You who ride white donkeys, who sit on saddle blankets, and you who travel the road, ponder
I. THIS OUGHT TO BE DONE SEVERALLY AND IN PARTICULAR. In the case of each there is some peculiarity. It will illustrate afresh God's manifold mercy. "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles."
II. IT OUGHT TO BE DONE PUBLICLY AND COLLECTIVELY. The national recognition of God is a most impressive and instructive spectacle. It becomes the more so if spontaneous, and not the result of legislative enactment or meaningless tradition.
III. THE REASONS FOR THIS ARE MANIFOLD.
1. It is due to him. The work of Christ is very great, involving vast effort and suffering. It is full of love and wisdom, adapted to our special need. And in all the work of redemption no credit is to be taken to ourselves; the merit is wholly his. "By the grace of God I am what I am." To withhold the praise is therefore worse than theft.
2. It is the highest and most blessed exercise of the religious nature. Man was born "to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever." In so doing his nature attains its highest end and complete spiritual development. The harmony of praise and prayer has its reflex influence upon the utterer, and as God in Christ is the most glorious object of adoration, the heart is expanded, uplifted, strengthened, and purified. There is nothing we are so liable to as forgetting God's mercies, and our dependence upon them; and therefore it is well to rehearse them.
3. It is a benefit to others. The world is full of misconceptions and low thoughts of God, and indifference towards the Divine. By such rehearsals the true character of God is vindicated. Men are taught to trace all blessings to their real Author. Doubters, etc. are counselled and directed towards clear, healthy, and health-giving ideas of God. Thus the gospel of the grace of God is preached most effectively. Others catch the contagion. Are we silent? What is the cause? Ingratitude; or it may be we are strangers to the grace of God. Let us yield ourselves to it now. Perhaps we too shall sing in a higher realm "unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood." - M.
Then sang Deborah and Barak.
I. THE FIRST REASON OF SUCCESS WAS THAT THE LEADERS TOOK THE LEAD. They were not engaged elsewhere; they did not linger; they were not too excessively modest. They were in the forefront of the enterprise in resource and enthusiasm and execution. The leaders in those days in Israel were the heads of the tribes. In ancient society there was always an arrangement which provided natural leaders to whom the people could look. In spite of what some people may say to the contrary, there is a great deal of loyalty still in the people to what might be called their natural leaders, and I may say this, that our aristocracy have immense advantages on their side if only they have the heart to give themselves to public work. It is the man with the biggest and clearest and keenest brain that is the leader in modern times. The thinker, the orator, the author, the journalist, the inventor, the scientist — these are the men to whom we now look to give the watchword and lead us in public work. I think it is vain to deny that money is great power in modern times, and the making of it is a rough test of ability, although it is a very humble illustration of my text. In politics and in reforms in the Church and the municipality we should get quit of those awful wrongs and abuses which disfigure our life, and we could raise our people to higher and nobler life if only the leaders would take the lead. Unfortunately they do not do it. Very often the best causes have to do without those that should be the leaders. They do not get the people with ten talents, and have to struggle along as best they can with the people who have one talent, and who use it for the glory of God and the good of men. This may be due to the fact that those who should be leaders are occupied with their own affairs, and have no heart for the public interest. Those who have most of this world's means and influence are often living a life of frivolity and selfishness. Those who are engaged in the struggle of life are often thinking of nothing but enriching them selves. Those who have the finest culture often keep aloof from the profane multitude. Or the fact that the leaders do not take the lead may be due to timidity and over-caution. Any change that alters the status quo must give annoyance and cause loss to somebody. When once a reform is matter of history, and is put down in books of history, all men praise it, but while it is being accomplished few men praise and many oppose. I remember a few years ago there was hardly a newspaper in the country in which there was not a leader in praise of Wilberforce and the noble men who co-operated with him in that great reform. But in his own day Wilberforee and his coadjutors were not praised at all. They were even exposed to personal violence. Every evil name was flung at them. Drunkenness is inflicting on our country evils so vast and potent that any considerable diminution of it, say the reduction of it by half, would be a reform infinitely greater than those reforms by which our statesmen are at present winning their laurels. But if a statesman of the first mark, a man of the calibre of Mr. Balfour or Mr. Chamberlain or Mr. Morley, were to take the lead on this subject, he would simply be shrieked at by all who are engaged in that traffic.
