When Barak arrived in pursuit of Sisera, Jael went out to greet him and said to him, "Come, and I will show you the man you are seeking." So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera dead, with a tent peg through his temple.
I. OPPRESSION ROUSES THE DARKEST PASSIONS OF THE OPPRESSED. Jael's treacherous murder of Sisera did not occur in an age of peace and comfort, but after her nation had been terribly crushed by the Canaanite power. The worst evil of tyranny is not found in the mere distress which it brings on those who suffer from it, but in the bad passions which it provokes. The oppressed are degraded morally; they grow revengeful; unequal to open resistance, they become treacherous; misery blinds them to the claims of humanity Slaves are too often cruel and treacherous. This fact, instead of excusing slavery, is its heaviest condemnation.
II. CRUELTY MAY EXPECT TO BE REWARDED WITH TREACHERY. Sisera was no innocent soldier falling in the discharge of loyal service to his country. He had "mightily oppressed the children of Israel." Harshness may appear to silence all opposition, but it really provokes the most dangerous enmity - secret and treacherous enmity. Sisera meets with a just doom. There is something cowardly in brutal oppression; it is fitting that the man who descended to practise it should not fall in honourable warfare, but meet his miserable fate at the hands of a deceitful woman.
III. THE GUILT OF A CRIME MUST BE MEASURED BY THE MOTIVE WHICH INSTIGATED IT. A cold-blooded crime committed for low ends of personal profit is far more wicked than the same deed done in the heat of provoked passion. The act which is committed for the good of others is less wicked than that which is entirely selfish in its motives. The motive of Jael was patriotic. She anticipated no danger to herself from Sisera, but she thought to rid her country of a great and cruel enemy. So far she was brave and noble.
IV. THE UTILITY OF THE END WILL NEVER EXCUSE THE WICKEDNESS OF THE MEANS EMPLOYED TO SECURE IT. Jael was no vulgar murderess. Her patriotic motive mitigated the guilt of her crime, but it did not destroy that guilt. She was guilty of a breach of the sacred rights of hospitality. Did she meditate murder when she welcomed Sisera into her tent? Possibly not. It may be that the sight of the sleeping man suggested the temptation to an easy way of delivering her nation from a great enemy. If so, her treachery was so much the less guilty. But the very warmth of her ostentatious hospitality offered to such a man as Sisera suggests only too forcibly that she meant treachery from the first. That grim scene - the weary soldier trusting himself in the hands of the murderous woman, while she lavishes her hospitality on him with fearful schemes working in her brain - is surely no picture of womanly glory, in whatever age we set it, with whatever provocations we mitigate its dark horror. Jael is plainly guilty of a gross breach of trust. We must not shut our eyes to her criminality because she did a deed on the side of the Jews which we should have condemned with loathing if it had been committed by a less enlightened, heathen, Canaanite woman. Reverence for the teaching of Scripture does not require us to excuse the faults of the Jews. - (Jael the Kenite was practically a Jewess.) It is most degrading to the conscience to read the dark pages of Hebrew history with the understanding that we must condemn nothing done by an Israelite. It is also false to the intentions of Scripture. In the Bible we see the failings of good men and the personal wickedness of some who took their stand on the right side. The merit of their cause does not destroy the guilt of their individual conduct. Deceit and cruelty have sometimes been practised in the interests of Christianity, of liberty, of humanity; but the only service God will accept must be fair, and true, and pure. - A.
Thou shalt say, No.
