Jael and Sisera: Artemisia Gentileschi
It is not uncommon to hear people say that God works in mysterious ways. Part of the mystery, is the ways in which God uses us to carry out His will. One thing that I know to be true, is that God can use anyone and everyone to do something amazing in His name. Today we are going to start a new series on hidden gems in the bible. Over the next few weeks we will be looking into stories in the Bible which tend to get overlooked but have a great message. We are going to start with the story of Jael in the book of Judges.
If you have your bible in front of you and want to use it as a reference, we are looking at Judges chapter 4. There are a considerable number of names dropped in this story so it may be useful for you to be able to see them all lined out. The story picks up following another instance of the Israelite people’s infidelity towards the Lord. Because of their lack of loyalty, the Lord sold them into slavery to the king of Canaan where the commander, a man named Sisera, oppressed the Israelites with brutal military force.
Also at this time, a prophet named Deborah was leading the Israelites. They would often come to Deborah to settle disputes. One day, Deborah received a prophecy from God that a man named Barak was to take ten thousand men to a mountain and God would lead Sisera into their hands thus giving them their freedom back. Barak agrees on the condition that Deborah comes with him to the mountain. She agrees but tells him that because of the course that he is taking, he will not be the one to kill Sisera but rather that a woman would be the one to do it.
When the time came, God led Sisera to the mountain where Balak was told to go by Deborah. Just as Deborah had prophesied, all of Sisera’s men began to fall to Barak’s army. However, Sisera himself managed to get away on foot. Staying in a tent on that mountain during the time of the battle, was a man named Heber and his wife Jael. Seeing Sisera in great turmoil, Jael called him into her tent. Sisera ordered her to stay at the entrance of the tent and turn away anyone who was looking for him. Jael obliged and Sisera went to sleep. Rather than doing as Sisera asked of her, Jael took a peg from her tent and stabbed Sisera in the temple with it thus killing him. When Barak’s army caught up to where Jael was staying, she showed him the man he was hunting which made him realize that Deborah’s proclamation had come true, Sisera died at the hands of a woman. This was the starting event that led the Israelites to once again gain their freedom.
This is a story that can very easily be overlooked. In the grand scheme of the Israelite story, this may seem very small. However, I think that we can learn a lot about who God is and how God operates. It would have been very easy for God to simply delivered Sisera to Barak or to have even killed him Himself. However, God had a different plan in mind. Obviously, there was a very intentional reason for the way God allowed for these events to play out. We are able to see God’s intentions when he uses Deborah to prophecy that a woman would be the one to defeat Sisera. What is funny is that even though we as the reader know this, it still seems unlikely that this is going to come true due to the fact that Balak brings ten thousand men to get the job done. Yet, God works in mysterious ways and it just so happens that a woman and her husband are in the mountains at the same time God leads Sisera in the path of Barak. I think what this story shows is that God can and will use anyone as a part of His plan. It is very uncommon that a woman, much less a foreign woman, serves as a battle hero during these times. However, it seems as if God is showing that anyone has the ability to do amazing things to continue the story of God’s people.
Sometimes it is easy to get discouraged and think that God only uses certain people as a part of His plan. But this is clearly not true. As long as we are willing to do what He asks of us and put ourselves in a situation that allows us to hear His call on our life, God will use us. Take great confidence in knowing that no matter who you are, your status, your ethnicity, God finds you valuable enough to be a main character in His story. You never know when He will call on you so it is up to us to be ready and willing to step into the role we were created for.