In some ways, not much has changed since the days of Judges. When evil is around you, are you ready to speak truth in love and stand up for what is right? In this message, we look to the historical story of Deborah to see what it looks like to be a strong woman and stand for truth in a chaotic culture.
We are in a series called Before There Were Kings. It's, frankly, a mistitled series, because here's the problem: there was nothing but kings in the day and age we're about to study. We're in a book of the Bible called Judges. It's difficult to get your arms around it. Judges were not guys in black robes who made decisions and banged their gavel.
Judges were people who made a decision, "I am sick and tired of what I'm underneath. I'm sick and tired of the oppression, of the despair, the anxiety, the loneliness, and I'm going to do something about it, because I believe God wants to do something about it. I'm not going to be underneath unrighteousness; I'm going to undertake courageously what God wants me to do." And God always wants to set people free.
This is a great night to be here, because we're going to tell you that until you have a righteous king… The series should actually be titled "Before there was a righteous king who loved God and shunned evil, who stamped out wickedness in the land and surrounded himself with wise counselors." Before there was a righteous king, everybody was a king. There was nothing but kings. Let me show you some verses that show up again and again in the book of Judges.
In Judges 17:6 you're going to see this. "In those days there was no king [singular] in Israel, so everybody acted like they were a king." They could do whatever they wanted to whomever they wanted. A little bit later in Judges 18:1: "In those days there was no king." It talks about some horrible things that happened. Then the book closes in Judges 21:25, "In those days there was no king, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes."
Proverbs 14:12 says, "There's a way that seems right to man but in the end is the way of death." Specifically, I'm going to tell you what was happening. Those who were strongest were oppressing those who were weakest. Those who were entitled by their strength and position to do whatever they wanted, which is kind of always the way it happens… When you saw the rise of communism in Russia, it wasn't because there was no government leader.
People were never living in a commune. People were never living the same. There was always a ruling elite that was oppressive to the masses that said, "What we're going to do is make it equal for everybody," while they didn't live like everybody else lived. That unbiblical form of human relationship oppressed people for generations until, finally, some people stood up and put their lives at risk and said, "I'm sick of what I'm underneath, and we're going to undertake a revolution."
God wants to call you to a revolution. Specifically, I'm excited about tonight because I'm going to talk about the only female person who stepped up, and she stepped up because the guys were getting along just fine, because they were strong enough to oppress women and take advantage of them. It's always women and children who suffer when men don't do what they're supposed to do.
One of the things that discourages me is that sometimes when you get around people who rightly understand that God made male and female, women think they can't be strong. You need to know something. This will never be the country, this will never be the community, this will never be the church that God wants us to be if we don't have strong, godly women.
You shouldn't worry, gals, that you might come off as too strong; you should worry that you're going to be anything less than a godly woman. You should worry that somebody is going to tell you that to be something significant you have to be like a man. No, you don't. In fact, I'm going to tell you, in a world where there aren't enough men being men, we need more women to be like Deborah.
Men, you're about to look at a text tonight which calls you out. It's basically going to say, "If you won't stand up against wickedness, then I'll let a girl do it." You might go, "That offends me, Todd, if I'm a woman," but let me just say this: it is not a sign of courageous men when they send their women to war. I don't know if you've been looking, but that's increasingly what we've been doing around here.
What is happening is because women and men are different physically and in so many other ways, we cannot come up with a standardized way in order to test our young recruits to make sure they're fit for battle. We can't say, "You have to do three pull-ups" anymore, because we're saying, "Hey, men and women can do all of these same things."
Listen. There are plenty of women who can do three pull-ups. I think somebody out there might be saying, "Todd, are you saying women aren't strong? Let me throw you in a ring with Ronda Rousey, circa 2014, and let her arm-bar you into submission, big boy." And she could. I have no doubt that Miss Rousey would have me tapping out, but what I don't need to do is tap out on what is true.
What we do need to do is help our women understand that you don't need to worry if you're strong, because God designed you to be beautiful and strong, not just in his sight but in everybody's sight. You're about to see a model here that you can follow. Her name is Deborah. The name Deborah means honeybee. She is sweetness to her friends, and she is the sting of death to the enemies of God.
Deborah is ready, and she is surrounded by a bunch of weak, feckless, corrupt, cowardly men. Gals, if that is your state when you walk in tonight and go, "Where are all of the good men?" let me tell you, you just worry about being God's gal. You make your heart so much like God wants you to be that a man has to run after God in order to find you. When you do that, let me tell you what will happen.
When you do that, there's going to be nothing but godly men courting you. You don't want to marry a guy that you put up with something less than what God intends. I am a dad. I have six kids. I have three girls and three boys. So I thought it might be important to raise them the way God wanted me to raise them.
It might shock you, but when I was raising my three little girls, I didn't go, "How could I make these three kids awesome fathers?" Never crossed my mind. When I was raising my boys, I didn't say, "What can I do to make these men good mothers?" Never crossed my mind. I did, however, start out by saying, "Hey, how can I let these three be godly men? How can I let these three be godly women?"
