,000 soldiers into the battlefield.

Could I just say that should be a word of encouragement to those of you moms, wives who are staying by the stuff, if you will, while your husband, perhaps, is going out to work, to war, to provide, to protect? I know that it’s easy for moms today—where the role of motherhood has been so demeaned and where the role of homemaking has been so belittled—it’s easy for the mom with four little children to feel, “What is my life contributing? What difference is my life making? What am I doing of value? I’m just trying to keep these kids from killing each other.”

Can I remind you, as you’re doing what God called you to do, wherever it is and whatever it is, you play into the plan of God? As you fulfill your part, your reward will be great.

Let me just read a quote from Charles Spurgeon where he talks about this passage, and this really encourages me as I think about our desire as women to be used of God. He says,

The LORD can still use feeble instrumentalities. Why not me? He may use persons who are not commonly called to great public engagements. Why not you? The woman who slew the enemy of Israel was no Amazon but a wife who tarried in her tent. She was no orator but a woman who milked the cows and made butter. May not the LORD use any one of us to accomplish His purpose?

Somebody may come to the house today, even as Sisera came to Jael's tent. Be it ours not to slay him, but to save him. Let us receive him with great kindness and then bring forth the blessed truth of salvation by the LORD Jesus, our great Substitute, and press home the command "Believe and live." Who knoweth but some stout-hearted sinner may be slain by the gospel today!1

Leslie: Isn’t that great? In the middle of what you think are everyday, boring tasks, God may have a special appointment for you. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been helping you get ready for that kind of appointment, and she’ll be right back to continue in the series, When Men Don’t Lead: A Look at the Life of Deborah.

Maybe you know someone who feels discouraged and overwhelmed by mundane tasks. Would you share a transcript of today’s program with them? It could be just what they need. Every weekday you can find the transcript at ReviveOurHearts.com.  It's just one of the sources you'll find on our new website. Revive Our Hearts is packed full of information that you'll find helpful, truthful, and applicable to your situation.

The website also encourages community. At the end of today's transcript, you'll find our listener blog. You can post your thoughts about today's program and interact with other listeners. Again, it is all at the new ReviveOurHearts.com.

Now, let's get to Nancy and the series, When Men Don’t Lead: A Look at the Life of Deborah.

Nancy: As we come to the end of this series, I want us to just look at the epilogue, if you will, to the story at the end of Judges chapter 4, last two verses, and then the last verse of chapter 5 of the book of Judges.

Judges 4, verse 23,

So on that day God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan before the people of Israel. [This was the work of God. This was God’s victory.] And the hand of the people of Israel pressed harder and harder against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they destroyed Jabin king of Canaan (v. 24).

And then go, if you would, to the last verse of chapter 5, the end of the victory song that Deborah and Barak sang after God won this battle. Verse 31 of Judges 5,

So may all your enemies perish, O LORD! But your friends be like the sun as he rises in his might.

Now as you study through this passage, and I won’t take time to expand on this, but you’ll see there’s a theme of curse and blessing throughout these two chapters. This summary verse, Judges 5:31, illustrates that again. “So may all your enemies perish, O LORD!” May they be cursed. Now we don’t curse them, but ultimately God is going to curse His enemies—that is, to damn them to eternal judgment if they have resisted His right to rule over their lives.

But you see blessing spoken here, too. “May your friends, [O God], be like the sun as he rises in his might.” As we look at the summary of this passage, of this story, it’s interesting that it would end with this verse. “So may all your enemies perish, O LORD! But your friends be like the sun as he rises in his might.”

It says to me that there are really only two categories of people in this world. When everything is said and done, when all of history has been written, when we come to the end, we find that there are the enemies of God, and there are the friends of God—the enemies of God and the friends of God. Those are two kinds of people.

When it comes to the end, we will see that there is no middle ground. You’re either a friend of God, or you’re an enemy of God. Somehow we have bought into and believed what is a lie—it’s not biblical—in this generation of evangelical Christianity, and that is that you can be a professing Christian, claim to be a Christian, be a member in good standing of a local church, be active in church work, and yet live for yourself, resist God’s commands, be unforgiving, be bitter, be angry, be immoral, and still claim to be a good Christian.

But when God sifts and sorts through it all in the end, there will be only two categories—the friends of God and the enemies of God. The way that we are living our lives now is a pretty accurate indicator of where our heart is.

Now that’s not to say that you and I don't ever sin. We do. But if you are a friend of God, you don’t stay in that fallen condition. When God’s Spirit convicts you, you want to deal with it and repent and confess it. And you get up and start walking with God again.

James four says it this way,

You adulterous people! [This is written to believers.] Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (v. 4).

There’s a drive among professing believers today to try to be as like the world as possible. We don’t want to be different. We don’t want to stand out. We want to accommodate. We don’t want to be uncomfortable in this world's system. And I’m not saying that Christians ought to do their best to look weird or to act strange, but our core nature and values are diametrically opposed to those of this world.

If you and I are trying to be embraced by the world, understood by the world, incorporated by the world, trying to please the world, we’re going to find ourselves being the enemies of God.

Throughout the Scripture you’ll see stress that there are not only two categories of people—the friends of God and the enemies of God—but corresponding to that, there are two possible outcomes of life. The enemies of God—Scripture tells us in no uncertain terms what their outcome will be.

Listen to Proverbs 4, verse 19, “The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble." And then Mathew 13, “. . .at the close of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (vv. 40-42). 

There’s very little preaching today on the judgment of God, on eternal damnation, on hell. It’s not pleasant, and I don’t like to preach on it. But one of the things God has been convicting me of recently is that I have to be willing to speak where the Scripture speaks, and one of the things the Scripture is so clear on, and that is that the enemies of God will end up in everlasting judgment.

I’d rather say that firmly now, than to just say all the nice things that we all love to talk about—heaven and grace and love and all those other wonderful Scripture truths—and perhaps mislead someone to think that they’re headed to an outcome with God when as God’s enemy, they’re headed toward judgment.

I urge you to get before God. Let Him examine your heart and your life, and as the apostle Paul says to the Corinthians, “Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5 paraphrased). Let God show you. Are you a friend of God, or are you the enemy of God?

Leslie: Nancy, you’ve been giving us an important, sobering message. If a listener realizes they’ve been an enemy of God, what should they do?

Nancy: Well, let me just say, Leslie, that it’s the Holy Spirit who brings that kind of conviction to people’s hearts. If the Lord’s been speaking to you and showing you that you are not His friend, that you are His enemy, you need to agree with Him. Don’t defend yourself because when you stand before Him, all those good things you’ve done, all those religious things you’ve done, are not going to be enough to make you God’s friend.

If God’s convicted you that you are separated from Him and you don’t have a personal relationship with Him, then now is the time for you to repent—repent of going your own way and running your own life, to repent of the sin that has separated you from God; and then, by faith, to trust Jesus Christ to be your savior, to deliver you from your sin. He died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sin so that you could become a friend of God.

If that’s where God finds you today, then I want to invite you to just pray and express that to the Lord. You might say something like this, “O God, I know that I have sinned against you. I know that I am your enemy, and I deserve your eternal judgment for my sin. Right now, I repent of my sin. I want to turn from myself and my sin to Jesus Christ. I trust Him and Him alone to save me and to bring me into a right relationship with You.

Leslie: If you just prayed with Nancy, we’d like to send you some free information about what it means to be a new creation in Christ. This material will help you understand what it means to live as a friend of God instead of His enemy. You can call and ask for it at 1-800-569-5959, or visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com.

In our study of Deborah, we've heard about the importance of joining the battle when God calls you. Everybody struggles with this, including Nancy. Tomorrow we'll hear about a season of life in which she was faced with a tough question: Would she join the battle when she didn't feel like it? That's tomorrow. Now Nancy's back to wrap things up.

Nancy: Let me just read one more phrase from the story of Deborah. It’s the last phrase in the account. Judges 5, verse 31 says, “And the land had rest for forty years.” As we’ve looked at the life of Deborah, we’ve seen that she made an investment. She was a woman of courage, a woman of faith, a woman who knew God, a woman who walked with God, a woman who was greatly used to influence others in their walk with God.

But I see that she made an investment, not only in her lifetime, but also for the sake and the benefit of the next generation because after she lived, the land had rest—the land that had been oppressed for 20 years leading up to her life—now had rest for a whole new generation to enjoy. Her life left a mark that brought spiritual and cultural and societal benefits to a whole new generation.

As you think about your life and your walk with God, and most of us are just very consumed with the immediate, the here and now: How do we survive? How do we get our families raised? How do we get all our needs and our situations met? And it’s not wrong to think of those things, but can I challenge you to look beyond your lifetime and to count and calculate and reckon what mark you will leave after you’re gone?

So as you make choices today, as I make choices today, as we choose to lay down our lives, to say "no" to our flesh and to say "yes" to God, by God’s grace, our prayer is that the land will have rest after we’re gone.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1Charles H. Spurgeon. Chequebook of the Bank of Faith. (6/21).

Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.

Topics: Gospel, Womanhood, Women of the Bible

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