I. THE EXERCISE OF THIS SUPREME POWER IN REFERENCE TO THE TENDENCIES AND INCLINATIONS WITHIN ONE'S SELF. There are tendencies and appetites in every man which, if allowed a free course and full swing, would drag him in the mire and hurry him to his ruin. The meanest of them has slain its thousands. So mean and paltry an appetite as that for stimulating drink counts its victims by millions, and our nature is largely made up of such dangerous proclivities, some inborn and some acquired. There is in man, also, a certain inscrutable, central authority, the mysterious Ego, the indefinable "I myself," whose office is to watch over these necessary but dangerous members of the internal commonwealth, and keep them to their limits, and say, "No" to each and all their demands for undue power and over-indulgence. No man can live at all without exerting this power at some points; and no man can live nobly, and to the highest purposes of his being, without exerting it constantly, at all points, and with absolute supremacy. In the biographies of all persons eminent for character and achievement, you will notice how they have striven to acquire perfectly this form of self-mastery. What ingenious devices and shrewd practices they have resorted to, to this end. In some ages, what fasts and penances and seclusions and all forms of asceticisms, and in all ages what vigorous efforts, what watchfulness, and what contrivances and habits of self-discipline, whereby they might be able with promptitude and effect to say "No" to any tendency that is getting too strong, and any desire that is too clamorous! And success in that is their salvation, the open secret of their success in their high aims, and the glory of their lives.
II. THE CIRCUMSTANCES AND EVENTS AROUND US. These are very powerful, seemingly irresistible often. They claim to take full possession of a man, to carry him whither they will, and make of him what they will. They seem to say to him, "We are a part of the irresistible order of nature; we move according to the eternal laws; we represent the forces of the universe; we come backed by the omnipotence of the Creator. What can you, poor, puny mortal, do in resistance to our overwhelming might? A pitiful speck of being as you are, an evanescent bubble on this vast sea of matter and force, what is there for you but to drift whithersoever we may carry you, and sink where we drop you?" But not so, thou majestic universe, bearing upon man as you do with all your infinite might in the events and circumstances around us — not so! The soul in man, that mysterious essence, whose very existence you bring into question, is in its rightful province a match for you, can resist you, set you aside, say "No" to you, and in the ethereal, Godlike power it is endowed with, and with the humility of a little child, make good its audacious defiance. The brave but wary seaman knows the tremendous power of an adverse wind, a power that nothing can withstand, knows it and respects it, yet he is master of the situation. He can anchor in the roadstead, and look the very hurricane in the face, and let it blow. He will not budge. He can wait. That force will be spent before his will be. He will yet lay his course right along the pathway of the storm, and he does, and makes his voyage triumphantly. Or in another ease he refuses to drift with it. He will move right on against the opposing force, and never stop a moment, nor furl his sails; he must beat, go zigzag, tediously, but he gets on against it, and if need be, he will make the entire Atlantic voyage without one favourable breeze, with hard struggles but no yielding, delayed but not defeated. So in all human life. The power of circumstances must be respected, and dealt with valiantly but warily. The true man will accommodate himself to them, and yet refuse to drift with them; nay, will circumvent them, outwatch them, and make them serve his purpose. They may delay him, but not turn him back; discourage him, but not pluck heart of hope out of him. They may change his direction, but not stop his progress. They may change the form of his duty, but cannot hinder doing. They may combine to tempt and assail his integrity or purity, but if he say in God's name, "No!" they cannot touch it.