I'm just going to give you the first two, and you see if you don't see the first two show up. By the way, I will put the whole thing out on social media tonight, with five different characteristics, about 40-some-odd different verses, little taglines that go with each one. This is the very first thing, ladies, I taught my little girls, and it looks like somebody taught it to Deborah, and to the glory of God and to the salvation of Israel, Deborah did this.
I told my little girls, first, "This is your job. Your very first job is to seek God first." Specifically, this was the tagline that went with it. "You reject the lie that you need some prince on a white horse to come and kiss you and give you significance. You don't need a man. You don't need a baby in your belly or a ring on your finger. You don't need somebody to validate you. You are already beautiful in my sight. You are already valuable in God's sight.
One day you may choose to unite yourself with a man who has run hard to God and found you there, but you reject the lie that anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ and God can satisfy you. You are not vulnerable. You are not needy. You are complete in Christ and lacking in nothing. The sufficiency of Jesus is already there for you, and you are not somebody only if a man says, 'You're beautiful' or 'I'll make you mine,' because God has already said, 'You're mine. I made you woman, and it is glorious.'"
That was the first thing I taught my little girls. Because of that, they didn't get torn through by a bunch of guys in their insecurity who were trying to validate their importance by having some girl for a second feel important enough to come underneath their wing, where they would exploit them and toy with them until they moved on to somebody they thought could make them more of a man in some other way.
So far, my first two gals have dated two guys and married them. My first little girl dated one guy and married him. The second girl dated one guy and married him. All through high school, I'm saying, "Why would you want to go pursue a guy or let a guy pursue you when he has no intention to finish? So we're not going to start unless we have a plan, and if our plan isn't to finish, then let's keep moving on and do something valuable." Deborah understood that.
First, you seek God. He has everything you need, and, by the way, if you find a guy who's seeking God, he's going to be doubly good to you, because he's going to give you somebody to encourage you the rest of your life. Little girls, women, godly friends, can I just beg you…if you didn't have a daddy who taught you that, you don't need a man to validate you, and he will never meet your needs. He will use you and leave you unless he's God's man.
Secondly, I told my little girls, "Your job is to speak faithfully. Specifically, you love others with godly wisdom and boldness and kindness as a faithful completer of others. That is what God made you to do. You don't ever have to be silent." When it says women are to be quiet in church in the Scripture, that same word is used just a few verses before where it says, "Pray for kings and all those who are in authority, so we might live a quiet life."
It doesn't mean don't speak; it means men are doing what men are supposed to do so the women don't have to go, "Would you step up and do what you're supposed to do so I can do what I'm supposed to do?" That's the way God designed it, and when you start to have women do what men are supposed to do, it is chaos. And when you have men start acting like women, it is chaos. I have to tell you, friends, God loves you. Don't be scared to be strong; be scared that someone is going to tell you you have to be a man.
Now you watch Deborah, because she does these two things, and she does them well. I'm going to read you Judges 4. Deborah's story is told historically in Judges 4, and then in chapter 5 she just sings a song. So we'll just read Judges 4. Here we go. "Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord …" I'm going to come back to that, but I'm going to read through, and then we're going to teach you some truth.
"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. The sons of Israel cried to the Lord; for he[Sisera, who was a mercenary and a warmonger,]had nine hundred iron chariots, and he oppressed the sons of Israel severely for twenty years." **And nobody was really that bothered by the fact they were underneath wickedness except Deborah the Bee."Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth…"** Who was a lapdog to evil. We'll get there.
"…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. Now she sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali, and 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."'"
What I could do right now is take out a map and show you these places. This is not Greek mythology. This is not Hindu mythology. This is not the Qur'an that is just beautiful poetic writings. This is what's called historical narrative. This happened. I have stood in these places. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was at Mount Tabor. A little bit ago, I was right where Deborah and Sisera and Barak went to war together.
This is historical narrative, and what you're seeing is God is at work revealing who he is through a group of people, that the whole world may know who he is. He loves people and doesn't want them to be underneath wickedness, so he's revealing himself and showing who he is so folks could run to him. You're going to have that choice and that opportunity tonight. So, these are real places, 20 miles apart, 30 miles apart, and these are real people in history. Nobody debates this. It says she had summoned this guy to come.
Verse 7: "I will draw out to you Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army…" By the way, jabin is not a name; it's a title, kind of like pharaoh. There were a number of different pharaohs. There were a number of different Canaanite kings who would go by the name of Jabin. So she said, "I'm going to give you the king of Canaan's army with his chariots and his many troops. I'm going to draw them out to the river Kishon, and I will give them into your hand."
So Barak said, "If you'll go with me, Mommy, and I can rub your little skirt when we go to war, I will go with you. But if you aren't going to go, I'm not going to go." That's what he said. It's kind of there in the Hebrew. Verse 9: "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 woman.'"
