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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Turah!





So what do you think? :-)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Deception

The furious wind rushes against me, and everything that dares to block it’s path.



  I sit on the swing and attempt to pull myself higher upward. Gazing into the distance I watch the Arizona smoke settle onto the rugged mesa in the New Mexico plains.


 














I say a prayer for all of those really living this nightmare; the wildfire out of control just over our border; for those left to stand back and watch certain disaster rage in bright roaring flames over their homes; it’s black, unbearable smoke engulfing their surroundings like an evil vapor.


 












My muscles are straining, against the steady wind, as I try to pull myself up into the sky, now an ugly grey. I wince- the smell of smoke plunging itself throughout my senses, the dust flies, the winds rage, and the warmth of the day seems, somehow, out of place… Looking into the darkened sky, I think of how much the grey clouds look simply as if they might pour forth rain… Only this grey darkness is not full of moisture but dry, elusive poison, and the winds, only feeding the fire that I have not yet seen.



 
 














Skidding myself to a stop, my feet set a large billow of sand free for the wind to feed on. Something catches my eye. I think it’s the moon! It is a bright, florescent pink, yet hazy, hiding slyly behind the ever looming wisps of smoke. Or is what I see, the sun? I cannot tell…




  I come around the other side of my swing, to face a different direction. Pushing myself to a start, I begin to pull myself higher and higher, my position providing me with less friction than before; I fly to the sky. I see it is now sooty grey, and the pink circle of light has vanished; just swallowed up and gone. The wind picks up and the noise, a furious rushing and an ever relentless pull, this way and that, seems to be crushing my ears.


 I feel we are surrounded; the darkness slinking, the wind, pulling, the smell of smoke, strong and deceptive. When shall it all end?


















Halting my swing, I stand up, and  bear my face towards the wind.

May God bring about His will in all of this, come what may, and I pray we turn our faces back to Him, as he purges us of evil to bring His love to a dry and desperate land.



“If only my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turns from their wicked ways. Then I will hear from heaven, and forgive their sins, and heal their land.”         2 Chronicles 7:14
 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Hand of a Woman - A Commentary on Judges 4

                                                                                                                            

 
 By: Kelsey Hoppman  
 Written April-May of  2011                                                                                                                                            -


The Hand of a Woman


Judges 4 is a well-referenced chapter. Many people love the story of Deborah remembering how she and Barak were led by God to defeat Sisera. I think there are some important points that we can take away from this chapter.


“And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead.

2 And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles.

3 And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.

4 And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.” (Judges 4:1-5)


This was not a joyous time for Israel. They disobeyed God and were experiencing His displeasure for their actions. The children of Israel were in bondage by the hand of Jabin, and they felt that oppression. This was not necessarily new for them though. If you read through your Bible in the Old Testament, you will see that, more then once, Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and suffered the consequences. (I often think it reflects so well how we must look to God sometimes.) But there is something unique here. The person judging at that time was a woman, Deborah. What makes this unique? This is the only passage of scripture in the 1189 chapters in the Bible, that specifically mentions a women being a judge. Deborah also was called by God as a prophetess. So for what reason is she mentioned here? Let’s take a look at that for a moment. As I already mentioned and you can see in this passage of scripture, Israel was not following God. Can you think of another passage of scripture that mentions women being in leadership in a time of rebellion?


Isaiah 3:12:

“As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee causes thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.”



Clearly, the fact that a woman was ruling, (In Isaiah 3) was a sign that the people had strayed from God. The different roles God ordained the men and women to play were all mixed up. Shame was on the region that had a woman in leadership! Let us go on.


“And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedeshnaphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the LORD God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?

7 And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand.

8 And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go. (Judges 4:6-8)


 Two things seem pretty clear to me here:

1. Deborah was in a position of power as a judge and prophetess, but she was where God wanted her to be.


2. Barak was a coward.

I sometimes wonder if Barak’s attitude was that of most of the other men in his community at that time. God commanded Barak to fight, and looking at this passage, it seems Barak was scared. He wanted God’s prophetess to come with him. Deborah was following God, and at Barak’s pathetic request, went with him. Though, looking for a moment from Barak‘s perspective, he was just told by Deborah to go against a large army, their oppressors, not to mention one that came with “900 chariots of iron”. Of course, that is no excuse, and as Jonah learned, when God tells you to do something, you better get on to doing it! Barak did half. He said “I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.” So Deborah did, and if you have read this before, you know what's coming.

So, the battle began. It’s not completely clear in chapter 4, but if you use both chapters 4 and 5 as a reference, it looks as if a strong, torrential rain plagued Sisera’s army.


“The earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water. The mountains melted from before the LORD, even that Sinai from before the LORD God of Israel…The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient river...”


 One of the strong points of Sisera’s army were the chariots. He could charge with the 900, and simply trample anyone or anything who dared to crawl in its path. But there was one problem with this grand scheme. Two, actually.

One, God wasn’t on Sisera’s side, he was on Barak’s. Two, this rain would really cause some problems for the chariots. How could they expect the scared horses to pull the chariots, while navigating through severe mud, and blinding rain?

