"TO 'BEE,' OR NOT TO 'BEE,' THAT IS THE QUESTION!"
TEXT: Judges 4-5
INTRO: Have you ever seen a discouraged queen bee? They are amazing creatures, they are literally a single parent to hundreds and even thousands of offspring! They have a single brief flight of freedom and then spend the rest of their life inside a hive generating workers, soldiers, harvesters or pollen gatherers. Her whole task is the well being of the hive, to keep it flouishing. Her life is one of consistency, commitment, and contented living! She works without complaint, she never misses a beat, she lives for the hive, she is the ultimate mother!
Such were the likes of a woman in the Old Testament named Deborah ... which in Hebrew means, "A BEE." She was like a Queen mother in Israel. Her life and testimony propelled her into leadership in Israel, a rare thing for a woman under the Old Covenant. She became a Judge in Israel, but she was not exercising her own authority over men, she exercised God's authority. She is called in the Bible a prophetess, meaning a woman who spoke God's Word. She is called a judge, one who settled disputes by God's laws. She is called a wife, the wife of an unknown man named Lappidoth whose name means "torches" in Hebrew. But, she called herself simply "a mother in Israel." 5:7
Like her name, "a bee," she lived a consistent, committed, contented life, thus providing both godly leadership and a godly example that changed an entire generation of Israelites, leading a war torn nation into 40 years of peace!
One Godly MOM can make a huge difference!! Thank God for Godly moms!
PROP. SENT: A single godly mom can still make a difference in a nation, especially a nation that has lost its godly ways. Give us godly moms today in our nation!
I. "BEEING" CONSISTENT! 4:1-7
A. Conflicts! 4:1-4
1. The life and times of Israel at this moment was pathetic!
a. They had drifted back into sin and lost their godly principles.
b. They had allowed pagan cultures around them to influence them.
c. They were quickly losing their identity as God's chosen people!
2. The times then were like the times now!
a. Once the godly judge Ehud had passed away, the nation slowly slipped back into a dull spiritual existence!
b. Godly leadership is important to a nation and a people!
3 They had learned to copy the wayward ways of the nations around them rather than avoid the idolatry of these wicked nations.
a. They were taken in by the other nation's prosperity and ways.
b. They went where the crowds were, doing what the other nations did!
ILLUS:ONE MAN IN UTAH HAD BOUGHT A STORE BUT IT WAS NOT DOING WELL. NO ONE CAME INTO HIS STORE TO SEE HIS MERCHANDISE, SO HE HAD ALMOST NO BUSINESS. HE WAS ON A MAIN ROAD SO THAT WASN'T THE PROBLEM, PEOPLE JUST DIDN'T STOP! ONE DAY HE GOT AN IDEA, KNOWING THAT MOST PEOPLE ARE COPY CATS, HE WENT OUT AND BOUGHT SEVERAL USED CARS FOR A SONG AND THEN PARKED THEM IN FRONT OF HIS STORE. SURE ENOUGH, NOW PEOPLE STOPPED AT HIS STORE AND ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE BEGAN TO BUY HIS STUFF, THEY ASSUMED THAT ALL THE CARS OUT FRONT MEANT THAT THIS MUST BE A GREAT PLACE TO SHOP!
c. Israel too followed the crowd, like many Christians today that have only a lukewarm faith.
4. Israel needed a voice to speak God's Word and call them to follow God, with Ehud gone God calls a woman, a mother in Israel by the name of Deborah!
a. Israel grew weary from the domination of the evil nations around them!
b. God had allowed this to move them to see their need of Him again!
5. Israel was put under the heavy hand of the Canaanites.
a. The Canaanites kept Israel weak, while the Canaanites possessed Iron weapons and instruments they never permitted Israel to have anything except soft bronze.
b. Israelites were forbidden to possess iron, this way the Canaanites could keep a technological edge over them, Canaanite technology would remain superior.
c. Israelites were not even allowed iron farming implements, only soft bronze ones which required frequent sharpening and maintenance, a job that was to be done by Canaanite craftsmen, thus they held a monopoly over the Israelites in this way, this kept Israel poor and dependent!