This mighty charioteer, this leader of this wicked, marauding, oppressing force… A woman will take him out. And it's not Ronda Rousey; it's going to be some Bedouin old goat. Literally, that's what she is. Her name means mountain goat. You're about to meet her. An old goat is going to wipe out the great warrior.
"Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali together to Kedesh, and ten thousand men went up with him; Deborah also went up with him. Now Heber the Kenite had separated himself from the Kenites, from the sons of Hobab the father-in-law of Moses…" What we're going to see here is that there's an old tribe of people, non-Jews, who lived and were around Israel. They used to be God-fearing non-Jews, but these folks had broken off a little bit and had adopted back some of the wicked ways of the Canaanites.
"…and had pitched his tent as far away as the oak in Zaanannim, which is near Kedesh." Which, if you care, is right there by the bottom of the Sea of Galilee today. "Then they told Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor. Sisera called together all his chariots, nine hundred iron chariots, and all the people who were with him, from Harosheth-hagoyim to the river Kishon."
Which runs right through the Jezreel Valley, also called the Valley of Megiddo, home one day to a battle called the battle of Armageddon. It is the only big, wide, broad valley in all of mountainous Israel. It's where battles have always been fought, and there will be another one there one day.
"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 [right across that valley from where they were] 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[got off]** his chariot and fled away on foot."** I'm going to tell you why he ran from his chariot in a moment.
"Barak pursued the chariots and the army as far as Harosheth-hagoyim…" He came back from whence he came. "…and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not even one was left. 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." But there was no peace with this woman, because she knew the wickedness of men, and she also knew that what men did after war was they would take spoil.
You'll find in Judges 5 that Sisera's mama is sitting there going, "I wonder where my boy is. Why hasn't he come home from war with all his chariots? Where's the thunder of the horses that would come right here?" They basically said, "Who knows? He's probably with one or two of his concubines, having his way with the spoils of war." You're going to find out Jael had had enough of that. So she says, "Come on in, Sisera." She didn't know what he was running from.
"'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." We're going to stop right there, not to ruin the story.
Let me teach you something. You come in here and go, "Hey, man. I'm giving up my Tuesday night to come here. I'm tuning into a podcast, and you're giving me all this ancient history. What relevance does this have with me?" Listen. I've already given you some about what'll happen if you'll just let God be who God intends to be in your life.
There is one hero in the story: it's God. There's only one person who trusts the hero, and she is ready, because if there's no man who will do what men will do, God will do it for her. She seeks first his kingdom and his righteousness, and you're about to see everything is added to her. She has not bought the lie that she needs anything other than God in her life. When you get one person who will do that, male or female, you're about to see blessing unfold. So let's learn from this.
This is important, because you're going to be studying this book… Again, remember, the key to this book is that there was nothing but kings. Everybody thought they could make up their own right and wrong. We talked last week about how lies pervade themselves throughout culture. There is a lie in our culture today which says there is no absolute truth. There's a lie which says, "If it feels good, do it. If it seems right to you, it must be all right."
That is always going to lead to chaos, and let me tell you something: wickedness loves chaos, because the only way people put up with tyrants and losses of freedom is when there's so much chaos they go, "You know what? I'd rather live under a wicked tyrant than to have this much chaos." But there is an alternative. You call people to live in a way where they don't need a tyrant to rule over them because they've dealt with the tyrant of sin in their heart.
If we don't quickly do that, individually and corporately as a nation, you will see more and more and more and more freedoms be taken from you. What will eventually happen is they'll say, "We have to take all of your guns, because you guys kill each other with your guns all the time." And guess who takes them: men who are a part of the wickedness. What do you think happens when some men get all of the chariots and then continue in their wickedness toward you?
You go, "We have a problem here, because it's not easy to discuss with them whether or not we like their kind of wickedness, and we don't have any more chariots or any more guns." That's why our founders said, "We're going to let people have guns." That's why our founders also said our constitution is wholly unfit to lead an immoral and unredeemed people, and if there is anything increasing in our land today, you guys have seen it.
We quit doing moral formation. We quit teaching virtue and honor in schools. We mock at courage and valor, and then we're shocked to find chaos in our midst. Some people say, "What you need is to let us take your guns. What you need is to let us take away your freedom. We'll show you peace," while they prosper and you're in bondage.
That's what was going on. In a very different way they got here. When you don't love God, you love, necessarily, something less than God. When you don't love what is holy, you love, necessarily, something that is unholy, and it will not work out for you. What is going to happen here is this is the third cycle that has happened. I'll just make a little note for you.
The first one happened, and a guy named Othniel steps up. They had been, if you will, oppressed for eight years, and then they were oppressed for 18 years because they repeated the same cycle, and a guy named Ehud spoke up, but that was 18 years. Now 20 years. Do you see what's happening here? Judgment gets harder. It gets longer. It gets closer together.
