Summary: Examines levels of faith as illustrated in the Story of Deborah.
Text: Judges 4-5
Graphic Illustration of the Battle
Select Main Characters from the congregation: Deborah & Barak go to back of Chapel and come to a high point up front.
Napthali & Zebulun (Go with Barak)
Reuben, Dan, & Asher (stay seated)
Sisera + 2 charioteers (go to Horosheth Haggoyim--side room where they find scooters for chariots). Have them come out--can’t pursue Deborah’s forces because chariots can’t climb "mountain (steps)" Deborah leads charge down the mountain away from Barak, Barak pursues but gets stuck in "mud (foam rubber mattress pad set out ahead of time)."
In this simple illustration of a long ago battle some important truths are hidden. Truths about the most important thing of all--faith, Faith is the most important thing of all because it is the one thing God has said that he honors in mankind. Furthermore this story is about faith at the most important time--the time of battle--the nitty-gritty of life, down in the dirt and mud where complications to our neat theologies arise. In this story faith takes different forms, or there are different levels of faith In the mud-pit of life’s complications.
Interrogative: So I’d like to look with you at this story and examine those levels of faith as we can see them in the characters, and as we do I want each of us to examine ourselves also and ask: Where am I at on this scale? And where do I need to be?
Transition: First, let’s look at the enemy commander Sisera, and where his faith was. I’ve described his faith as....
v 12-13 When they told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, Sisera gathered together his nine hundred iron chariots and all the men with him, from Harosheth Haggoyim to the Kishon River.
These 900 hundred iron chariots figure prominently in the story-they are mentioned repeatedly.
They are the Abrams Tanks of their day--The best warfighting equipment known to man, foot soldiers were simply run down like rabbits on the highway, ordinary mounted cavalry was not even close to a match for the iron chariot and even ordinary chariotry was no match for it--like the outdated Russian tanks of the Iraqis facing the modern force of the Americans during the Gulf war.
Yet in the end Sisera’s sophisticated technology not only didn’t save him, it spelled his army’s doom as the heavy Iron chariots sunk in the mud of the flooded river valley.
Psalm 20:7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
Today we might say some trust in their money, their career, their education, their intellect but now as then the only trust that’s ultimately worthwhile in the mud-pit of life’s battlefield is trust in the Lord our God. Faith in anything less is worthless faith.
Next let’s look at some characters who don’t figure prominently in the account of the battle but who are mentioned in Deborah’s song about the battle in chapter 5. These are the tribes of Israel who don’t make it to the battle, They are the ones whose faith was...
vv 14-17 Some came from Ephraim, whose roots were in Amalek; Benjamin was with the people who followed you. From Makir captains came down, from Zebulun those who bear a commander’s staff. The princes of Issachar were with Deborah; yes, Issachar was with Barak,rushing after him into the valley. In the districts of Reuben there was much searching of heart. Why did you stay among the campfires to hear the whistling for the flocks? In the districts of Reuben there was much searching of heart. Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan. And Dan, why did he linger by the ships? Asher remained on the coast and stayed in his coves.
The text doesn’t tell us as much as we’d like to know about these folks, In fact Deborah asks the same questions we might: Where were they? Why didn’t they come?
I don’t know but there’s enough information for an educated guess. We’re told at the beginning of Chapter four, that Sisera and his chariots had been terrorizing the Israelites for 20 years. It seems likely that these folks--though I’m sure they waited anxiously for good news--weren’t ready to put their lives on the line against a proven enemy with an unproven leader on the say so of a woman. So they waited on the sidelines.
And on life’s battlefields today the choice is still a tempting one--to sit on the sidelines and hope for a positive outcome, but to never commit to wage the battle. Whether it be going out to share Christ with those who are lost, following God’s call on your life to the ministry, or simply stepping up to fill the role that God has prepared for you in this local body of believers, until you don the armor and come out swinging your faith is still a waiting faith...