JUDGES 4:1 – 6:40 and LUKE 8:1–25
Once again Israel was in a time of rest under Ehud the Judge. They quickly slipped back into idolatry soon after his death. There is an apparent vacuum after an effective leader passes on unless a strong one is prepared and in place. We did not see a slippage when the transfer of leadership took place between Moses and Joshua. We can say this was a strong plan of succession. It was enunciated clearly so that there was no doubt as to who was in charge. We also know that Joshua spent considerable time under the leadership of Moses so as to know his heart and to learn from his leadership ability.
This is a big issue today. How often do you see a work or ministry that is under strong leadership fail to gain traction after he or she passes on? It is understood that succeeding leadership may have differing leadership styles however the vision must be the same. This to me may well be one of the areas of breakdown. Having vision means having the objective and big picture in mind. Why was there not someone to step in after the death of Ehud? Is it the fault of Ehud in not preparing a successor? Is it the fault of Israel for not adhering to the commandments of God or could it be both? I am just speculating. God through Moses and Joshua established a clear and distinct vision for Israel. In addition, they were warned as to the consequences of disobedience on numerous occasions (Deut 28:15-68). In the passing of a leadership baton it is far more important to impart to the generation to come the God-given vision as opposed to a leadership style. A vision must be birthed in the appointed leader and from it one will come to know wisdom and understanding in knowing how to fulfil it.
The judgment of God upon Israel lasted for about 20 years as they again found themselves in hard bondage. They cried unto the Lord and he presents to them another deliverer; a judge by the name of Deborah. This woman had great influence and was recognized for her wisdom, piety and prophetic gifting’s. She judged in the open air at Bethel under a palm tree. This suggests that she was a righteous woman.
Psa 92:12 The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Up until this time in Israel’s history we have not seen a woman in such a pronounced leadership role. Throughout this chapter in Israel’s battle against Sisera and his might army we see God empowering women to be instruments of His deliverance and judgement. We also see the exploits of Barak as the captain of Israel’s army faithfully going forth into battle against Sisera. Deborah was very sensitive to the Spirit and understood the timing of when and where to go to battle (vs 14). She also knew that in the end Sisera would be delivered into the hands of a woman (vs 9, 21).
What are some of the primary takeaways from this account? Jabin and Sisera were imposing foes. Their 900 chariots and mighty army paralyzed Israel. Deborah, a righteous woman, who was discerning and wise was able to take charge. She knew how to delegate and lead. She had the ability to bring out the best in Barak who fought valiantly on behalf of Israel. As the chapter closes we see Jael, the wife of Heber of the Kenites (vs 11) being used to put a nail into Sisera’s head, killing him. This mighty warrior who terrorized all of Israel was put to death by a woman who faithfully maintained her house. There are some very powerful truths to be gleaned from this chapter. We all know about the leadership abilities of Deborah and how she mobilized Israel in its fight against Sisera. She had the ability to bring out the best in Barak as the battling warrior on the field. We also see a wife, who nurtured her tent being the one who put the final nail in the coffin of Sisera. This chapter helps to bring front and center the vital role of women; both in the church and in the home.
We have a song of Deborah that was sung by her, Barak and Israel much the like the song of Miriam after the parting of the Red Sea at the time of the Exodus. This song is a recollection of what transpired in chapter 4; probably sung a short time after Israel’s great victory. When I was a young believer we would sing from a hymn book entitled “Scripture in Song”. This was a collection of songs based from Biblical verses. An example would be the song. “Therefore they shall come”. This song was taken from Jer 31:12 and was sung word for word. The song was anointed and it helped for me to learn scripture in the context of what we would be singing. As I write there are many more that come to mind. “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee” from Zeph 3:17, or “Therefore the Redeemed of the Lord” from Isa 51:11 and so many more that come to mind. Don’t forget the Psalms is actually a compilation of songs. The song of Deborah is a beautiful reflection of how God intervened for Israel. They had been enslaved due to their rebellion for 20 years and now once again they come into a place of Rest. I would like to highlight a particular verse:
Jdg 5:7 The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel.
