SYNOPSIS: The realm of spiritual warfare where the Christian resides is no theological Switzerland. Moral issues demand that we take a stand as Kingdom ambassadors. We cannot keep our distance from this conflict; we cannot stay neutral in it. We must engage, even when the odds seem overwhelming. To step forward in faith into the fray is to be on the right side of history—and time will prove it.
The Journey// Focus: Judges 5:15-18, 24-25
The princes of Issachar were with Deborah; yes, Issachar was with Barak, sent under his command into the valley. In the districts of Reuben there was much searching of heart. Why did you stay among the sheep pens to hear the whistling for the flocks? In the districts of Reuben there was much searching of heart. Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan. And Dan, why did he linger by the ships? Asher remained on the coast and stayed in his coves. The people of Zebulun risked their very lives; so did Naphtali on the terraced fields….Most blessed of women was Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, most blessed of tent-dwelling women.
When they write a song about you, it is either going to be a really good thing or a really bad thing. Whichever the case, it will be remembered for a long time. And if you think you are not going to get a song, think again—everybody gets a faith-song.
In Judges 5, the prophetess Deborah wrote a song on the occasion of the Israelites’ victory, led by General Barrak, over the Canaanites and their leader, General Sisera. The very memorable and brutal battle took place in Judges 4, and ended with the gruesome death of Sisera, which Deborah memorializes in this song—a song she not only composed, but sang for all to hear.
The tune, however, was not just a celebration; it was a bit of a diatribe, too. Not only did she celebrate the brave hearts of several of Israel’s tribe: Issachar, Ephraim, Benjamin and Zublun, along with a courageous lady named Jael, but she also castigates the indecision of other tribes: Rueben, Dan and Asher. These latter tribes apparently sat out the conflict because it didn’t really concern them directly.
Rueben was conflicted about joining the fight, apparently not so sure there would be a good outcome, given how badly Israel was outmanned and outgunned: “In Reuben there was much searching of heart.” (Judges 5:15-16). The others, the tribes of Ephraim, Benjamin and Zebulun, were either sitting in the safety of being far from the conflict or too busy with their own thing to jump into the fray.
Despite their lack of participation, Israel conquered the Canaanites. It was an amazing victory for Israel when General Barak put the larger, better equipped army led by General Sisera to flight, no thanks to these aforementioned peaceniks. When the time came for courage, for the reasons mentioned above, they stayed home, but in so doing, earned the ire of this steely prophetess, Deborah. She interpreted their reluctance as disloyalty to the nation, which was tantamount to a lack of faith, disobedience and disloyalty to God. Deborah called them out quite publically for seeing themselves as separate entities rather than as a part of the nation as a whole, a problem Moses had previously warned about, and a problem that actually became reality in future chapters throughout Judges.
So what does this story have to do with you? Simply this: there is always a conflict in the believer’s life—whether you want it or not; whether you want to acknowledge it or not. At times the conflict is in the unseen realm, while at other times it spills over into the real world in your personal, family, social, professional and church life. In the battle that rages, there is always a right and wrong side, a side that represents good and one that represents evil. And wherever conflict invades your world, there are always three positions you can take—one right, two wrong.
The two wrong sides are similar to what we see immortalized in Deborah’s song. One side, represented by Reuben, is to stay neutral in the fray when the choice is clear. The Rueben mentality is conflicted, not sure what to do, worried about the cost, wanting to play it safe, but not feeling so good about sitting it out. But safe it is not—it is wrong, for in the fight of faith, there is no spiritual Switzerland. Moral issues demand that we take a stand.
The second wrong side takes a definite stance to sit it out. They are too busy, too far removed (they don’t have a dog in this fight, or so they think), and to jump in would take too much effort with little reward. But in the fight of faith where the choice is clear, staying off the field will only get you into history books, and for the wrong reason. Spiritual infamy is not what you want when you were needed in the conquest.
There is only one right side—to step forward in faith and fight for right. When sin threatens, encroaches or seeks to enslave, even when it seems the odds are against you or against those who need your help, Deborah’s eternal call is to jump into the fray. Her words to Barak are the Word of the Lord to you: This is the day the Lord has given your enemy into your hands—for the Lord is marching ahead of you.” (Judges 4:14)
Where is the battle of faith calling you to take a stand today? If there is an identifiable conflict, jump into the fray. God is already there and you are not only guaranteed a win, but also a song to commemorate your conquest.