Thursday, December 2, 2010

He Graciously Blesses


Last Sunday, I was not able to get all the way through Judges 5 in the sermon, so I’d like to cover the last point here.  (You can read the entire text of Judges 5 here, and if you have not heard the message yet, you can find it here.)

The main question confronting us in the text was, “why is God to be praised for man’s obedience of faith?”  v2 reads, “That the leaders took the lead in Israel, that the people offered themselves willingly, bless the Lord!”  The text gives credit to God for the actions of the Israelites.  This makes a profound statement about the nature of God’s grace.  God is to be praised for man’s obedience of faith because God is Himself the giver of it. 

We then looked at two of three contrasts in the text that develop this picture of God’s grace.  In the first contrast between the all-powerful Yahweh and the powerless Israelites (vv4-8), we found that God is to be praised because He is powerful to save.  Man is so incapable of helping himself that if salvation is going to happen, it must take place by the hand of God alone.

In the second contrast between those who volunteered and those who did not (vv9-23), we found that God is to be praised because He creates the willing.  Because man is dead in his trespasses and sins, unable to come to God in faith, his salvation requires a work of God, regenerating him and giving him the gift of repentance and faith.  The only difference between those tribes who followed God in obedience and those who did not is that God awakened some and allowed others to continue in their sin.

Now we move on to the third contrast, between two women – an unlikely heroine and a self-deceived mother, and we find that God is to be praised because He graciously blesses.  The poetic re-telling of Jael’s killing of Sisera begins in v24:

  24 "Most blessed of women be Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, of tent-dwelling women most blessed.
 25 He asked water and she gave him milk; she brought him curds in a noble's bowl.
 26 She sent her hand to the tent peg and her right hand to the workmen's mallet; she struck Sisera; she crushed his head; she shattered and pierced his temple.
 27 Between her feet he sank, he fell, he lay still; between her feet he sank, he fell; where he sank, there he fell--dead.

Remember that the main idea of the chapter is still that God is to be praised for man’s obedience of faith.  And yet, here, the text says, “Most blessed of women be Jael.”  This speaks not of praise for Jael, but of reward, similar to the blessings promised in Deut 28 to those who obey the Lord. 

And for what reason is Jael blessed?  Clearly it is for her actions in killing Sisera, as so much emphasis is given to describing it.  Four different verbs – struck, crushed, shattered, and pierced – are used to detail the act of driving the tent peg through his head.  Likewise, v27 repetitively describes his death – he sank, he fell, he lay still, he sank, he fell, he sank, he fell – dead. 

Now we’ve already seen that God is ultimately the one who creates the willing.  And we know from ch4 that God was orchestrating Jael’s actions before the battle between the Canaanites and Israelites ever started (ch1 also notes the providential settling of the Kenites with the Israelites in the Canaan land [1:16]).  5:2 makes it clear that God is to be praised for this victory…and yet, Jael is blessed for her obedience.

God’s grace is unfathomable.  Not only does He save, not only does enable our obedience, but He also rewards our faithfulness. 

We noted a few weeks ago, that we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, “so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor 5:10).  According to 1 Cor 3:10-15, our works in this life will be passed through the fire.  “If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.  If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (vv14-15).  In the context of Judges 4, we focused on the potential for loss on that day.  The blessing of Jael in Judges 5 points us to the other possibility, that we stand to be rewarded for the work we’ve done in this life. 

Consider the difference God’s grace makes.  We deserve to be condemned to a place of eternal, physical torment…but by God’s grace we don’t get that.  But not only are we spared that horror, we are given the hope of eternal paradise in the presence of God, joy inexpressible for all time.  Further, we are made fellow heirs with Christ, becoming recipients of every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph 1:3-14).  And on top of all that, we are rewarded for deeds that resulted from His working in us (Phil 2:13).   Astounding.  Certainly, God is to be praised.

In the closing lines, God’s justice is demonstrated against those who chose to oppose Him:

  28 "Out of the window she peered, the mother of Sisera wailed through the lattice: 'Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why tarry the hoofbeats of his chariots?'
 29 Her wisest princesses answer, indeed, she answers herself,
 30 'Have they not found and divided the spoil?-- A womb or two for every man; spoil of dyed materials for Sisera, spoil of dyed materials embroidered, two pieces of dyed work embroidered for the neck as spoil?'

The finality of Sisera’s defeat is amplified by this ironic scene of his mother waiting for him to return from the battle.  The implication is that she knows he is gone, but she tries to convince herself that he is just engaging in the barbaric activities that always follow a victory – the taking of the spoils and the violating of the women.  She comforts herself by imagining that he is victimizing others.  This serves to remind us that those who receive the wrath of God will do so justly, and He is to be praised for His justice.

The poem ends with a thematic statement, "So may all your enemies perish, O LORD! But your friends be like the sun as he rises in his might." And the land had rest for forty years.

All God’s enemies will perish and all His friends will be like the sun.  All of them will deserve eternal destruction, but some will be transformed by God’s gracious choice.

I’ll repeat here the conclusion from Sunday.  If there is anything worthwhile in your life, praise the Lord.  If you have been saved from your sin and grown in the likeness of Christ, praise the Lord.  If you have been a blessing in the lives of others by deed, by word, or by example, praise the Lord.  Lift up your voice and give praise where praise is due – bless the LORD! 

Posted by Greg Birdwell

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