This is the cycle you see. We put this slide up last week. You'll see what happens is that there was some sense of salvation and goodness in the land. And what happens when things are going well? We don't think we need God. We think we can just do what we want to do, and we leave God and go our own way. That's called sin.
When we operate in a way that seems right to us, it leads to death, not to life, which puts us in bondage, which makes us go, "I don't like being in bondage," and then God in his grace is going to rescue us. This happens seven times in this book. Now watch this. Seven times the people are in bondage, and seven times in this book they're delivered.
I'm going to read you key verses in the book of Judges, and you, in your brilliance, as biblical scholars, will see the thing that happens that causes deliverance to people every time. It's what your generation needs. It's what I've been trying to do as a leader in this country in this generation. Watch this. We'll start in Judges 3:10. It says, "The Spirit of the Lord came upon him…" This is Othniel, the first judge, the first deliverer. "…and he judged Israel."
Israel wasn't doing right. We're going to help it do right, and we're going to wage war against wickedness. So, it says, the Lord wiped out this king of Mesopotamia, who had been the oppressing force. Watch this. I'm going to skip over Deborah, because it says it differently for her. In Judges 6:34 it says, "So the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon; and he blew a trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him."
Look at Judges 11. Here's another deliverer. This is Jephthah. "Now the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah…" You go to Judges 13. There's a guy named Samson. "And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him…" You see the same thing in Judges 14, verses 6 and 19, and then you'll see it again in Judges 15. What is the phrase that showed up every time God was going to move people out of wickedness and into a place of prosperity? "The Spirit of the Lord came upon…"
Let me take this outside of the context of a nation. You who are trying to go your own way, who are trying to figure it out… Maybe you weren't raised by a righteous Deborah. You weren't raised by a righteous daddy, so you've been basically trying to make your way. Listen to the world. Listen to others. You're your own king, your own queen, doing everything you can, but here's the truth: you know you're under oppression.
You've tried to find guys who would validate you, and they've oppressed you and used you and left you out there. You wonder if anybody could ever love you again. You're a guy who maybe has had some success, but you realize that success is fleeting and is not successful enough, and you're living under the wickedness of trying to validate yourself the way the world says you should validate yourself. You're going to continue to suffer and be under wickedness and oppression until this happens to you, until there is a righteous King in your life.
Mark my words. God is not trying to rip you off; he's trying to set you free. He's trying to make you the kind of self-leader, self-king, who doesn't lead to self-destruction. The Scripture says again and again, "When the wicked rule, the people groan." Here's the truth: you know that. You know that because wickedness has been ruling in a lot of your hearts, and you're like, "I am sick and tired of this being over me."
Guess what you need: the same thing a nation needs when wickedness is ruling over it. You need the Spirit of the Lord to come upon you, and you need to start to see that God is not somebody to be managed or avoided, that God is not somebody to be appeased and bought off and paid tax to by doing religious things. You need to realize that God is good, his Word is true, and that disobeying him doesn't hurt him other than he loves you.
One of the things that happened to me is that I was given the privilege of bringing life into this world, and as a dad, nothing broke my heart more than when I understood things they couldn't understand in their little 3-year-old or 13-year-old self and I had to ask them to trust me and they wouldn't sometimes trust me and would throw fits.
Or they would get even more freedom when they were a little older and they'd want to go their own way. All I wanted was for blessing to come into their lives. Every single time I would watch my kids go, "I don't know if I'm going to trust you," I'd go, "I kind of get it, because I'm not perfect. I've made some mistakes, and you've seen me act selfishly."
Every time I would watch them have a hard time trusting me, God would say, "Todd, I haven't made mistakes, and I don't ever do anything out of selfishness. I love you, and it breaks my heart every time you don't trust me and you let wickedness reign over you and the one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy be your father. He's the Father of Lies, and I hate it when my kid believes lies. I love you, and I want to make a way back for you to me."
This is the book of Judges. It just keeps happening. The Lord is trying to raise up individuals who will stop doing evil again in the sight of the Lord, not because it hurts God, other than that God loves you. So the Lord sold them into the hand… That's what God does. He loves you enough to let you have the consequences of your actions. Don't be deceived. God is not mocked. A man will reap what he sows. This is just a fact.
Some of you go, "Well, Todd, I've been kind of doing wicked things for a while, and it really isn't that bad." Well, the Bible will address you in that. Let me tell you about this thing called the law of the harvest. The law of the harvest is you reap what you sow. In other words, what you put in you're going to get out. But here's the thing about the harvest: when you put seeds in, you don't reap that right away.
The law of the harvest is you reap what you sow, you reap it later than you sow it, and you also reap more than you sow. If you put an apple seed in the ground, what do you get? One apple? No. You get a whole tree. You reap what you sow, you reap it later than you sow, and you reap more than you sow. It's that old statement. I think we said it again last week. Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. You'll sit there one day and go, "How did I get here?"