II. The other reason given by this ancient heroine for her success was THAT THE PEOPLE WILLINGLY FOLLOWED. Leaders cannot win a cause; it is won by the followers. Now sometimes the people do not follow even when the leaders take the lead.
1. Instead of that, they wish themselves to take the lead. Many a cause has been wrecked by the jealousies and suspicions of those who have thought they were fit for positions greater than were assigned to them. We often hear of the need of first-class leaders, but I sometimes think what the world needs most is great numbers of men who are willing to take the second place, or the third place, or the fourth place, and to work as heartily there as if they were in the first place. That requires even more heroism. The man who is in the first place attracts the eyes of all, and may receive his reward in fame, but the man who works well in an obscure place only receives the reward of the cause itself.
2. Another reason why the people do not always follow is that they are criticising instead of following. Now I should not like to conclude without referring to the last words of my text, "Bless ye the Lord." Deborah attributed the success to the leaders taking the lead and the people following willingly, but she went beyond these means, and traced all to the Lord.
(J. Stalker, D. D.)
(W. L. Watkinson.)
(A. Whyte, D. D.)I. THE GROUNDS OF THANKFULNESS which Deborah thought she and the whole nation had.
1. She insists, first, upon the cheerful willingness of the people, their ready alacrity in obeying the call of the Lord their God, when by her voice He summoned them to arms. Oh! that there were such a heart in each one of us! Spiritual readiness is the attitude and the grace of angels. God desires, and will have, from us all, hearty service. Whether as regards our substance or our time, our talents or our affections, the Word declares, "God loveth a cheerful giver."
2. Deborah notices gratefully the interference of God Himself in behalf of the nation. What could Israel, in their enslaved and enfeebled state, have done against Jabin's nine hundred chariots? Of what avail would have been the willingness of the people or the valour of the chiefs if the Lord had provided no succours? But the Lord had provided them. And like mercies have been vouchsafed to us with regard to our personal and individual conflicts with sin and Satan. Satan is especially called the "prince of the power of the air "; what would the rude implements of earthly warfare avail against such an antagonist? No; God puts the spiritual against the spiritual; He brings the arms of an invisible providence to bear upon the spiritual fortunes of a child of God, and to keep him from falling. Angels are ministering to us whilst we sleep; the elements are combining for our good, even when we know not the very existence of evil; and never till we are beyond the reach of evil and sin shall we know how the Lord "fought" for our souls "from heaven," or how "the stars in their courses fought against Sisera."
3. Deborah finds matter of thankfulness in the peaceful and happy state of the country contrasted with its condition under the oppressions of Jabin; and to this part of Deborah's song I entreat your special attention. Her picture of two countries, or at least of the same country under two different governments, will be found to have such an astonishing parallel that I hope every heart amongst us will be lifted up to God with silent thankfulness. Observe, then, first, Deborah speaks of a country where all trade was stopped: "In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied." The great public thoroughfares were all closed; the caravans could no longer convey their merchandise from city to city; the merchants found their occupation gone. Then, secondly, she says that in this country travelling had become unsafe: "The travellers walked through byways." The complete lawlessness of the people and the bold effrontery of the robber made those who had occasion to travel seek the most lonely and unfrequented byways. Every step they took was taken with fear; they saw death or danger at every turn. Then, thirdly, she says that there was no tilling of the ground: "The inhabitants of the villages ceased." The constant incursions of lawless hordes had driven the villagers from their peaceful employments; the cessation of commerce throughout the land had closed the market for their grain; whilst for the sake of personal safety the poor villagers were obliged to leave their humble abodes and take refuge in walled and fenced cities. Fourthly, she says that there was no administration of justice. The "people of the Lord" could not "go down to the gates" — "the gates" signifying, as you are aware, in the Jewish language, the courts of justice. In the eighth verse she gives the reason why all judicial proceedings were suspended: "Then was war in the gates." The courts of justice resounded with the noise of arms; the gravity of the judge was merged in the zeal of the soldier; the magistrates had lost all dignity and the people all respect for law. Lastly, she says that no dependence could be placed on the military strength of the country: "Was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?" All