Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Ignoring God’s call is serious. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: To sit back and do nothing when God asks for your help is actually to become God’s enemy. You can’t stay neutral. Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, October 10.

Imagine, if you will, an Olympic athlete who’s spent years in training. He gets to his event and suddenly decides that he doesn’t feel like participating today. Well, if you don’t enter the race, you forfeit any hope of standing on the medal stand. It seems ridiculous, but we do it in life. Here’s Nancy to explain in a series called When Men Don’t Lead: A Look at the Life of Deborah.

 Nancy: If you’ve been with us for the last couple of days, you may be wondering if we’re ever going to get to the rest of the story of Deborah. I took a little detour to talk about how Deborah is an illustration—a wonderful example—of what it means to serve and even to lead in ways that are distinctively feminine, and how we need that.

But I do want us to get to the battle that forms the core of the story in Judges 4 and 5. We’ve talked about what led up to this battle: The Canaanites had been oppressing the Israelites for 20 years. This was God’s discipline for the sin of His people.

Then God put a word in Deborah’s heart—put a message there, stirred up faith, even though Deborah lived in the southern portion of the land and all the problems were taking place in the northern part of Palestine, yet she was willing to become involved. She called for a man named Barak so that she could give him God’s word as to how this battle was to be fought and won.

God said, “I’m going to draw the opposing general, Sisera, into this place near the river Kishon and Mount Tabor (these are both in the north of Palestine). I’m going to give you a battle, and I’m going to give you a victory over the Canaanites.” Even though the Canaanites far outnumbered the Israelites—they had far superior weapons and military vehicles—God said, “I’m going to win the battle.”

When we come to verses 12-16 of Judges chapter 4, we find a description of how God gave a decisive victory over the Canaanites. Let me read beginning in verse 12. “When Sisera was told that Barak the son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, Sisera called out all his chariots, 900 chariots of iron, and all the men who were with him, from Harosheth-hagoyim to the river Kishon” (verses 12-13).

Verse 14, “And Deborah said to Barak, ‘Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the Lord go out before you?’ So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with 10,000 men following him. And the Lord routed at Sisera." That word, routed, means confused or thrown into a panic.

“The Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army before Barak by the edge of the sword. And Sisera got down from his chariot and fled away on foot. And Barak pursued the chariots and the army to Harosheth-hagoyim, and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not a man was left” (verses 15-16).

When we come to chapter 5 of Judges, we have a rehearsal, a review, a retelling of the story. But this time it’s in the form of Hebrew poetry, as Deborah and Barak (at the end of the battle) sing a song—a victory song, a victory hymn, a song of deliverance praising God for what He has done.

Let me just read from chapter 5, beginning in verse 19, the part where they describe the battle. Again, we’re using the form of Hebrew poetry here. Judges 5:19, “The kings came, they fought; then fought the kings of Canaan, at Taanach, at the waters of Megiddo; they got no spoils of silver. From heaven the stars fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera. The torrent Kishon swept them away, the ancient torrent, the torrent Kishon. March on, my soul, with might” (and verses 20-21).

Now, let’s take that passage apart and see what it’s really describing what happened. Let me just start out by saying, there are a number of main characters in this story: Jabin, the king of the Canaanites; Sisera, the general of the Canaanite army; Deborah, of course—the prophetess and judge; Barak, the soldier that God uses to lead the Israelite forces into battle; and Jaal—we haven’t come to her yet, but she is the woman God is going to use to actually put to death the Canaanite general, Sisera.

But when you put all the characters in order, you have to say that the real hero and champion of this story is none other than God Himself. This is His story. Verse 15 of chapter 4, “The Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots.”

I want to just tell you, the Israelite army could not have done this. They had been defeated for 20 years. What made them think they could win now? The Canaanite army, if anything, was stronger than ever; they had no hope against this army, but God did it. God is the victor; God is the champion.

Verse 23 of Judges 4, “So on that day God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan before the people of Israel.”

Can I just remind as you . . . Think about what’s going on in our world and how many times it seems that the forces of evil are winning, and how overpowering the world seems to be against believers, against Christianity, against God’s way. I want to remind you—and this story is just a picture of this—that God will be victorious. He is the mighty warrior; He is the One who is going to win the battle.

Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses [that’s Sisera and his army; that’s what they were trusting in], but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” When you and I start to trust in our own human resources or abilities or efforts or strength or our own ingenuity or our own strategies, we end up discovering sooner or later we aren’t strong enough to win this battle. “We will trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Now in this battle, God used divine intervention to win the battle. Chapter 5 verse 19 says, “The kings came and fought.” Those were the Canaanite kings. They came against the people of God. But verse 20 says, “From heaven the stars fought.” That’s just a poetic way of saying, “God divinely intervened on behalf of His people.” God used the stars in heaven—creation, nature—just a little weapon in His hand, to win this victory.

Now keep in mind that Baal, who was the god of the Canaanites, was considered the god of wars and storms. God wanted to demonstrate to the Canaanites, to the Israelites, and to anyone else who was paying attention—to those of us who are reading this story today—that God is the God of storms and wars. He is the mighty conqueror. Jehovah is demonstrating His supreme power over storms and over Baal and over all false gods.

What happened here? The Kishon River (K-i-s-h-o-n) that we read about in this passage is normally a very shallow, tiny stream, and at times, just a dry riverbed. This was the dry season. Had it not been, Sisera would not have risked taking his chariots into the Kishon River—if it had been during the rainy season.

This was the dry season; the chariots that the Canaanites thought were their strength actually became their liability. As God sent this torrential downpour from heaven, the river overflowed and the chariot wheels got stuck in the mud. The enemy got thrown into confusion and panic and then had to run; abandon their chariots; then try to escape on foot.

God turns this dry riverbed into a raging torrent, which is what is talked about in chapter 5. “The torrent Kishon swept them away, the ancient torrent, the torrent Kishon” (verse 21). But who did that? The Israelites couldn’t look back on this battle and say, “Wow. Weren’t we great?” They’re just standing there on foot watching, and then participating in what God is doing from heaven.

Can I just remind you—as I’ve been reminded from this passage—that there is no limit to God’s power? God can win any battle, any war, any victory over any person, any circumstance, any situation. The hardest of hearts God can conquer. If He needs to use the stars from heaven to fight, then He’ll do that. If He needs to send a torrential downpour—whatever God needs to do, He can do. If it pleases Him, He will do it to accomplish His purposes.

As you put yourself at God’s disposal, as you become just a willing instrument with Him, God will move heaven and earth—if necessary—to defend you and to glorify Himself. You see, one of the problems I find, as I read a lot of letters and emails from our listeners—and I’m always so thankful for those because they help me really feel the hearts of our listeners—one of the observations I have as I’ve talked to and listened to women over these years is that we give up too soon.

We get in a circumstance that seems impossible, and maybe it really is impossible. Often it’s in relation to a marriage or a family situation; a situation at work or in a church, and we say, “This is impossible.” We give up or we try to fight the battle in our own strength with our own resources. A lot of women today, I’m finding, are just exhausted from trying to fight their own battles.

I think this passage says to us, “Relax. Let God fight His battles.” Now, we can participate with Him in that. There are times when He calls us to rise up and be a part of that army of faith. But God will do whatever He has to do to glorify Himself and to fulfill His purposes in your life and in our world.

Now, in reflecting on the battle in Judges chapter 5, as Deborah and Barak sing the victory hymn, they’re retelling the story. They point out the fact that some were more willing participants than others; the willing volunteers are commended. Look at, for example, verse 2 in chapter 5.

“That the leaders took the lead in Israel, that the people offered themselves willingly, bless the Lord!” Verse 9, “My heart goes out to the commanders of Israel who offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless the Lord.” Verse 11, “Then down to the gates marched the people of the Lord.”

Verse 13, “Then down marched the remnant of the noble; the people of the Lord marched down for me against the mighty. ” Then beginning in verse 14 they name the specific tribes of Israel that got involved and then sent soldiers to the battle. “From Ephraim their root they marched down into the valley, following you, Benjamin, with your kinsmen; from Machir [which is a city in the tribe of Manasseh], marched down the commanders, and from Zebulun those who bear the lieutenant's staff; the princes of Issachar came with Deborah, and Issachar faithful to Barak; into the valley they rushed at his heels” (and verse 15).

