…no longer walk as the Gentiles walk in the futility of their mind? – Eph 4:17
The time of the Judges was a time where the children of Israel were living in the Land by the rule of their own lives. They did not yet request a king, but they found themselves being judged by people who God had raised up.
This particular illustration is from the third captivity of the People of God (Judges 4 and 5). If you remember, the Children of Israel would disobey God and backslide into some form of sin and subsequently one of their enemies would come up and oppress them. Holding the People of God under captivity and oppression, these gentile nations would hold them underfoot until the day God would raise up a judge out of the People of God. These Judges would be God?s hand to lead the Children of Israel out of captivity.
Sisera, a commander and chief of King Jabin?s, army enforced this third captivity. Sisera lived in Harosheth of the Gentiles (hagoyim). It is curious that the Holy Spirit has decided to label these Canaanites as ?Gentiles? when we know that the other captivities were also by Gentiles but they were not labeled as such.
The first captivity was at the hands of the Moabites. These Moabites were the same people that some time back n history, had denied the Children of Israel access across their territory and hired the likes of Balaam to curse them. The children of Israel stormed into the Land, and went on to win victory after victory, and now, here settled in the Land these Moabites came back in through the backdoor, retook (or rebuilt) Jericho, calling it the City of Palm Trees, and held the Children of Israel captive.
Left-handed Ehud walked in to the chambers of the Moabite king with a gift and, he said ?a message from the Lord.? This Moabite king waved his servants out of the room, eager to hear this message and slowly rose to his feet (because he was a very fat man) and Ehud dispatched him with a dagger to the stomach.
The Cananite Gentiles were not like these Moabite Gentiles. Sisera and his ilk were incredible with their progressive thinking. These were the very people who lived in the land previous to the Israelites. They had mastered the art and science of smelting iron and we can see as much in the text when the writer illustrates their strength by pointing out their 900 chariots of iron!
Deborah judged the nation during that day and she, by the word of God, called upon a man known as Barak. She directed him to attack the Canaanites, so what Barak did (with great temporal wisdom) was lead his forces around and up the side of a mountain where he entrenched his forces.
It was a smart plan because a people on foot versus a people in horse driven iron chariots wouldn?t last very long in an open plain. If these Gentiles were to try to go up into the mountain Barak and the People of God would roll stones down on them, having the benefit of the high ground. For all intents and purposes, Barak thought he had completed his mission.
Deborah went to the tree where Barak was laying his head and she roused him from his sleep calling out to ?Awake! Awake, Barak, and lead your captivity captive!? (Judges 4:14, 5:12). The truth of the matter is that God had gone down before the People of God and caused a flash flood to strike the river. These Gentiles, with their iron chariots, found their wheels useless in a plain filled with mud and water. They could no longer maneuver and found themselves routed as the People of God came down to attack.
You know the story well. Jael, a certain woman who lived nearby, was home alone that day and had peeked out of her tent to see this puffing Gentile running in her direction, fleeing from the routing at the hand of God. He came to her tent, sword at his side, panting and asking for water and hiding.
Jael sagely reviewed her situation. She could hide the Gentile but if her husband came home and found a strange man in the woman?s quarters?what would he do? If she denied the Gentile she would find her head separated from her body. She decided to employ her womanly strategies and invited the Gentile in and offered him buttered cream in a lordly dish.
This man after such a long day fell soundly asleep.
In those days where people lived in tents and where there was much roaming the land, women were in charge of the stability of the home and they knew how to drive tent pegs into the ground. Jael slowly approached sleeping Sisera with one of these same tent pegs in hand. She took her tent peg to the temple of this Sisera and dispatched him forthwith and that was the end of his Gentile mind and therein laid the futility of his Gentile thinking.
The lesson can be seen in Barak?s thinking. There he was, afraid of the enemy below, and he entrenched himself in a place where there wouldn?t be any Gentiles?and yet, there was no impact made against the Gentiles either. What an amazing thing it is that God Himself went down before them and all that Barak and company had to do was swing their weapons for the Lord had already won the battle.
Paul, quoting the Psalmist, echoes this portion of the scriptures referring to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who has given to each and every one of us believers grace according to Christ?s gift. Therefore, Paul then quotes that ?He ascended on High and led captivity captive and he gave gifts to men?!? What a triumphant victory!
We don?t have to rely on our strategies and weaknesses but God has already won the battle for us?and yet, we often slip into the futility of the Gentile way of thinking as if our understanding is darkened.
Look at the words of Jesus at the sermon of the mount where He says not to pray as the Gentiles pray with futile or vain repetitions (Matt 6:7). In our very prayers it can be evidenced what we think of God and how we approach him. Do we pray with boldness and seeking the will of God or do we make empty prayers, mindless repetition, filling the air with words like the Gentiles?
Jesus then goes on to expose another sector where we embrace this ?Gentile thinking? and that is in our very every day lives. He says that when we work, not to work for clothing or food or shelter, for these are the same things that the Gentiles seek (Matt 6:31-34). But we are to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Does he mean that we are to go to work, and before entering into the building we should hand out a tract or a New Testament? Not at all because the rut of the Gentile thinking is still evidenced in the thought ?I go to work to pay the bills?.
That is a reason we go to work but it shouldn?t be the reason. The reason we go to work, as a believer, should be to seek first the rule of God in our lives and the righteousness found therein. If work was simply about getting money to pay the bills and any unethical decisions can be justified for the purpose of reaching that goal. Since the believer?s goal is to seek the Rule of God and the righteousness found therein, the believer must constantly be seeking a way to satisfy God and represent the goodness as of being part of His kingdom.
God has provided a tremendous resource. He has gone down before us and led our captivity captive. He has handed out gifts to men and we have been set free from the oppression of our previous state. We are to enter into the world, ready to make an impact in all ways that reinforce the rule of God in our lives and the righteousness found therein. Look to the example that Paul has set, in that second letter to Timothy. ?At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear.? (2 Tim 4:16-17)