III. IT IS MOST PRACTICAL TO CONSIDER THE EXERCISE OF THIS VETO-POWER IN REFUSING THE REQUESTS OF OTHER PERSONS. There are always about us those who ask us or propose to us to do things that we ought not or had better not do. And such is the strength of the social tie, and so potent the influence of another's desire, that there is always a disposition to comply, and an amiable disposition it is in itself. But it is often very misleading, and sometimes fatal to honour and integrity, to purity and peace and every sacred interest of life. Many a youth and many a man, not depraved, but simply weak and unestablished, has thus been led to his ruin, out of mere good-natured compliance and the difficulty of refusing a solicitation. Balancing between good and evil, with the promise and possibility of the best, he has gone to the bad, because he could not, or felt that he could not, say, "No!" The dangerous tendencies that are in him, and that are in everybody, acquire tenfold power when reinforced by the importunity of a friendly companion to join him in giving way to them. That little off-hand suit, "Come along," coupled with the suggestion, "What's the harm?" or "Who will know it?" or "Just this once," or "Don't be a coward," we cannot tell how many it leads astray every day, initiates in the downward path, and that too when every instinct of the conscience, every sentiment of honour, every affection of their heart, and every hope of their lives, is breathing its protest, and would hold them back. If all those hesitating consents could now be recalled, that fatal compliance reversed, and it should be as if the rightful refusals had been spoken in place of them, what blessed results should we see. Oh, learn betimes to say, "No!" when you know you ought to say it. Fear not the sneers of the evil-disposed, the corrupt, or the merely thoughtless, but fear rather the anguish and tears of those who love you, the strings of your conscience, and the displeasure of your God. Be prompt and strong to say, "No!" when you ought, and your better nature bids you, and so march on through your career in safety, honour, and peace. And it is not only to the solicitations or the suggestions that would lead us in fatal directions, into enslaving vices, or the outright sacrifice of truth, honour, and purity that we need to exercise this great prerogative of downright refusal in the thick of this our social city life, we have need to exercise it daily, and almost hourly, in respect to requests and invitations that have no bad intent, but are meant in courtesy and kindness, and that in other circumstances, and at other times, might be complied with in all propriety. We need, on moral grounds, to guard with some jealousy our personal independence, and let nobody unduly or unreasonably invade it. We cannot afford to hold ourselves, our time, faculties, thoughts, or even sympathies, entirely at the beck and call even of the best people or of the kindest-meaning friends. That high independence which never hesitates to say, "No" whenever and to whomsoever it should be said commands respect. It is a chief element of all nobleness and strength of character. It is essential to feminine dignity, and to the highest manhood. It makes you worth seeking, and causes your refusals to be better taken than the loose assents of those facile persons who from sheer weakness in the fibre and the making up of their character can never say, "No!" or say it as if guilty of an offence and fearful of your displeasure.
I. In the first place, then, LET US LEARN TO RESPECT OUR OWN JUDGMENT IN WHAT WE DO. If, on a view of all the circumstances, we think we ought to say, "No," let us have the courage and firmness and independence to say it. A man who dares not act according to his own convictions of what is right, for fear that after all he may be mistaken — I will not say that he has no regard for conscience, but this I will say: he has no confidence in conscience, which in practice amounts to nearly the same thing. Besides, with respect to the construction which other people may put on our motives, if we only take care that our motives are what they should be, and that our whole conduct is in keeping, we need not entertain any apprehensions but that in the long run ample justice will be done them by all whose approbation is worth having. I have shown that it is but the part of a manly independence to have the courage and firmness to say, "No," when we are convinced that this is the proper word.
II. I proceed to show THAT IT IS NO LESS A DICTATE OF PRUDENCE, AND PRACTICAL WISDOM. You can hardly step your foot on the threshold of life without encountering seduction in every possible shape; and unless you are prepared to resist it firmly, you are a doomed man. What makes it still more dangerous is, that the first solicitations of vice often come under such disguised forms, and relate to things seemingly so trivial, as to give hardly any warning of the fatal consequences, to which by slow and insensible gradations they are almost sure to lead. As you value, then, your health and reputation, your peace of mind and personal independence, learn to say, "No." Inquire into the sources of human misery, study the first beginnings of crime, and, meet with it where you may, by tracing it back to its first cause you will find it to have been, in almost every instance, merely because they could not say, "No," to the tempter. Put the question to one who has wasted his substance in riotous living. The burden of their confession will be, that they owe every calamity which has befallen them to their not having had firmness enough, at some turning-point of their destiny, to say, "No." As you would avoid their fate, let me then conjure you to avoid its cause.
III. The same conduct which I have shown to be necessary to a manly independence and to a prudent regard to our own interest I shall next prove TO BE IN NO SENSE INCONSISTENT WITH A BENEVOLENT AND TRULY GENEROUS DISPOSITION. One of the most common mistakes on this subject is to confound an easy disposition with a benevolent disposition: two things which in fact are as wide asunder as the east from the west. A man of an easy disposition is so commonly merely because he will not make the effort a more firm and steady conduct requires. And why will he not make this effort? Because he will not take the trouble of making it. But is this benevolence? Is it so much as an abuse of benevolence? Is it not sheer selfishness?
