The Most Interesting Mom in the World - Judges 4-5 - Skip Heitzig
Happy Mother's Day, moms. We're glad you're with us. Glad to see you here at church. Would you turn in your Bibles, please, in the Old Testament to the Book of Judges, chapter 4? Judges chapter 4, easy to find-- after the first five books of Moses, Joshua, followed by Judges, Judges chapter 4.
We're here today obviously to worship God, but we're also here today to honor our mothers. And first of all, we are commanded to do so. It's one of God's top 10, honor your father and your mother. But also, in the words of Paul the Apostle, I believe it is our reasonable service to do so because our moms did so much for us, especially in our younger years with their guiding hand and their words of wisdom. In fact, we depended on our moms for absolutely everything at one time.
There was a 15-year-old boy who came home from school, found his mother lying in her bed, and got worried, and said, Mom, are you OK? She said, well, I'm feeling a little sick. And so the boy just stiffened up his back, and he said, don't worry about dinner, Mom. I'll be happy to carry you down to the stove.
Great guy, that guy. Now, I have fond memories of my mother. She's no longer with us, so that's my loss. But I have great memories of a gal who was very short woman, all of about 5 feet tall, slender, happy, always laughed, most always smiled, but she was tough. And she was able to raise and handle four rowdy boys with or without Dad in the room. I mean, she got that point across at a very young age. I won't tell you how she did it with me, but I learned to respect her very, very quickly.
Think of all the things that our moms taught us. Do you remember the saying, still? Do they bounce around in your heads from time to time? Your mom said that, and you think that. One man does. He said, my mother taught me to appreciate a job well done when she said, if you're going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning.
My mother taught me about religion when she said, you better pray that will come out of the carpet. My mother taught me about time travel. If you don't straighten up, I'm going to knock you into the middle of next week.
My mother taught me logic. Because I said so. That's why. My mother taught me foresight. Make sure you wear clean underwear in case you get in an accident.
My mother taught me about stamina. You'll sit there until all that spinach is gone. My mother taught me the circle of life. I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.
My mother taught me about justice. One day, you'll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you.
On Mother's Day, we can't say enough good things about our moms, but there's one mother in particular. She is called that, at least, in our text, named Deborah. Deborah, one of the judges found in the Old Testament Book of Judges. I'm calling her the most interesting mom in the world for a couple of reasons.
Number one, she is the only woman in the Bible to become a national leader in the nation of Israel. When I was reading about Deborah this week, the first person that came to my mind was somebody from the modern era, also a prime minister of Israel by the name of Golda Meir. Some of you won't remember her. Some of you do. She became prime minister of Israel in 1969.
She was the fourth and the only female prime minister of that nation, the modern nation of Israel. She was born in Russia, raised in America, immigrated to Israel. She was a mother, a wife, but she became a very strong leader for a number of years until 1974 in that nation.
So Deborah, the most interesting mom in the world because she is that leader, but also because of her profile that we're going to look a little more carefully at in the verses of Judges chapter 4. Now, the Book of Judges, if you know your Bibles, is one of the saddest books in the Bible. It is all about the recurrent failure of the nation who turns away from God to do their own thing.
The phrase that sums it up is this phrase from the book. "And every man did what was right in his own eyes." It was pure, individual moral relativism. Forget any national standard. Forget any divine standard. We do what we want to when we do it. Every man did what was right in his own eyes. It's a very sad book because they keep blowing it over and over again.
But it's one of the most hopeful books because out of that darkness emerged heroes called judges and, in this case, a heroine named Deborah. So we're going to look at traits of her. I'm going to draw you to Judges chapter 4 verse 1, where it says "When Ehud was dead"-- that was one of the previous judges-- "the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin, the King of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheeth Hagoyim.
And the children of Israel cried out to the Lord, for Jabin had 900 chariots of iron. For 20 years, he harshly oppressed the children of Israel. Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time. And she would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of Ephraim. And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment."
Notice in verse 4, when it introduces this gal, she is first called a prophetess. Now, a prophetess is the feminine of a prophet. A prophetess, her being one puts her in a club that is very unique because very few women in the whole Bible, Old and New Testament, were ever called prophetesses. Miriam was one of them, the sister of Moses, in Exodus chapter 16. Huldah was called a prophetess. She was in Jerusalem under King Josiah in the Book of 2 Kings, chapter 22.
Interestingly, Isaiah's wife was a prophetess. So you've got a prophet married to a prophetess. We don't know her name, but we know her role. Anna, in the New Testament, the gal who was old and she was in the temple and she was praying and waiting for the messiah when Jesus showed up in the temple, was called, in Luke 2, a prophetess. Phillip's four daughters, Acts 21, they're called the four daughters who prophesied.
