“In Heirs of the Covenant we are reminded of the opportunity we have to point others – both those within the church and those outside – to Christ. What a great encouragement as we see the instability of a chaotic world in which we live – to point to the stability of a covenant connection with the One True God based on the power of the Gospel!” —Sherry Lanier
The following excerpts are from pages 189-202 in Heirs of the Covenant .
In Judges 4 and 5 we see the familiar cycle of covenant-breaking by the people, judgment by God, a cry for deliverance, and God’s mercy to His children. Judges 4 gives the facts, and Judges 5 provides the doxology.There are numerous plots and applications, one of which is a description of the breakdown and restoration of village life. Debroah describes it this way:
. . . The roads were abandoned; travelers took to winding paths. Village life in Israel ceased, ceased until I, Deborah, arose, arose a mother in Israel. When they chose new gods, war came to the city gates, and not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel. Judges 5:6-8
The highways were unsafe for the Israelites because of foreign oppressors and robbers. There was isolation and fear. There was no leadership. The people chose new gods, and the result was no safety and no covenant sanity. Village life ceased, and God’s people were demoralized, paralyzed, and vulnerable.
Village life ceased until—until God raised up a mother in Israel who had a covenantal perspective of the situation and a covenantal relationship with Yahweh. The story unfolds:
After Ehud died, the Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the Lord. So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin, a king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera . . . Because he had nine hundred iron chariots and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help.
Deborah . . . sent for Barak . . . and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you, ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead the way to Mount Tabor. I will lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’” Judges 4:1-4, 6-7.
Deborah knew that her word and her strategy would never equip and empower the people to defeat their enemy and to restore village life. When she called Barak, she made sure he understood that it was the Lord who was the commander and tactician of this battle. And God did exactly what He promised. “All the troops of Sisera fell by the sword, and not a man was left” (v. 16).
Then Deborah sang a song of praise, and from beginning to end the strong theme is God’s covenant faithfulness despite His children’s covenant-breaking: “When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves—praise the Lord!” (Judges 5:2-3).
Deborah begins by reminding her hearers that the victory belongs to the Lord . . . If the princes in Israel take the lead and the people follow, it is because of God’s grace in them. So it is God who should be praised.
Deborah teaches from a covenantal perspective. She quickly reminds the people of the historic foundation of their covenant relationship with Yahweh: “O Lord, when you went out from Seir, when you marched from the land of Edom, the earth shook, the heavens poured, the clouds poured down water. The mountains quaked before the Lord, the One of Sinai, before the Lord, the God of Israel” (vv. 4-5).
She refers back to Sinai as she praises God for their present deliverance. This would bring to their remembrance the redemptive flow of history, the covenant promise to their forefathers, and their covenant responsibilities as God’s chosen people.
Then Deborah gives a vivid description of village life after the defeat of Jabin.
“My heart is with Israel’s princes, with the willing volunteers among the people. Praise the Lord! You who ride on white donkeys, sitting on your saddle blankets, and you who walk along the road, consider the voice of the singers at the watering places. They recite the righteous acts of the Lord, the righteous acts of his warriors in Israel. Then the people of the Lord went down to the city gates.” Judges 5:9-11
In vv. 6-8 there is no village life. Now there are community leaders. There are willing volunteers. And Deborah quickly reminds them that God is to be praised because He is the one who made their hearts willing. The white donkeys symbolize a return of civil order. The people are no longer in isolation. They freely gather at the watering places and praise God as they recite His righteous acts. This is village life as it should be.
Deborah brings her song to a rousing conclusion by rejoicing in the fact that this kind of village life is the catalyst for the villagers to reflect the one who said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). “So may all your enemies perish, O Lord! But may they who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength.’ Then the land had peace forty years” (Judges 5:31).