Look at verse 18. “Zebulun is a people who risked their lives to the death; Naphtali, too, on the heights of the field.” Several of the tribes are named: Ephraim, Benjamin, Manasseh, Zebulun, Issachar, Naphtali. They were ones who came to the battle. Sure, they were scared; sure, they didn’t know what the outcome was going to be. But they followed God; they followed their leaders. They got involved; they risked their lives and went into the battle.

Naphtali and Zebulun, two of the tribes named, were the ones who were most directly affected by the problem. That’s where the Canaanite powers had been centered; they lived the closest to King Jabin, and they had experienced the greatest oppression from the enemy—it’s not totally surprising that they would get involved. They had a lot to gain and a lot to lose.

Two tribes are not mentioned in this passage. That’s Judah and Simeon. They lived the furthest away, down in the very south of the country. They’re not rebuked for not getting involved. Perhaps it wasn’t expected that they would; perhaps, it was just not logistically feasible for them to send troops up to the northern part of the country.

But in this chapter there are some others named who lived nearby but refused to get involved. They ended up ashamed and disgraced. Look at verse 15 for example (Judges chapter 5), “Among the clans of Reuben there were great searchings of heart.”

Now as I’ve meditated on this passage and studied it and read some commentators on it, it seems to me that what this is saying is they thought a lot about getting involved. But when it came down to it, they just thought; they didn’t do anything. They opted to stay at home.

That’s what verse 16 tells us, “Why did you sit still among the sheepfolds, to hear the whistling for the flocks? Among the clans of Reuben there were great searchings of heart.” You contemplated it; you thought about it; you considered it.

But when it came down to it, you decided to stay among the sheepfolds, the place that is, as Matthew Henry says, “a warmer, safer place than the war camp.” You decided to stay where it was safe, where there wasn’t a threat. You decided to let others go to war for you.

Then look at verse 17. “Gilead,” which was part of the tribe of Gad, “stayed beyond the Jordan; and Dan, why did he stay with the ships? Asher sat still at the coast of the sea, staying by his landings.” So here are four tribes—Reuben, Gad, Dan and Asher—who thought about getting involved, but they ended up just staying home. They ended up staying home to tend to their own business; to take care of their own normal responsibilities.

There’s nothing wrong with doing that in peace time, but there are times when we’re called to go to battle; times when we’re called to get involved in ways that involve risk.

They were not willing to do that. As a result, they were exposed for their inactivity.

Matthew Henry says about this passage, “Many are kept from doing their duty by the fear of trouble, the love of ease, and an inordinate affection to their worldly business and advantage. Narrow selfish spirits care not what becomes of the interest of God’s church, as long as they can but get, keep, and save money.” Then he references that verse in Philippians 2 where Paul said, “All seek their own” (verse 21, paraphrase). They’re just looking after their own interests.

Often times “it is the fear of trouble or the love of ease or an inordinate love for our worldly business” and occupations, that causes us to not want to get involved.

Verse 23 of Judges 5 continues along this theme saying, “Curse Meroz,” which was probably a city in Naphtali, that tribe that was near to the battle. “Curse Meroz, says the angel of the Lord, curse its inhabitants thoroughly.” Why? “Because they did not come to the help of the Lord against the mighty.”

Phillips Brooks was an old time Puritan writer. In one of his famous sermons he said, “Meroz [that’s the city referenced here] stands for the shirker. For him who is willing to see other people fight the battles of life, while he simply comes in and takes the spoils.”1

There are liberties and blessings and privileges that you and I enjoy today in this country because some people were willing to risk their lives; to get engaged; and to throw off oppression and to preserve these freedoms for us. But whether our children and our grandchildren and their children and their grandchildren have the same freedoms and liberties, may depend on whether we are willing to give up some of our comfort and convenience and ease and to be willing to engage in this spiritual battle that’s going on for the life and the heart of our nation.

I have to tell you that there are times—and I say this not at all to commend myself because a lot of times I’m the shirker—but there are other times when I feel very alone in the battle for the hearts and souls of women. Now I know I’m not alone, and there are others that God has raised up to be a part of this.