Other than that, that's it. Those are the women in the Bible who were called prophetesses. Now, the role of a prophet was basically to hear from God, and then to speak for God. So they were like ears and then mouths. They were like Old Testament radios. They received, and then they transmitted the message from God.
In the Old Testament, there were basically two roles in the spiritual community, the role of a priest and the role of a prophet. The priest's job was to represent the people before God. The role of the prophet was to represent God to the people. So the priest would make sacrifices, make prayers on behalf of the people to God. A prophet was the voice of God, spoke for God. God revealed his will in the Old Testament through the throats of prophets or, in this case, a prophetess.
In fact, the role is so vital to God working that the Book of Hebrews begins by saying this. God who, at various times and in various ways, spoke to our fathers by the prophets-- that's how God spoke. God spoke through prophets. They were so vital that Amos, the prophet, in chapter 3 verse 7 of his prophecies, said, "Surely, the Lord God does nothing unless he reveals his secrets to his servants, the prophets." By the way, 21 times, that's how God refers to them-- my servants, the prophets.
So all of that to say we're dealing with a gal who's a spiritual woman. She hears from God, and she speaks for God. I remember a hymn, growing up, some of you may recall, called "Faith of our Fathers," "Faith of our Fathers, Living Still." But in reading this, I want to ask, what about the faith of our mothers? They deserve some credit. Certainly, this one does.
There were a group of scholars who were arguing about which translation of the Bible is the best. By the way, people still argue that. And this group of scholars were together, and the old guy in the group said, the King Bible, there's something majestic about the old King James. If it's good enough for Paul, it's good enough for me.
And a younger scholar said, well, I like the New Living Translation better. It's fresh. It's contemporary. Language is dynamic. It changes. And I think this captures the spirit of the original text.
A third guy said, well, I like the ESV. The English Standard Version I think is a good combination between the old and the new. It strikes the balance. A fourth guy said, no, the NASB, the New American Standard, that's so accurate, and it captures the word for word intent of the Greek language.
Well, there was a fifth guy kind of in the background who said, I like my mother's translation the best. And they laughed and said, your mother's translation? He said, yes, my mother's translation. She translated it. She translated every page of the Bible into her life, and it has been the most convincing translation I've ever seen. She lived it out.
If you have a mom who loved Jesus or loves Jesus, thank God for her, and then thank her in the presence of God. Our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, said, "I remember my mother's prayers, and they have always followed me. They've clung to me all my life." And in one of the classic sayings of Abraham Lincoln, he said, "No one is poor who has a godly mother." "No one is poor who has a godly mother."
Well, ladies, you can't pass on what you don't have. So to pass that on to your children, to be a spokesman to your children, to have them hear the voice of God, you yourself have to walk with Him. So that's first in Deborah's case. She was a prophetess.
Notice also in verse 4 that she was a wife. The description is now "Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth." Now, I know that's a weird name for a dude, right? Some of you are thinking, Lapidoth? The Hebrew pronunciation is "La-pi-dot," not that that helps any. But that was his name.
But here's the point. Before Deborah ever became a leader in Israel, she was married to a man in Israel. The Bible never says that Lapidoth was the husband of Deborah, but rather that Deborah was the wife of Lapidoth. Is that significant? It sure is. Because by the time this was written, everybody had heard of Deborah. She was a household name. The fame that she had certainly eclipsed any notoriety her husband may have had. And yet, she is honoring God by honoring the covenant that she has with her husband.
And wives are told to honor their husbands. Ephesians 5:33 counsels both husband and wife. Paul says to the husband that he is to love his own wife as himself. Second part of the verse, and let the wife see that she respects her husband or honors her husband. He goes on, "as the church submits to Christ, so wives must submit to their husbands in everything." Now, I know those are fighting words these days. .
But when I was first married to Lenya, our bibles were pretty frayed at the time. We decided, let's start life out with matching bibles-- same leather. They're new. So I got her one. I got me one. I put my name on it. Those are the days they had, in Bible bookstores, those little machines that put gold at the bottom and your name on it. I don't even know if they still have those. You can't do that to an iPad, so I don't know.
But I put my name, Skip Heitzig, on the bottom of the Bible. She brought her Bible in to get engraved as well. And I looked at it, and it said, Mrs. Skip. I said, why did you do that? She goes, because I'm identifying with you now. And she said, it is my joy to do so. So that's Mrs. Skip.