6. The only fighting capabilities the Israelites possessed was as foot soldiers:
a. Thus Israel had only light weapons while the Canaanites had iron chariots, shields and mall, iron helmets, and heavy iron body wear.
b. The Canaanites were an awesome sight and frightening to all the other nations around them with their vastly superior technology!
7. Under all this, a weakened Israel finally broke and cried out to God!
a. Playing around with sin had weakened their national strength.
b. Their conformity with the world around them had cost them their spiritual strength and testimony!
c. God used all this to encourage them to return to Him!
8. For 20 years God allowed them to be oppressed, in order to turn their hearts back to Him!
a. It is interesting to note that though God allowed 20 years of pain He later gives them 40 years of peace when they do return, His grace gives them twice as long in peace as they experienced in pain!
b. God's grace is thus far greater than his discipline!
B. Character! 4:4-7
1. Deborah "the Bee" is introduced, a mother that was not content to just sit by and teach her own family God's ways but a mother that got involved in her country to bring it back to God's ways!
a. She could have sat back and said, "well, I'll teach my own kids, and let the rest of the world do what they are going to do."
b. but she cared too much to ignore what her own nation had done with God's Word, so she got involved in a big way!
c. She did this without neglecting her own family!
2. She makes no effort to take authority over the men who were suppose to show leadership over Israel, instead she calls upon one man named Barak and delivers to him God's word, here she is not exercising her own authority over a man, but God's authority!
a. We men would do well to heed the voices of godly women among us. God may well say something through them that we can't hear ourselves!
b. Don't underestimate the power of a Godly mom being used by the Lord!
3. Why did Israel see Deborah as a judge anyway? Because of her CONSISTENT, COMMITTED, GODLY LIFE!
a. She could be trusted!
b. She had a record that was consistent!
4. Barak (which means "lightning" in Hebrew) is called to strike against God's enemies and lead Israel to victory!
a. Barak however is scared, he sees overwhelming odds!
b. He is not listening to the one voice that should matter most, he only sees and hears the menacing enemies!
ILLUS:WHEN THE FAMOUS BABE RUTH WAS CALLED ON A THIRD STRIKE, AND THUS OUT BY AN UMPIRE, HE TURNED AND IN ANGER TRIED TO CHALLENGE THE RULING OF THE UMPIRE. THE CROWD ALSO ROARED THEIR DISAPPROVAL AT THE UMP. BABE RUTH SAID, "THERE'S 40,000 PEOPLE HERE, LIKE ME, WHO KNOWS THAT THE LAST PITCH WAS A BALL AND NOT A STRIKE YOU TOMATO HEAD!" THE UMP SIMPLY SMILED AND SAID, "MAYBE SO, BUT MINE IS THE ONLY OPINION THAT COUNTS!" HOW TRUE THIS IS FOR US TOO, NO MATTER WHAT THE CROWD SAYS, THERE IS ONLY ONE OPINION THAT REALLY COUNTS AND THAT'S GOD'S!
5. The Word from God that came from Deborah was full of faith, "I will give them into your hands." 4:7b
a. Deborah's message was full of direction: Where to fight: "Kishon river"
b. Deborah's message was full of faith: "The Lord will fight for you"
c. Deborah's message was full of hope: "I will lure Sisera ... give him into your hands."
d. This was the stuff of good preaching!
6. All Barak had to do was obey and go!
II. "BEEING" COMMITTED! 4:8-24
A. Courage! 4:8-10
1. Barak reveals the impact of a nation's lukewarm attitude toward God ... he is hesitant to obey and go!
a. He has no confidence in his own faith and walk, those who walk weakly with the Lord cannot muster the strength to fight well!
b. He states that he will not go unless Deborah goes with him!
2. This mother in Israel had more courage and faith than the general of the armed forces!
a. if we only knew how many spiritual victories in this land have been won by the presence of godly women!
b. Behind every successful man of God there is a successful godly woman!
3. Deborah is willing to go before she knows what kind of turnout will actually take place! 4:9
a. And, the turnout was lousy! 10,000 Israelites only turned out to go against what was surely 10,000's of Canaanites with 900 iron chariots!
b. This was not great odds for Israel!
c. Moms, no matter the odds against you and your family remember that with God you will win the victory against all of God's enemies!
4. Deborah was the kind of mom that put her actions where her mouth was, she did not just inspire Barak to go and fight, she too was willing to go and follow through with her message of faith!