energy was now gone; all public spirit had decayed; anarchy and misrule held sovereign away, and order and good government were banished from the land. I need not stay to tell you where this awful picture of national misery and misrule has but a too faithful counterpart. I pass on to another picture, which, God be praised, hath its counterpart also. "What is the state of our country now?" asks Deborah. "Why, our nobles ride secure on white asses; our judges, without fear, sit in judgment at the gates, undisturbed by the noise of archers in the places of drawing water; and the people, as they walk by the way, rehearse the righteous acts of the Lord. Now all is peaceful among us; our ships ride upon the sea; our caravans throng the highways; our villages revive amid the busy industry of pruning-hook and ploughshare; and now all that remains for us is to testify, by a song of thankfulness, our gratitude to God." Neither should there be lost upon us Deborah's invitation to different classes of society to join in this song of gratitude. First, you will perceive, she calls upon the noble and the wealthy: "'Speak, ye that ride on white asses.' Who gave you your wealth? Who has preserved to you your wealth? To whom alone is the praise due that your substance has not been wrested from you by bands of marauders; that you have not been driven from your country by the insecurity of property; that, under the protecting shadow of equal laws, you can now lie down with safety, none making you afraid?" Then, secondly, she speaks to magistrates and judges. "'Speak, ye that sit in judgment.' Who has preserved your office in all its reverence? Who has continued your lives in all their sacredness? Who has kept your authority in all the respect in which the people hold it?" Then, thirdly, she addresses herself to those who are engaged in the ordinary occupations of life. "'Speak, ye that walk by the way'; following your peaceful employments without fear of the public robber, without dread of lawless assemblages, reposing under your own vine and your own fig-tree; rehearse the wonderful works of God. Yes, 'high and low, rich and poor,' rehearse the righteous acts of the Lord, even His righteous acts towards the inhabitants of the villages of Israel." And have we no part to bear in Deborah's song? Oh! shall there be a British heart cold or British tongue dumb while we think of our signal, eminent — I might almost say solitarily enjoyed blessings? "Awake, awake," England; "awake, awake, utter a song." Let us, while we bewail her sins and confess her pride, mourn over her luxurious living when thousands are starving for the bread of life — let us also bless God for His mercies to this our land. Let us bless Him that blood hath not yet stained our streets; that our ears tingle not with the sound of artillery; that the file and the hammer are yet heard in our shops; and that our churches are still open, where we may praise and worship God.
II. SOME CAUSES OF SORROW AND STERN REBUKE. The Lord's cause had triumphed, as triumph it ever will, whether we "come to the help of the Lord" or not. Still the names of those shall be told up who come to the Lord's help, in order that it may be seen who are to be shutout from the triumph, who are to have no part in the joy, who are to have no mention in God's book of remembrance, save to their dishonour and their shame.
1. First, some are noticed reprehensibly by Deborah because of the contentions and strifes among them: "For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart." Oh! take ye good heed; for if at this moment you are cherishing an unkind feeling towards any human being, you are cherishing that which is an eternal foe to godliness; you are cherishing that which may drive the Spirit of God from your souls; you are cherishing that which in your dying hour will cause you bitter searchings of heart.
2. But another sin which Deborah notices, as excluding the parties who had committed it from all part in Israel's triumph, is the sin of slothfulness — the love of ease, an unwillingness to endure the hardships and encounter the difficulties of the Christian life: "Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks?" Are there not many who never make a sacrifice, never impose on themselves any form of restraint, who are conscious of nothing worthy of the name of effort, whose life is one of gilded, cushioned, luxurious ease, without one struggle or one act of self-denial?
3. But another occasion of unfaithfulness to the Lord's cause is an absorbing interest in worldly engagements: "Dan remained in ships," and "Asher continued on the sea-shore." Oh! be not deceived by that refined artifice of Satan which tempts you to persist in the pursuit of that which he persuades you is lawful. Heaven has fixed its own law of preferences, has determined which of two interests shall be sacrificed if an occasion arise in which we must sacrifice one. What amount of "corn and wine and oil" will compensate us for the loss of the "light of God's countenance"? What emergency or extremity in our domestic affairs could ever supersede that imperative law, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all other things shall be added unto you"?