She was a wife. Now, you may have a career, women. We applaud you for that. We encourage you in that. You may be very competent at that career. We thank God for that, and we encourage you in that. However, I just think it's important to say that you cannot let whatever that is as an occupation ever usurp the priority of the home.
And contrary to popular opinion, the most important quality of a godly mom is not her relationship to her children, but rather, her relationship to her husband. And here's why. Because those children are watching. That's why. Whatever you model to your kids in your marriage is going to stay with them for life. Whatever attitudes you bring into the marriage, whatever words you say to your husband, whatever commitment you show, all of those are seeds that are planted in the hearts of your children that are going to blossom and bring forth some kind of fruit.
One teenager wrote this. "I wish my parents would have known that unless marriage partners truly love one another, there is little that they can teach their own children about the love of God or Christian living." It makes sense, insightful teenager. It sounds like that teen had parents who wanted to tell them about God, but they didn't want to show any godly love to one another in the home.
I remember when my son was quite young, he loved to see us love each other. He loved when we'd kiss or hold hands, and he'd get that funny smirk and laugh. And we'd be in public, and he'd say, come on, Dad. Kiss her. He'd nudge me. Kiss her. Kiss her. I said, you want me to do it. I got no problem with that. And I'd do it, and then he'd get all embarrassed, like no, no, no.
But he loved to see the love because that brought him some stability. It gave him underpinnings, security that mom and dad love each other. It's the greatest two gifts you can give to your children, to love your spouse and to love God. Give that to them.
So she was a prophet as she was a wife. The description continues in verse 4. She was a leader as well. Now, Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of Ephraim, and the children of Israel came to her for judgment.
She's a judge. She is called a judge. This is the Book of Judges. There are 12 judges in the book. She's one of them, the only female judge, a prophetess and a judge. Now, what does that mean? What is the role of a judge during this period of Israel's history?
Well, first of all, let me tell you what it doesn't mean. It doesn't mean she sat in the corner, being very judgmental and saying, I can't believe she's wearing that dress, or I can't believe he said that. It's not that kind of a person. She's not a hyper-judgemental person. It doesn't mean that.
Also, it doesn't refer strictly to a judge in a legal sense, like a judge would adjudicate a case in a courtroom. The word "judge" or "judging" is the Hebrew word "shaphat." And though it can mean to render sentence in a case-- and by the way, in ancient times, you know where they held court? In the gates of the city out in public. As people would come and go into the city, there were little enclosures. So the judges would sit around the gates of the city and help people out as they would come and go.
It can mean that she had that kind of a role. It seems to imply that, as she's sitting under the palm tree up in the mountains north of Jerusalem, that people came to her to hear what she had to say. But the term judge, shaphat, means to govern, to rule, to lead, to avenge, to contend, to defend, and to deliver. And all of those descriptions are found in the Book of Judges by those who were called judges.
Now, go back two chapters. Go back to chapter 2 just for a moment. I want you to see for yourself what it says about their role so you'll get a better understanding of what I just told you. Judges chapter 2 verse 16-- "Nevertheless, the Lord raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them." So they're sort of like liberators, defenders, freedom fighters.
"Yet, they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked in obeying the commandments of the Lord. They did not do so. And when the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge, for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them.
And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn ways."
So we were introduced to what is known as the sin cycle. During this period of the judges, I said everybody's doing whatever they want to do, what's right in their own eyes. And so they go through this cycle that they repeat over and over and over again. It comes in four distinct stages.
Stage number one, rebellion-- this is where they say, I don't want anything to do with God or his laws. I want to live my life my way. So they turned from God, turned from the covenant God made with them, rebellion, followed by stage number two, retribution. They're saying, we want to do our own thing, and we like those other countries and those other gods. So God says, fine, you like them that much they'll be your masters. You'll be their slaves.
So he let others dominate them, which brings us to the third stage, repentance. This where they go God, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I mean it. Please, bring me back, which brought them to the fourth stage, restoration. God listened to their prayer, brought them back. And that cycle gets repeated over and over and over again.
So these judges were these warrior, deliverer, defender, adjudicators, who helped do that. By the way, Deborah is the only other person in all of the Bible given both titles as judge and prophet. Samuel and Deborah are the two people in the Bible given the title of judge and prophet.
Now, notice that her courtroom was not at the gate of the city but under a palm tree, a woman after my own heart. I've always thought that the palm tree is God's favorite tree. You say, really? Yeah, because it says in Psalm 92, "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree." And God chose a palm tree to show as an analogy of those who lived righteously because a palm tree-- I've done a study, and I won't bore you with it.
