16 05 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY SIX : Judges 4 v. 1 – 5 v. 31; John 4 v. 43 – 5 v. 15; Psalm 57 v. 1 – 6|

Deborah – once Ehud is no more, the Israelites again drift into doing ‘evil in the eyes of the Lord’. The Israelites fall into the hands of king Jabin of Canaan. The commanding officer, Sisera, has 900 iron chariots, and cruelly oppresses the Israelites, who therefore cry out to God for help.
Deborah, a prophetess, is raised up to lead Israel; as a judge Deborah sits beneath ‘Deborah’s Palm’ settling disputes when they are brought to her.
Deborah summons Barak from Naphtali’s Kedesh region, who is to lead the Israelites out to battle (10,000 Naphtali / Zebulun men go to fight); Deborah says God will hand Sisera and his army into Israelite hands. Barak requests Deborah to go with them
‘If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.’
Deborah agrees to go, but tells Barak that his honour will be lessened because ‘the Lord will hand Sisera over to a woman’.
So the army are summoned and gather together, with Deborah, and they easily conquer Sisera’s chariots and men, although Sisera escapes on foot and reaches the tent of Jael (the wife of Heber, who had been a descendant of Moses’ brother-in-law), thinking it was a friendly place to hide safely. Jael welcomes Sisera and hides him under a blanket in the tent; she gives him a drink of milk when he asks for some water to drink, and he asks her to stand guard at the entrance to the tent.
Instead, Jael picks up a tent-peg and hammer and while Sisera was asleep she killed him by driving the tent-peg through his head.
When Barak passes by, Jael invites him in to see Sisera – and there he finds him, dead.
King Jabin of Canaan is defeated and the Israelites grow stronger and stronger.

Deborah is both a prophetess and a judge – significant roles for a woman in the ancient world. Good example of God calling women to lead His people.

Deborah’s Song – cue for a song !!
Deborah and Barak perform a duet…it goes something like this :
‘Praise the Lord – leader princes; praise the Lord – willing servants
Kings and rulers, hear me sing, sing, sing; hear me make music to our Lord God.’
The song speaks of God marching through the lands, shaking the earth, pouring down rain, quaking the mountains.
Shamgar and Jael get a mention; but Deborah is the mother of the nation Israel, come to bring its freedom.
‘My heart is with Israel’s princes, with the willing volunteers among the people. Praise the Lord!’
Aha ! Even donkeys get a mention (yippee!!) – those who ride on white donkeys – listen to the singers recalling God’s faithful acts.
Deborah and Barak get further verses, with the people calling them to rise up to defeat the enemy.
All the tribes get a mention – gathering to go to war against the enemy, although some tribes appear not to have responded (Reuben, Gilead(Gad), Dan, Asher)
There are verses which describe the battle with Sisera’s men, and the Lord enabling His people to be victorious.
A special verse for Jael, ‘the most blessed of tent-dwelling women’, and the song tells of her crushing Sisera’s head….
‘At her feet he sank, he fell; there he lay.
At her feet he sank, he fell; where he sank, there he fell – dead.’
And finally, a verse about Sisera’s mum, looking out for him, wondering when he will return victorious from the battle (with lots of bright and colourful garments to be shared out as plunder).
Then the final verse:
‘May all Your enemies perish, O Lord!
But may they who love You be like the sun when it rises in its strength.’

and as with the other ‘judges’, the land experiences ‘peace’, this time for forty years (good number, that !)

Jesus Heals the Official’s Son – Jesus completes His time in Samaria, and reaches Galilee, when Jesus acknowledged it may be difficult for ‘a prophet to find honour in his own country’.
He is welcomed warmly in Galilee – already He had gained interest and support from those who’d seen Him in action in Jerusalem.
He revisits Cana, site of His first miracle (water to wine). A royal official had a son who was very sick in Capernaum – this official had heard Jesus was in Galilee and went specifically to see Him. Although the man wants Jesus to go with him back to Capernaum, Jesus dismisses Him, but gives Him the news he wants to hear, ‘Your son will live’.
Part of the miracle is that Jesus isn’t even present when the healing happens, and that when the official receives the news that his son has recovered, they can track the time of his healing / getting better to the precise time Jesus had said ‘your son will live’.
This is recorded as the second miracle.

Although Jesus is critical of those who won’t believe unless they see miraculous signs and wonders (and of course, John is keen in his gospel to show that there were signs and wonders), the official needs and practices great faith in believing Jesus’ word that his son will live, and going back to Capernaum without Jesus…the faith of a gentile…and all the official’s household become believers.

Healing at the Pool – a while later, and Jesus is back in Jerusalem, and is at a pool called Bethesda near the Sheep Gate. There was a belief that this pool had healing properties, and so many people with disabilities were attracted to it, and one who had suffered with his disability for thirty-eight years was there. Jesus seems to ask a silly question, ‘Do you want to get well?’ I guess this question is designed to get the man to look to another source of help, of hope (for the pool seems like another hopeless situation to the man…).
The man outlines his problem, that when the waters stir (sign that healing is available), no-one is around to help him into the water – he is dependent upon others for his hope of healing, whilst the Healer, Himself, stands before him.
Jesus commands him to ‘Get up, pick up your mat and walk’. The man is cured by Jesus’ healing, re-creative words.
But, uh oh, Jesus did this on the Sabbath, and the poor man gets caught carrying his mat on the Sabbath (one of the Jews’ silly rules) – the man points to Jesus who had commanded him to pick up his mat.

How typical of the attitude of the self-righteous, to completely miss the great miracle God has performed for someone, and instead pick on a minute detail which offends them….

When asked further about the man who had healed him, he says he doesn’t know who it was (Jesus had not introduced Himself, and had slipped away afterwards). Later, though, he gets to meet Jesus again, and this time he discovers who it was who healed him. Jesus warns him to turn from the sins in his life, and avoid even worse suffering.
Now the man is able to tell everyone he meets that it was Jesus who healed him.

This is the third recorded sign/miracle in John’s gospel.

PSALM – this psalm (57) also mentions a tune, ‘Do Not Destroy’, linked to the time David fled Saul and was hiding in a cave
Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy…
I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings…
God sends His love and faithfulness (when I cry out)…
I am in the midst of lions, ravenous beasts…
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, let Your glory be over all the earth…

the contrast is between a man hotly pursued whose life in is jeopardy, and the high and exalted God who sends help / mercy from heaven.




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