Death by hammer and nails

GOD’S WORD FOR YOU 
JUDGES 5:24-27
 
24 “Most blessed of women be Jael, 
    the wife of Heber the Kenite, 
    of tent-dwelling women most blessed.  
 
While some are cursed for taking no part in the battle, one person only, Jael, is blessed. Her blessing here reminds us of the seriousness of Jesus’ warning: “Many are called, few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14), which is the concluding and explanatory passage in the parable of the wedding banquet (Matt. 22:2-14). It means that although the invitation of the gospel goes throughout the world, there are many who reject it. Paul used a scene from the Olympic games: “In a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize” (1 Cor. 9:24).  Jude also warns: “Jesus delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe” (Jude 5). 
 
By calling Jael “most blessed of all tent-dwelling women,” Deborah recalls the words of Moses: “You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock-- the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed. You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out” (Deuteronomy 28:3-5). She would be blessed by all. At a time when almost everyone lived in a tent,  Jael would stand out among them all and would indeed be blessed by God. Although this is the last mention of her in the Bible, we can be confident that the Lord continued to be with her for the rest of her life. 
 
25 He asked for water and she gave him milk, 
    In a bowl fit for noblemen she presented cheese curds. (EHV)
 
In later (post-Biblical) Hebrew, the word chemah is ‘butter’ or ‘buttermilk,’ artificially soured milk made “by shaking milk in the skin-bottle in which it is stored, and fermenting it with the stale milk adhering to the skin from previous processes” (Dr. Cohen p. 201). 
 
This is a good place to mention the translation called the Evangelical Heritage Version. Formerly called “the Wartburg Project,” the EHV is a new translation worked on by a large number of WELS and ELS pastors and professors. The New Testament and Psalms will be published later this year (2017). Long-time readers of this devotion may remember that our study of Jeremiah was based on the first draft translation of that book for the EHV.
 
Here is a comment on this verse from EHV editor John Brug: “The prose account mentions only milk to drink, so if this poetic couplet is synonymous parallelism, the chemah is liquid enough to be drunk. If that is the case, the translation should be changed to curdled milk. But many of our readers might find cheese curds more appealing than curdled milk, so this maybe is a toss-up.”
 
Whatever cheesy drink / delicacy Jael gave to Sisera, it’s what she had on hand in her tent--her praiseworthy tent--as she obeyed the command of the Lord through the words of the prophetess.
 
26 She put her hand to the tent peg 
    and her right hand to the workmens’ mallet; 
she struck Sisera a blow, 
    she crushed his head, 
    she shattered and pierced his temple.  
27 He sank, he fell, 
    he lay still at her feet; 
at her feet he sank, he fell; 
    where he sank, there he fell dead.  
 
With a staccato style worthy of any English madrigal or even the prophet Nahum (cp. Nah. 3:1-4), Deborah drops her words down, down, to the floor of the tent, lower, lower to the very dust--and then with the delicacy of the poem, replays the scene as spike and hammer drive the general to his death.  
 
Let’s compare and contrast Sisera and Jesus. I have found eight or so items on both sides, but there might be many more.
 
  □  Both Sisera and Jesus said that they were thirsty at the time 
       they died.
  □  Both Sisera and Jesus were offered drinks (we might even say 
       strange or unusual drinks) just before they died.
  □  Both Sisera and Jesus were attended by women as they died. 
  □  Both Sisera and Jesus were wounded in the head and put to 
       death with hammer and nails.
  □  Neither Sisera nor Jesus were put to death inside a city.
  □  Both Sisera and Jesus were shown to soldiers after they died. 
  □  It was necessary to prove that both Sisera and Jesus had died.
  □  At the deaths of both Sisera and Jesus, there is talk about 
       soldiers dividing up the spoils (Judges 5:30; Matt 27:35).
 