So she's under a palm tree, but not just any palm tree. She's under her-- there's a palm tree named after her. Did you notice that? She is under the palm tree of Deborah. So don't go by that palm tree. That's Debbie's palm tree. Leave that one alone. That's hers.
So her profile is this. She's a prophetess. She's a wife. She's a leader of a nation. Just those qualities alone show that she had the kind of influence that people would look up to. Her own children, if she had them, would look up to them. The children of the children of Israel would see her as a role model.
Winston Churchill, one of the prime ministers of England, when he was on the job, one of the editors of a local London newspaper wanted to place in the newspaper the teachers in Churchill's life that influenced him, the greatest teachers in his life. So the editor comprised a list, gave it to Churchill to approve. Churchill looked it over and threw the paper back at the editor and said, you left out the most important teacher of my life, my mother. And he wanted people to know, my mother influenced me. She was a role model that got me on the right road. So Deborah, all of these things.
Fourth, she was a mother. Now, it does not say that in our text, but I want you to go ahead to chapter 5 for just a moment. Just flip the page or look down the page to the next chapter. Now, I've got to fill this in for you. Between what we just read in chapter 4 and what we're about to read in chapter 5, a battle happens. I'll get back to that.
A battle happens. Israel wins. Deborah writes a song or a poem, and then she sings it. I'm not going to try to sing it for you. But I'm just going to take you to two stanzas in it. Go down to verse 6 of chapter 5. This is Deborah speaking. She says, "In the days of Shamgar"-- one of the previous judges-- "the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were deserted. The travelers walked along the byways." Towns were deserted because of the oppression.
Verse 7, "Village life ceased. It ceased in Israel until I, Deborah, arose, arose a mother in Israel." So by her own admission, she is a mother. Now, I got to be fair. We are unsure whether this term is to be taken literally or figuratively. Some people think it's a figurative sense, that she was the matriarch of the nation. She didn't have her own real children, but she was a feminine leader, thus a mother to the nation of Israel.
And they say that because her kids aren't mentioned. Her husband is, but her kids aren't mentioned. I would rebut that by saying her kids aren't mentioned because it's not germane to this particular story. So she may or may not have been a literal mother. But I read this as she's saying, of all the people, God, that you could choose to use, you picked me, just an ordinary mom in Israel.
Whichever she was, whether this is figurative or literal, she is what I call the most interesting mom in the world, just by her profile so far. If you have children, I hope and I pray that that role of a mother to your children is taken seriously, especially at the younger ages. One British psychiatrist named John Bowlby said, the first five years of a child's life are the most crucial because they're the most impressionable. Says Dr. Bowlby, "The young child's hunger for his mother's love and presence is as great as his hunger for food itself. Her absence inevitably generates a powerful sense of loss and anger."
The Jews had a proverb to stress the importance of mothers in their culture. They said, God couldn't be everywhere, so he created mothers. Now, they're not denying the omnipresence of God as much as saying, we believe that God has a unique place in our culture in the role of a mother, which can filter the presence of God into their child. It's a good saying.
But the Scots have a better saying. They said, (IMITATING SCOTTISH ACCENT) an ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy.
I like that. You can preach, and you can teach them in Sunday school. But what a mom can do is inestimably more. So she is a prophetess, a wife. She is a leader. She was a mother. And finally, she was a warrior. Now, back to chapter 4, we left off at verse 5. She was judging Israel.
But look at this. It's fascinating. I love this. In Judges chapter 4 verse 6, "Then she sent and called for Barak the son of Abinoam from Kadesh in Naphtali, and said to him, 'Has not the Lord God of Israel commanded, "Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor and take with you 10,000 men of the sons of Naphtali and the sons of Zebulun?"'" So you've just gt a picture. She's sitting under Debbie's palm tree. People are coming to her.
And maybe there's like a lull in the traffic, and she thinks, hey, wait a minute. God gave a command. I know it, and the commander of my army knows it, but he's not doing anything about it. So she gets his attention that, hey, didn't God say where to go fight this guy?
Verse 7, "'"And against you, I will deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army, with his chariots, his multitude at the River Kishon. And I will deliver him into your hand?"'" So God said this. He even told you the battle plan and who's going to be involved.
Now watch this. "And Barak--" now, he's a general. This military guy says to her, (HIGH-PITCHED VOICE) "If you go with me, then I will go." Wimp. "But if you will not go with me, I will not go." Double wimp.
And "so she said, I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, there will be no glory for you in the journey that you are taking, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman." And to a military guy, that's a punch in the gut. I'll go, but ah, you're not going to get the glory for this. They're all going to say God gave victory to a woman.
