Friday, October 24, 2014

A Commentary on Judges Chapter Four

The book of Judges is a book about apostasy (apostasy is defined as “renunciation of a religious faith” or “abandonment of a previous loyalty”), a time when “there was no king in Israel” (suggesting anarchy or lawlessness); it was a time best described by the closing words of the book: “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).  Our times, no doubt, parallel those days.  BUT!—there is hope; just as there was hope for Israel in the wide ranging days of apostasy.  God is always working behind the scenes to bring about judgment unto victory, and in support of that goodness at the backend of a difficult process, God faithfully works His sovereign will to accomplish our salvation by raising up deliverers all along the circumstantial and materially constructed narrow way that leads to spiritual enlargement and everlasting life.  Here is the entire chapter (Judges 4:1-24), with my remarks throughout:    
1 “And the children of Israel (the new creation spirit in us) again did evil (siding with its own soul/flesh) in the sight of the Lord (God sees it all and will in no wise leave the guilty unpunished), when Ehud (“joining together” in a succession mold, kind of like an ecumenical unity formed outside of genuine spirit unity) was dead (after God killed that idea altogether).”

2 “And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin (“he will understand” eventually [as God will again be High and lifted up again in the land]) king of Canaan (“to be brought low” or “to be humbled”; all flesh bows before God, either willingly, or by force), that reigned in Hazor (“in a fenced in circle” or “a castle”); the captain of whose host was Sisera (“a field of battle” or “something that moves along swift and vigorously, like a horse or swift/swallow bird”) which dwelt in Harosheth (“a mind filled with devices or human reasonings”) of the Gentiles (“relating to the nations at large, as distinguished from the Jews,” and that which also corresponds to anything in us that is yet uncircumcised and therefore useless for holy service).”  In other words, God will eventually be exalted in the earth after the reigning element in the human soul is humbled and removed from the throne of power therein; it has too long reigned within its own selfish sphere, holing itself up into its own high-tower of supposed elevated position from the suffering way of the cross that leads to resurrection power.  The soul in elevation is not right in its vaunting; the just who live by their faith are those who practically lay down their souls in obeisance, getting out of the way of the glory of the Lord—which by design—ought to shine forth from within their spirits into the dark regions of the soul and flesh, and thereby be made enlightened and useful to instruct/disciple the nations (outward to others).  

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.”  So in particular, the immature new creation spirit cried like a baby to their Father for help against the oppressive rule of human reasoning that was darkening their spiritual understanding.  Nine hundred (900) is significant.  It suggests judgment unto victory, war to peace; it is divine completeness (9) multiplied by God’s election of grace/children of promise (100).  Nine is just short of law and responsibility, and therefore is worthy of judgment; however, the children of promise are still children of promise, so that iron which sharpens iron concept continues to chisel away flesh from off their spirits.  The twenty years of heavy oppression that afflicted their human reasoning was all about their redemption from that suffering mentality.  Iron is the mettle of man, inflexible rule, the tyranny of flesh; for twenty long oppressive years judgment prevailed against the idol of man’s natural strength.  When enough pressing made the children cry, God sent a mother (Deborah, a mother to Israel).
4 And Deborah (“a bee,” but not a busy-bee in diffusive and divisive fashion, but one “being eloquent and diligent, doing all things in order, which the nature of the bee symbolizes”; also, the work of the bee is to sting away the force of evil to protect the corporate sweetness of the revelation of Christ), a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth (the helpmeet of “torches,” one who, like Gideon with his 300, shattered the jar to reveal the torch—siding with those who are willing to be crushed in order to allow the light of Christ to shine through them), she—the mothering and nurturing aspect of God—judged Israel at that time.

5 “And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah (“a lofty place” consecrated to idols) and Bethel (“house of God”) in mount Ephraim (“two-fold” fruitfulness; fruitfulness only achieved through much pruning): and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.”  The judgment of God sat enthroned in a motherly nurturing way between children who still idolized their own thoughts and ways and strength above God’s, and God’s completed way cleansed of those wrong alliances.  God’s ultimate plan for children of promise is elevation, not humiliation, but the process is always down before up.  The palm tree is the symbol of victory in Christ (death, burial, and resurrection; humility before honor).  Deborah was established there, and from that internal place of being grounded in Christ, God nurtures His children, maturing them from flesh rule to spirit rule.  