  ■  Sisera, the powerful commanding general, was fleeing from 
       soldiers. Jesus, the powerful, commanding and all-powerful God
       with legions of angels at his command (Matt 26:53) did not flee
       from the soldiers who arrested him.
  ■  Sisera was covered by Jael to help him sleep; Jesus was draped 
       with a purple robe so that the soldiers could mock him (Mark 15:20).
  ■  Sisera fell asleep just before he died; Jesus rebuked his disciples 
       for falling asleep, saying, “Get up and pray that you will not fall 
       into temptation” (Matthew 22:46).
  ■  Sisera was killed in the tent (Hebrew ohel). Jesus was taken 
       away from the temple (the word for tabernacle is also ohel) to 
       be killed outside the city.  
  ■  Sisera died for his own sins, with his sins on his own head;  
       Jesus died innocently to take away the sins of the whole world. 
       “Whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal 
       life” (John 3:16).
  ■  Sisera’s last words were a lie (Judges 4:20); but all of Jesus’ words
       were true (Ps 119:160; Matthew 22:16; John 7:18; 8:46). 
  ■  Sisera’s followers were all cut down by the sword (Jg 4:16); Jesus
       did not want his disciples to carry swords at all (Luke 22:38).
  ■  Sisera’s mother was left waiting for her son (Judges 5:28-30), 
       but Jesus took care that his mother would be provided for (John
       19:26-27).
 
The death of God’s enemy is the just judgment of God. During the giving of the Ten Commandments God said, “I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me” (Exodus 20:5). That doesn’t mean that the child of a condemned sinner could not show his faith, put his trust in God, and be saved. For example, good king Josiah’s father was wicked king Amon (2 Chron 33:25). Both are in the line of the Savior (Matthew 1:10), one damned for unbelief, and one saved by faith. So we keep proclaiming God’s will so that people will recognize their sins. And we keep proclaiming Christ crucified so that people will not despair, but turn away from their sins and back to God, and be rescued by Jesus.
 
In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith
 
Archives by Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel: http://www.wlchapel.org/worship/daily-devotion/
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul's Lutheran Church, New Ulm, Minnesota

Judges 5:17-23 Our curse is lifted

GOD’S WORD FOR YOU 
JUDGES 5:17-23
 
17 Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan,
    and Dan—why did he stay with the ships? 
Asher remained on the seacoast, 
    settled in among his harbors.  
18 Zebulun is a people that risked their lives! 
    Naphtali too, on the heights of the field.  
19 The kings came and they fought.
    The kings of Canaan fought at Taanach, 
       by the waters of Megiddo, 
    But they did not carry off any spoils or silver.  
 
After the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant was asked to give his opinion of Union General George McClellan. Grant replied, “McClellan is to me one of the mysteries of the war.” McClellan was for a few months the commanding General of Union Army, but his meticulous planning and chronic overestimation of opposing forces made him a liability on the battlefield. He simply refused to fight, and he was often publically insubordinate to President Lincoln (against whom he ran for President in 1864). Deborah’s questions show her frustration with Gilead (by which she means Gad and Manassaeh), and also with Dan and Asher. Where were these other northern tribes who should have rallied to Barak’s banner when they were called? “Those tribes,” Deborah might have said, “remain one of the mysteries of the war.”
 
But Zebulun and Naphtali came. They “risked their lives” and they put their trust in the word of God, given faithfully through the prophetess. Just as it had come through Moses, the word now came again. And just as the word came through Moses’ chisel and Deborah’s dream, it now comes to us in the written word, passed down faithfully from generation to generation until it has even come to you and me. A common complaint we hear today from the ignorant and from the theological bully is that we cannot trust that what we have in the Bible truly is the word of God “because,” they say, “it has been translated and re-translated down through the centuries until who knows what it said in the first place.” Poppycock. That’s precisely why our Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod doesn’t have an official translation of the Bible. We don’t have an official translation, but we do have an official Bible. It’s the Hebrew Old Testament, passed from Moses and the Prophets to the Masoretes to publishers and onto our desks, and also the Greek New Testament, passed from the Apostles and Evangelists to copyists to publishers and, again, onto our desks. This is why we are able to say “This is what the Lord says,” without wondering whether or not we’re right about that. 
 
Incidentally, archaeology has revealed that evidence in the seventh stratum of Megiddo, corresponding to 1150-1125 BC, the city was destroyed. Although this is sometimes mentioned in commentaries on Judges (Tyndale, Albright, etc.), it seems to reflect an act that happened about one hundred years after the time we estimate for Deborah and Barak. Notice that the text does not say that Megiddo was attacked, destroyed or burned, but only that a battle happened nearby.
 