ILLUS:HOW UNLIKE SOME TODAY WHO ARE WILLING TO BE A PART UNTIL THE REAL TEST BEGINS. LIKE THE CHOIR DIRECTOR WHO ONE DAY WAS PRAISING HIS PIANIST FOR HER SACRIFICE AND EXAMPLE AT NEVER MISSING A PRACTICE FOR THE UPCOMING BIG CHRISTMAS MUSICAL THEY WERE TO PERFORM. THE PIANIST REPLIED, "I THOUGHT IT WAS THE LEAST I COULD DO, CONSIDERING THE FACT THAT I AN UNABLE TO ATTEND THE PERFORMANCE!" SOMETHING WAS MISSING IN THIS COMMITMENT!
5. Though greatly outnumbered and outgunned by vastly superior weapons, Barak does go with this courageous mother at his side! She inspired courage by her life and her witness! This is the fruit of commitment!
B. Conquerors! 4:11-24
1. Sisera, the general of the Canaanite war machine finds out about Israel's plan to fight them, so he assembles his 900 iron chariots and all his fighting men in the valley ready for battle ...
a. This was the dry season when the valley floor was hard packed and gave great advantage to the Canaanites with their iron machinery!
b. It almost NEVER rained this time of the year in this valley!
2. The Canaanites worshiped "BaaI". . . who was depicted as a god who rode the clouds with a club in one hand for thunder, and a stylized spear in the other hand that symbolized lightening.
a. Imagine these few Israelite soldiers looking down on the elite fighting force of superior numbers and technology!
b. All they have to inspire them is a cowardly general named Barak and a mother in Israel that had lots of faith and God's Word to stand on!
3. Nothing less than total commitment would work here! There could be no hesitation in the commitment or all would fail!
4. We need to be completely sold out to God, not holding back on our commitment lest the enemy find a weak spot in our lives that he can use!
ILLUS:LIKE THE STORY TOLD BY A HAITIAN PASTOR ABOUT A MAN WHO WANTED TO SELL HIS HOUSE FOR $2,000. ANOTHER MAN WANTED TO BUY IT BUT AT ONLY HALF THAT PRICE. AFTER MUCH BARGAINING, THE MAN FINALLY AGREED TO THE LOWER PRICE UNDER ONE CONDITION, THAT HE BE ALLOWED TO STILL OWN A SINGLE NAIL OVER THE FRONT DOOR OF THE HOUSE, THIS WOULD BELONG TO HIM AND NOT THE NEW OWNER, AND HE COULD DO AS HE PLEASED WITH IT WITHOUT INTERFERENCE FROM THE NEW OWNER. BOTH AGREED. SOME TIME WENT BY, AND THE OLD OWNER DECIDED HE WANTED HIS HOUSE BACK, BUT NOW THE NEW OWNER REFUSED TO SELL BACK TO HIM. THE OLD OWNER THEN TOOK A DEAD DOG AND HUNG IT ON THE NAIL HE STILL OWNED OVER THE FRONT DOOR. THE NEW OWNER COULD NOT TOUCH IT, FOR THE NAIL DID NOT BELONG TO HIM. SURE ENOUGH, IN A MATTER OF DAYS THE NEW OWNER COULD NOT TAKE THE SMELL ANY LONGER AND SO HE SOLD THE HOUSE BACK TO THE FIRST OWNER AT A LOSS. ALL BECAUSE HE WASN'T COMMITTED TO BUYING THE WHOLE HOUSE IN THE BEGINNING, THE LITTLE NAIL HE LEFT WAS AVAILABLE TO TAKE FROM HIM WHAT HE HAD! DOES GOD OWN YOUR WHOLE BEING OR ONLY PARTS OF YOUR LIFE? WHAT IS AVAILABLE FOR THE ENEMY TO USE THAT DOESN'T BELONG TO GOD!?
5. It is important to note that Deborah had no idea how they were going to win, only that God had promised it!
a. Thus she stuck by her commitment!
b. And she stood by the men willing to risk their lives to obey God!
6. The troops may well have been thinking: "how is God going to do this impossible thing?"... I know I would have thought this!
