Archive for the ‘Barak’ Tag

Relying on God’s Power   1 comment


Above:  Deborah

Image in the Public Domain


The Collect:

Almighty God, you anointed Jesus at his baptism with the Holy Spirit

and revealed him as your beloved Son.

Keep all who are born of water and the Spirit faithful in your service,

that we may rejoice to be called children of God,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22


The Assigned Readings:

Judges 4:1-16 (Monday)

Judges 5:12-21 (Tuesday)

Psalm 106:1-12 (Both Days)

Ephesians 6:10-17 (Monday)

1 John 5:13-21 (Tuesday)


Though God delivered them many times

they, for their part, went on planning rebellion

and so sank deeper into sin.

Yet he looked kindly on their distress

whenever he heard them cry.

To help them he recalled his covenant with them,

so deep was his devotion that he took pity on them.

He saw to it that they received compassion

even from those who had taken them captive.

Save us, LORD, our God,

gather us in from among the nations

so that we may acknowledge you as the Holy One.

and take pride in praising you.

–Psalm 106:43-47, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley


I know that the portion of Psalm 106 I have quoted follows verse 12, but those verses seem more applicable to the readings from Judges 4 and 5 than Psalm 106:1-12.  If I had quoted from the first 12 verses of Psalm 106 I would have selected verse 10, set in the context of the Exodus from Egypt:

He rescued them from their foes,

he reclaimed them from enemy hands.

–Harry Mowvley translation

The story in Judges 4 and 5 is consistent with a motif in that book:

  1. The Israelites have fallen into pervasive sin.
  2. YHWH permits a foreign group to oppress the Israelites.
  3. The Israelites cry out to YHWH.
  4. YHWH sends a leader or leaders to resist the oppressors.
  5. The oppression ceases.
  6. The Israelites follow God for a time.
  7. The cycle repeats.

As a note in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) informs me, nowhere does the text of Judges 4 and 5 identify any of the human protagonists–Deborah the prophetess, Barak the army commander, and Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite–as the deliverer of the Israelites.  Each of those individuals played a crucial role in the liberation, but God delivered the Israelites from oppression.  That theme occurs elsewhere in the Book of Judges and other portions of the Bible, as in the Exodus and the end of the Babylonian Exile.

A motif in the Bible is that God works through people much of the time.  These might be upstanding individuals or they might be scoundrels, at least on their bad days.  Some of these instruments of God are not even believers.  These realities point toward the power and sovereignty of God.

As much as I find Martin Luther to have been a morally troublesome character, his theology of relying on the faithfulness of God is beyond reproach.  We who follow God are children of God, members of the household of God, so we ought to act boldly and confidently in righteousness.  Such righteous confidence should banish faithless and selfish fears (distinct from well-reasoned fears, such as that of touching hot surfaces), enabling us to love our neighbors (both near and far) selflessly.  We have the spiritual armor of God, of which St. Paul the Apostle  or someone writing in his name imagined as being like the armor of a Roman soldier.  Every piece of the armor is God’s.  If it is good enough for God, it is good enough for mere mortals.  After the reading from Ephesians 6 comes this advice:

Constantly ask God’s help in prayer, and pray always in the power of the Spirit.

–Ephesians 6:18, The Revised English Bible (1989)

After all, we depend on God’s power, not our own.





Adapted from this post:


Judges and Acts, Part II: Proper Piety   1 comment


Above:  Jordan Valley North of Lake Galilee, Tell-el Kedah, “Hazor”

Image Source = Library of Congress



Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Judges 4:1-24

Psalm 13 (Morning)

Psalms 36 and 5 (Evening)

Acts 14:1-18


Some Related Posts:

Judges 4:

Acts 14:


Deliverance comes through women in Judges 4 and Acts 14.

Judges 4 is a violent tale.  Ten thousand soldiers die in just one verse.  The demise of their commander, Sisera, receives more attention to detail; Jael, a woman, drives a pin through his temple with a mallet.  The text concludes by saying that God subdued King Jabin of Canaan, whom whom the Israelites subdued.

Paul and Barnabas preached Jesus, born of a woman, in Acts 14.  They inspired conversions, opposition, and misunderstanding.  They almost died at Iconium for all their trouble.  And a crowd at Lystra mistook them for Zeus and Hermes.  People filtered the message of Paul and Barnabas through the filters of their religious traditions.  Some chose the new, others reacted violently in favor of the old, and a third group almost sacrificed to men they mistook for deities.  Only one group was correct, although all three acted out of a sense of piety.

Proper piety recognizes that God is in control and works through people; they are agents of God and are not gods.  Proper piety acknowledges that sometimes God’s agents are people we might not expect.  And proper piety leads to the admission that one’s knowledge of God is very limited, so there is always more to learn and probably something to unlearn.

Proper piety leads us to wrestle with texts sometimes.  I struggle with the violence in Judges 4, for I note the positive portrayal of it there and the negative description of the near-stoning in Acts 14.  Stoning was a punishment for a variety of offenses, including blasphemy, in the Law of Moses.  So those who sought to kill Paul and Barnabas justified their actions as attempts at lawful execution, not murder.  But when is violence acceptable and when is it needless?  And when is there no moral difference between executing lawfully and committing murder?  I am not a pacifist, for I understand the hard truth that some violence is necessary.  Yet I suspect that very little of it fits this description.  I prefer to express my piety nonviolently, to do so properly.