6 “And she sent and called Barak (“lightening” or “thunderbolt”; he who strikes fear in the hearts of the enemy by his strength and dauntless courage) the son of Abinoam (“father of pleasantness or beauty”) out of Kedeshnaphtali (“the sanctuary of my wrestling” to be consecrated), and said unto him, ‘Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor (“stone-quarry” or “separated”; from the root “to sever or to point”), and take with thee ten thousand men (a number representing the law and responsibility of becoming and maintaining divine completeness) of the children of Naphtali (“my wrestling”) and of the children of Zebulun (“wished for habitation”; “co-habitation”)?’”  In other words, she, the mothering aspect of God’s nature, sends a pleasant verdict out of His desire for our sanctification.  Its specific instructions are that we are to ascend the mountain of separation, a place where we will be truly circumcised, a place where our stony hearts are to be replaced with hearts of flesh; we have a responsibility to become like Christ (through and through), and we must wrestle with God in our hearts until Christ is formed in us REALLY.  
7 “And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon (“tortuous”; “winding or meandering about”; the river where Elijah, many years later, slew the prophets of Baal) Sisera (that “field of battle”), the captain of Jabin's army (the leading head of the force behind coming to an understanding through the process of being made humble), with his chariots and his multitude (his strength and cunning); and I will deliver him into thine hand (God will establish the works of your hand).”  Oh how the carnal mind vexes us!  Its endless rationalizations and fruitless musings twist the simple Word of Truth, destroying peace and tranquility, and, amazingly, no matter how vigorous it works and how brilliant it thinks, it never resolves anything.  But here God prevails by humbling the carnal mind of man; once freed from leviathan (the false government of man), the church is set at liberty to be governed instead by the Holy Spirit (the true government of God, the kingdom of God in His people).

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.”  Although Barak is a seasoned warrior, and knows how to man-up, having many times previous proven himself worthy of honor, here against the prospect of going to war with leviathan, he is wise not to go alone.  Taking a cue from Moses, Barak like Moses says to God, “If your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here” (Exodus 33:15).  God is personified in the tender character of Deborah here just like He was represented in the battle-hardened character of Moses previously; to rely on this tender personification—in this particular case—is not weakness per se, but discernment.  Perhaps Barak was knowledgeable of what God said to Job out of the whirlwind concerning the government of man.  Think of leviathan, not as an animal, but as what it represents (“reasonable stubbornness”), the largest giant in the Promised Land (excepting perhaps behemoth—which I believe—is “unreasonable stubbornness”).  “Can you draw out Leviathan with a hook, restrain his tongue with a rope?  Can you put a cord through his nose, pierce his jaw with a barb?  Will he beg you at length or speak gentle words to you?  Will he make a pact with you so that you will take him as a permanent slave?  Can you play with him like a bird, put a leash on him for your girls?  Will merchants sell him; will they divide him among traders?  Can you fill his hide with darts, his head with a fishing spear?  Should you lay your hand on him, you would never remember the battle.  Such hopes would be delusional; surely the sight of him makes one stumble.  Nobody is fierce enough to rouse him” (Job 41:1-10 CEB).  In spiritual warfare, it is as David noted: “You have...given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand has held me up; your gentleness and condescension have made me great” (Psalm 18:35 Amp.).  Strength perfected in weakness, God inside of man, is the only way to victory, and God in Deborah is God condescending to man in nurturing and mothering fashion (not to affirm babies in their immaturity, but to encourage them to grow up into maturity).
9 “And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh (sanctuary).”  So, here goes the mothering aspect of God like a thunderbolt, and it travels more swiftly down into the inner sanctum of man than even that swift field of battle resistance man makes in response to God’s soft but compelling touch; God’s gentle answer turns away wrath, and also He wins against the circuitous carnal reasoning heart/mind of man that dared to think it could keep Him out.  God’s own right hand, stronger than man’s grasp—yet more gentle than a woman’s touch—saves us, not we ourselves; the honor is His, open shame ours!  Indeed, “Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame” (Daniel 9:7).
10 “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.”  And here, with the tender mercies of God upon her, the soul wrestling with God and striving to enter the rest of her co-habitation with God—and standing on the foundation of the law and responsibility of becoming and maintaining her divine completeness—makes an advancement towards that good end.
11 “Now Heber (“fellowship”; “a society”) the Kenite (“a nest,” especially in a high rock, as an eagle’s nest) which was of the children of Hobab (“most beloved”) the father in law of Moses (“saved out of the water,”), had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim (“enormous migrations”), which is by Kedesh (sanctuary).  Herein is the isolated individualist who thinks to oppose the corporate well-being; he is beside the sanctuary, but not inside it.  Their rebellion from gathering together as eagles keeps them solitary and blind to God’s overarching purposes, and because of that rebellion, they find themselves opposing the plan of God.

