Judges 4:1–4, 6–8a, 10; 5:1–5, 9–11acomment (0)
July 12, 2012
By Douglas K. Wilson
Related Scripture: Judges 4:1–4, 6–8a, 10; 5:1–5, 9–11a
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Dean and Professor of Christian Ministries, University of Mobile
FOLLOW THE LEADER
Judges 4:1–4, 6–8a, 10; 5:1–5, 9–11a
Last week the lesson introduced the book of Judges. Readers this week are introduced to leaders who follow God, leaders who follow God conditionally, followers who follow fervently and those who follow no one. The study this week addresses two types of leaders and the necessity of following godly leadership.
Listen to the Lord (4:1–4, 6–7)
After the death of Ehud the judge, Israel sought after the gods of the Canaanites once again. As a result God gave the tribes over to the oppressive rule of the Canaanite commander Sisera. Israel’s spiritual adultery resulted in 20 years of cruel bondage.
God then raised up a prophetess, Deborah, and the army commander Barak. Deborah heard directly from God, and she conveyed the message to Barak. He was to deploy an army of 10,000 men to confront Sisera and his army. Barak needed to listen to the Lord’s command.
This passage is an apt illustration of Proverbs 29:18. Though the verse is often misused as a mandate to follow blindly whatever “vision” a leader dreams up, the proverb actually conveys the idea that without a clear communication of God’s message, people will do what is right in their own eyes (see Judg. 17:6; 21:25). God revealed His message, and without obedience Israel would remain under bondage to their enemies.
Godly leaders hear from God. God speaks today through His Word, the Bible. The Holy Spirit also bears witness, illumining the application of His Word. When God ordains leaders who honor and fear Him, He gives them direction for the people they lead. Without a God-centered message, church members will pursue their own agendas.
Get Personally Involved (4:8–10)
Barak heeded the words from God, but he set his own conditions.
Rather than responding to God’s message by saying, “Anything, anytime, anywhere You want,” Barak said that he would only lead the troops if Deborah went with him.
His conditional answer led to another individual delivering Israel from Sisera’s hand. Later in the chapter, readers will discover that an unassuming woman named Jael executed Sisera.
God raises up leaders in the church to direct, manage and lead in the activities of the congregation. When the pastor delivers his message, it is the responsibility of every believer to respond to the invitation, to get involved with God’s plan. Instead of simply listening to the Bible study teacher or discipleship leader, believers must take heed without conditions. James instructs Christians to “be doers of the word.”
Too often, responses to a sermon or a lesson treat the invitation as a multiple choice quiz: it counts for little, it may be a trick question and there will be other quizzes. Henry Blackaby rightly exhorted, “Find out what God is doing and join Him in it.” Avery Willis called it being “on mission with God.”
Praise the Lord (5:1–5, 9–11a)
Glory for godly leadership belongs to the Lord. The lands of Edom and Mount Seir shook under the footsteps of Israel’s army, but Yahweh’s reign continues over the nation since before Mount Sinai. The commanders are honored for their sacrifice, but blessings are directed to God.
While Deborah and Barak are mentioned as leaders of the people, the praise for deliverance is directed to the God of Israel. In this song Jael receives the highest of human honor, but God receives the ultimate praise for His directive hand in the events recorded in the song.
Christians must acknowledge and honor godly leadership, but worship is reserved for God alone. Jesus instructed His disciples to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”
Paul instructed the church in Rome to submit to those in authority (Rom. 13). In this acknowledgement and submission, let the church remember that praise for every victory belongs to the Lord.