And so "Deborah arose and went with to Barak to Kadesh." Terror had reigned for 20 years in Israel. On their borders and within their borders, terrorism reigned. Deborah knew it. God spoke about it. She reminds him of it. Go out and fight. And he goes, (HIGH-PITCHED VOICE) I will if you come. She goes, I'll go.
Deborah is no retiring female wimp. She bravely and courageously is committed to God's glory. I told you at the beginning of this message that she reminded me of Golda Meir.
Golda Meir, the fourth prime minister of the modern nation of Israel, the only female, she said, I never wanted this. This was not an aspiration for me. I never sought this office. She said, "I reluctantly accepted the position that my party thrust upon me." And I think Deborah reluctantly took the position thrust upon her by very weak leadership in the military at that time. And she said, OK, I'll get the job done.
Someone once said, "No nation is greater than its mothers, for they are the makers of men." In the very least, this mother in Israel named Deborah made a man out of Barak by going to battle with him. And others have influenced children-- Hannah, the mother of Samuel, great mother to channel spirituality and leadership into her son. Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, is another.
Eunice, the mother of Timothy; Lois, the mother of Eunice, the mother of Timothy; Jochebed, the mother of Moses; Mary, the mother of Jesus-- we could go on. The Bible tells the tale of moms who were leaders and influenced their children greatly. And that's why we honor them.
Let me close with this. It touched me as I read it. I hope it does to you as well. "The young mother set her foot on the path of life. 'Is the way long,' she asked. And her guide said, 'yes, and the way is hard. And you will be old before you reach the end of it. But the end will be better than the beginning.'
But the young mother was happy, and she would not believe that anything could be better than these years. So she played with her children, gathered flowers for them along the way, and bathed them with the clear streams. And the sun shone on them, and life was good. And the mother cried, 'Nothing will ever be lovelier than this.'
And then night came, and the storm, and the path was dark. And the children shook with fear and cold. And the mother drew them close and covered them with her mantle. And the children said, 'oh, Mother, we're not afraid, for you are near, and no harm can come.' And the mother said, 'this is better than the brightest of day, for I have taught my children courage.'
And the morning came, and there was a hill ahead. And the children climbed and grew weary. And the mother was weary, but all the times she said to her children, 'a little patience, and we'll be there.' And so the children climbed.
And when they reached the top, they said, 'we could not have done it without you, Mother.' And the mother, when she laid down that night, looked up at the stars and said, 'this is a better day than the last, for my children have learned strength in the face of hardness. Yesterday, I gave them courage. Today I have given them strength.'
And the next day came strange clouds, which darkened the earth, clouds of war and hate and evil. And the children groped and stumbled. And mother said, 'look up. Lift your eyes to the light.' And the children looked and saw above the clouds an everlasting glory, and it guided them and brought them beyond the darkness.
And that night, mother talked to Jesus and said, 'this is the best day of all, for I have shown my children God.' And the days went on, and the weeks, and the months, and the years. And the mother grew old. And she was little and bent, but the children were tall and strong. And they walked with faith and courage. And when the way was rough, they lifted her, for she was as light as a feather.
And at last, they came to a hill. And beyond the hill, they could see a shining road, and golden gates flung wide. And the mother said, 'I have reached the end of my journey, and now I know that the end is better than the beginning, for my children can walk alone for they walk with God.'
And the children said, 'you will always walk with us, Mother, even when you have gone through the gates to the Savior.' And they stood, and they watched her as she went on alone, and the gates closed behind her. And they said, 'we cannot see her, but she is still with us, for a mother like ours is more than a memory. She is a living presence.'"
The Book of Proverbs closes with verses about mothers. In particular, it's a wife who was a virtuous woman, called so by her husband. But it closes off that chapter and that book by saying, her children will rise up, and they will call her blessed.
And this is the day that we do that. We honor mothers as a church. We want you to feel special and honored. That's why we did a special message on it. That's why we do those things outside before and afterwards, because we thank God for your influence and your steady hand in our lives.
Father, we bring that as a prayer before you, and we do bless them in your name. We thank you for these gals. I'm even thinking of women that are among us who have faced infertility and the pain of an unfulfilled longing.
But Lord, I pray that you will not only strengthen them, but you would bring fulfillment in their lives through their influence, through their walk, through their example, through their love, that you wired them to not only have but to share. In Jesus' name, amen.
We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. How will you put the truths that you learned into action in your life? Let us know. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And just a reminder, you can support this ministry with a financial gift at calvarynm.church/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.