Have you ever done something you were told to do but had no idea “why” you were doing it? I’m sure Gideon had a bit of that going on when God told him, among other things, to “pull down your father’s altar to Baal, and cut down the Asherah pole standing beside it.”
What do we see here? Gideon didn’t question God but got to work on the requested task. He did wait until the dark of night so he would go undetected. Gideon was pretty sure that this plan would cause a big stir and may have even feared for his life. Yet, he listened to God. That’s my takeaway from today’s reading.
Before we point fingers and wonder why the Israelites kept going astray, we have to realize we do the same thing. We know what’s best for us, and yet we often do just the opposite. Think about exercising or eating healthy. We know those are good things — but then sinking your teeth into a juicy burger or savoring the last bite of your favorite calorie- packed dessert can be very alluring.
For the Israelites, they were tempted by something that wasn’t good for them—false gods. God had warned them, and yet the pattern repeats itself once again. God’s choice of a rescue looks a little different this time. We meet Gideon, a farmer. And God sends an angel of the Lord to say to Gideon, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”
We meet two women with very different perspectives about this man, Sisera. His mother and the woman who killed him. It’s a bit interesting that Jael wasn’t even one of the Israelites being oppressed. However, we understand that her people, the Kenites, were allies with the Israelites and had some family tie back to Moses. Yet, her tribe was also known to be on friendly terms with Sisera’s boss, the king!
Jael was in an interesting place to be sure. We know that Deborah spoke God’s plan aloud to Barak that the victory would come at the hand of a woman. We can then be confident God knew in advance he would be using Jael that day. I’m not sure Jael got out of bed that day thinking she would be the “most blessed among women.”
The story of Deborah has many facets to uncover. As we walk through her “song,” we are reminded of what transpired that day. Who were the players who got involved? Of note are also those who didn’t show up to represent God’s army. Why do I get the impression that this may have caused some alarm?
We know from an earlier passage that Barak had recruited the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali. It would seem that the other tribes who came to make a contribution were an added bonus. There are even two tribes that aren’t mentioned one way or another, Judah and Simeon. They were perhaps otherwise engaged, but certainly not called on by Barak. For those who stayed home, could it be it wasn’t their battle to fight?
There is some good stuff in Deborah’s Song, so we’ll unpack it slowly over the next few readings. There is no reason to rush through a chapter when we can take time to savor how it is speaking to us. I’ve known people who have studied for months, even years, on just a few verses! God’s word is alive, and it always brings new messages when the time is right.
We now start to imagine the victory chants that took place when Deborah’s words, actually God’s message to Deborah, came true! They had defeated their foe, and even the earth trembled. That speaks to me of the great communion of God with his creation. When God’s will is being accomplished, we can expect to witness a movement taking place.