We speak much of the Father’s heart and rightfully so in these days of broken down homes. We also know that there will be restoration of hearts of the fathers to the sons in the last days. What about the role of mother’s? Deborah was a spiritual mother in Israel and she establishes a powerful example of the type of mother that needs to emerge in the church. How does this relate to our day? Israel was void of leadership when under the tyranny of Jabin and Sisera. It was here where Deborah stepped up to the plate and assumed the leadership role. She was an effective administrator, a prophetess who had keenness in the things of the spirit as well as being fearless. I can think of several women today whom I would consider “mothers in Israel”. In our Bible School through the years we have had two women in particular whom I would put in that category; Sis Margaret Seaward and Sis Sylvia Evans. What impresses me about both of them is that they are excellent teachers who have a wealth of experience. They also flow beautifully under authority. I could see either of them in a modern day variation of chapter 4. These two godly women have had a great impact upon my life.
I would also like to highlight the other woman in chapter 4. In verses 24-27 Deborah cites the ministry of Jael. She was a wife and keeper of the tent and it was through her that Sisera was destroyed. To me she represents the fruits of a faithful wife and mother of the home. I can see my own mother in this role as she always was on guard about bad influences coming into our home in my growing up years. To be honest I had great difficulty with my mom due to not getting my way on many occasions but I will be eternally grateful for her being a Jael in my life and that of my family. My mom drove several nails through many Sisera’s in my growing up years. Deborah is right to call Jael “Blessed above women” as seen in verse 24. Judges 4 and 5 helps bring to light the ministerial and motherly qualities of women.
A short time after the reign of Deborah as Judge, Israel reverted back to their evil ways. This is the fruit of not totally driving out the enemies. This time it is the Midianites that prevail against them and they did so for 7 years. Once again the Amalekites (works of the flesh) joined hands as foes against Israel and helped the Midianites to further impoverish them (vs 2-6). In verses 7-10 Israel again cries out to the Lord. This time a prophet comes by to remind them as to how God brought them forth from Egypt, delivered them from all their oppressors, drove out the enemies of the land and then gave them the land. They were warned and told not to fear the god of the Amorites but they would not obey. God was prepared to bring forth another deliverer but he first sent a prophet to serve as a reminder and means to put an end to this constant cycle.
An angel of the Lord now comes to Gideon and makes this strong declaration. “The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour” (vs 12). Was Gideon impressed and filled with enthusiasm concerning this statement? He was lamenting Israel’s condition; he was wondering where the God of miracles was; where was the God who delivered Israel out of Egypt? He then goes on to say that God has forsaken them. He did not feel like a man of valour considering what was happening to his nation. Still, it was God who gave these Words to Gideon.
Has God spoken promises or Words to you when you may have felt like Gideon? This is an important truth because God was making a prophetic declaration over Gideon. He could not reconcile God’s gracious words due to his own plight as well as that of Israel. God then speaks to Gideon and says “Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites” (vs 14). Gideon looked to himself and saw that he was unworthy and incapable of saving Israel to which the Lord replied that he would smite Midian as one man (vs 14-16). The Lord was making clear that He would go forth with Him.
Gideon asked for a sign and God granted it by touching the flesh and the cakes that were upon a rock. The Lord then declared “Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die (vs 23). Gideon then established an altar and called it Jehovah Shalom (The Lord our Peace). It is here where we see one of the beautiful names of the Lord expressed, “The Lord our Peace”. It is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit and it represents one of the greatest weapons we have against the enemy (Rom 16:20).