20 From heaven the stars fought, 
    from their courses they fought against Sisera.  
21 The rushing Kishon swept them away, 
    the ancient torrent, the rushing Kishon. 
    March on, my soul, be strong!  
22 Then the horses’ hooves struck like hammers 
       as they galloped, 
    the mighty galloping steeds.  
 
Here Deborah describes the battle once again. The reference to the stars may have a double significance. Sisera probably consulted the stars in some way to predict the battle’s outcome (but since the stars are God’s servants and not Sisera’s they were no help to him). But the stars were placed in the sky to mark the passing of the seasons. God said, “Let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years” (Genesis 1:14). So when the stars were in a certain place, it would mark the beginning of a certain season. When Orion (Hebrew kesil ) rises in the west just at dusk in the late autumn, the heavy rains begin. These are the rains that flooded the Kishon and turned the Jezreel valley into a marsh. The horses fled in terror at the sound of the furious thunderstorm, and Deborah’s poetic voice is unforgettable here as she describes the horses’ hooves thundering like clanging hammers as they galloped, galloped (Hebrew, daharoth, daharoth) away. Nahum uses similar language for horses on the attack (Nah. 3:2).
 
23 ‘Curse Meroz,’ says the angel of the LORD, 
    ‘curse bitterly its people, 
because they did not come to help the LORD, 
    to the help of the LORD against the mighty.’  
 
We don’t know where this Meroz was, but Dr. Cohen (Soncino Books of the Bible, London 1950) assumes it was some village along Sisera’s escape route, perhaps the village today called Kefr Musr to the south of Mount Tabor. Deborah was given a curse to proclaim on them from the angel of the LORD. 
 
Although the context is limited, we can make a guess from the text whether this angel was one of God’s messengers (Psalm 104:4; 2 Kings 1:3-4) or the pre-incarnate Christ, who appeared to Hagar and others (Gen 16:7; Judges 13:9). It was this angel who also took the lead in the battle, and who was the one who called for help: “to help the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty.” David talks about the angel of the LORD helping him in battle, “driving them away…pursuing them” (Psalm 35:5,6), and here it is clearly the LORD himself who came to the aid of Israel. The angel of the LORD who appeared to Joshua in Judges 2;1 was clearly the Lord himself (“I brought you up out of Egypt,” he says). Also, the angel of the LORD who will appear in 13:3-5 and 13:9-21 was the Lord God, since he is called “the LORD” (13:19) and “God” (13:22). This angel would seem to be the second Person of the Trinity as well, that is Jesus before he took on human flesh to be named Jesus. This curse is paired carefully in Deborah’s song with the blessing that follows.
 
God curses those “who stray from his commands” (Ps. 119:21), those who don’t believe he exists (Ps. 10:11), and those who violate his word and break his covenant (Isaiah 24:5-6). These are all First Commandment sins, and we remember that only unbelief damns. This doesn’t mean that every sinner has no hope; only that every sinner has no hope apart from Christ. When we turn our eyes and our faith to Jesus, he covers over the guilt of our sins with his sacrifice on the cross. Just as only unbelief damns, so also only faith in Christ saves. Our humble prayer is like that of the thief on the cross: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42), and Jesus has indeed remembered us. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). So our curse is lifted in Christ. We have a place with him forever, in the place we describe with the words of the Nicene Creed as “the life of the world to come.” Amen. 
 
In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith
 
Archives by Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel: http://www.wlchapel.org/worship/daily-devotion/
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul's Lutheran Church, New Ulm, Minnesota

Ruth 1:22 The harvest

GOD’S WORD FOR YOU 
RUTH 1:22
 
22 So Naomi returned from the land of Moab with Ruth her daughter-in-law, the Moabitess. They arrived in Bethlehem just at the start of the barley harvest.
 
The first chapter ends with a hint about how the rest of the book will turn out. The barley harvest in Bethlehem is the setting for everything else that will come. This passage also prefigures the birth of Christ for us Christians. Two people arriving in Bethlehem is a circumstance that cannot help but draw our minds to the scene, 1300 years later, when Mary and Joseph arrived in the same village, perhaps entering in through the very same gate, only to find that there was no room in the inn (Luke 2:7). 
 