12 “And they shewed Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam was gone up to mount Tabor.”  Apparently, Heber had some family and/or friends that sided with him, but to no avail.  The fierce beauty of the Lord and the Consuming Fire presence of His glory cannot be stopped even by rebellious and stony hearts; here God begins to separate man from his entrenched stubbornness (the behemoth spirit).
13 “And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon.”  A field of battle is drawn in the sand, and all the might of that oppressive rule of human reasoning mounts up for battle against the insistence of God and the compelling of His gentle Spirit that demands that the soul lay down her arms, but alas, the soul fights God to the “nth” degree.  Indeed, from the manufacturing of excuses and devising of vain imaginations up to spurious arguments and all the way down and out to tortuous overwrought musings, the uplifted soul, which is not right in man (because it refuses to live by faith) must be humbled (no matter how hard it fights God for supremacy in the body temple sanctuary).  

14 “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.”  Here, our nurturing God sends out His quick flash of revelatory light into the imprisoned soul, and the message declared is that “Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’” (2 Corinthians 6:2).  From the sanctuary location of God’s throne in our spirit, God graciously comes down to the base of our beings, to our flesh/soul aspects of our beings, and there affirms to us the law and responsibility we have to come up to an agreement with God in our spirit (and thereby achieving our destiny to reach divine completeness).

15 “And the Lord discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet.”  The Lord via the Holy Spirit wielding the sword of the word of God displaces the enemy that had a stronghold field of battle in the soul, and so quickly did judgment come, like a thunderbolt, that all the engines and implements of warfare the enemy used against the soul are lost to the enemy forever as he whimpers away in weakness and shame.

16 “But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left.”  So thoroughgoing is the judgment of God against the heart and mind of man that manufactures excuses, devises vain imaginings, and makes spurious arguments, and so tortuous is it to the soul which is thus afflicted, that when God judges on behalf of His people, He makes a clean break of the enemy off of our lives; so much so that we end up completely amazed beyond belief.  Indeed, “When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream” (Psalm 126:1).

17 “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.”  Now, figuratively, the field of battle tries to take itself up to a gathering of eagles high upon a rock (a big mistake!), because there in the thin air, in the modest tent of man in the weaker natural mold of a woman, is a spiritually hardy and agile seer with deft and dutiful hands.  How unsuspecting is Sisera!  His fatal error is that he relies on a tenuous relationship founded on human perception rather than on a covenant of marriage relationship founded on the true God who sees all.

18 “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.” Yes, the wild goat (Jael) tricks the swift cunning of the head of carnal understanding (Sisera) into being at peace within the outermost covering of her thinly veneered and deceptive intent; she beats him at his own game, and lulls him into a false security.  And truthfully, so the Lord must work with us; it is only because we are deceitful that He seems to be deceitful to us.  As God declares, “To the pure, you show yourself pure, and to the morally corrupt, you appear to be perverse” (Psalm 18:26 NIV), and as the apostle affirms, “Behold...I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.  And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.  But be it so, I did not burden you: NEVERTHELESS, BEING CRAFTY, I CAUGHT YOU WITH GUILE” (2 Corinthians 12:14-16 KJV).  Even though “God created mankind upright (ramrod straight)...they have gone in search of many schemes (ways and means to not be straight; they look for excuses to justify being crooked)” (Ecclesiastes 7:29 NIV).  “He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise or anything of [lasting] worth” (Job 5:12 Amp.).  “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’” (1 Corinthians 3:19 NIV).

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.”  As the scriptures say, “If your thirsty, give him a drink” (Romans 12:20), and herein Jael does more than offer water, she offers milk!  And in addition to upgrading water to milk, she also goes the extra mile in covering (or concealing) him again.  It is the first and foundational duty of a mother to give the breast and protect the infant in nurturing care.  “A bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not quench; He will bring forth justice in truth” (Isaiah 42:3 Amp.).  Before judgment comes, and any hope for mercy to triumph over judgment, mercy and grace must be administered to the furthest extent.  Though Jael had already devised a plan in her heart to carry out vengeance against Sisera when opportunity presented itself, nonetheless, until that opportunity came, she remained dutiful to gracious care.  And such is the way we are to act; we cannot touch leviathan without God’s finger behind our hand in the matter.

20 “Again he said unto her, ‘Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and enquire of thee, and say, “Is there any man here?” that thou shalt say, “No.”’”  Here is the whispered strategy of the enemy of our soul!  Stand at the entry points of enlightenment, at the door-gate senses of perception, and when God comes to you and asks about my evil presence, deny it!  “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say...?’” (Genesis 3:1 ESV).  

