This Week’s Reading: Joshua 22 – Judges 7
Jael’s Peg. Ever wonder why this blog is thus named? If you know the story, perhaps you are wondering why anyone would name a blog after such a violent incident, of a woman who took a tent peg and drove it through a man’s head? Yeek!
Perhaps you need, as Paul Harvey use to say, to hear the “rest of the story”
Israel, as Joshua had forecast, had turned away from full hearted love of God and pursued intermarriage with the Canaanites, bringing all kinds of false worship, compromise and pain into their land:
Thus the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons; and they served their gods. So the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God, and served the Baals and Asherahs. Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel.(Judges 3:5-7, NKJV)
In this context of judgement and broken promises, a grim season of oppression for Israel unfolds. Jabin, “king of the Canaanites” rules over the Israelites by one man’s tyranny, Sisera, and his nine hundred iron chariots. At any time, and often, Sisera’s chariots would roar into town, rape the women, burn the buildings, steal the harvest just because they could. The Bible states that Sisera took it upon himself to mightily oppress the people of Israel, and those words together give the sense of being crushed with all power, major afflicted, desperately forced into submission and overpowered.1
Think Ghadafi, Hussein, Pol Pot. Sisera would have fit right in.
Like a rabid dog, King Jabin let his weapon Sisera loose on the Israelites and horrible oppression lasted twenty long years. Judges 5 reveals life had almost ceased in the villages of Israel because of Sisera’s tyranny. Israel was a ghost town, flabby, expired and lifeless, since everyone was hiding, trying desperately to stay alive under Jabin’s intense oppression and pain. The might and force of the Canaanite army had devoured the life force of the people, and crushed, Israel hid.
Then, one great day, Deborah, sole judge over Israel, heard from the Lord and called a man named Barak, “blessing”, to stand up and head to war.Barak was less than enthusiastic about heading to battle unarmed, under manned and facing the giant who had won every battle in the past two decades, despite the news that God had given Deborah the battle plan. The rest of Israel stayed home. Only Ephraim and Naptali were willing to fight. Barak told Deborah:”If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!”(4:8).
Deborah knew her God. Undeterred, she pushed Barak to obey, agreeing to join the battle, but then she nailed this man with the unthinkable: “nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.”(4:9).
“A woman take on the thug of the century?”, Barak may have thought, “Impossible!”
The battle between Sisera and Barak’s army was awesome. God triggered the river Kishon to flash flood just as Sisera’s chariots crossed over, causing mass confusion and great advantage for those ten thousand brave men who tore down the slopes of Mount Tabor, killing everything that moved. In the war song of Judges 5, Deborah and Barak joyfully sang of the victory:
Zebulun is a people who jeopardized their lives to the point of death, Naphtali also, on the heights of the battlefield. “The kings came and fought, Then the kings of Canaan fought In Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo; They took no spoils of silver. They fought from the heavens; The stars from their courses fought against Sisera. The torrent of Kishon swept them away, That ancient torrent, the torrent of Kishon. O my soul, march on in strength (5:18-21).
The “stars from their courses fought” in Hebrew suggests that the blazing princes (stars) from the highway/staircase/portal (courses) fought (battled) against Sisera. To Deborah’s delight, heaven’s army fought for Israel, hence the huge victory.
When Sisera saw the massacre of his troops, he took off on foot, sprinting hard away in self-preservation. Jael enters the scene when she witnesses mighty Sisera in full flight, running for his life, not a chariot in sight. Jael, wife of Heber, from the Bedouin Kenite tribe, was a quick thinker. Since her husband had a peace agreement with Jabin, she approached Sisera as a “friendly” and offered him a place to hide.
Sisera was exhausted. Carefully Jael brought him milk and curds and covered him with a rug. Once Sisera was asleep, Jael did the most unthinkable and courageous thing. She took a tent peg and drove the peg right through Sisera’s head, pinning him to the tent floor. Immediately, Israel’s No. 1 Most Wanted was dead.
There was no question about her loyalties, as Jael then waited for Barak to arrive, certain the army of Israel would have pursued this despot. Pulling back the tent folds, Jael showed Barak his former opponent, yep, slain at the hands of a woman.