But let’s return to Ruth and Naomi. They would have approached the village from the northeast. There were and still are extensive olive orchards there as well as figs (2 Chron. 9:27; Amos 7:14). The small hills are studded with outcropping of “flint, chalk and limestone, without fossils” (Lynch, 1849 US Naval Expedition). One larger hill towers above the others, perhaps the place where the shepherds received the annunciation of Jesus’ birth from the angels and saw the glory of the Lord (Luke 2:8-9). 
 
Beyond these hills to the west, is the village. Founded in the earliest days of the conquest under Joshua by descendants of Judah’s fourth son, Hur (1 Chron. 4:4), the city had no lasting structures apart from its outer wall and gate until after the return from exile. At that time, 123 men and their families (perhaps 500 people or so in all, Ezra 2:21; Nehemiah 7:26) occupied the site, which has been inhabited continuously ever since.
 
There is a large cave there, which Christians of the second generation after the apostles took to be the stable of Jesus’ birth. Justin Martyr (100-165 AD) said, “when the Child was born in Bethlehem, since Joseph could not find a lodging in that village, he took up his quarters in a certain cave near the village; and while they were there Mary brought forth the Christ and placed him in a manger, and here the Magi who came from Arabia found him” (Dialogue with Trypho chap. 78). Justin is mistaken about the Magi coming to the grotto, since Matthew explicitly says that the wise men found the child and his family “in a house” (Matthew 2:10). Origen of Alexandria also says: “the cave is pointed out where he was born, and the manger in the cave where he was wrapped in swaddling clothes. And the rumor is in those places, and among foreigners of the faith, that indeed Jesus was born in this cave” (Against Celsus I,51). It is just as likely that the whole inn and stable were made of wood and are no longer there.
 
Why is any of this important? Because Christianity is not a philosophical religion, but one based on historical events recorded for us in the text of the holy Bible. So the truth of the Incarnation of Jesus is supported by the truth of the other events described in Scripture: the call of Abraham, the slavery of Joseph, the Exodus, the military victories of Ehud, Shamgar, Barak and the other judges; the kingdoms of David and Solomon, the Babylonian captivity, the return, and the census of the Roman Empire under Caesar Augustus. 
 
Finally, it is because the suffering and death of Jesus Christ are historical events, not myths or allegories, that the church has always insisted on the phrasing of the second article of the Apostles’ Creed: Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead.” These are events that actually took place. Our faith is grounded in truth, in verifiable events. Those events—especially Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection—are the threshold, lintel and side posts of our door to eternal life. And Jesus himself is the door, the way in. He laid down his life for us (1 John 3:16), and he will come at another moment of history (the very last one) “to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed” (2 Thess. 1:10). He will take us all home with him to live forever in heaven, in “an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands” (2 Cor. 5:1). And together with everyone who has believed, we will go in, the harvest of God (Matthew 13:30), just as surely and certainly and Ruth and Naomi entering into Bethlehem during the barley harvest.
 
In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith
 
Archives by Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel: http://www.wlchapel.org/worship/daily-devotion/
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul's Lutheran Church, New Ulm, Minnesota

God’s Word for You - Judges 5:11b-16 Wake up Wake Up

GOD’S WORD FOR YOU 
JUDGES 5:11b-16
 
Deborah continues her song, now describing what people are saying (or singing?) “at the watering places.”
 
    They recite the righteous acts of the LORD, 
    the righteous acts of his warriors in Israel. 
 
The prophet Samuel confronted the leaders and people of Israel with a retelling of “the righteous acts of the LORD” when they convinced themselves that they wanted to have a king (1 Samuel 12:7). Whenever the righteous acts of the Lord are mentioned or described, there is a law and gospel aspect to the telling. The righteous deeds of God naturally remind us of his pure and absolute holiness and of our failings. But the things God does, he does for the good of his people, and so we are lifted back up from our shame by the gospel of his forgiveness. 
 
 “Then the people of the LORD went down to the city gates.
12 ‘Wake up, wake up, Deborah! 
    Wake up, wake up, break out in song! 
Arise, O Barak! 
    Take captive your captives, O son of Abinoam.’ 
 
From “the watering places” (which are the wells, cisterns and streams of Galilee) the people move on to the gates of the cities. The cry to wake up goes to Deborah—perhaps because she saw her vision of the Lord in a dream—and another cry goes to Barak. The four cries to Deborah include a play on her name: Uri! Uri, Deborah! (Wake up, wake up Deborah!). Uri! Uri! Debri shir! (Wake up, wake up, say in song!).  
 
