Bible Readings for July 22nd
Judges 4 narrates the story of how Yahweh saved his people from the oppression of Jabin, king of Canaan. The prophetess-judge Deborah sent Barak, the commander of the army of Naphtali and Zebulun into battle against the army of Jabin’s general, Sisera (Judg. 4:4–10). During the battle, the Canaanite army and chariots were defeated, so that Sisera fled from the battlefield and sought refuge and rest in the tent of a non-Israelite Kenite woman named Jael (Judg. 4:17–18). But as soon as Sisera fell asleep, Jael killed Sisera by driving a tent peg through his temple with a hammer (Judg. 4:19–22).
In Judges 5, then, we find a song celebrating this brutal end to not only Israel’s battle against Sisera but also to the oppression Israel had faced at the hand of the Canaanites for twenty years before Yahweh raised up Deborah to judge Israel (Judg. 4:3). Modern readers might find this song a bit uncomfortable, since it celebrates the execution of Sisera at the hand of Jael. What, then, should we take from this passage?
To begin, we should keep in mind the context of this story. In Judges 5:4–5, the song sets this latest battle in the context of a long line of Yahweh’s earth-trembling acts, beginning during the ministry of Moses, when Yahweh led his people out from Seir, through the region of Edom, and toward Mount Sinai. Here in the book of Judges, Israel is in the Promised Land, and they are still fighting to drive out the Canaanites who surround them, just as Yahweh had commanded them to do.
Focus then on the way that the song concludes in Judges 5:31: “So may all your enemies perish, O LORD! But your friends be like the sun as he rises in his might.” Despite our potential misgivings, it is important to recognize that the Bible is a story about warfare—in the new covenant our warfare is spiritual rather than against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12), but it is warfare nonetheless. The deep brokenness of creation cannot be solved through peace movements or skilled diplomacy, since our adversary the devil desires nothing except our utter annihilation (1 Pet. 5:8). There can be no lasting peace until Jesus Christ puts all of his enemies under his feet forever (1 Cor. 15:25).
Therefore, brothers and sisters, sing. Even though we face setbacks and sorrows in this life, let us sing in the knowledge that the enemies of Yahweh will perish because Jesus reigns. Sin could not conquer him, Satan could not destroy him, and death could not hold him. And we—the friends of Jesus—will shine like the sun as he rises in his might to return for us on the last day (Judg. 5:31).
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.