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Worship Message - Deborah and Wisdom

Deborah and Wisdom
This morning and next Sunday morning, the messages will concentrate on two people who were important in the Bible. People who God worked through.

Next Sunday, a blind man in the New Testament named Bartimaeus. Today, an Old Testament named Deborah.

For this message on Deborah, here is the verse that applies, which is part of verse 6 of Proverbs 2. Say it with me please. “The LORD gives wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.”

To set the stage, let’s think for a moment about the meanings of the words wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.

Knowledge  is  knowing  things. Things like the ABCs, multiplication facts, sports stats, or how plants grow.

For instance, we know what plants need to grow. They need air, water, sun, and nutrition from soil.

That is knowledge. Next is understanding, which in this case is being able to explain why those things are needed.

For instance, why is sun needed for a plant to grow? It has to do with the process of photosynthesis. Cells in the leaves of a plant trap energy from the sun. That energy is used to change water and carbon dioxide in the leaves into food for the plant.

Knowing something is probably the easiest of the three words highlighted in Proverbs 2:6. Say it again with me please. The LORD gives wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Knowledge is probably the easiest. Understanding is probably a bit more difficult. It calls for some reasoning skills.

But then there is wisdom, which can be the hardest of the three. Difficult because wisdom is using knowledge and understanding - adding them together - to help make good decisions.

Continuing to use the plant and a camping scenario, think of this. A girl at camp sees a beautiful plant and wants her parents to see how pretty it is, but they won’t be at camp until Wednesday night.

The first thought of the girl might be to pick the plant and put it in her sleeping bag, knowing that will keep anyone else from picking it before Wednesday evening. But remember knowledge. The girl knows plants need air, water, sun, and soil. Remember understanding. She understands that without what is needed, the plant will die. The wise thing for the girl to do is to combine her knowledge and her understanding and leave the plant where it is, taking her parents to it when they arrive on Wednesday.

One more time please. The LORD gives wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. All three are gifts from God. Gifts that apply not only at Camp Discovery, to the benefit of a plant, but to all aspects of life. Including in the life of Deborah, who is told about way back in the Old Testament Book of Judges.

Deborah was one of the judges of Israel. Judges who served following the death of Joshua.

Remember Moses is the one who led the people of God out of Egypt. Away from slavery in that country. It was Joshua who led the people of God into the land promised to them by God. Joshua is the one who was the leader as the people of God became established in the Promised Land.

Upon Joshua’s death, God established a system of judges to be leaders. Not judges as we think of them, sitting on a bench and deciding cases of law, but more along the lines of rulers of the people. Rulers with the main function of being military leaders, helping the people of God to be delivered from their enemies.

According to my New Compact Bible Dictionary, there were 13 judges altogether, most of them not very well known. The first was Othniel. The second was Ehud.
The fifth was Gideon. That name is pretty familiar. The last one - the one before the people of God demanded a king - was Samson.
But right before Gideon was Deborah, who is told about in chapter 4 of the Book of Judges.

According to verse 1 of Judges 4, following the death of Ehud, the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. The people had been pretty good while Ehud was the judge, but after his death, they turned away from following the LORD.

That angered God, who “sold the people to” - that is the way it is worded, which means God allowed the people to fall to the rule of - Jabin, the king of Canaan. A king whose army was led by Sisera.

The army of Canaan was very powerful. It boasted 900 chariots of iron.

Being made of iron, the chariots could not be easily destroyed. But there was also this. Each chariot had attached to each side of the axle a scythe - a cutting blade - that, when the chariot was moving, acted like a grinder against anyone within its range.

The chariots themselves were much stronger than what the people of God had. The scythes transformed the chariots into killing machines. With God’s permission, King Jabin controlled the people of God. With the help of the military led by General Sisera, Canaan oppressed the people of Israel. The control - the cruelty - lasted for twenty years.

Toward the end of that 20-year period, a new judge came to authority. The judge was Deborah, identified as a prophetess. The word “prophetess” indicates that even during the domination by Canaan, the LORD still gave His word to religious people. Including Deborah.

As a judge - as people came to her with their problems, which no doubt included great unhappiness because of the oppression afflicted by King Jabin and General Sisera - hearing the people, Deborah knew of the suffering of the people of God. She might have sensed a willingness of the people to return to God. So she decided to act to help deliver the people - and herself - from Canaanite oppression.

What Deborah did was this. She sent for Barak, a fellow person of God. A man who was in charge of some fighting men among the people of God. Deborah said to Barak, “The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you, go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from two of Israel’s tribes.”

Deborah added this from God. Once the men were gathered at Mount Tabor, God would draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin's army, to meet the army of God’s people. The meeting would happen by the river Kishon. Canaan’s army would have its chariots there. All the troops of Canaan would be there. But, God promised, He was going to give victory to Barak.

Barak’s response is interesting. The promise of God was that victory would be his, but he did not want to go alone. Barak said to Deborah, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.”

I wonder why Barak hesitated. Did he doubt God’s promise? Did he doubt Deborah’s reporting of God’s promise? Was she just talking wildly. Maybe Barak simply wanted to have someone with him. Someone with the authority of a judge. Maybe he respected Deborah so much he wanted her by his side.

