And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.…
It was very natural that Barak should desire the presence of Deborah. She was a woman of natural influence, possessed of sagacity, able to read the signs of the times. As it has been said the best definition of a fool is a man who is wise too late, so the best definition of wisdom is wisdom at the right moment; and she possessed that wisdom, and understood what was the proper occasion when it was desirable to strike the blow for freedom. Her intellectual powers had made her influence great among the people; difficult cases were brought to her; her knowledge and her sagacity had won its way and established its influence in Israel. But it was not only natural; there was a certain appearance of piety in the profession. Deborah was not merely one of those persons whose gifts give them a high dominating influence over their fellow-beings, but she was believed by the people to be inspired by the breath of the Spirit of God. And, therefore, there was in their view a certain sanction of the Divine power which came, as it were, from her lips. Was it not, then, because he regarded her as the Divine representative that he said, "If thou wilt go with me I will go"? May we not argue further, and say precisely, because she was the one person in Israel at that time in whose words you could trace the meanings of the Divine Spirit, therefore was it not an attitude of the spirit of piety which would say, "I Cannot undertake this expedition alone; I must be assured of the presence of the prophetess of the Lord"? Is there not piety in the resolution, "If thou wilt go with me, then I will go"? And yet, it is necessary for us to try and understand the motive before we declare whether it is good or bad. "If thou wilt come with me, then I will go." In what strain ought a man to face the obvious duties of life? Is it true that we are always to wait for the assistance of others, or are we bound to do what lies before us, regardless of the sympathy we may receive? The message sent by Deborah was an emphatic message, "Go there with ten thousand men, and I," says the voice of the Lord, "will draw thy adversaries to the river Kishon." There is not the slightest hint or any suggestion of condition; it is a plain, simple, and absolute order. The hour is come; the blow is to be struck; it is your duty to do it; here are your instructions. You know the class of persons who are never able to do any duty without the assistance of others; you know the schoolboy who always does his work when he can get his sister to stand beside him; you know the class of man who is always reluctant to quit with company and undertake any irksome duty by himself. He is not the character which impresses us as possessing strong, marked, or admirable lines. You want some one more determined and self-relying. If a duty has to be done, in the name of that duty, and in the name of your God who gives you that duty, do it like a man, and do not stop to make conditions which betray your weakness, and say, "If this condition be fulfilled, if I am assisted by the presence of another, then I think I can do my duty, but I do not think I can face the frowning face of duty alone." I say this is a character which does not possess the highest order of self-reliance. It is also an answer which betrays slackness and feebleness of life. By the very law by which Israel was then governed, by the law of that very religious sentiment which had been operating in the minds of the chosen people, one thought was predominant in all their minds, "The Lord is the God of Israel." It is the realisation of the Divine presence, and that alone, which marks the higher range of faith; the power to say, "I will go in His strength because He sends me, and I ask not Deborah to go with me to jeopardise her life; she has her work to do and I have mine to do, and the God who inspired her can make my hand strong." But what was the result? As a fact the victory was won; but you know how truly the scorn of Deborah burst forth when she received the conditions of Barak, "If thou wilt go with me." "Then let it be known that the laurels of this victory are not for thy brow. If thou hast thought that only with a woman at thy side thou canst face the crowning hour of battle, those honours which you would boast are reserved for a woman. The Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman." Barak sinks down into the second place in the story, and the opportunity which might have been his was snatched from his hand, as in the hour when he was tested he betrayed weakness. What, then, should we gather from this? The enormous and measureless importance of self-reliance in every affair of life. Life is a constant movement from companionship into isolation. As I pass through the road of life I have to determine certain questions, and I must determine them by the law of my own existence and my own conscience as in the sight of God. Over and over again we are bound to have that experience. We think we have others to help us in certain matters, but the final decision rests with us. Does it not mean that in the purposes of God we are to be taught self-reliance? Sometimes we are told that Christianity is deficient in the virile virtues. That is only because we have misunderstood the story. What is the story of the Redeemer? Is it the story of one who relied so completely upon others that by a dexterous adjustment of His teaching to the wants of the day He was able so to establish His ascendancy over others as to be able to bring forward a community willing to be called by His name? That is the very reverse of the genesis of Christianity.
(Bp. Boyd Carpenter.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.