Barak is mentioned, but we can’t help but notice that Deborah gets more ink than the general.
 
13 “Then the men who were left came down to the nobles; 
    the people of the LORD came to me with the mighty.  
 
Here we go back to the mustering of the troops on Mount Tabor. There were forty thousand “without shield or spear” (5:8), but “the men who were left” came to answer the call.
 
14 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.  
15 The princes of Issachar were with Deborah; 
    yes, Issachar was with Barak, 
    rushing after him into the valley. 
 
A few of the tribes answered the call to arms. Deborah and Barak asked for help. Who came? Ephraim and Benjamin—the tribes nearest to Deborah’s palm tree. Ephraim’s “roots in Amalek” must refer to the large number of Amalekites still living in the highlands (sometimes called the “dome”) of Ephraim. The Kenites (Jael was one) lived near “the city of Amalek” (1 Samuel 15:6). It seems as if they moved far away from this place later on, since David talks about “the Negev of the Kenites” in 1 Samuel 27:10, referring to a region of the desert to the south of Judah.
 
Makir was Joseph’s grandson. His children were placed on Joseph’s knee in Egypt before the patriarch died (Genesis 50:23). Mentioning Makir is the same as mentioning Manasseh. Zebulun’s commanders came with their swagger sticks, ready to direct their portions of the battle. Issachar is also mentioned, as will be Naphtali (5:17) as being among those “who risked their lives.” Naphtali was the tribe from which Barak hailed, and possibly Deborah, too, since she called specifically for Barak to take the lead in the attack.
 
In the districts of Reuben 
    there was much searching of heart.  
16 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. 
 
At this point, Deborah and Barak turn their song against Reuben (and others) who stayed away from the battle, wondering what to do. “There was much searching the heart” is a polite way of saying that after talking it over, they did not come to help. “The whistling for the flocks” is the work of the shepherds on Mount Nebo. Did the whole tribe need to stay home and listen to the tune? Men sitting comfortably around campfires is the picture of the tribe that Deborah paints. It’s not a compliment. 
 
The call to rise up and stand for the Lord is common in the Bible. “We rise up and stand firm” (Psalm 20:8); “Who will rise up for me against the wicked?” (Psalm 94:16). “Shake off the dust; rise up!” (Isaiah 52:2).  To take a stand for the Lord, even in dangerous circumstances, is to show your faith. For many Christians, it seems to be even more difficult to show your faith in circumstances that aren’t dangerous to life and limb at all. Is that because we don’t want to run the risk of seeming like Pharisees, showing off our faith rather than just showing it? Think about this the next time you eat a meal in public (in a restaurant or in front of your co-workers). Do you say your table prayer? Do you sit silently with your hands folded, without saying anything aloud? They will know what you’re doing. Your silent prayer may quietly open a door for the gospel later on by demonstrating that you have faith in God but that you don’t intend to tell everybody what to do and what not to do. Search your heart, but don’t be like Rueben and keep on searching until the battle is already won. 
 
In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith
 
Archives by Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel: http://www.wlchapel.org/worship/daily-devotion/
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul's Lutheran Church, New Ulm, Minnesota

Judges 5:6-11a Deborah arose, a mother in Israel

GOD’S WORD FOR YOU 
JUDGES 5:6-11a
 
6 “In the days of Shamgar son of Anath, 
  in the days of Jael, the roads were abandoned; 
  travelers took to winding paths. 
 
Does Deborah gives us a glimpse at the chronology of this part of Judges? We know that Ehud had already died (4:1), but here she puts Shamgar and Jael’s victory into the same context. Clearly Shamgar had already made a name for himself, but his exploit was recent enough for this time to still be considered “his days.” We might even take this verse to be an indication that Shamgar survived his attack on six hundred Philistines and was still living (Judges 3:31)
 
The problem Deborah describes was that under the oppression of Hazor, it was no longer safe to travel in Galilee. “Roads were abandoned.” Shamgar had won a victory among the Philistines, but the Canaanites of Hazor were a problem up here in the north. People could not go from place to place without being abused, attacked, taxed, or worse.
 
