Time: the Judges ~1400-1000 B.C.
“For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.” EPHESIANS 2:10
As Israel entered the Promised Land, God worked great miracles: the waters of the Jordan parted, the walls of Jericho fell, and the sun stood still over Gibeon. No task was too great for Israel’s God. At last, after more than six years of fighting, the initial conquest came to a close. Joshua sent the tribes forth to occupy their lands. As the tribes moved in, they were commanded to exterminate the inhabitants of Canaan but they failed to complete the mission. The children of Israel had crippled the Canaanite peoples, but they had not destroyed them. The remaining Canaanites, a corrupt people, eventually turned Israel from God.
For almost four hundred years, Israel followed a monotonous cycle:
· Sin (particularly idolatry and immorality) — Not long after getting settled in her land, Israel adopted the religion and the lifestyle of the pagan Canaanites by worshipping idols and practicing immorality, theft, and murder. Her society fell apart. Tyranny and force became the norm; inept leaders were unable to check the excessive violence. Selfish desires for tribal glory and supremacy, as well as unwillingness to accept reproof, led to tragic civil wars.
· Suffering (having enemies rule over them or terrorize them) — Because of their idolatry and hard hearts, God brought severe judgment on the land, allowing the Mesopotamians, Moabites, Canaanites, Midianites, Ammonites, and Philistines to oppress and dominate His people for a time.
· Supplication (calling out to God, earnest prayer) — The enemies’ oppression of the people drove them back to their God and calling out to Him for help.
· Salvation (in this context meaning deliverance, aid, victory, or prosperity)—God would send human leaders called “Judges” to defeat the oppressing nations and bring periods of rest. These Judges—8 in all—were civil and military leaders who led the nation against its enemies. Their civil job was to urge repentance (turning back to God alone, in faith) and to give counsel. Then, the land would experience peace for 20-40 years during the lifetime of their “deliverer.” Not long after that person died, the people went back to their wicked ways, beginning the cycle again.
One such judge was Deborah, who came along ~100 years after Joshua died…
1. Read Deuteronomy 28:1-25; 29:16-18. What were God’s general instructions to Israel concerning life in the land?
2. Read Judges 2:6-23. In verses 10-19, the repeating pattern of the book of Judges is described here. Why did the Israelites forget God and sin so readily after Joshua died?
3. Deeper Discoveries (Optional): Research to find out more about the Canaanite oppression during this time in Israel’s history. How did it affect their daily lives?
4. Read Genesis 18:19; Deuteronomy 4:5-9, 29:24-27. Discuss cause and effect in these passages.
5. How is God’s faithfulness demonstrated in the way He dealt with His people?
6. Read Judges 4:1-16. Israel was in what part of the cycle during Deborah’s lifetime (verses 1-3)?
7. Based on what you glean from the text, describe Deborah using as many adjectives as possible.
8. From our study of Miriam, what was the role of a prophetess? (See Lesson 2, Day 2.)
9. Referring to specific verses, how did Deborah act as a prophetess in this narrative?
10. Compare Deborah and Barak regarding the response of each to God’s word and the courage to carry it out.
11. God commends Barak for his faith in Hebrews 11:32-34. How did Barak demonstrate it?
12. Considering Sisera’s primary military weapons (vs. 3), why did God want the Israelites to encamp on a mountain 1300 feet high?
Historical insight: Palestine is covered with wadis, or dry creek beds. During a sudden, violent rainstorm, these wadis fill with rushing water, which can destroy anything in its path. God routed the enemy by throwing them into a panic like the Egyptians at the Red Sea (Ex. 14:24). A similar army-defeating rainstorm happened when Napoleon defeated the Turks in the same place (Megiddo) in AD 1799.
13. Your Life’s Journey:
God can use any of our skills and talents to His glory when we focus on what we have, not what we don’t have, and give it to Him. In fact, Ephesians 2:10 says that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” And, He gives us the ability to do the works He has created us to do. How are you serving God using your gifts as Deborah served Him using hers? What, if anything, is holding you back?
14. Read Judges 4:9 again. Was Jael doing God’s will? Explain.
15. What do you think the far-reaching effects of her actions might be? What risks did she take…
· In her relationship with her husband?
· In relation to their tribe?
16. How did she “do what was right and not give way to fear”?
17. Read Judges 5:1-31. What is revealed about the following:
· Courage and trust in God (2-5, 9-11) —
· Fear (6-8) —
· Deborah and her role (7, 12-15) —
· Who helped and who didn’t (14-18, 23) —
· The defeat of Sisera (19-21) —
· Jael and her role (24-27) —
18. What does this narrative (Judges 4 and 5) tell us about God’s use of women in leadership in a society?
19. From the relationship between Deborah and Barak, what can we learn about men and women working together to accomplish God’s purpose?
20. Tell Your Story: How do Deborah and Jael encourage you as a woman? Think about how God used them as they functioned in their various roles as women with the resources available to them every day. Consider how your everyday womanly skills and resources have benefited others. Write about one specific time and share with your group.
God loved Deborah and Jael. He knew what was going on in their lives: the burden of responsibility, the risks they faced, and their fears. He was able to do something about it. He didn’t give them easy choices to make, ones that would’ve made their lives much more comfortable. Deborah chose to use the gifts God gave her to glorify Him and to bolster Barak’s courage and reputation. Jael took great risks and most likely sealed her people’s allegiance to the tribe of Israel by her actions. And they both chose to trust God rather than submit to fear. God rewarded their faith with victory. You may face what seem like insurmountable circumstances in your own life. But just like Deborah and Jael, you can count on these truths…
§ God loves me.
§ God knows what is going on in my life.
§ God can do something about it.
§ I can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do!
21. What opportunities for fear did Deborah have? How did she respond to God in faith?
22. What could have terrified Jael? How did she respond instead?
23. Your Life’s Journey: A courageous attitude begins long before you are ever called upon to use it.
· When was the last time you showed courage in living for Christ—such as testifying publicly about your faith, challenging others to do right, forgetting the opinion of the crowd, expressing love and appreciation for those in authority, etc.?
· Is there anything holding you back from total commitment to God? How can you show courage this week?