IV. Having shown that independence, prudence, and benevolence alike require the conduct I have been recommending, it only remains for me TO URGE IT UPON YOU AS A MATTER OF MORAL AND RELIGIOUS DUTY. It is a great error, though a common one, not to suppose that the principle of duty extends to almost all our actions; requiring them or forbidding them, as being either right or wrong. We talk of actions as being honourable or dishonourable, as being prudent or imprudent, as being benevolent or otherwise, but what is honourable or prudent or benevolent is also right. Everything, therefore, which has already been said to prove the conduct in question a dictate of benevolence, prudence, and manly independence, goes also to the same extent to prove it to be our duty, our imperative duty. Besides, take the words as they stand. If, considering all the circumstances, we ought to say, "No," then it is our duty to say it, let the consequences be what they may. Some men can never say, "No," unless they are in a passion, and are therefore driven to the mortifying necessity of working themselves up into a passion before they can find the courage to do it. Again, there are others, who will trust themselves to say, "No," only as a matter of policy; and with whom, therefore, the question is not, "What ought I to say?" but, "What will it be for my interest to say?" There is also a third class that will say, "No" — and say it often enough too, if that were all — from mere churlishness and ill-humour; but I need not observe that this is very far from being the conduct I am here recommending. Putting aside all such considerations, let us learn to resist improper solicitations from a sense of duty. It should be enough to know that it is our duty. Let us act on this principle, and we shall never refuse except when duty requires it; but at such times our refusal will be much more decided and effectual, while it will be made under circumstances of much greater dignity on our part, and of much less irritation on the part of those whom it may disappoint. Moreover, while we act from a sense of duty, we should connect with this feeling a conviction that it is one of religious obligation. God has required us to pursue a course of undeviating rectitude. Whoever, therefore, would seduce us from this sets himself against God, and we must deny one or the other. Whether in such a case we should deny God rather than man let conscience judge.
PeopleAbinoam, Barak, Deborah, Ehud, Heber, Hobab, Israelites, Jabin, Jael, Kenites, Lapidoth, Naphtali, Sisera, Zebulun
PlacesBethel, Canaan, Harosheth-hagoyim, Hazor, Kedesh, Kedesh-naphtali, Kishon River, Moab, Mount Tabor, Ramah, Zaanannim
TopicsBarak, Behold, Dead, Entered, Fallen, Jael, Ja'el, Lay, Lying, Meet, Meeting, Nail, Peg, Pin, Pursued, Pursuing, Pursuit, Searching, Seek, Seekest, Seeking, Shew, Sisera, Sis'era, Stretched, Temple, Temples, Tent, Tent-pin, You're
Outline1. Deborah and Barak deliver them from Jabin and Sisera
17. Jael kills Sisera
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJudges 4:21
I want to picture to you to-night, if I can, three acts in a great history--three different pictures illustrating one subject. I trust we have passed through all three of them, many of us; and as we shall look upon them, whilst I paint them upon the wall, I think there will be many here who will be able to say, I was in that state once;" and when we come to the last, I hope we shall be able to clap our hands, and rejoice to feel that the last is our case also, and that we are in the plight of the …
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 6: 1860
Whether the Grace of the Word of Wisdom and Knowledge is Becoming to Women?
The First Blast of the Trumpet
A Nation's Struggle for a Home and Freedom.
The Blessings of Noah Upon Shem and Japheth. (Gen. Ix. 18-27. )
A Cloud of Witnesses.
The Mountainous Country of Judea.
The Country of Jericho, and the Situation of the City.
He Does Battle for the Faith; He Restores Peace among those who were at Variance; He Takes in Hand to Build a Stone Church.
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