4. There is one more excluding sin mentioned by Deborah, the sin of religious indifference — the sin of a Gallio-like, uncaring, unthinking spirit — the sin of a Loadicean lukewarmness about the things of God. "Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof." Why? For any positive sin which they had committed? For any great scandal which they had brought on the Lord's name and cause? No, but "because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty." It seems as if God were speaking from the thick cloud to each one amongst us, and asking, not "What have you left undone?" but "What have you done?" — done for God, done for eternity, done for "the help of the Lord against the mighty"? And think not to escape with the plea that opportunity is wanting for thus serving God. I tell you that every relation in life affords scope for this pious activity. As masters, you may counsel; as parents, you may teach; as friends, you may speak "a word in season"; as rich, you may give of your substance to promote good works; as poor, you may promote benevolent objects by daily and earnest prayer. But if in none of these ways you are conscious of helping the Lord, if neither by your counsel, nor by your encouragement, nor by your example, nor by your prayers, you come to the Lord's help, then are you included among "the inhabitants of Meroz," and the curse of Meroz abides upon your souls.
(D. Moore, M. A.)
I, even I
I. Upon two of THE FAVOURABLE THINGS he mentions.
1. He says that the letter "I," that stands up by itself, expresses the freedom and independency of the Englishman. It is a good thing to be free and independent. But I don't want you children to be independent in the wrong sense. You are very dependent little creatures, and have all been very dependent ever since you were born — so dependent upon your mother's care and your father's love. I want you to feel that you are very dependent indeed, and above all that you are very dependent upon God. But yet there is a sense in which we ought to be independent and free. The boy who does not insist upon exercising his own freedom and independency is very soon despised, and he very soon goes to the bad.
2. The letter "I" also denotes the Englishman's firmness. It is wonderful how firm we can be if we have planted our foot in the right place. No one is so firm as the man who has planted his foot upon the Rock of Ages, or the Truth as it is in Jesus. When a man has learnt what the Saviour expects of him, and says, "God helping me, I will do it," he puts down his foot upon a foundation which can never give way.
II. I will mention now two of THE UNFAVOURABLE THINGS referred to by Archdeacon Hare.
1. He tells us that the letter "I" shows a certain amount of arrogance. He says that the proudest word in English, to judge by its way of carrying itself, is this "I." There it is, lifting its head up above everybody else, and looking down with contempt upon its little neighbours. Now theft is not a good thing. That is utterly unlike the Lord Jesus. He was meek and gentle in spirit: He never looked down upon any one, but welcomed poor broken-down sinners to His presence, and ever spoke a kind word to the world's outcasts.
2. The capital "I" represents the Englishman's reserve and isolation. It loves to stand alone, and does not believe in mixing up with others. Let us no longer hold ourselves aloof, but be kind and gentle to all. Whenever you meet another, do not gather yourself up in your little coat, and conclude that you must be better than he; but be ready to draw near and shake hands with another little boy; and, if he is poorer than you, there is a special chance for you to do him a little kindness. Remember that it is the will of Jesus that we should be very kind to each other, and in His name, yea, and for His sake, bless all.
They chose new gods; then was war in the gates
1. The apostasy of the people: "They chose new gods." This I call the alarm; for ungodliness calls to war. If we fight against God, we provoke God to fight against us. Then —
2. A laying on of punishment. God meets their abomination with desolation; the hand of justice against the hand of unrighteousness: "Then was war in the gates." This I call the battle. Then —
3. A destitution of remedy: "Was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?" Sin had not only brought war, but taken away defence — sent them unarmed to fight. And this I call the forlorn hope.
I. THE ALARM: "They chose new gods." Their idolatry may be aggravated by three circumstances or degrees. They are all declining and downwards: there is evil, worse, and worst of all.
1. "They chose." Here is a frank choice, no compelling. They voluntarily took to themselves, and betook themselves to, other gods. There is evil, the first degree.
2. "Gods." What! a people trained up in the knowledge of one God: "Jehovah, I am; and there is none besides Me." The bees have but one king, flocks and herds but one leader, the sky but one sun, the world but one God.
3. "New gods." Will any nation change their gods? No; the Ekronites will keep their god, though it be Beelzebub; the Ammonites will keep their god, though it be Melchom; the Syrians will stick to their god, though it be Rimmon; the Philistines will not part with their god, though it be Dagon. And shall Israel change Jehovah, the living God? This is worst of all.