7 Village life in Israel ceased, 
  ceased until I,  Deborah, arose, 
  arose a mother in Israel.  
 
If the roads could not be used, communication, business, travel and trade would have virtually come to a standstill. Now Deborah, “a mother in Israel,” had risen up and restored things back to the way they were supposed to be—which is the work of any deliverer, but most of all the description of Christ (Amos 9:11). He is the “desired of nations” (Haggai 2:7) and the one who was pierced for our transgressions (Isaiah 53:5). The restoration brought by Christ is not just the restoration of trade and travel (compare Psalm 48:3-8), but the forgiveness of our sins, “for he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). 
 
8 When they chose new gods, 
  war came to the city gates, 
  and not a shield or spear was seen 
    among forty thousand in Israel.  
 
Now Deborah proclaims judgment on the people for running off after new gods. Moses had warned about this, reminding Israel that in the past they “sacrificed to demons, which are not God—gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your fathers did not fear” (Deut. 32:17). For this reason, God allowed the people to be tested, to turn them back in fear and repentance (Ps 66:10-11). Cities like Shunem and Endor, Megiddo and Golan were not safe; they were in danger of attack by the armies of Hazor north of Galilee. 
 
Part of this testing seems to have been a lack of weaponry, “not a shield of spear was seen among forty thousand” (cp. 1 Samuel 13:22). This might be poetic hyperbole—there may have been a few spears—but for the most part, Israel was unarmed. Yet God gave them a victory! While so many man were complaining that they had no weapons, God gave them a victory through an uncomplaining wife and her hammer. 
 
Would they have been happier with a spectacular battle, with heroic feats of brave men, dying to the last man as they threw themselves against the brigades of Hazor in the fields of Jezreel? God always has our eternal salvation in mind. It is his desire and his divine will to illustrate that he is able to do whatever is necessary without any effort or deed on the part of his people. He saved us from our sins in such a way that no deed of ours can contribute at all to help it, better it, or make it more real, more effective, or more lasting. In this way, we will remember to give him credit. “I will tell of all your deeds” (Psalm 73:28). “You make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands” (Ps. 92:4).  
 
9 My heart is with Israel's princes, 
  with the willing volunteers among the people. 
      Praise the LORD!  
 
Deborah praises Israel in general by mentioning princes and “willing volunteers,” people required to go by duty and people who went because they chose to go. 
 
10 “You who ride on white donkeys, 
  sitting on your saddle blankets, 
and you who walk along the road, 
  consider 11 the voice of those who divide the spoils
  at the watering places. 
 
Verse 10 uses a rhetorical device called a merismus by describing everyone through two extremes: Riders on white donkeys on the one hand and walkers on the other. Deborah means not only them, but also everyone in between.  The middle term, “sitting on your saddle blankets,” is a problem. If it is derived from the verb dyn “to judge” with a prefixed m-, then mdyn could mean “sitting on the judgment seat” (Anchor Bible). If mdyn is the plural of mad then it means “a spread out cloth, saddle blanket.” Either one is possible, and neither one changes our understanding of God’s grace to Israel. 
 
Who are “those who divide the spoils”? Some translations make them out to be “singers,” but the term מְחַצְצִים mahatstsim is a participle in the Hebrew piel stem. “Archers” (KJV, NIV footnote) is a possible translation (Keil and Delitzsch prefer it), but “dividers” is less specific. “Singers” is the least likely meaning here, but the most common among modern translations. So what does Deborah mean? People can once again go about their business (singing, hunting, dividing the spoils) rather than be terrified by every windblown leaf (Lev. 26:36).
 
Israel was safe again. “They who seek my life have been destroyed” (Ps. 63:9). “O Lord, you will keep us safe and protect us from such people forever” (Ps 12:7). The same God who looks after the donkeys and the other creatures (Ps 104:11) looks after his people even more so. Why? We cannot say why, only that he does indeed love us. “For the Lord takes delights in his people,” Psalm 149:4 says. “He crowns the humble with salvation.” And Jesus promised: “I am with you always, to very end of the age.”
 
In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith
 
Archives by Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel: http://www.wlchapel.org/worship/daily-devotion/
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul's Lutheran Church, New Ulm, Minnesota

Pages

Subscribe to God's Word for You