One of the crucial elements of a redemptive reading of a text is to answer the question: How is Christ embedded in this text? This means rather than tacking a call to the Gospel on the end, we consider how the text itself is revealing Jesus’s Person and Work, including His plan for union with His people, both in this life and in the life to come. This is my aim each time I read the Bible. More of Christ, always more.
And what text draws me to God Himself more than the story of Deborah, Barak and Jael in Judges 4-5?
(Thanks to my friend Bill Dennison, for showing me Christ in this story. The best ideas are his. The questionable ones are mine.)
What do we know of Deborah? First, she was wife of Lappidoth, meaning Flames or Torches (Ex. 3:2, Deut. 33:2). She lived under Allonbacuth, the oak of weeping (Gen. 35:8), between Ramah and Bethel. And as she sat, in the hill country of Ephraim, all Israel came to her for wisdom. Even more, as the text tells us, “the sons of Israel came up to her for judgment” (Judges 4:5).
Don’t miss this. God is a genius in terms of how He unfolds His meaning. For the love, please don’t miss this. God is here indicating, early on, how He plans to use Deborah in His story of redemption through Jesus Christ. Note that throughout the Bible, God Himself is high above the nations (Psalm 113:4-5). Indeed, those who try to claim His heights with human hands are condemned.
But not so Deborah. She is not condemned and far from it. Just look what happens next. She summons Barak, like Moses, to come under her watchful eye (Ex. 19:3-6). She speaks the Word of God to him and deploys Him to battle. And see Barak’s response, echoing Moses in Exodus 33:15.
If you go will go with me, then I will go;
but if you will not go with me, I will not go (v. 8).
Indeed, God is using the person of Deborah to reveal to us His very Self, God the Father in relationship to His Son, pictured in Barak.
Worried yet? Stick with the text. Don’t give up yet.
Just look at the troops Deborah tells Barak to deploy: sons of Naphtali and the sons of Zebulun (v. 6). And where does Jesus start his earthly ministry in Matthew’s gospel? Zebulun and Naphtali (Mt. 4:13-17)! There can be no mistake here. Jesus Himself echoes the mission of Moses and of Barak in John 10:30, saying, “I and the Father are One.” One in mission, one in rejoicing together in covenantal action (Judges 5). Indeed, Barak obeys Deborah’s prophetic sure and true Word from God, as does Christ in his earthly task against His enemies.
And what of Jael? In Jael, we find another concrete example of the seed of the woman conquering the seed of the serpent. In Jael, we get a double dose of God’s plan of redemption and renewal of all the earth! As Jael drives the stake through the head of Sisera, enemy of God’s people, owner of 900 iron chariots, she is Christ against His enemies (Judges 4:21).
And more than that, all we who believe are Jael, the Bride of Christ, the church. In Jael we have a beautiful portrait of our union with Christ, a closeness that renders us almost indistinguishable from He Who calls us by His Name. In Christ, with Christ, we are more than conquerors against the enemies of the gospel as we enter eternally into the everlasting rest of God, both now and in the life to come (Rom. 8:31-39). As Judges 5:31 reads, “So the land had rest for 40 years.”
In the story of Deborah, Barak and Jael, we meet the Gospel. We taste the hope we have now and the hope to come in Jesus Christ. We see God’s love for His people and the special place He reserves for women, the last good creature He made, pinnacle of His Creation.
In this story in Judges, we learn that it’ll be all right in the end.
And if it’s not?
Then it’s not the end.