II. We come now to THE BATTLE: "Then was war in the gates." If Israel give God an alarm of wickedness, God will give them a battle of desolation. Idolatry is an extreme impiety; therefore against it the gate of heaven is barred (1 Corinthians 6:9). Let us view the punishment as it is described: "Then was war in the gates."
1. The nature of it: "War." War is that miserable desolation that finds a land before it like Eden, and leaves it behind it like Sodom and Gomorrah, a desolate and forsaken wilderness. Let it be sowed with the seed of man and beast, as a field with wheat, war will eat it up. In itself it is a miserable punishment.
2. The time: "Then." When was this war? In the time of idolatry. "They chose new gods; then." When we fight against God, we incense Him to fight against us. Yet if timely repentance step in, we escape His blows, though He hath not escaped ours. But if Israel's sins strike up alarm, Israel's God will give battle. If they choose new gods, the true God will punish. "Then was war." It is a fearful thing when God fights.
3. The place: "In the gates." This is an extreme progress of war, to come so near as the gates. If it had been in the land of their enemies, a preparation of war a great way off, the noise of war — yea, if it had come but to the coasts and invaded the borders, as the Philistines did often forage the skirts of Israel, yet it had been somewhat tolerable, for then they had but seen it only. "Thou hast shewed Thy people grievous things" (Psalm 60:3) — shewed, but not inflicted; shaken the rod, but not scourged us. But here war is come to their thresholds, yea, to the heart of the land, to defy them in the very gates. And now they more than hear or see it; they feel it. You now see the punishment. Happy are we that cannot judge the terrors of war but by report, that never saw our towns and cities burning, our houses rifled, our temples spoiled. We have been strangers to this misery in passion, let us not be so in compassion. Let us think we have seen these calamities with our neighbours' eyes, and felt them through their sides.
III. We now come to the FORLORN HOPE: "Was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?" Was there? There was not.This question is a plain negative. Here is the want of help; great misery, but no remedy; not a spear to offend, no, not a shield to defend. War, and war in the gates, and yet neither offensive nor defensive weapon! It takes away all, both present possession and future possibility; help and hope. You see now all the parts of the affliction: the alarm in sin, the battle in war, and the forlorn hope in the want of remedy. Two useful observations may hence be deduced —
1. That war at some times is just and necessary; indeed, just when it is necessary: as here. For shall it come to the gates, and shall we not meet it? Yea, shall we not meet it before it come near the gates? There is, then, a season when war is good and lawful. Now there are two cautions observable in the justness of wars —(1) That they be undertaken upon just and warrantable cause. That they be prosecuted with an honest mind. The cause must be just.(a) The peace of the people; for we must aim by war to make way for peace. We must not desire truce to this end, that we may gather force for an unjust war; but we desire a just war that we may settle a true peace.(b) The health and safety of our country: some must be endangered that all may not be destroyed.(c) The glory of the kingdom; and that is, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Wars for God are called God's battles. The destruction of their cities that revolt from God to idols, and the whole spoil, is for the Lord; it is the Lord's battle and the Lord's spoil (Deuteronomy 13:16).(2) The next caution, after a good ingression, is to be sure of a good prosecution. We say of the surgeon that he should have a lady's hand and a lion's heart; but the Christian soldier should have a lady's heart and a lion's hand. I mean, though he deal valiant blows, yet not destroy without compassion.
2. The other inference that may hence be deduced is this, that munition and arms should at all times be in readiness. Wise men in fair weather repair their houses against winter storms; the ant labours in harvest that she may feast at Christmas. Be long in preparing for war, that thou mayest overcome with more speed. A long preparation makes a short and quick victory. I have held you long in the battle; it is now high time to sound a retreat. But as I have spoken much of Israel's affliction, so give me leave to speak one word of the prophetess's affection, and of this only by way of exhortation: "My heart is set on the governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless ye the Lord." Here is the subject in which this affection resides and the object on which this affection reflects. The subject wherein it abides is the heart — a great zeal of love. Not only the affection of the heart, but the heart of affection: "My heart is set." The object on which it reflects is double, man and God; the excellent creature, and the most excellent Creator; the men of God, and the God of men. Upon men: "My heart is towards the governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people." Upon God: "Bless ye the Lord." Among men two sorts are objected to this love: superiors in the first place, inferiors in the latter. To the commanders primarily, but not only; for if they offered themselves willingly among the people, as we read it, then certainly the people also willingly offered themselves, as the other translations read it, "Those that were willing amongst the people."
1. To the governors of our Israel; that they offer for themselves willingly to these military designs, not on compulsion. His brows deserve no wreathed coronet that is enforced. Come with a willing mind. In every good work there must be cheerfulness in the affection and carefulness in the action. God loves a cheerful giver; so thou gainest no small thing by it, but even the love of God. "Whatsoever good thing thou doest," saith , "do it cheerfully and willingly, and thou doest it well." You that have the places of government, offer willingly your hands, your purses, yourselves, to this noble exercise. Your good example shall hearten others.
2. Now for you that are the materials of all this, let me say to you without flattery, Go forth with courage in the fear of God, and the Lord be with you. Preserve unity among yourselves, lest as in a town on fire, whilst all good hands are helping to quench it, thieves are most busy to steal booties; so whilst you contend, murmur, or repine one at the honour of another, that subtle thief, Satan, through the crack of your divisions, step in, and steal away your peace. Offer yourselves willingly; and being offered, step not back. Remember that it is base for a soldier to fly. And remember always the burden of this song, which everything that hath breath must sing, "Bless ye the Lord."
Delivered from the noise of archers in the places of drawing waterI. Our text tells us of WELLS CLEARED FROM THE FOE, and speaks of those who "are delivered from the noise of archers in the places of drawing water."
1. We thank God that we who are children of the Most High have wells to go to. The world is a wilderness, say what we will of it. "This is not our rest; it is polluted." Our great inexhaustible well is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is, indeed, the great "deep that lieth under," the "deep that coucheth beneath," the secret spring and source from which the crystal streams of life flow, through the wells of instrumentality and ordinance. "All my fresh springs are in Thee." Whenever we come to the Lord Jesus Christ, we drink and are refreshed. No thirst can abide where He is. Arising out of this greatest fountain, we have wells from which we draw the waters of comfort. First there is this book, this golden book, this book of God, the Word of God, with its thousands of promises, suitable to every case, applicable to all seasons. So it is also with the well of ordinances — baptism and the Lord's Supper. I must not forget the mercy-seat. What a well that is to the Christian when he can draw nigh unto God with true heart! It is a glorious thing to have such a well as that in the family, where, in prayer with the children, you can bring all the necessities of the household before God. Let us never give up that well. But, as for private prayer, this world were drear indeed if we could not pour out our sorrows into our Father's ear. Over and above this, every form of fellowship with Jesus, wrought in us by the Spirit, is a well of salvation. He is our dear companion, our ever present help in time of trouble.
2. Thus have I mentioned some of the wells. Now, concerning them all, it may be said, that they can never be stopped up by our foes. If outward ordinances be stopped, yet the great deep that lieth under will find a vent somewhere.
3. Moreover, as they cannot be stopped, so neither can they be taken away from us. They are ours by covenant engagements; they are guaranteed to us by the solemn league of the Eternal Three; and none of these covenant blessings shall be wrested from the heirs of life, who are heirs of all things in Christ Jesus.
4. Though these fountains cannot be stopped up or taken away, yet we can be molested in coming near to them. It seems that archers and wells frequently go together. It was the blessing of Joseph. — "Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall." But what next? "The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him." And so in the text: here are wells, but there is the noise of archers, which greatly disturbs those who go to draw water. I think you know what the noise of archers has been to you when you have tried to draw water. Years ago, with some of us, our sins were the archers that shot at us when we would fain come to Christ and drink of His salvation. When we bowed the knee in prayer a fiery arrow would dart into our hearts — "How dare you pray? God heareth not sinners!" When we read the Word of God another barbed shaft would be shot against us" — What hast thou to do with God's Word? There can be no promise there for such as thou art." I thank God, when our faith is in exercise, and our hope is dear, we can see our interest in Christ; we come to Him just as we came at first, and cast ourselves wholly upon him. Then we no longer fear the archers, but are rid of every fear. I should not wonder if another band of archers has sometimes attacked you when you have been at the wells, namely, your cares. Dear mother, the thought of the children at home has frequently disturbed your devotions in the assembly of the saints. Good friend, engaged in business, you do not always find it easy to put a hedge between Saturday and Sunday. The cares of the week will stray into the sacred enclosure of the day of rest, and thus the cruel archers worry you. It is well to be able to cast all our cares on Him who careth for us, and thus, by an act of faith in our heavenly Father, to be delivered from the noise of these archers.
