As chapter 4 opens, notice how the cycle of sin, judgment, prayer, and deliverance starts again: And the people did what evil in the sight of the Lord after Ehud died. And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin, king of Canaan. This is where we pick up today, with the story of one of the great women of scripture – Deborah.
Judges 4:14 – And Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has given Sisera into you hand. Does not the Lord go out before you?” Verse 4 tells us that Deborah was a prophetess who had been judging Israel at this time. She had instructed Barak as to how to proceed militarily against Sisera, the general of Jabin’s armies, based up a word she had received from the Lord (see Judges 4:6-7). God had commanded a specific action and this was as good as his direct promise to fulfill that action through his servants. If God commands his people to some action, he will give us the grace to accomplish what he commanded us to do. In a different context, Augustine prayed something very much on point: Lord, command what you will and grant what you command. We should not determine a course of action based solely on appearances and circumstances but should seek the Lord. When he reveals to us how we are to proceed through his word, then we should move forward with faith, relying on his grace and power to accomplish what he has commanded. And since he commanded it, we can be confident that he goes before us as we act in obedience.
Judges 5:11 – …repeat the righteous triumphs of the Lord. Deborah sang of God’s deliverance of his people from their enemies. Israel has been locked up in their villages due to the oppression of Jabin (see Judges 5:6-7). But now, Sisera, their tormentor, had been overthrown as Jael had (literally) crushed his head (see Judges 4:21). Like Deborah, we should be constantly singing a new song of deliverance. Our gratitude should be even greater than hers. Just as Israel had been captured by Jabin and Sisera, so sin had captured us. We too were in bondage and tormented by wickedness. But whereas Sisera was overcome by Jael, our enemy was overcome by Christ. Whereas Jael crushed Sisera’s head, it was Christ who crushed the head of the serpent. Just as God empowered Barak and Deborah to liberate his people, Christ is our liberator, having defeated sin, death, and the devil. We need to be reminded that we have been delivered from greater enemies and saved with an even greater salvation than Deborah and Barak. As we rejoice and repeat the triumphs of Christ, our commander-in-chief, may we be quick to daily deny our already-defeated enemy and live in the victory Christ has provided.