But I look around sometimes and it feels that Christian women by and large . . . Sometimes it looks to me that they’re just going merrily about their business, not aware—not really concerned—about what’s happening to marriages; what’s happening to children who are growing up in Christian homes and ending up not having a heart for the Lord.

I find myself at times doing battle for these marriages, for these families, for these values in the church, and in the Christian world.

Sometimes I think, “Lord, this is hard. Why aren’t other people coming to help in the cause against the enemies of our day?” Matthew Henry says of this passage, “He that will richly reward all His good soldiers [that is God] will certainly and severely punish all cowards and deserters.” When the time is up and when history’s story is told, I don’t want my name to have to be recorded among those who would not come to the help of the Lord.

As we go on in this passage, we’ll see that to sit back and do nothing when God asks for your help is actually to become God’s enemy. You can’t stay neutral. Jesus said, “He who’s not with Me is against Me” (Matthew 12:30; Luke 11:23).

Let me just stress that God didn’t need these AWOL tribes to win the victory. God did it without their help. God will win the victory over evil in this world and His kingdom will come and His will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. I have not an iota of doubt about that, and He will do it with or without you or me.

But if you and I go AWOL—if we sit and just mind our own knitting when we ought to be engaged and praying and crying out to God and waging spiritual warfare on behalf of the church and the world—you and I are going to miss an incredible opportunity to align ourselves with God.

We can make excuses for not getting involved; I’m not saying what that means. Some of you are doing absolutely the right thing by being at home and caring for your mate and for your children, and it’s that season of life when that’s where your priorities are centered. But still, we need to be aware and tuned and sensitive to ways around us that the Lord may be wanting to use us.

I watch as these marriages are falling apart in our churches. It’s so common; it’s so passé that it doesn’t even grieve us anymore. I mean, we say, “ ‘tsk, tsk,’ that’s really terrible,” but what couple in your church are you on your knees for, doing battle for God to save that marriage?

If you and I don’t get involved as God directs, in womanly and feminine ways, then ultimately I think there’s going to be a sense of shame and disgrace for those who sit out the battle.

But those who are willing to lay down their lives; those who are willing to get involved at the Lord’s commission and His calling are going to experience the joy of having participated with God in that battle.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been giving us the biblical example of Deborah, who never held back from joining the battle when God called her. It's a powerful reminder for each of us to engage in building God's kingdom today.

For Nancy and the team at Revive Our Hearts, joining the battle means producing a radio program every weekday and distributing it so people can hear. God has called some of our listeners to join in this battle with us, supporting the ministry finanically.

If you've never given to Revive Our Hearts, would you ask the Lord whether He'd like you to be involved? Nancy's here to explain why we need you to consider joining the battle.

Nancy: When you support Revive Our Hearts, your gift makes a big difference in many lives. For instance, there's a woman in Cambodia who works all day in a Christian children's home. She emailed us and said, "I listen to your podcasts every night almost without fail as part of my quiet time."

When you support Revive Our Hearts, you're making a difference in a person who's serving over in Cambodia. You are helping us to encourage this woman in God's Word. And then she can share what she's learning with the girls who are in her care.

She finished by saying, "You are being listened to on the other side of the world, and I find myself being continually encouraged. Thanks so much."

Would you help Revive Our Hearts continue in investing in the lives of women in Cambodia and in communities like yours and listeners in many other places? When you support us with a gift of any amount, we want to say "thank you" by sending you a copy of the 2012 Revive Our Hearts ministry calendar. The theme of this year's calendar is: Seeking Him Together. Each month this beautifully designed piece includes a quote that will encourage you to seek the Lord with all your heart.

Throughout the year, regardless of what the day may hold, this calendar will be a powerful reminder to seek the Lord. I know that you are going to find fresh springs of grace and strength as you seek Him through the year ahead.

Leslie: To get your copy of the wall calendar visit ReviveOurHearts.com and make a donation of any amount, or call with your support and ask for the calendar. The number is 1-800-569-5959.

Well, tomorrow we’ll look at one of the most unusual stories in the Bible—the tent peg, a hammer, and a forehead. I hope you can be here for the next Revive Our Hearts.

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.

“The Curse of Meroz.” Selected Sermons of Phillips Brooks.  William Scarlett, ed. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1950, 127.

 

 

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