When you read the commentaries about this passage, you can feel the tension, as biblical scholars rush to praise Jael’s courage and still rebuke her treachery to offer hospitality and then slay a man. However, the biblical account is solid in the appraisal of the situation, as Deborah and Barak both declared, “Most blessed among women is Jael, The wife of Heber the Kenite; Blessed is she among women in tents.”(5:25). This woman, in the right place and at the right time, used the only tool she had to slay a giant oppressor of Israel and the Scriptures call Jael “most blessed of all women”.
Giant Slayers come in all sizes and packages. Whether it’s old Moses taking on 13 foot tall Og, Joshua clearing out the Anak, or Jael nailing Mr. Nasty to the ground, giant slaying abounds in the bible and so do stories of champions.
In 2010, when the Lord commanded me to build a ministry and name it Jael’s Peg, I protested. “People are going to think I am a wierdo to call a ministry that name, Lord. It’s a pretty violent story, you know.”
God never budged so I launched Jael’s Peg Ministry and then this blog. Strategic truth hammered one peg at a time has become a reality for me since then, as God has catapulted me into many nations and across the paths of Jael’s everywhere.
God has the right time and right sequence of events to slay every giant in our life and in others’ lives. We are made to take on every enemy that oppresses the vulnerable and win. I am convinced if we just obey God step by step, we will see huge shifts in circumstances as we trust His lead. I have seen the most unique people take on impossible odds and win because they had the faith to trust and obey their God. I have watched women rise up and take on whole systems of injustice, from sex trafficking to abortion to addictions and incarcerations, and win tremendous victories, all in the power of God and by the step by step leading of the Holy Spirit. In Ghana, England, Mexico, India, Canada and across the globe, I know Jaels, women and men, who just what is needed with what they have, by the grace and power of God and are changing the world.
Jael’s Peg champions men and women who are willing to do the hard things through Christ and keep running hard for the greater, larger kingdom purpose, no matter what the cost. Truth is the peg, not violence, not strife, but the Truth of the Word, which fastens us firm and secures God reality into our present circumstance. Like the unassuming tent wife, God can use our humble lives for great and holy purpose, with powerful results, sometimes impacting whole nations, like Israel if we will boldly handle His truth and His authority at His command.
Most blessed of all women was Jael, who arose up against the enemy and prevailed.
Faith and courage line up with powerful results when God speaks and we obey.
Suddenly a woman is a hero. Suddenly two small tribes become the salvation of a nation. Suddenly Israel is free from slavery.
May we all be as brave and faithful as that obscure woman in Judges 4.
Let’s Pray: Lord Jesus, keep us far from foolish impulse, vain imagination or proud choices, and secure us, fasten us to the principle of Your life-giving Word, that your Truth may become mighty weapons in our hands. Holy Spirit, lead us on into surprise encounters, divine appointments, strategic circumstances, that Your Kingdom may come and Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Father God, we are your kids, and also your kings and priests, called to live dangerous with Your power weapons of truth and love. We confess our utter need for your wisdom, guidance and direction. Make us dangerous, Lord, and keep us watching for the next opportunity to slay the giants of oppression and injustice, by the power of Your Spirit for the sake of Your Glory. Amen
1. The story of Jael is not a promotion for murder, since the Bible is clear with the Ten Commandments that we shall not kill. Why was the slaying of Sisera lauded as so awesome when Jael clearly killed Sisera?
2. We are surrounded by injustice in this world. Check out the International Justice Mission, just one example of Christians in action, bringing justice to those who can’t. What does God say to you about the injustices you see in your life? Are you prepared to go to battle?
3. Twenty years of losing weighs down on any person. Why do you think Barak refused to go to battle without Deborah? Do you have a Deborah in your life? Do you need them to go with you in battle? Where does obedience to God and the need for community match up or flail about in this story? How about in your life?
4. Deborah prophesied that Barak would miss the glory story in the battlefield because a woman would slay Sisera. Is this story about gender or victory or obedience or all of the above?
5. As a woman, how do you feel about hand to hand combat? As a man, how do you feel about the same? Do you feel empowered or defeated by this story? Are you willing to ask God to reveal His perfect love to you, since it casts out all fear? How does fighting fear ready us for battle?
Next week’s Reading: Judges 8-17
1 Strong’s Concordance, “mightily #H2393 oppressed #H3905 (H853)”