Here's the crazy thing. Proverbs 19:2 says, "It's not good for a man to be without knowledge. He who makes haste with his feet errs." He gets on his chariot and rides toward wickedness. It says in Proverbs 19:3, "The foolishness of man subverts his way, or ruins his way, and then his heart rages against God." Have you ever done that? Have you ever been in your chariot, not listening to God, not following the Spirit of the Lord, doing what you want to do, and you're in this cycle again of pain?
You go, "God, how could you let this keep happening to me?" and he's like, "I didn't want it to happen to you, but I'm not going to rape you. I'm not going to make you do something. If that's the way you want to run, I'll stand there and weep, and my toes will be at the edge of the ranch ready to run to you when you turn back to me, when you've had enough of wickedness."
This is Ecclesiastes 8:11: "Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly…" In other words, because you don't reap immediately what you sow. "…therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil." Have you ever gotten more emboldened by that? Have you ever cheated on a test, gotten away with it, and went, "Well, I think I'll study even less next time"?
You don't do it once and go, "Okay. I got away with that. I prospered. It was excellent. Let's never do that again." You don't do that. You wait until it stings. God loves you, so he lets you experience what you choose so you can see that's not something you want to keep choosing. Some of you guys have gotten to a really dark place, and you know what I'm talking about when I say that judgment always gets harder and longer and closer together.
Proverbs 29:1 says, "A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy." This is the progression of sin. First it startles us. We're like, "Wow! That was pretty…" Then it becomes pleasing to us, then easy, then delightful, then frequent, then habitual, then a way of life, and then our guilt is gone. We feel dead to the world. Then we're obstinate. "There's nothing wrong with this. You're never going to tell me to stop doing this."
Then we live in the despair and sadness of damnation of our own choosing. This is the way it always goes. Some of you guys who are here and you walked in with some scars, be thankful for those scars. Be thankful for the pain, for the despair, for the anxiety, for the bitterness, for the hangovers, for the DUIs, for the STDs, for the unwanted pregnancies, for the loneliness. Be thankful for it, but turn from that vomit. Don't eat any more of it.
Your Father loves you, and he can restore the years the locusts have eaten. You need to know something. I don't care where you've been or what you've done. Who you are is somebody God can use. Can I say that to you again? I don't care who you are or where you've been. What you are is somebody God wants to forgive and heal and restore and use. Here's what's so amazing: this room is full of people like this.
It is full of people who used to be professional vomit eaters, who just went, "What am I doing? God, this isn't your fault," and the kindness of God in the form of the Spirit of the Lord fell upon them when they repented and acknowledged the wickedness of their own queenship, their own kingship, and God lifted their head and forgave them and made them beautiful. They are now Deborahs and Daniels, and they are helping others out of wickedness. You can be next.
It says, "The sons of Israel cried to the Lord." I don't want to rush past this. They cried to the Lord. That's all you have to do. Some of you guys, like Israel in this section, have for 20 years lived underneath wickedness, and you're like, "Todd, I don't know what to do." Well, why don't you cry out to the Lord, because he is gracious.
Can I just read to you what a guy who actually had a pretty good 20-year run and then tubed it did? He did exactly what you did. He was eating not at vomit; he was eating at kings' tables, and then he just couldn't resist people who tried to convince him that vomit was where life was. His name is David. This is what David said. This is Psalm 32. "How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!"
David is saying, "Do you want to know who's blessed? Do you want to know who's happy? It's the man to whom the Lord doesn't impute iniquity, doesn't give him what he deserves, and in whose spirit there is no deceit." In other words, not that he's just not a liar but his spirit isn't lying to him. Your spirit is lying to you if you think there's something in this world that's going to make your spirit happy. It's just not.
David said, "When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long." David was a righteous king, made an unrighteous decision, and tried to hide it, and it didn't work. There's only one way to get that out. It has to purge, and then you have to not go eat it again. "For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me…" Have you felt that? It's called anxiety. It's called depression. It's called loneliness. It's called hopelessness. Is it inside of you?
"…my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer." Then you see that Hebrew word there which just means rest, just musical interlude. This is who he was, and then he says, "But I acknowledged my sin to you." It is Judges, chapter 4, verse 3. "I cried out to the Lord, and my iniquity I didn't hide. I told you, 'This is what's inside of me. It has to come out.' I'll confess what I've done to the Lord. He already knows it; he just wants to know that I know it. So I'm going to say, 'Lord, this isn't good.' And God forgave the guilt of my sin."
Can I just say this to you? If you have that thing in you this evening, I would beg you to get it out. God knows it's there. It's not going to get better. It's not going to pass. You just have to go, "This is what I have eaten, and it has to come out." Verse 6. This is for you. "Therefore…" This is what I would have said. If I was with Israel during the time of Judges 4, I would have said, "Israel, let everyone who is godly pray in a time when he may be found, because surely, in a flood of great waters…"
There's a day when the one who hardens his neck after much reproof suddenly will be broken beyond remedy. That's not you today. That's not you. I can say that with confidence, because you're still here and alive to listen to this. "It's appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment." It is possible that your heart can become so hard that you'll never turn, but my God says, "Todd, you never assume you meet somebody like that," so I'm not going to assume it tonight.
