March 13, 2019

The Second Wednesday in Lent

Scripture Reading: Judges 4:14-22

14 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him. 15 At Barak’s advance, the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot.

16 Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, and all Sisera’s troops fell by the sword; not a man was left. 17 Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite.

18 Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket.

19 “I’m thirsty,” he said. “Please give me some water.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up.

20 “Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’”

21 But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.

22 Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead.

Sermon: “A Holey Headache

Us hammers get a bad “rap.” Yah know? We are forever getting blamed and thrown out
into the sand when someone smashes their finger with me. I am a useful tool though! Tool…I
detest being called a “tool.” I like being called a…a…INSTRUMENT! Yeah! That’s much better.
I am an instrument. I don’t get used too much though…unless there is a sandstorm and I have to
help Jael tighten her tent pegs. Jael is my human. She is responsible for keeping the tent “in
shape” for her husband, Heber. He is forever away from the tent tending to the family business.
They work in iron. In fact, that’s where I got my head from! Heber’s handiwork. Jael always
keeps me in a place where she can easily find me though, so I always have a great vantage point
to see what is going on.
Speaking of Jael, wanna hear a story about her? Well…it’s not just about her, actually.
BUT she is my human and she is the one that got me in the middle of it…so there is that! But I
digress… So, here we go!
Picture it, Canaan, 3000 BC (give or take). A beautiful, strong, chieftan named Deborah
is raised by God to be the first woman Judge after the exile. She wasn’t the first “judge” God
raised though, she was the 3rd one actually. Othniel was first and then Ehud… But she was a SHE
and that was totally unheard of! Deborah was not only considered a judge, but she was also a
prophetess. God spoke to Deborah and raised her to lead the Israelites. Those Israelites
though…they always seem to be making mistakes and straying from God and God’s instruction.
But God is a faithful and loving God for sure because those people cry out to God after they just
can’t handle the oppression that they bring on themselves and God consistently helps them. There
is a name for that…what was that name again? Grace! God offers grace and helps them by raising
up another leader to guide them and establish justice. Deborah was something though…I really
liked her. She was a foremother…a foremother of, well, of all of you gathered here to hear this
story tonight. That must be where you women get your strength from! Anyways, there was this
really, smelly Canaanite general named Sisera. Sisera had been oppressing the Israelite people for
20 years. God spoke to Deborah and told her that she needed to call for Barak, son of Abinoam
from Kedesh in Naphtali. Deborah then told him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you,
‘Go, take position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe
of Zebulun. I will draw out Sisera, to meet you with his chariots and his troops and I will deliver
him into your hand.” Barak was like, ok?? But I will only go if you go with me. Deborah rose to
the task and said, “ok…but this path will not lead you to your glory, for the Lord will deliver Sisera
into the hand of a woman.” Game changer for Barak…but he wouldn’t go without Deborah, so as
the agent of God, she was going to get the glory, right?
Anyways, off they went into battle. And they met Sisera head-on…with all 900 of his
chariots and his troops. Deborah called out to Barak (this part is so good), “Up! For this is the
day on which the Lord has given Sisera into your hand. The Lord is indeed going out before you.”
And then Barak charged down the mountain…with ten thousand of his troops following him…and
the Lord threw Sisera and all his chariots and all his army into a panic and chaos. SO much panic
and chaos that Barak got out of his chariot and ran away on foot. All of Sisera’s army was wiped
Now…here’s the part where MY human comes in. So…I’m laying on the blanket, right
next to the open tent flap. The flap was open because it had been a SUPER hot day and the cool
desert night air was really refreshing. I saw this guy coming up to the tent. I had no idea who it
was, but Jael had some idea. Because Heber was the one that crafted Sisera’s iron chariots for his
troops. At least that’s what I heard from the camel who helped pull them to Sisera after they were
crafted. Anyways…I was super nervous for Jael. She was all alone at our tent and here comes
this beaten-up and battered Sisera guy, unannounced…unaccompanied by Heber…and she goes
out and invites him in. Calls him Lord even. I guess that makes sense…he had paid her husband
quite a bit for those chariots. BUT…it was NOT ok for Sisera to behave in this way. Men were
supposed to be accompanied to the tent by Jael’s husband, Heber. Or at the very least, have
Heber’s permission and announce himself that way. Sisera did NOT seem to care about
“hospitality codes and practices”. He went even further in breaking those codes by demanding
things of his host! He asked for a drink instead of waiting to be offered one…and THEN he
commands my Jael to stand guard at the tent opening…and if someone asks if any man is here to
say, NO! Sisera sipped his milk, Jael tucked him in, and he fell into a deep sleep. What the
what?!? This cannot stand! Sisera has broken SO many codes and rules here! Jael must have
sensed that she was in grave danger…knowing that this “great general” had just fled from a
warfront, her husband had helped him prepare for…and was now asking to be hidden as if he was
a little child. She WAS in danger! Before I could say “tent-peg” Jael grabbed me off the floor
and used me to drive a tent peg straight into his temple, through Sisera’s head and into the ground.
Told ya’ she drug me into the middle of it. There must have been something in that milk too now
that I think of it… Jael was protecting herself and her family’s honor. Sisera sure was asking for
it! And he sure got it. He picked the wrong time to fall asleep!
Next thing I know, this man named Barak comes to the tent looking for Sisera and Jael
says, “Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking.” So, he went with her into the
tent and there was Sisera lying dead, with the tent peg in his temple.
So, that’s my story. I think about that story a lot….as much as a hammer can think about
things. Especially about the way that the Israelite people were treated for 20 years under Sisera’s
heavy-handed rule. Harsh consequences that they brought on themselves because they lost sight
of God and God’s will and decided to do things their own way. They turned away from God, and
when they couldn’t bear it any longer, they cried out to God for help and God delivered them
through Deborah, Barak and ultimately, Jael. That is one amazing God! A merciful, grace-filled
God that keeps loving his people no matter how far they wander off course in the wilderness of
their own stubborn will. I think that God wills life for all of the created though. I wonder if the
Israelite people will be faithful to God this time? I wonder if they will worship and serve God
alone as God so yearns for them to?
All of you gathered here tonight remind me a little of the Israelite people. You are spending
time repenting and reflecting and walking with one called Jesus, the Messiah, on his journey to the
cross. You may be reflecting…each in your own ways…on times you may have been selfish,
inwardly focused and self-absorbed instead of living the way that God desires of you. That’s what
the Israelite people did when they strayed. Things are different for all of you though…It is my
understanding that it was God’s ultimate act to demonstrate the unconditional, reckless love gifted
to each one of you through Jesus’ death on that cross. The cross that caused the brokenness and
suffering of God’s own son…tent pegs and nails didn’t hold Jesus to that cross. Love was the
force that held him there. Love for all of you…for all of the created…. love that wipes away all
of your brokenness and sin.
You remember how I told you when we first started talking, that I wanted to be called an
instrument instead of a tool? That means so much more to me now…especially when thinking
about God and what God wants for all of you. And not just for you, but for all of the created. God
wills justice. Justice for everyone and for everything. That’s why God raised judges like Deborah
to lead his people and to establish justice for them. To end oppression in all of its many forms on
earth. Yeah…that is another way to think of me. I was an instrument of justice. I hear I have a
cousin that some of you may be familiar with in this time and place. A more modern day
“instrument of justice” when it is used fairly and justly. Anyone willing to guess what she is known
as? A gavel.