When God shows up, miracles happen. Don’t you love how this story plays out? In the preceding chapter we saw Gideon as being a bit unsure. When God whittled his troops down to a few hundred men, I can’t imagine that did much for Gideon’s confidence. He certainly didn’t want to show up unprepared. But sometimes being overly prepared doesn’t allow for a miracle of God to be experienced to its fullest.
The LORD had proved himself to Gideon on more than one occasion since getting his attention in the winepress. Gideon was beyond asking for more proof, and yet God could sense there was some hesitation. God said to Gideon, “But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah. Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged. Then you will be eager to attack.”
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.
And I thought Deborah was going to be the hero of the story! In our last reading, you’ll recall a conversation between our current judge, Deborah, and her military leader recruit, Barak. When she said that God’s victory would be at the hands of a woman, didn’t you imagine she was talking about herself? Or was it just me?
Actually, I had been waiting for the story of Jael. I had forgotten where it fell in the timeline of God’s story. There is a lot we can learn from Jael. She turned fear into triumph! But she didn’t do it on her own. God had already planned it, and whether or not Deborah knew “who” the woman would be, God had shared with her ahead of time that victory would involve a woman.
In the first chapter of Judges, we read about Othniel. He had won the privilege of marrying Caleb’s daughter by conquering some land. Othniel was now both a nephew and son-in-law to Caleb. Had God been preparing Othniel for such a time as this? We hear “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him.” With the Lord’s help, Othniel was able to have victory over the King of Aram followed by 40 years of peace.
There doesn’t appear to be much to the story of Othniel reported beyond this. We do see the first instance of the 4-part pattern playing out here. God was listening for the cries of his people despite being angry with them. I think of a parent being on the alert to rescue their children at any age if there is a cry for help.