Whatever the reason, Deborah had wisdom. She joined her knowledge that God’s people needed to be delivered with her understanding that God’s people could be delivered because they were willing to return to following God. Deborah joined her knowledge with her understanding to the point of having the wisdom to make the correct choice, which was to go with Barak so the battle would be fought and won. Deborah said she would go with Barak.

Which she did. She and Barak and the 10,000 fighting men God called for gathered together and marched to Mount Tabor.

When General Sisera was told about it, he called out all his chariots - all 900 chariots of iron - and all his men. That army approached the army led by Barak.

As the army of Canaan drew close, Deborah said to Barak, “Up.”

Remember that Barak had been reluctant to go to battle alone. Perhaps he was again reluctant. Which I guess could be expected when he looked at the chariots just a short distance away. The iron and the scythes must have been a very scary sight.

But again Deborah stepped in. “Up,” she said. “It is time to start the battle, for this is the day in which the LORD has given Sisera into your hand. Des not the LORD go out before you?”

Those words - that encouragement - persuaded Barak and his 10,000 men to start the fight, which turned out to be a complete and total rout. All the chariots - all the iron chariots - all those killing machines - were destroyed.

Historically it is reported that part of the problem for the chariots was a sudden storm that arose. A storm so severe it caused the river Kishon to flood, which mired the chariots. The wheels not being able to turn took away the advantage of the scythes.

What a rout it was. A rout that could only have been accomplished by God. Again, the people of God did not have the means to defeat such formidable weaponry, but all the chariots were destroyed.

All the men of Canaan’s army were killed, leaving only General Sisera, who fled away on foot.

Interestingly, Sisera did not survive for long.

He sought protection at the tent of a Kenite. The Kenite was not home at the time, but his wife was. Sisera expected help at that place, but the wife - a woman named Jael - had a greater respect for the people of God than for the Canaanites. She killed Sisera.

Following that, God subdued Jabin, the king of Canaan. Eventually Jabin was destroyed. The people of God had rest for 40 years.

*       *       *       *       *

Shall we say it one more time? The LORD gives wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Knowledge is knowing information. That is very important. Understanding is knowing why or how the information is fact. That, too, is important. But the greatest is wisdom, which is putting knowledge and understanding together so correct decisions can be made.

Let me share a scenario to get us thinking of how to apply today’s Bible memory verse into application.

It has to do with the camping theme. Here is the scenario. Most camps have a lake for swimming. Most camps have some rules about swimming. Rules like no swimming without a lifeguard, no pushing on the dock, wear a life jacket, wait for the person in front of you to surface before you jump off the dock, do not swim alone, and no swimming under the dock.

Rules are important, but after dinner one evening, one of your friends at camp says, “Let’s go swim in the lake now.” You know no lifeguard is on duty. You know you are not supposed to swim in the dark, and it’s about dark. The friend has been known before to enjoy staying out of sight under the dock.

When hearing your friend, you have the knowledge needed to make the wise decision. You understand why the rules are in place. So, will you be wise? Think about these two questions - what do you say to your friend and what do you do if your friend decides to sneak off and swim without you?

Let’s apply that spiritually. You know what the Bible says about Jesus being the only way to God and to Heaven. You understand from the Bible that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. You understand that all you have to do to reach God and be assured of Heaven is to accept Jesus - to accept His forgiveness.

Will you join together your knowledge and your understanding and make the wise choice of accepting Jesus?

And for those of us who have accepted Jesus, we know the Bible is God’s word. We understand that by reading and studying the Bible, we can grow closer to God.

Will we put that knowledge and that understanding together and make the wise choice of actually reading and studying? And worshiping? And sharing what we know so others can benefit as well?

Wisdom. May that be our goal.

Today’s closing song is three verses of the hymn God of Grace and God of Glory. The hymn that has us asking God for wisdom, along with the courage to act wisely. Let’s use the song as a reminder to be wise, whether swimming, picking plants, reading and studying the Bible, or, as the song has it, facing anything this world sends our way.

God of Grace and God of Glory, verses 1,  2, and 4.

God of grace and God of glory,
On Thy people pour Thy power;
Crown Thy ancient church’s story,
Bring her bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the facing of this hour,
For the facing of this hour.

Lo!, the hosts of evil round us
Scorn Thy Christ, assail His ways!
From the fears that long have bound us,
Free our hearts to faith and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the living of these days,
For the living of these days.

Save us from weak resignation
To the evils we deplore;
Let the search for Thy salvation
Be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Serving Thee whom we adore,
Serving Thee whom we adore.

One more time. The LORD gives wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.

Because of Deborah’s wise leadership - wisdom given to her by God - the people of God, who had been willing to return to Him, were freed from the oppression of the leaders and the army of Canaan. As mentioned, that freedom - that time of rest - lasted for 40 years.

You know what? Toward the end of those 40 years, the people of God once again turned away from God and did what was evil in His sight, which led to another time of oppression.

That, too, was ended with the help of a later judge, but the challenge is this. Let’s follow God. Let’s continue to follow Him. Let’s do what is right in God’s sight. Let’s continue to do what is right in His sight. Let’s do that under the authority of the greatest judge - the greatest leader of all - that being Jesus. Let’s be wise enough to make the correct decision to know Him, understand Him, accept Him, worship Him. Amen.

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