Sometimes things seem obvious to us. They appear to be one way, when really they are the opposite.
When Deborah, the prophetess, became a judge over Israel, she ruled over the people from under a palm tree. The Children of Israel came to have her settle their disputes.
The Children of Israel had been out of favor with God after Ehud, the second judge of Israel, died. God punished them by delivering them into the hand of Jabin, the king of Canaan.
There was a man in Jabin’s army by the name of Sisera. Sisera was a captain, and Judges 4 tells us he had 900 chariots of iron and oppressed the Israelites for 20 years.
Deborah, a prophetess, was the fourth judge of Israel. During Deborah’s time as judge, God decided it was time for Israel to take on the army of Jabin; Deborah sent for Barak to prepare him to lead God’s army into battle.
Deborah explained that God wanted Barak to take 10,000 men from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun, go to the river Kishon where Sisera would be, and God would deliver Sisera into the hands of Israel.
Barak’s answer to Deborah was, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go” (Judges 4:8 ESV). Do you think he was just a coward? There is no explanation, but Deborah was not happy with him.
She told Barak, “I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman” (Judges 4:9).
It appears that Deborah would be the one to receive the glory for this defeat of Sisera, but things are not as they first appear to be.
Barak did take 10,000 men, and he and Deborah went to do battle. When Sisera heard that Barak was on his way, he got his 900 chariots of iron and all of his men and headed to the river. This was exactly what God had said he would do. The battle began; Sisera ran away, and Barak destroyed all of the army. Not one man was left.
While Barak was destroying King Jaban’s men, Sisera, running for his life, found the tent of a woman named Jael. She was the wife of a man that had made peace with King Jabin, and Sisera thought he would be safe with her.
Jael saw Sisera coming, and she invited him to come to her tent. There she gave him milk to drink and then covered him with a rug. He was still fearful, so he told her to stand at the opening of the tent to watch for the enemy. He told her that if anyone came and asked if he was there to tell them “no.
Evidently, Sisera fell asleep; and Jael took advantage of the situation. She took a tent nail and a hammer, and she quietly went to where Sisera was sleeping. Then she took the tent nail and hammered it into his temple pinning him to ground.
Eventually Barak showed up at Jael’s tent. She said, “Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking” (Judges 4:22). When he followed her into the tent, he saw Sisera dead with the nail in his temple.
There is no explanation for why Jael did what she did. Whatever the reason, Jael received the glory for the defeat of Sisera, not Barak.
Sisera went into that tent with every expectation of hiding from his enemy, resting from his escape, and then going on with his life. But things were not as they appeared to be.
Jael turned out to be as much an enemy as Barak and his army. She allowed him to think that she would protect him, but he lost his life at the hands of a woman he thought was his friend.
The lesson to be learned is to be careful whom you trust. Those who say they are our friends may not have our best interests at heart. Certainly we wouldn’t expect someone we think is our friend to put a tent nail through our temple, but they can do a lot of damage to our reputation.
How often do we find that those who claim to be our friends are really our enemies? Micah 7 warns, “Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend.” He later says, “But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.”
Solomon said, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
We need to put our trust in God, not in man. We need to live our lives preferring those of like faith, not those who disagree with our moral values.
“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals’” (First Corinthians 15:33).