You right now when you see it just go, "Lord, help me listen to this guy as he keeps talking. Help pick the lock of my hard heart. Help me believe you can restore the wickedness I have lived under." Just watch him go to work. "…let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found; surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance." Let me rest in that truth. That's what God wants you to know.
I'll just say one more thing about this, and then we're going to tie in. Remember, in this book you're going to see it seven times. Seven times they go through this cycle. It's symbolic. It's a picture of this is just perfect evil. You keep going. For some of you guys, what has happened is you have purged wickedness before because you got the DUI, you had the unwed pregnancy, you had the STD, you had a boyfriend who broke your heart.
You swore you'd never go back to that broken cistern again, yet you do, because what you experienced was a sorrow like the world experiences and not a godly sorrow. You're like, "Todd, what are you even talking about?" This is what I'm talking about. This is your Scripture. This is God talking to you. This is 2 Corinthians 7:10. This is what you have to be. The sorrow that is according to the will of God is the sorrow that produces repentance, which is a word that says change of mind, not just a sadness.
What you're going to see in the book of Judges… I want you to watch this. This is why I'm teaching you this. In the book of Judges, you're going to see them go through that cycle. "Things are good. I don't think I need God. Things aren't good. God, help me! Things are good." Have you ever done that? Let's just be honest for a second. "O God, don't let this blow what it's going to blow." You got away with it, and you were like, "Okay."
"O God, don't let this thing have two lines. Oh, I got away with it. O God, let this feeling go away. I don't know if I can live without him, but let it go away. I won't do it again." You're sorry for the way you feel and for the oppression you're experiencing, but you're not sorry that you have no King who is righteous. You're not sorry enough to stop ruling your own life. You want to keep going back to that. That's what this book is about. Praise God there was somebody who the Spirit of the Lord came upon, and I pray you find it tonight.
The sons of Israel cried to the Lord because there was this guy who had 900 chariots. Chariots weren't like tanks. Chariots were basically this. When armies would come and start fighting, there would always be a time when there would be a give and take, and they would start to maybe withdraw and run away. If the other side had chariots, they could track you down and wipe you out. Those 900 chariots that were running all around Israel that the Canaanites had, because they had understood how to craft things out of iron, had kept Israel from saying, "We don't like your wickedness."
Now, Israel had its own brand of wickedness. Mark my words, guys. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party have their own brand of wickedness, and until you get leaders who are going to rule not as Democrats or Republicans but rule being ruled by a loving God, and especially if they start to take away your right to raise your voice and to assemble and, if necessary, wage war against wickedness, then you'd better get ready for King George to rule over you, and you're not going to like it.
What they're going to try and do is group you up into little classes and say, "Okay, you women. Okay, you people who want to express yourself this way. Okay, you people who want to express yourself this way. Okay, you people who have been hurt before. We'll put you in a bunch of little identity politics, and then we're going to tell each of you we'll give you what you want, and we'll collaborate you all together and get power from you, and then I'll be in power. That's all I really want anyway."
That's what unrighteous, wicked men always do. They'll tell you they have your best interests in mind, but just watch the health care they vote for themselves and the health care they give you. Watch the benefits they vote for themselves and the benefits they give you. Watch the guards they put out in front of their house and the guards they say you don't need in front of yours.
What had happened was that the Israelites had no way in their own wickedness to go, "That's more wicked," but there was a prophetess. Praise God. There were no men. Men were cowards. Men were wounding and exploiting one another and exploiting women, but there was a prophetess, praise God, the wife of Lappidoth. His name means torch or lamp, but the lamp was out. This brother wasn't teaching people the Word of God. He was too busy living his wicked life, but she was judging Israel at the time.
Watch this. This is beautiful. She used to sit under the palm tree, a place of rest, of fruitfulness, of refreshing, of shade, of sweetness in a season of bitterness. That's Deborah. That's anybody who… Do you guys know Deborahs? Don't you know somebody… "Man, when I'm around that girlfriend… That girl is refreshing. She's an oasis in this despairing life. There's just something about her." That something is the Spirit of the Lord.
People in their brokenness had nowhere else to go, so they would go to her for judgment, like, "Will you tell us what you think?" Do you know what Deborah would do? Guess what prophets do. Prophets either tell you what God is going to do or prophets tell you what God has already said needs to be done. They are forth-tellers. They bring forth what is there or they say, "Hey, this is what's going to come." Very rarely does God do that second one.