21 “Then Jael Heber's wife took a nail of the tent, and took a 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.”  Oh how significant is a tent nail!—with it she strikes a lethal blow into and through the head of the serpent, both destroying him and claiming the ground upon which he died.  God decreed for all time, that “I will put contempt between you (the serpent; the devil) and the woman, between your offspring and hers.  They will strike your head, but you will strike at their heels.” A hammer in hand (the active word of God, not so much in the mouth of man [that spirit part of us], as in demonstrative power in the gentle and weak hand of woman [the soul part of us]) is about God helping the feeble hand of man do his futile thorn and thistle work until He causes victory to come forth from judgment/justice.  Again, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench,” but when?—He answers, not “until he brings justice to victory” (Matthew 12:20 ESV).  The foundation of justice is a firm but quiet resolve, an insistent but unassailable-to-argument position at the core of our beings; before God brings justice to victory however, the divine record says “He will not strive or wrangle or cry out loudly; nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets” (Matthew 12:19).  Likewise, we must, in quietness and trust, hide ourselves away from evil into the inner sanctums of our heart, and there, in humble prayer, breathe out His judgment: Jesus Christ prevails!  Then this day arrives!  The enemy tires and sleeps the sleep of death inside the sphere of our domain.  The enemy bruised our heel, but we now destroy his head.  We claim this ground!  We enlarge our domain; indeed, the tent peg we drove through the temple area of the enemy’s head goes through that leviathan part in our temple.  Finally, we are free!   “Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs.  For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left” (Isaiah 54:2-3).  We must not be duped into thinking of this act by Jael as an act of self-will; no, for whatever else it might have been in God’s eyes—beyond our ability to see into Jael’s deceptive behavior—her example and instruction to us is figuratively about God using our weakness to demonstrate His power.  Her act creates no contradiction for us.  Spiritually, and by God’s command, we drive a tent peg into ground gained; we enlarge our tent, the territory of our inheritance, and we do so the moment we claim it with violent intent and hammering resolve.  These words are still obligatory upon us: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.  On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21 NIV).  Charles Finney, that great revivalist of the nineteenth century and one of the catalysts of the Second Great Awakening here in the United States of America, said “that the minister should hunt after sinners and Christians, wherever they may have entrenched themselves in inaction. It is not the design of preaching to make men easy and quiet, but to make them ACT. It is not the design, in calling in a physician, to have him give opiates, and so cover up the disease and let it run on till it works death; but to search out the disease wherever it may be hidden, and to remove it. So, if a professor of religion has backslidden, and is full of doubts and fears, it is not the minister’s duty to quiet him in his sins, and comfort him, but to hunt him out of his errors and backslidings, and to show him just where he stands, and what it is that makes him full of doubts and fears.”

22 “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.”  The key here is that Barak continued to pursue the enemy, and success came to him regardless of his own personal lack of involvement in the final act of Sisera’s destruction.  A small gentle hand, like still small voice in whispered tone, goes to the deepest recesses of the human temple, and there, in that quiet place, rebellion is thwarted.  God, though Almighty, is also All-Humble, outside the box and in it too; nothing escapes Him, even the tiniest detail.  It is “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, the hearts of the sons of men are fully set to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11 Amp.) that we must pursue our enemies down to smallest seed of their potential to wreak havoc in us.  You must not give up until “The God of peace” crushes “Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20).  

23 & 24 “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.”  Three times for emphasis “Jabin the king of Canaan” is mentioned here.  As Cortland Myers said, “The finest china in the world is burned at least three times, some of it more than three times. Dresden china is always burned three times. Why does it go through that intense fire? Once ought to be enough; twice ought to be enough. No, three times are necessary to burn that china so that the gold and the crimson are brought out more beautiful and then fastened there to stay.  We are fashioned after the same principle in human life. Our trials are burned into us once, twice, thrice; and by God's grace these beautiful colors are there and they are there to stay forever.”  In other words, the emphasis—and thrice made—is on the idea of true understanding being linked to humility.  All our works are designed—contrary to popular and common belief—to produce futility that leads to humiliation.  “For what has a man left from all his labor and from the striving and vexation of his heart in which he has toiled under the sun?  For all his days are but pain and sorrow, and his work is a vexation and grief; his mind takes no rest even at night. This is also vanity (emptiness, falsity, and futility)! ...THIS, I HAVE SEEN, IS FROM THE HAND OF GOD” (Ecclesiastes 2:22-24 Amp.).  And again, more explicitly, “Behold, is it not by appointment of the Lord of hosts that the nations toil only to satisfy the fire [that will consume their work], and the peoples weary themselves only for emptiness, falsity, and futility?” (Habakkuk 2:13).  There, with our mouths in the dust and our cheeks given to the smiter as prescribed by the weeping prophet Jeremiah (see Lamentations 3:29-30), God thrusts a tent peg through the temple of our carnality, and we die to ourselves.  Only then is Canaan-land—the Promised Land of the soul that died to its old construction of itself and then made new and alive in its present construction of self replicated after the image of Christ—opened to us.