Are You in the Remnant of the Noble?

Reading: Judges 5

The book of Judges narrates a recurrent story of God’s people forgetting Him, worshiping idols, therefore falling into demise, and God delivering them. Each time the Lord rescues them, it leads to a period of peace. Judges 4–5 (the story of Deborah, Barak, Jael, and Sisera) identifies two very important ingredients the Lord uses in order for God to deliver His people: leaders and followers.

When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves—praise the LORD! (Judges 5:2)

This introduction to Deborah’s song gives praise to Yahweh for how He has delivered His people through leaders and especially through the willing volunteers–glad followers–in the army of the Lord. Written in Scripture, this song serves as a call to all of God’s people through the ages to either lead, follow or get out of the way, as the expression goes. Or to put it Biblically, to get busy following King Jesus and the leaders in His army destroying the work of the enemy (1 John 3:8).

The Work of the Enemy of Israel

This song of Deborah rejoices in God’s salvation by recounting how He had delivered them from unjust oppression at the hand of Sisera, the Canaanite army commander. Deborah describes this time:

…the highways were abandoned; travelers took to winding paths. (7) Villagers in Israel would not fight; they held back until I, Deborah, arose, until I arose, a mother in Israel. (Judges 5:6-7 NIV)

The country had become so filled with violence and evil that people were afraid to travel. When they did so, they “took the back roads” so as not to be attacked and robbed. And the rest of Israel did nothing about it. “It’s not my problem!” was likely the prevailing attitude. “Until,” says Deborah, “I arose a mother in Israel.” Deborah was not striving for leadership, she was caring for the people. Her motivation was like that of a mother caring for her children.

The Remnant of the Noble

When Deborah stands up for the cause of God’s people, other leaders, reluctant though they were (Judges 4:8), joined the effort. Then a large group of faithful people got behind the leaders, protecting their fellow citizens and neighbors. In their case it took shields and spears… and a willingness to lay down one’s life for his neighbors.

Deborah does not credit the transformation to herself though, she credits the Lord Himself and the people.

My heart is with Israel’s princes, with the willing volunteers among the people. (Judges 5:9)

She continues to sing of the significant impact the willing volunteers among the people had in bringing about this rescue.

Then down marched the remnant of the noble; the people of the LORD marched down for me against the mighty. (14) From Ephraim their root they marched down into the valley, following you, Benjamin,with your kinsmen; from Machir marched down the commanders, and from Zebulun those who bear the lieutenant’s staff; (15) the princes of Issachar came with Deborah, and Issachar faithful to Barak; into the valley they rushed at his heels. (Jdg 5:13-15 ESV)

Don’t you want to be named in that group—“The remnant of the noble”? These are the people that marched against the mighty enemy. Deborah names those tribes that willingly offered themselves; they are that remnant. Ephraim, Benjamin, Machir (part of Manasseh), many from Zebulon, and Issachar (the tribe) itself. Will you be named with those who willingly give themselves to the Lord and the cause of bringing His saving reign to the world around us—“The remnant of the noble”?

The Excuses of the Hesitant

Deborah then sings about those who hesitated.

In the districts of Reuben there was much searching of heart.
(16) Why did you stay among the sheep pens to hear the whistling for the flocks?
In the districts of Reuben there was much searching of heart.

(17) Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan. And Dan, why did he linger by the ships? Asher remained on the coast and stayed in his coves. (Judges 5:15-17)

Reuben was apparently still “praying about it” while others were risking their lives (Judges 5:18). Gilead stayed home. Dan was busy with his ships, too busy to come; Asher too. Then, in the middle of the song are strong words from the Angel of the Lord against those who did not come to help the Lord (Judges 5:23).

The human hero in this whole story is not Deborah, nor Barak, but an otherwise unheard of woman, Jael, who is said to be the most blessed of women. Jael was willing to offer herself for the Lord’s service when the time came. And through her, the people of Israel were rescued from their oppression at the hands of Sisera.

Where are you in this song?

Are you one of the willing volunteers? Are you living at risk to yourself for the sake of bringing God’s saving grace to others? Are you following Gospel-centered leaders into the field of Gospel-battle in order that whole communities are set free? Or, are you amongst those who are still searching their hearts for what they should do like Reuben? Or amongst those who just don’t have time like Dan and Asher? May the Lord find us with Zebulun and Naphtali who risked their lives (Judges 5:18). The reign of Christ in this age calls for a willing army of volunteers while He reigns at the right hand of the Father until His enemies are made His footstool (Psalm 110:1-3).

For the Advance of the Gospel,

Jerry

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