He says, "If you want to find people who can tell you things that are going to happen and they call themselves prophets, that's awesome. They don't just speak, though, in vague generalities. They're not Christian fortune cookies. They're very specific." He says if they get one wrong, you have yourself a bad prophet. What your Deborahs should do is they should open the Word of God and say, "This is true. Let me bring it forward to you." It should be life-giving, fruit-bearing, an oasis in your desert.
So, she didn't have the general sitting at her feet, so she summoned him. She said, "Boy, why don't you come down here?" Verse 6: "Now she sent and summoned Barak…" His name means lightning. This brother is flashing around, doing anything but what he should be doing. This knucklehead wasn't sitting at the feet of wisdom and he didn't have wisdom himself, but praise God, this courageous woman, who does what godly women do, which is speak faithfully…
She couldn't be quiet in church because the men weren't speaking the truth. She had been praying for kings and those who were in authority, and they weren't godly people. She wasn't going to live a quiet and tranquil life, so she stepped up and said, "We're going to fix this. Boy, you're the general. Come here. Let me tell you what God is going to do. He's going to use your faithless self if you'll just listen to me." There was something about Deborah that made this boy listen.
She sent and summoned him and said, "Has not the Lord…?" That's really what it means when it says "Behold." Some of your Bibles might even say that. "Has not the God of Israel commanded, 'Don't put up with this wickedness, this godlessness, this Canaanite way'?" You don't have to live that way in Dallas and Houston. You can live as people who have been set free from the fleshly lusts which wage war against your soul.
Somebody in this generation has to say, "We don't have to listen to their progressive ideology. We're going to go back to the ancient paths where the good way is, and we're going to walk in it, and we are going to flourish. We're going to set up palm trees all across this country, and we're going to tell people to come and find rest." Surrender to God. We're going to change the world through the lives of young adults, but we need young adults who are doing this.
She says, "Barak, man up! God doesn't like wickedness and oppression. Thus says the Lord: 'Go.'" God says, "I'm going to bring Sisera to you, the commander of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his many troops, and I'm going to bring him down to the Megiddo Valley that the river Kishon runs through." What we know happened historically is God turned on the rain.
Let me ask you a question. This is a big field. This isn't a paved highway. When do chariots become unhelpful? In mud. God says, "I'm going to draw them out, I'm going to turn on my sprinkler system, and we're going to clean this place up." So Barak says, "Will you go with me? I don't trust God, but you seem to." She says, "I'll go, but the honor is not going to be yours," because there's never honor when you don't do your job.
So she rose and went. Deborah went with him. We know the story. In verse 13, Sisera called together the chariots, 900 of them, and all of the people who were with him, and they came down. We know from chapter 5 that there was lightning and storms and the river overflowed and flooded that valley, like it still does today, and those men didn't know how to fight off their chariots. It was a game changer.
They ran 15 miles back home, and Barak and the boys chased them. Everybody was dead, but Sisera was still alive, so Sisera runs about 40 to 50 miles back up by the Sea of Galilee, and here comes this old mountain goat who's sick and tired of being sick and tired. Her husband was buddies with him, but she wasn't buddies with him, because she knew what wicked men did. Verse 18:
"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…"
When do you drink milk? Whenever you open a bag of Oreos. That's when you drink milk. When you have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That's when you drink milk, and, apparently, late at night to make you sleepy. Isn't it interesting? Deborah is a bee. What do bees make? What do goats give you? Milk. This was the land of milk and honey. When you start to let milk and honey and you believe in God, you watch peace come into the land.
This is beautiful what God did right here. She gave him a little milk. "He said to her, 'Stand in the doorway of the tent…'""Let me tell you what to do." "But [the Mountain Goat] took a tent peg and seized a hammer in her hand, and went secretly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went through into the ground; for he was sound asleep…" I love this. The Bible makes an observation. "So he died." I guess so, when a mountain goat drives a peg through your ear.
Here's a painting of it that has been captured a number of times. Look at that little mountain goat. She looks like a mountain goat, doesn't she? Voom! Right there. That little midget woman, a Bedouin, a gypsy. Let me tell you something. When God is ready to get rid of wickedness, he'll get rid of wickedness, and he doesn't need your help, but he's willing to use you if you just say, "Lord, here I am. Use me."
So here comes Barak. He's all excited. He's going to get his kill. Right? I just love this. It says in verse 22, "And behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him and said to him, 'Come, [I'll show you the coward, the man you're looking for. I nailed his head to the ground.] 'And…behold Sisera was lying dead with the tent peg in his temple." That's awful that I just laughed at that. But that's biblical. When the wicked reign, people groan, but when righteousness comes, the people rejoice.
Wouldn't you laugh and rejoice if I came into your life and said, "I'm going to take that thing that's oppressing you, and I'm going to take my little mountain goat courage of self, and I'm going to drive a nail through its head, and we're going to look at it. It can't go nowhere. It's dead and stapled to the ground." You'd be like, "You can do that?" See The Wizard of Oz. Watch what happens when all of the Munchkins see the shoes and the striped socks with the house on top of it. They all go, "Ding-dong! Ding-ding-dandy-dong, the witch is dead!" That is so biblical.