Adapted from this post:


With God All Things Are Possible   1 comment

Deborah, by Gustave Dore


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Judges 5:9-23 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

My heart is with Israel’s leaders,

With the dedicated of the people–

Bless the LORD!

You riders on tawny she-asses,

You who sit on saddle rugs,

And you wayfarers, declare it!

Louder than the “sound of archers,

There among the watering places

Let them chant the gracious acts of the LORD,

His gracious deliverance of Israel.

Then did the people of the LORD

March down to the gates!

Awake, awake, O Deborah!

Awake, awake, strike up the chant!

Arise, O Barak;

Take your captives, O son of Abinoam!

Then was the remnant made victor over the mighty,

The LORD’s people won my victory over the warriors.

From Ephraim came they whose roots are in Amalek;

After you, your kin Benjamin;

From Machir came down leaders,

From Zebulon such as hold the marshal’s staff.

And Isaachar’s chiefs were with Deborah;

As Barak, so was Isaachar–

Rushing after him into the valley.

Among the clans of Reuben

Were great decisions of heart.

Why then did you stay among the sheepfolds

And listen as they pipe for the flocks?

Among the clans of Reuben

Were great searchings of heart!

Gilead tarried beyond the Jordan;

And Dan–why did he linger by the ships?

Asher remained at the seacoast

And tarried at his landings.

Zebulon is a people that mocked at death,

Naphtali–on the open heights.

Then the kings came, they fought:

The kings of Canaan fought

At Taanach, by Megiddo’s waters–

They got no spoil of silver.

The stars fought from heaven,

From their courses they fought against Sisera.

The torrent Kishon swept them away,

The raging torrent, the torrent Kishon.

March on, my soul, with courage!

Then the horses’ hoofs pounded

As headlong galloped the steeds.

Curse Meroz!

said the angel of the LORD.

Bitterly curse its inhabitants,

Because they came not to the aid of the LORD,

To the aid of the LORD among the warriors.

Psalm 85:8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8 I will listen to what the LORD God is saying,

for he is speaking peace to his faithful people

and to those who turn their hearts to him.

Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him,

that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11 Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12 The LORD will indeed grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness shall go before him,

and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

Matthew 19:23-30 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Jesus remarked to his disciples,

Believe me, a rich man will find it very difficult to enter the kingdom of Heaven.  Yes, I repeat, a camel could more easily squeeze through the eye of a needle than a rich man get into the kingdom of God!

The disciples were simply amazed to hear this, and said,

Then who can possibly be saved?

Jesus looked steadily at them and replied,

Humanly speaking it is impossible; but with God anything is possible!

At this Peter exclaimed,

Look, we have left everything and followed you.  What will that be worth to us?

Jesus said,

Believe me when I tell you that in the new world, when the Son of Man shall take his seat on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also be seated on twelve thrones as judges of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Every man who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or land for my sake will get them back many times over, and will inherit eternal life.  But many who are first will be last then–and the last first!


The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


An understanding of Judges 5 depends on a grasp of the previous chapter in that book.  The prophetess Deborah, wife of Lappidoth, was the judge of the Israelites.  She held court under a tree, where people came “to her for decisions” (4:5, TANAKH).  Barak was her army commander.  Deborah informed him that God had commanded her to tell him to take ten thousand men from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulon to confront the military forces of Jabin, a Canaanite king, commanded by Sisera.  God would deliver Sisera’s forces into Barak’s hands.  Barak did as Deborah said, on the condition that she accompany him.  She agreed, saying, “Very well, I will go with you.  However there will be no glory for you in the course you are taking, for then the LORD will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.”

So Barak, Deborah, and the ten thousand men set out to confront the forces that have oppressed the Israelites for two decades.  They did, and Sisera fled to the tent of Jael, wife of Heber.  She concealed him long enough to kill him by driving a pin through his temple.

So, as the narrative says, God had delivered the Israelites through the actions of women.  The message of this story in a deeply patriarchal culture is that there is no human glory here; all glory belongs to God.  The role of the feminine as opposed to that of the masculine in the story is foreign to me, a product of North American feminism.  Within my memory women have always had the right to vote, as well as to seek and hold public office.  And, as far as my memory has been stable (roughly since I was seven or eight years old), I have known of female clergy and not thought twice about them holding this status.  So the sexism of parts of the Bible rankles me.  These books are products of their times and the cultures of the people who wrote and edited them.

But let us not lose sight of the main point:  All glory belongs to God.  With God all things are possible.  In God is liberation, which is always spiritual and sometimes temporal.

The reading from Matthew proceeds from the immediately preceding verses, in which Jesus has conversed with a rich young man too attached to his wealth.  This man’s wealth was a barrier to a proper relationship with God because it (the wealth) blinded him to his dependence of God.  The glory is God’s alone; none of it is human.

Thus we have the famously hyperbolic statement about a camel passing through the eye of a needle.  It is similar to an older Jewish maxim about an elephant attempting the same feat.  The meaning is not complicated, for the narrative makes it plain:  Salvation is possible only with God.  All the glory belongs to God.  This does not mean that our sacrifices are meaningless, for these indicate our faithfulness and sincerity.

The famous line about the first being last and the last being first is consistent with other portions of the canonical gospels.  Consider Luke 16:19-31, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, for example.  The neglected poor man goes to a happy afterlife.  The Kingdom of God operates on different principles than does the dominant human order on the Earth.

With God all things are possible.  Thanks be to God!








Adapted from this post:


Posted May 3, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Judges 5, Luke 16, Matthew 19, Psalm 85

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