Long story short, they were slaughtered. Every bit of Sisera’s army wiped out- (“And all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left.”)-except for one person-Sisera himself, who fled from the battle. (Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet.”)


“Some may trust in horses, and some may trust in chariots, but we will trust in the name of our God!”


Yeah, I suppose Sisera was a bit of a coward himself although he didn’t have God on his side, so really, what can you expect?


Now back to Deborah. Where did we last leave her? "And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet: and Deborah went up with him." So Deborah, complying with Barak’s request, went up with him, but not without consequence. “And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honor; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.”

Wow, tough break for Barak. He still has to fight, but now he won’t receive any glory for the awaited victory. So we then have Deborah and Barak, side by side, as they fight the army of Sisera, right? Wrong.


 "And Deborah said unto Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the LORD hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the LORD gone out before thee? So Barak went down from mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him." (Judges 4:14 emphasis added)


Did you catch what just happened here? If not, pay attention because this is important. Deborah sent Barak to lead the charge and fight against their enemy, Sisera. From what I grab out of this verse, Deborah did not do any fighting. She stepped back and after giving Barak a reminder of Who goes before him, she sent him to fight in the battle the Lord would give over to him. Do you see it differently? We hear of Deborah who went on to fight with Barak but in actuality, Deborah went with him to meet Sisera‘s army, but did not lead the charge, or fight. What did Deborah do? She gave Barak the bolster of courage that he needed, (Which ultimately came from the Lord) and strengthened him for the fight: “Up; for this is the day in which the Lord hath delivered Sisera into thine hand:”


Let’s get back to Sisera where we left him, fleeing the battle.


“Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite.”


In those days, women often stayed in a separate tent from their husband. (Since the men would often take multiple wives for themselves, it would provide each of their wives’ with their own “private quarters”, so to speak) It is likely that Sisera decided Jael was a safer bet to help him, then her husband, Heber. He knew that he should be safe, since there was peace between his king, Jabin, and Heber, but he was still taking a chance.

 “And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle.

19 And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him.

20 Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and inquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No.”


 Something interesting that was pointed out to me here was the fact that Sisera was asking Jael to put her life on the line for his sake, making this “great leader” of Israel’s enemies look more cowardly than before!

Jael did a bit of acting here. Sisera asked for water, and Jael went above and beyond that, giving him milk instead, a show of respect. She also hid him, and, comforted that he was in safe hands, Sisera fell asleep. How could have Sisera known, while Jael treated him like royalty, that she had plans to kill him?


 “Then Jael Heber's wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.”


Okay…Good bye Sisera. Do you see what just happened here? Deborah’s prophesy to Barak, “the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman” came true. However, that “woman” was not Deborah, as we may assume, but Jael.

An interesting side note here, Deborah was the one by the battle field, but Jael, at home in her tent, was the one who God used to kill Israel’s enemy.

(It was very common for women in Bible-times, to know how to build tents, and that would include using a tent peg and a hammer.)

Jael was no soft stomached lady. She knew what needed to be done, and did it.

 “And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples.

So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel.

And the hand of the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.”

Now, there was something very specific I was trying to point out in this chapter, as I’m sure you noticed. As I mentioned at the beginning of this paper, Judges 4 is a much-referenced chapter. I think people often use Deborah as justification for women to be in the work-world or in politics. I believe though, that this chapter proves quite the opposite. Here we have Deborah, a judge in Israel, in a completely non-normative situation, but within the will of God. We also have Jael, in her tent, going about her day like any Israelite women in her time, and on account of Baraks’ fearful attitude, she was forced to take action against her enemy. Something that should have been done by Barak. It is clear that, in this passage of scripture, God was disgracing Israel for the fact that the men were too cowardice to lead.

So for what reason do I have a problem with a conservative, even, Christian, woman in a leadership role?* It’s not necessarily the lady in leadership that I have trouble with, it’s all the hundreds of men out there who aren’t rising up to the challenge. Leadership takes courage, and courage, true courage, takes a willing heart, ready to serve God. The world is raising up a generation of complacent, fun-seeking hypocrites. If someone were to record the state of America, I think it would say, just as the Bible said about Israel so many times, “And the people did evil in the sight of God.” A huge “Thank-you” goes to all the guys out there, young and old, training to lead, and training to fight for God’s word and all that is good and true. I pray for all the men who are being raised up in this generation, and who have a challenge to lead. May they hear the voice of the Lord as Gideon did. “The Lord is with thee, mighty man of valor!”

I also pray for all the women out there; that they would be ready to hear God’s voice, ready to be an Esther against the Haman’s of this life, if God calls them to it, and be ready to stand behind the guys and encourage them in manhood, rather then seeking to take their place. May we be reminded of this challenge, as we think of Jael and Deborah, with their willingness to follow God and the courage they had, to stand alone.

***Specifically referring to politics. A “leadership role” in the work-world would be in reference to women who are in leadership positions over men, and who are out of God’s will by working away from the home.***


 I know this is a controversial topic to cover. Please don’t be afraid to let me know your thoughts as well.


 A Few of my Sources: