Monday, January 3, 2011

lessons from the music of triumph

To the sound of musicians at the watering places, there they repeat the righteous triumphs of the LORD, the righteous triumphs of his villagers in Israel. Then down to the gates marched the people of the LORD.
Judges 5:11

The song of Deborah is a rare moment of art and joyful celebration in the book of Judges. After the defeat of Sisera, Deborah and Barak led the nation while it was still assembled for battle into a worship service of wild celebration. They wanted the people to rejoice in the victory that God had given them.

This Hebrew poem begins with an invitation to bless the Lord, and then gives a description of the conflict from God's point of view. God marched to Edom. God shook the ground and the mountains trembled before Him as He marched to war for Israel.

Then the battle poem is rooted in historical events as the events of oppression are described. It is clear that the normal life of villagers in Israel was awful... that is until God rose up Deborah to help lead the nation out of spiritual poverty and into renewed commitment. And Deborah is thankful that God raised up civil and military commanders who would be used to defeat the oppression.

From there an epic description of the battle is put to song. The Canaanite kings are defeated and the humiliating fate of Sisera at the hands of a woman is celebrated in song. The poem ends with a particularly humiliating bit of poetry about Sisera's mother waiting for her boy to return home. Her mommy's boy died at the hands of a woman who served him curdled milk! The irony and mockery are quite evident. The Israelites are rubbing it in because God has delivered them.

In terms of application of this lengthy bit of poetry stuck in the middle of a book that chronicles military battles and spiritual failure, I offer this: God's rescues are always worth celebrating. And we can look back on events from the viewpoint of His work in our lives and celebrate the moments when clearly His providence has led us. That is the theatre being put on in this passage. And it serves a great purpose. The chapter ends with a generation at peace with God and themselves. For forty years Israel was able to return to "normal". God had granted victory. And the turning point came when He used two women in unforeseen ways to deliver His people. God gets the glory. We get the benefits of giving Him that praise.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

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