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“But Jael the wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand. Then she went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple until it went down into the ground while he was lying fast asleep from weariness. So he died.” Judges 4: 21

Read today’s Daily Lectionary Old Testament reading is the narrative of Deborah, Barak and Sisera:  Judges 4.

Deborah, a prophetess, and a Gentile woman Jael were decisive in beating a foreign power with “900 chariots of iron”, an overwhelming force.  They helped win the victory for idolatrous and once again, repentant Israel.   The Lord promised the Israelite Barak the victory. It took Deborah to coax him into battle with the promise that a woman would carry out the victory.  Barak was like another general, the union one, George Meade, who after winning the battle of Gettysburg should have pursued the Lee and his army and utterly stopped them, per Lincoln’s desire, but Meade did not.   Barak, whose name means “lightening” was anything but quick and decisive, like Meade.  In fact, Barak wanted Deborah to go with him.  Deborah had faith in the Lord at His Word…Barak’s faith seemed to be weak. A woman’s act of winning the battle meant only one thing in that culture:  shame. God’s Word is the strength and honor of both men and women. The glory of Israel was not the strength of their arms but the arm of their strength was the Word of God. 

 Jael lured the fleeing General Sisera into her tent and then drove a stake through his head into the ground:

“God had His way by incorporating the Gentiles into His plan.  The stake of the cross was firmly planted by Christ into the head of our enemy. Boldness in the faith is now the legacy left to us Gentiles.” (Pr. Scott Murray, A Year with the Church Fathers, 9 July meditation) 

The battle lines are becoming clearer every day as our nation and world dissolves into secularism and sectarianism and idolatry.  The Church must stand firm in the faith and firm in the love of our neighbor.  Deborah mostly sat under the palms with God’s Word from which she rendered the wisdom of God’s Word.   A moving cup can not be filled.  We need to be still, and so stilled,   in prayer and meditation to be filled with the Word through the Holy Spirit, as Deborah.  May these narratives from Judges, also God’s Word, fortify us in the Incarnate Word,  Jesus Christ.   

Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word, curb those who by deceit or sword would wrest the Kingdom from Your Son and bring to nought all he has done. (Hymn by Martin Luther)

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“And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly.” (Judges 3: 21)

Currently the Daily Lectionary Old Testament readings are from The Book of Judges, the seventh book in the Bible.  

After the conquest of the land in Joshua is the period of the Judges of Israel.  Judges is a cyclic history of idolatry, punishment for it at the hands of a foreign power which conquers the land for a number of years, then Israel’s  prayer for deliverance and the LORD raising up a judge, endowed with the Holy Spirit (see Judges 3:10 ,  Judges 6:34Judges 9:23, etc) to fight and drive off the occupying power.  Then there is peace in the land of promise until the Israelites again worshiped false gods.  The repeating verse in Judges is:

And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. (verse 11)

This statement occurs seven times to introduce a new episode in the history of the Judges.

We need to rid our imaginations of the notion of a “judge”, as in a court of law complete with black robes and a gavel, when thinking about the Judges of Israel.  They were wise, in terms of using their quick wits to save the people, such as the two most famous of the Judges, Gideon and Samson.  The Judges were Spirit endowed warriors whose strength was the LORD and His Word.  

Today’s reading from The Book of Judges is Chapter 3:  7-31, the Narration regarding Ehud.  Ehud was the judge and the foreign king was Eglon.  Ehud had a plan to kill the king:

15 Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, and the Lord raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. The people of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab.16 And Ehud made for himself a sword with two edges, a cubit in length, and he bound it on his right thigh under his clothes. 17 And he presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Now Eglon was a very fat man. 18 And when Ehud had finished presenting the tribute, he sent away the people who carried the tribute. 19 But he himself turned back at the idols near Gilgal and said, “I have a secret message for you, O king.” And he commanded, “Silence.” And all his attendants went out from his presence.20 And Ehud came to him as he was sitting alone in his cool roof chamber.And Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.” And he arose from his seat. 21 And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. 22 And the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not pull the sword out of his belly; and the dung came out. 23 Then Ehud went out into the porch and closed the doors of the roof chamber behind him and locked them.

 I have enjoyed, yes, enjoyed, teaching this lesson to confirmation classes in my overview of Bible, especially when it’s most boys.  Why?  It’s so gross! Moses is clear in telling us that Ehud’s sword was two-edged.  In the New Testament a two edged sword is featured prominently:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4: 12)

Out of Eglon came “dung”. It is not pretty what comes out of us when we sin.  It’s a load of dung, dead stuff and it stinks.  The two edged sword was an important military weapon because the attacker could up up and down with it  in a person’s abdomen in order to separate joints and marrow, thus making sure the person was killed.  

The LORD’s will in His Word is to slay and kill the Old Adam. The Old Adam is fat with his own lusts and self worship. The Old Adam is spiritually obese.   Iniquity and evil and sin are not nice.  It’s gross. We like to think too nicely of God’s Word.  It is not a pillow but a sword.  His Word is sharp, as in His Word of the Law.   The LORD cuts and kills in order to heal and make alive in His Son Jesus Christ, the Physician who has come for the sick.  After Ehud and his army’s conquest, by first killing Eglon, the Moabite king, and then the Moabites, “…the land had rest for eighty years” (3: 30b).  The LORD drowns us in Baptism to pull us out as His sons and daughters, but the Old Adam is a mighty good swimmer.  We do have rest in Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:28) but, well, we do some crappy things.   He will kill to draw out the venom as He has done for us all upon the Cross. Here is a prayer petition that the Judge of Israel would know:

 Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom…

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