What was the primary stronghold that Israel was constantly battling against? It was the fruits of Balaam’s counsel where Israel was found intermingled with Moab and others. This led to Baal worship which is what Israel was now contending against. The peace of God was the weapon that Gideon used in tearing down the strongholds of Baal (vs 25-27). The spirit of the Lord then came upon Gideon and empowered him with courage and the ability to lead Israel. He blew a trumpet which resulted in a gathering of others to come to meet and fight alongside him. Gideon yet asked for another sign before going into battle against the Midianites. He presented a fleece before the Lord on two occasions as seen in verses 37-39. What promises or words has God spoken over your life? Is your situation like that of Gideon’s where you see no ability or possibility of that Word coming to pass? Are you discouraged in not yet seeing that long sought after revival? What does God really say about us? This is another reason why we need to be immersed in God’s Word for it is here where faith is imparted and realized. We want to be men and women of a different spirit, like Caleb, who is able to take God at His Word and not be governed by the prevailing circumstances (Num 14:24). Let’s believe God for confirmation by way of His Word or signs to those things that have been spoken over our lives.
The Lord continued His ministering through villages and cities throughout Galilee. There are some interesting people who take notice of Christ. There is a woman by the name of Mary Magdalene who had 7 devils cast out of her. There was also Joanna who was the wife of a steward of Herod’s who also ministered unto Christ out of her substance. In the previous chapter Jesus gave the illustration of the one who has been forgiven the most will love the most (Luk 7:41-43). This should help us to see people today through the eyes of the Lord and to understand the great potential that exists for those who are in sin. When a person experiences great forgiveness they can become the greatest lovers and servants of Christ. These women freely gave of their substance in ministering to Christ due to being forgiven much. The life and message that Jesus conveyed appealed to sinners because it gave them hope and opportunity in being set free. Do we have a life and testimony that speaks a similar message? The revival of the last days is going to reach deep into hearts of people that we may tend to write off. The one who has been forgiven much will love much.
The Lord speaks the familiar parable of the sower to the crowd gathered around Him. This parable is also covered in Mark and Mathew’s gospel. This version has an interesting insight regarding the seed that falls upon the good ground. The key to this good ground is seen in verse 15:
Luk 8:15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
There is a Greek word given that speaks to the manner of heart as seen in this verse. The word (katecho) means to hold firm, take hold and also be rendered to recording or committing to memory. I always think of the importance of journaling when coming across this verse. The Word of God is like seed that is sown. What do we do with it? Do we record it, rehearse it and play it back over and over again in our Spirit? This is what David did; he delighted in the Lord and spent time meditating in the Word and God’s law day and night (Psa 1:2). We need to major on the beautiful act of reflection and rehearsing of the good things of God. Do we take note of a verse or a truth when God speaks to us? Do we keep a journal of God’s dealing’s in our lives through the years?
In 1995, while in India, I was prompted to begin a daily exercise of making a journal of what God was speaking and to note the events taking place for that day. I faithfully kept this up through the years. Recently, I spent time reviewing a certain year’s entry and was amazed to see how much I had forgotten in what my wife and I had experienced. I was even more surprised to see how God answered prayer in so many different ways. If these events would not have been recorded I would not have been able to reflect upon what God had done. Now that I have rehearsed and called to mind what God did in the past my hope and faith is aroused for what God can do today as well as the future. This is how one can become fruitful; to become that ground that brings forth 30, 60 and 100 fold fruit. We must not allow the busyness of life to rob us from that position of Rest and reflection. A good and honest heart is one that receives, reflects and records the seed, the living Word of God. It keeps and holds fast to that Word thus allowing it to bring forth fruit; allowing for faith to arise to accomplish God’s pleasure. God’s Word will not return unto Him void. We need to let it rain down upon our hearts and find that good ground where it can be cultivated so that fruit can come forth. This process is seen in the following verse:
Isa 55:10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
Isa 55:11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
The Lord follows up by making clear the need to be witnesses (vs 16-18). There needs to be an unveiling of Truth so that others can see and receive. The Lord spoke in parables so as to veil the truths of the kingdom within understandable stories. Though they may not be known or understood right away the Truth will one day manifest and be no longer hidden. Those who have a heart and hunger for truth will understand the teachings of the parable and hopefully will be faithful in conveying it. The life of the Lord was hidden for many years. From the time of His baptism at the Jordan there has been an unveiling of His person. As Jesus came closer to the cross He began to reveal more of who He was. Truth is given to those who hunger for it; it may be veiled and concealed at first but the time will come when it can be expressed in its fullness.
