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midweek Vespers

Judges 4:1-24

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Thursday after Fifth Sunday after Trinity
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Thu, Jul 9, 2015 

The strength and faithfulness of man fail, yet the Lord gives victory to the humble and lowly.

The children of Israel failed to follow the Lord.  He had rescued them through a judge named Ehud.  While he was alive, they worshiped the true God.  But as soon as Ehud breathed his last, the people chose for themselves other gods to follow.

When there is a strong leader or a strong pastor, the people may follow because they love the man.  Yet they do not learn the true lesson: The gifts of God came through the man.  It is God to whom they should be loyal above any man.

Yet the faithfulness of men is fragile and fleeting.  Quickly enough, our hearts are drawn to other things; a flashy show, a deep emotional experience, a real or imagined miracle.  Soon enough, promises are forgotten.  When human loyalty fades, we wander on to something new.

We pray the Lord that He keep us faithful to Him, whatever else may happen in life.

In Judges four, the Lord spoke through the prophetess Deborah to a man named Barak (no relation).  The Lord of hosts gave this command and promise: ďGo with ten thousand men, and I will deliver into your hand Sisera, the general of the enemy of Israel.Ē

But Barak asks that Deborah go with him.  The promise alone was not enough.  He wanted the presence of the prophetess of the Lord.

Here I must stop and talk about prophetesses like Deborah.  They were not the same as male prophets.  Deborah did not have a public ministry where she went about preaching the Word to Israel.  She stayed in one place, and people came to her.

When Barak wanted her to accompany him into battle, this was completely inappropriate.  Her work as prophetess was humble and unassuming.  Even aside from that, women were not called by the Lord into battle.  The man, the protector, is to sacrifice his life in this particular way.

Yet men like Barak are so easily timid and unconfident.  Even with the Lordís promise, he would not go forth to face the enemy unless he had his reassurance in the presence of the prophetess.

Who could blame Barak?  The enemy had nine hundred chariots of iron, the terrifying armored tanks of their day.  A charging chariot could crush any number of enemies, and nothing yet invented could stop them.  For twenty years, the uncontested military superiority belonged to Sisera.

But the Lord promised victory.  Barak should have trusted the Word that is never broken.  Yet he did not.  Manís strength failed in Barakís heart.  Faithfulness stumbled when it should have stood tall.

This is the way of man.  From the unfaithfulness of Israel to the timidity of Barak, we see what is in our own hearts.  We sometimes trust the promises of God.  By His grace, we have faith from His Spirit.  Yet the weakness of our sinful flesh saps courage from us.  We too often do not go out with confidence, but fear.  We too often forget the promise of victory that we have in Christ Jesus.

For the world is a scary place.  The chariots of the evil one are in battle array around us, even now.  They are ready to begin a new assault upon the little Israel of Godís church.  We also have been unfaithful too much, and surely deserve worse than threatens us now in our nationís post-Christian years.

We may surely be intimidated by all that the evil one threatens.  We may be frightened of both the known and unknown.  Who can blame us?  We do not merely wrestle with flesh and blood, but the forces of darkness that stand behind every move against the Church.

May the Lord give us faithfulness when our flesh wants fear.  May we stand with His Word and promises, which never pass away or fail.

In the face of Barakís lack of courage, Deborah declared that the glory and honor would belong to a woman, since Sisera would be sold to a woman.

This is how God so often works.  It also shows His grand plan for all things, beyond this relatively obscure Old Testament story.  The victory belongs not to the mighty, but to the lowly and humble.

Upon the field of battle, we are told that even the stars in heaven fought against Sisera and his chariots.  Apparently, the Lord summoned His heavenly hosts to cast terror and confusion into the ranks of Sisera.  The mighty iron chariots turned and fled, and the lowly infantry of Israel chased them down for the slaughter.

Victory from the Lord, as promised.

Yet Sisera slips away on foot and seems to escape.  He enters a tent that he thinks is friendly to him.  The woman, Jael, a mere tent-wife, greets him and offers him milk to drink.  She hides Sisera so that others will not find him.

Yet she is only lulling him into a false sense of security.  While he sleeps, she takes a hammer and tent peg and drives the point through the manís skull.  In most gruesome fashion, she wins a victory, not in battle, but upon a sleeping, unsuspecting enemy.

One who is no warrior at all overcomes the man thought to be mightiest.  Woman slays general, and a tent-wife becomes the instrument of Godís plan.

Peace at last for Isrsael.

After all was done, did the Israelites remember an earlier promise of God?  In the first garden where sin had crept in by the temptation of the enemy, God said that the enemyís head would be crushed.  Who would win this great victory?  Not the mightiest of men; not a warrior fighting a heroic battle; no, the victory would belong to a womanís Seed.  A child of a lowly, humble woman would overcome the enemy of all enemies, the satanic foe, and crush his head.

The victory of the woman Jael over Sisera is only a small shadow of the greater victory that has been won for us.  The devilís host held the field of battle.  Our strength had failed, indeed, had betrayed us into the hands of the enemy.

Yet the womanís Seed came to crush the serpentís head.  This lowly Seed appeared to be nothing but a servant, despised and rejected by many.  Surely this was no hero, no swordsman to be lopping off the head of the ancient dragon.

Yet the Seed of woman wins by being the most humble.  He takes the lowest place.  He does not even defend Himself when the battle is joined.  He lets the satanic Sisera strike Him down with far worse than a chariot.  The enemy mobilizes his allies, both Jews and Gentiles, who kill the Seed of woman in the most ugly and painful fashion.

But that is the victory.  The Seed of woman dies, and by dying, takes the sting out of death.  The lowly un-hero mortally wounds the terrifying enemy without ever lifting a finger.

This is Godís victory.  The lowly Maiden Maryís Child rescues all who are Israel by faith.  The trap He set is sprung upon the serpent, and the general of all darkness and wickedness is undone.

So we do not have to fear the chariots of the enemy.  We do not have to tremble at his intimidation.  The victory is already ours.  They may take our earthly life.  Some will fall as martyrs, bearing witness to the Word of God.  But let us stand with courage, even when we are faced with death.  All the glory and honor of the battle have gone to the Suffering Servant of the Lord.

Like Him, we do not have to fight back.  We only bear witness to the faithful Word.  The Lord has promised us great things through His Son, and His Word will not fail.

In His Name and to His glory alone.  Amen.

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