7. It becomes clear in 5:4-5 what happened, God caused a huge cloudburst, and it is probably Deborah that first noticed the small clouds forming!
a. Sudden cloudbursts in this valley have rendered other vast armies sitting ducks before, in 1799 Napoleon was able to be victorious over the Turkish army because a sudden cloudburst in this same valley, it made the Turkish army get bogged down!
b. Ironically, the Canaanite god Baal who was the god of lightning and rain bogged down the Canaanites!
c. Their false god showed up and made them vulnerable to attack!
d. Ever see what 900 iron chariots do in heavy mud!?
e. Ever see what lots of soldiers with heavy iron armor on can do in a muddy field? --- Not much!
f. God makes a clear statement about Baal, the god of the thunderstorm!
8. Thus the lightly weighted foot soldiers of Israel were able to easily run down and kill every man, Canaanites were not trained in hand to hand combat, they relied on their highly technological iron implements to give them the edge in battle! The only thing Israel knew was hand to hand combat, so the Canaanite advantage had completely reversed itself with this sudden cloud burst!
9. Every Canaanite soldier is killed except one, Sisera their general. He obviously took off his armor and ran like a coward, fleeing to save himself and leaving his men to die!
a. No false religion can give you courage to stand against life's struggles!
b. Only God can inspire real courage, faith, and sacrifice for others!
10. Sisera finds a Bedouin tent and looks for a place to hide, he meets a woman named, "Jael" . . . which ironically is a Hebrew name meaning "a mountain goat," notice the compound name with JA- EL.
a. Sisera is welcomed into her tent, a rare thing in that day, no man except a husband was allowed into a woman's tent, he thus felt sure he could hide safely here!
b. It was also the custom of the Bedouins that if they brought you in and fed you, you were obligated to protect them! She does this for Sisera.
c. Jael's husband, a Kenite which were known as metalworkers and probably allied with the Canaanites, likely had helped forge iron for the Canaanites, no wonder Sisera feels safe here!
11. However, Jael waits for him to fall asleep and then takes an IRON tent peg, it was the responsibility of Bedouin women to stake the tents, not the men, a task she was well practiced in, and drove it through his head so hard it stuck to the ground! He was "nailed!" She knew how to drive a tent peg!
a. Sisera should never have come against a godly mom and a woman with a Jewish name like Jael!
b. God completely destroyed the enemy!
c. This was the beginning of more and greater victories over the Canaanites as is mentioned in 4:24b.
III. "BEEING" CONTENTED! 5:1-31
A. Confidence 5:1-31a
1. The final result: Deborah and Barak write a beautiful song of praise!
a. God's work brings praise!
b. It also brought a sense of confidence back to Israel, God loves them!
2. Notice 5:2 contains the formula for success in God's planbook for Churches, or nations:
a. "when the princes in Israel take the lead..." (meaning leaders lead!)
b. "When the people willingly offer themselves..." (sacrificial giving both in tithes and time!)
c. Then: "PRAISE THE LORD!" (worship and celebration of faith!)
3. Confidence in God and His Word was restored in Israel because of the faith of one mom!
4. A new song broke out all over Israel, a long over due one!
a. Deborah does include in this new song the list of those who didn't help however, perhaps to show what they missed out on!
b. Jael is praised in the song for her act of bravery for God's people, thus taking some of the praise away from Barak who was somewhat reluctant to fight without Deborah being present!
B. Comfort 5:31b
1. What is the final result of this faithful mother in Israel?
a. 40 years of peace broke out, this after a long and arduous beating by the Canaanites the previous 20 years!
b. Israel was now the victor over a superior nation, vast superior technology was no match for God!
c. There is no enemy to threaten them now!
2. The fact that peace lasted 40 years is important, a generation was considered a 40 year period, for an entire generation God gave them peace.
a. All the results of one mother who believed God and took some leadership in getting the men to respond to God's Word!
b. The nation enjoyed rest and was able to grow in peace, all because one godly mom stood up to be counted!
CONCLUSION: To "bee" consistent, committed, and contented, or not to "bee," that is the question! Deborah (whose name means, "bee") was a worker, a soldier, a prophetess and a servant of God, but she calls herself simply "a mother in Israel!" This godly mom brought faith at a time of national and moral crisis and the result was that God's name was honored, Israel's enemies were defeated, and the nation had peace for 40 years! Look what one godly mom did then, what could one do now!?