We have been given a precious treasure and trust regarding the Word of God. What are we doing with it? Are we receiving and welcoming the precious seed with an open and honest heart? Are we allowing Truth to be cultivated within our inward parts (Psa 51:6) so that wisdom might come forth? If so, there is coming the day when the Truth, the light placed within us will shine where many will take note. These verses (vs 16-18) seem to be a follow up to the parable of the sower. We are cautioned to take note in how we hear as seen in verse 18. May God grant that we have a “hearing heart” so that faith might arise. If we do not properly steward this trust of the receiving of the Word it will be taken and lost. Once again, these verses (vs 16-18) are a follow-up to the Lord’s teaching on the sower.
We now come to the account where Jesus arrived at the country of the Gadarenes which was in Galilee. It is here where the man possessed with many devils confronts Jesus. This account is also found in Mathew’s and Mark’s Gospel. We need to pick out a statement from Mathew’s account (Math 8) and one from Mark’s account (Mark 5) to understand a larger truth. In Mathew’s account the devils ask Jesus a question. “…Art thou come hither to torment us before the time” (Math 8:29)? What does that statement mean? In Mark’s Gospel we note something that is not seen in the other accounts.
Mar 5:13 And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.
The Lord was giving a clear picture of His Father’s timetable. The devils, fallen angels, beast and false prophet all will be judged at the time of the 2nd coming (Rev 19:20). The Lord was making the demarcation of the Church Age citing the number of the swine (2000 swine speaking of 2000 years). We saw this as a picture of the new circumcision or the new covenant at the time of Joshua.
Jos 3:4 Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore.
Jesus represents the New Covenant due to His ability in being able to fulfill it. There are 2000 years to the church age. The deliverance of this man who was filled with devils has many messages in it. The name of the chief devil that Jesus encountered was Legion. A Roman legion would consist of about 6000 men which is the number of the church age given to man. After healing this man the Lord instructed him to share the good news of all that the Lord had done for him (vs 39). This is unlike many of His other miracles where the people were told to go and tell no man. Perhaps one of the reasons why the Lord wanted this miracle to be known is due to the significance of the timing represented by the number of swine mentioned. It was an indicator of the duration of the church age. It should prove encouraging and instructive to us when considering the day and hour in which we are living.
In verses 40-56 we see Jesus moving in the realm of healing and restoration of life. These 3 accounts of the Lord’s miracles are among the ones covered in our commentary from Mathew 9. An extract is shown below:
(Taken from Math 9:18-38)
After Jesus rocks their boat so to speak in challenging mind-sets and paradigms he again goes about the work of performing 5 extraordinary miracles. I feel the Lord needed to change their way of thinking by speaking on the subject of becoming new wineskins before going forth in demonstrations of powerful ministry. He was preparing them to be able to do the same thing. A good teacher will first be an example to his students before expecting them to go forth likewise. In verses 18-36 the Lord goes forth in the performing of 5 notable miracles. They are as follows:
1) Ruler’s daughter being raised from the dead (vs 18, 23-26)
2) Woman with issue of blood (vs 20-22)
3) Two blind men healed (vs 27-31)
4) Casting out of devils (deliverance) (vs 32-34)
5) All manner of sicknesses healed (vs 35)
Notice that the Lord was motivated by compassion as he saw the multitudes. This was covered when we looked at Math 8. When our hearts are full of compassion for people our effectiveness in ministry will speak for itself. In fact it is a fulfilment of the two greatest commandments.
Mat 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
Mat 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.
Mat 22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Mat 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
If we fulfil the first great commandment the second one should flow naturally. Notice also the last two verses of Math 9. This is the declaration of the last day harvest that is now before us. The time is at hand that we be taken out of our comfort zones and complacency; that we become new wineskins so that we can be vessels that can demonstrate the power of the kingdom as effective labourers for the end time harvest.