II. THE SONGS BY THE WELL. As when the people came to the wells of old they were wont to talk with one another if all was peaceful, so when we come up to the ordinances of God's house, and enjoy fellowship with Jesus, we should not spend our time in idle chat, but we should rehearse the works of the Lord. Around all the wells, whichever they may be, of which we drink, let our conversation be concerning Christ and His dying love; concerning the Holy Spirit and His conquering power; concerning the providence of God and its goodness and its faithfulness; and then, as we wend our way to our different homes, let us go with music in our hearts, and music on our lips, to take music to our household, each man and woman magnifying the name of the Lord. Did you observe carefully what it was they sang of? — "The acts of the Lord." But there is an adjective appended, "The righteous acts of the Lord." Righteousness is that attribute which the carnal man fears, but he who sees the righteousness of God satisfied by the atonement of Christ is charmed even by the severe aspect of God dressed as a judge. Then, if you observe, it was "the righteous acts of the Lord toward His people." Yes, the very marrow of the gospel lies in special, discriminating, distinguishing grace. Note with care that the works which are to be rehearsed are done towards the inhabitants of the villages of Israel. Does not this suggest that we ought frequently to magnify the Lord's choice favour and tender indulgence towards the least and feeblest of His family?
III. The text says, "Then shall the people of the Lord GO DOWN TO THE GATES," by which several things may be intended.
1. When the people of God are altogether delivered from their sins, and their cares, and their troubles, by the great redemption of the Lord Jesus and the power of His Spirit, then they enjoy great liberty. The liberty of the man of the world is liberty to commit evil without restraint; the liberty of a child of God is to walk in holiness without hindrance. When the believer's ways are enlarged, he delights to run in the statutes of the Lord; obedience is freedom to the Lord's servant. It is a most glorious liberty which a man possesses when he is no longer in bondage to men, to smart under their threats or to fatten in their smiles. Glorious was that ancient father who threw back the threatenings of his enemies, and laughed them to scorn.
2. To go down to the gates, however, means something else, for citizens went down to the gates to exercise authority and judgment. He that is in Christ discerneth spirits, and separateth between the excellent and the reprobate. "The spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man." Instead of being judged and following others, they who love God become the leaders in right, and are as God's mouth rebuking iniquity.
3. To go down to the gates signified also to go forth to war. When a Christian man is saved, he is not content with his own safety, he longs to see others blessed. He can now go out of the gates to attack the foe who once held him in bondage, and therefore he girds on his weapon. When will the Church of God be inflamed by the sacred desire of carrying the war for Christ into the enemy's territory?
( C. H. Spurgeon.)I. THESE WORDS MAKE INTELLIGIBLE WHAT HAS BEEN CALLED THE SAVAGE ACT OF JAEL IN KILLING SISERA, AND THE FIERCE WORDS WITH WHICH DEBORAH PRAISES THE ACT. We see the place of drawing water — the well belonging to some little town or village. Thither in the still summer evening come the women and children. The men are absent at the wars. The women come to draw water for household and flock. As they wait their turn, the elder women talk together of their common cares and interests. The fair young maidens group together apart for the merry jest or confidential intercourse. Amongst them, moving in and out, are the laughing, bright-eyed children. What a pretty picture it makes — pretty, peaceful, glad! And then suddenly the whole is changed. The cruel, hated Canaanite is at hand. "The noise of archers" is heard. The mothers fly to guard the little ones, some of whom are laid low by the arrows. In the confusion the band sweeps down upon the group of fair maidens. The brightest and youngest and most beautiful are taken to be the slaves of the tyrant conquerors. Oh, who wonders now at Jael's cruelty and Deborah's vindictive triumph? It was not because the fair gardens were laid waste, the homes burned, the cattle and household treasures carried off, that these women so hated the oppressors; but because in the division of the spoil there would always fall "to every man a damsel or two," each the bright, sweet flower of some home, to be degraded, spoiled, trampled down, and brought to shame. We from our lofty standpoint, in the very midst of the full light of Christ's gospel — we who have learned to be patient, long-suffering, forgiving, tender-hearted — may be able to condemn them. They lived in a darker age; they had not our advantages. And yet I sometimes think that if we fully realised what that twenty years of mighty oppression must have been, how the hearts of the people will have burned with indignation at the cruelties and abominations they had to witness, we should be forced to acknowledge that Jael and Deborah would have been either more or less than women if they had acted otherwise. Deborah's song is a thanksgiving to God for deliverance. The one point she wishes to be ever remembered is that the victory was of God alone.