God is just waiting for you to say, "Spirit of God, fall on me. Kill the wickedness through the cross of Jesus Christ and the compassion and the love. You're not mad at me. I've been a witch. Heal me. Forgive me. Help me not be a vomit giver and eater, and make me somebody who sits under a palm tree and gives rest and whose life is restored and who is honey and sweetness to the land." I'll give you four quick points. I'll do this in five minutes.
First, just know who you are. Deborah didn't say, "I'm a man. You want to go, Sisera? Let's go." She said, "I'm a woman, and I'm going to preach the Word of God until somebody listens to it." Girls, you don't have to be pregnant or wear pants to be valuable to God. Just be God's woman. Speak the truth in love. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. Show true beauty. Stay humble. Live for him. Serve the Lord.
All through Scripture you see this. Shamgar, at the very end of Judges 3, was a farmer. He was the second judge. Do you know what he did? He killed hundreds of people with an ox goad. Do you know what an ox goad is? It's a stick. It was just somebody who said, "That's about enough. God, let's do something." God goes, "What do you have?" He goes, "I have a stick." He goes, "Let's go kill hundreds of people." Who can do that? God can do that.
When you take common people who have faith in an uncommon God, they do uncommon things. Just know who you are and just know who God is. He loves you. "Hey, feed these people." "We can't feed these people. Well, we found some kid we think we can beat up. He has five loaves and some fish, but what are these before so great a people?" Jesus: "Bring them to me. Watch what I can do with them."
"Moses, let my people go."
"Well, what am I going to use?"
"You have a stick? Great. Use your stick."
I could go on and on and on. "David, kill the giant. What are you going to use? Do you want the armor?"
"No. I have a sling and I have God. That's enough."
You don't even need a sling, a stick, or five loaves and two fish. You have to use what you have. Deborah was useful because she knew who she was, and she knew in light of who God was that God could use her. I tell people all the time, "No man is uneducated who knows their Bible and no person is wise who is ignorant of its teachings."
So know who you are. You're a child of God waiting to be redeemed or you are a child of God redeemed, and you just pop up your palm tree and go, "Use what you have." Common, weak people with faith in a strong God do uncommon things. Use what you have. Do you have a Bible? Do you have faith in it? Do you have a community of friends to encourage you? Change the world. Surrender your heart to God and watch him change the world.
Then strengthen the hearts of others. That's what Deborah did. Great women and great men make others excel still more. Iron sharpens iron. Deborah was iron. So who's a Deborah you sit with? If you're a Deborah, who are the Baraks you're calling to summon to sit with you? I'll just read this one little passage. It fits too well here to blow it off, and then the last point is just a sentence. This is what Paul said when he was writing to the church in Philippi:
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.""I'd rather go be with God. I'm ready to rest, but I think if I stay here it's going to be helpful to others." "But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.""Because God still has me here, and you need a palm tree." "Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith…"
Let me ask you a question. Do you want to know how to know if you're a Deborah? Girls, you know you're a Deborah if this week there are people who, because they're near you, make progress in their faith and increase in joy. Guys, do you want to know how you're a Daniel? This is how you can know. You know because you're not here dabbling with wickedness. You know it's so much better to be with Christ, but because Christ is with you and left you here, it's for one purpose: for you to help other people progress in their faith and understanding of God, and when they do they will increase in their joy.
When you live that way… Here's your fourth point. Know who you are, use what you have, strengthen the hearts of others, and watch your God go to work. I've seen it happen. I was a skinny, bucktoothed kid, who was more persuaded by wickedness than truth, who got strong and athletic so I could be wicked like the other strong boys. I realized who I was was no good king, so I gave God what I had, which was a life that had not been spiritually formed as a young man.
I said, "Can you re-parent me?" Lo and behold, he did. He forgave me. He got rid of the vomit in me and had me stop going back to the vomit I'd cast out. He started letting me use my life to strengthen others, and just like I pray you will, 20 years ago I gathered some friends in this city and said, "Let's just start to do something for others, and, God, we're going to watch you go to work." And here you sit.
Father, I pray that you would raise up some Deborahs and some Daniels, some godly men and godly women, some women who seek you first and reject the lie that anything or anyone can satisfy them. I pray they'd learn to speak faithfully, that they'd love others with a godly wisdom and a boldness and a kindness, as a faithful completer of others. Father, thank you for all the… This is stinkin' Judges 4, Father.
We're in this book that's like, "What's in there for me?" and we had to rush through an hour and leave so much on the table, because you love us so much there's so much good truth there. Would you just give us a hunger for your Word, more of it, and would the Spirit of God fall on this place right now on somebody who's thirsty, and would you plant a palm tree of forgiveness and redemption and strength in their life, and would you get the glory? In Jesus' name, amen.