Saturday, October 1
If you’ve seen a Mama Bear protect her cubs when they are under attack, you know how many of us moms feel at times. I’m not typically a woman who would ever intentionally hurt someone’s feelings or raise my voice… however, God has molded me into an assertive, vocal Mama Bear when it comes to my kids. Talk with any mom of special needs kids and you are sure to hear some “war” stories. Our story picks up today with a new judge who referred to herself as a “Mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7). This was Deborah – AKA Mama Bear (in my mind, anyway!). She could have referred to herself as many different titles: judge, wife, prophetess, leader… but she chooses “mother.” Oh how I love this woman! As we read through this story we find a woman who is wise, kind, encouraging, passionate, faithful, brave, and ready to protect the children of Israel (her “cubs”). Like many Mama Bears, she sees the big picture for her people. She hears God speak to her and she takes action. As “kids” can often break their parents’ hearts… we see bad choices have been made over that past 20 years. God is heartbroken as their Father. Deborah is heartbroken, as a member of God’s people – and as a spiritual mother. The repetitive pattern of sinful living has hit rock bottom again, and the Israelites are ready for God to provide them with a deliverer.
We find Deborah leading God’s people, handling disputes, and holding court under the Palm of Deborah (4:4-5). The Canaanite King (Jabin) and the cruel general, Sisera had made life troublesome and miserable for the Israelites. They had a strong army of men as well as 900 iron chariots. Deborah sent for Barak, a top officer for Israel’s army. She said to him, “The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men … I will lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army… and give him into your hands’” (4:6-7). Deborah lays out God’s battle plan which made little military sense… great opportunity to prove nothing is impossible with God. The Canaanite chariots didn’t help much in the mountains, but were extremely effective on the plains. God was ordering Barak and his troops to go to Mount Tabor, where I’m sure every shiny piece of weaponry, chariot, and enemy could be easily observed. Barak was then to lead them down the mountain and onto the plains – where chariots typically can do the most damage. This makes little sense to us mere mortals. Quick pause: Barak throws down an ultimatum and says he’s not going unless Deborah goes (4:8). Mama Bear agrees to go, but assures him, because of this – the honor will not go to him. The LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman, she will get the praise (4:9). Deborah didn’t nag or abandon Barak, as he was hesitant to jump into battle. She accompanied him and gave him strength.
I imagine Sisera felt giddy with excitement, thinking he couldn’t have planned this battle any better than this! He could see an easy win with his 900 chariots on flat land against some rag tag bunch of men on foot. (Think: Tanks versus Rifles or Mama Bear versus a Duck… crazy odds, RIGHT??). As the battle was about to begin, Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the LORD has given Sisera into your hands.” (4:14). Barak led the way and charged down the mountainside with his men. In the battle that followed, the LORD threw the Canaanites into a panic, both the soldiers and the charioteers, and the river of Kishon swept them away (5:21). “The stars in their courses fought against Sisera” (5:20). I’m not sure what all that entails… but I do know that God was large and in charge that day! In all the craziness of battle, Sisera jumped from his chariot and ran on foot to escape. Barak and his men chased the Canaanites until every man was destroyed. Only one terrible man remained.
Evil Sisera ran to the tent of a woman named Jael. He hoped to find safety and rest. She invited him in, pretending to be friendly and protective. In Judges 4:18 we see her say, “Come right in, don’t be afraid” (says the spider to the fly…I feel we have another Mama Bear, of sorts, on our hands here)! Thinking she was a friend of the Canaanites, Sisera entered Jael’s tent. He laid down to rest and she covered him with a blanket. He asked for a drink of water and she gave him warm milk, and covered him again. He was exhausted, but wanted to make sure he would be safe. He told Jael to stand by the doorway of the tent and watch. He said if someone asks – tell them no one is here (Judges 4:20). Once Sisera fell asleep, Jael picked up a tent spike and hammer and quietly approached him. She drove the spike through his temple and into the ground. That day Sisera died by the hand of a woman. The glory did go to a woman that day, not to Barak. Jael was called “most blessed of women” (Judges 5:24).
I hope to be half the Mama Bear Deborah proves to be through these two chapters. She sings praises to the LORD and recognizes all He has done. She sang the praises of those who served – “My heart is with Israel’s princes, with the willing volunteers among the people” (Judges 5:9). She acknowledges the efforts of others and gives encouragement. Deborah shows us that God uses men and women to accomplish His purposes. He honors those who trust in Him. Deborah had so much faith in God – she knew before the battle began that it was the LORD’s. Her battle hymn in chapter 5 is an eye witness song celebration… sounding a great deal like that of a proud Mama! She ends with a prayer “may they who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength” (5:31) – what an outstanding verse to pray over your cubs, and all those you care for! Then the land had peace forty years. Well done Deborah, well done.