II. THERE IS EVER GOING ON AROUND US THE GREAT BATTLE OF GOOD AGAINST EVIL, IN WHICH EACH OF US IS CALLED TO TAKE OUR PART. He who does not hate the evil with earnest hatred, who rests in selfish indolence like Asher, who lets his searchings of heart and all his religious purpose end in talk like Reuben, who is indifferent and lukewarm like Meroz, he must needs fall under the scathing curse of those who come not to the help of the Lord against the mighty. We are all bound to range ourselves on the side of the good; to fight bravely for it; if need be, to suffer or to die for it. Again, as Sisera fell at last, so will all God's enemies fall for ever one day.
III. "The noise of archers in the places of drawing water" — that is to say, THE ATTACK OF THE ENEMY UPON THOSE WHO ONLY SEEK FOR PEACE, AS THEY GO ABOUT THE INNOCENT EMPLOYMENT OF DAILY LIFE. How this makes us think of one great mystery of temptation. How depressing and terrifying to many a poor soul! "I began the day with prayer not to be led into temptation; I resolved to be so careful. I was careful, and then all at once in my work it came. I was not thinking of it, till I found myself wounded with the poisoned arrows of temper, lust, selfishness, sloth, avarice, or pride." More mysterious still, even amid our religious duties, the enemy can make his deadly onslaught — the distraction, the vain thought, the cruel doubt, even the blasphemous suggestion, come whistling like the deadly arrow, striking us back and wounding us, and marking us, as we think, for death. Well, all this is at least no difficulty to us who believe. The arrows do not come by chance. An enemy has done this. Whilst the war lasts, he is to be hated, avoided with watchful care. But there is deliverance. Even now the victory has been won, and protection assured, and none need fear the arrows who are willing to dwell under the defence of the Most High. And there shall be a hereafter, when the noise of archers shall be no longer heard; when we shall have our noble work assigned to us, such work as God has for His saints to do; when we shall go about the work in perfect security; when we shall rehearse one to another the righteous acts of the Lord who has wrought mightily for the deliverance of His people.
(R. H. Parr, M. A.)
PeopleAbinoam, Amalek, Anath, Asher, Barak, Benjamin, Dan, Deborah, Heber, Issachar, Jael, Machir, Naphtali, Reuben, Seir, Shamgar, Sisera, Zebulun
PlacesCanaan, Edom, Gilead, Jordan River, Kishon River, Megiddo, Meroz, Seir, Sinai, Taanach
TopicsAlong, Asses, Blankets, Carpets, Cloths, Consider, Donkeys, Judgment, Meditate, Rich, Ride, Riders, Road, Road-sing, Robe, Saddle, Sit, Sitters, Sitting, Speak, Tawny, Travel, Walk, Walkers, Walking
Outline1. The Song of Deborah and Barak
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJudges 5:10
Why satest then among the sheepfolds, to hear the pipings for the flocks? At the watercourses of Reuben there were great searchings of heart.'--JUDGES v. 16 (R.V.). I. The fight. The warfare is ever repeated, though in new forms. In the highest form it is Christ versus the World, And that conflict must be fought out in our own souls first. Our religion should lead not only to accept and rely on what Christ does for us, but to do and dare for Christ. He has given Himself for us, and has thereby …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
'All Things are Yours'
Love Makes Suns
Songs of Deliverance
Whether the Orders Will Outlast the Day of Judgment?
Why is it that Our Lord Has Tarried Till Now? Why Has not the Redeemer Returned Long Ere This?
Hindrances to Revivals.
The Publication of the Gospel
Salvation Published from the Mountains
The Sovereignty of God in Operation
Appendix ix. List of Old Testament Passages Messianically Applied in Ancient Rabbinic Writings
The Hebrews and the Philistines --Damascus
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