Summary: Year A, Proper 28.

Judges 4:1-7, Psalm 123:1-4, Zephaniah 1:7, Zephaniah 1:12-18, Psalm 90:1-12, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Matthew 25:14-30


Judges 4:1-7.

JUDGES 4:1-2. At the very outset of this short passage we discover that war MIGHT come against the LORD’s people as a direct result of their sin. This simple fact is echoed throughout the book of Judges: “And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD… And the LORD sold them into the hand of…”

This is not to say that every affliction that a person may suffer is a direct consequence of some specific sin (cf. John 9:2-3). Nor do some people die because they are worse sinners than others (cf. Luke 13:1-4).

However, SOMETIMES our sufferings do arise from our sins. One person who was healed by Jesus was told afterwards, ‘Behold thou art made whole: go and sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon thee’ (cf. John 5:14).

JUDGES 4:2. In the background of the narrative of this chapter stands a Canaanite king called Jabin, king of Hazor. Many years before, another ‘Jabin, king of Hazor’ had raised up a confederacy against Israel, and had been thoroughly defeated (cf. Joshua 11:1-6). Now a new “Jabin, king of Hazor” sent his captain Sisera to oppress Israel.

“Jabin” may have been a common royal name, like ‘Henry’ in England, ‘James’ in Scotland, or ‘George’ in Great Britain. Or perhaps it was a generic name for a king, like ‘Pharaoh.’ But to the people of Deborah’s day, it might have seemed that they were fighting an old foe all over again.

This is significant in our spiritual warfare. Malignant foes who we thought had long since been defeated rear their ugly heads once more. The beast that was mortally wounded yet lives (cf. Revelation 13:3)!

JUDGES 4:3. This is the pattern throughout Judges: the children of Israel sinned; the LORD sold them int the hand of an oppressor; and now (after twenty years) they “cried unto the LORD.” The Bronze Age was giving way to the Iron Age: and Sisera, the captain of the host, oppressed the children of Israel with the latest technology. “Nine hundred chariots of iron!”

JUDGES 4:4-5. “And Deborah, a prophetess… judged Israel at that time.” Deborah’s centre of operations was about 75 miles south of Hazor. She was well enough respected, not only locally, but nationally, and “the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.”

JUDGES 4:6. Deborah was a woman of action, and a woman of authority. She sent to Naphtali and summoned Barak. (Hazor was in the territory of Naphtali.)

Speaking as a prophetess, Deborah gave Barak a directive from the LORD. Barak was to raise an army of ten thousand men from two of the northern tribes of Israel most affected by the oppression, and to “DRAW toward mount Tabor.”

JUDGES 4:7. Meantime the LORD would “DRAW unto thee to the river Kishon, Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army.” The same LORD who was calling Barak to DRAW into position on the higher ground of mount Tabor, was also DRAWING Sisera, “with his chariots and his multitude” to their defeat in the soft and miry soil around the river.

And so it is with our spiritual warfare. The LORD sets the scene at every stage, and uses what actors He will to accomplish His purposes. All this is so that the praise does not go to people, but to the LORD.


Psalm 123:1-4.

This is a short, impassioned prayer: a plea for help in the face of adversaries. It begins with adoration, with an abrupt “Unto You…” (PSALM 123:1).

This is a song of Ascents, and its opening may be paralleled to another: ‘I to the hills will lift mine eyes, from whence doth come mine aid?’ (cf. Psalm 121:1). Our help is not to be found in the high places; however awesome they may seem. The answer follows, ‘My safety comes from the LORD, who heaven and earth hath made’ (cf. Psalm 121:2).

“Unto You,” then, “I lift up my eyes” (PSALM 123:1). Another Psalm takes it a step further: ‘But unto thee, O God the LORD, mine eyes uplifted be: My soul do not leave destitute; my trust is set in thee’ (cf. Psalm 141:8).

But “Unto You”, who? Answer: “O Thou that dwells in the heavens” (PSALM 123:1). The LORD says: ‘Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool’ (cf. Isaiah 66:1). ‘The throne of the LORD is in heaven’ (cf. Psalm 11:4). Are you worried about powerful, scornful people? ‘He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; He shall have them in derision’ (cf. Psalm 2:4). ‘Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases’ (cf. Psalm 115:3).

The lifting of the eyes is compared to the lifting of the eyes of servants to their masters’ hand, and of a maid to the hand of her mistress (PSALM 123:2). We should be willing to obey the hand that directs, and to accept of the hand that disciplines: but we should also be ready to receive from the hand that graciously gives ‘all good things’ (cf. Matthew 7:11). ‘My eyes are ever toward the LORD; for He shall pluck my feet out of the net’ (cf. Psalm 25:15). ‘My eyes long for your salvation’ (cf. Psalm 119:123). So, “OUR eyes look to the LORD our God, until He has mercy on us” (PSALM 123:2).

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