Tuesday, May 25, 2010

This is the Work of Song; This is Liturgy

In a couple of weeks I will be preaching on the story of Deborah in the book of Judges. This story is course well known for situating a woman in such a powerful position set within a context that has so often been condemned as the bane of women. There is also of course the murdering of King Sisera by the woman Jael who asks him to enter her tent to be refreshed. She offers him milk and then drives a tent peg through his head. Following this account is the Song of Deborah. The song is introduced as a duet (including Barak who leads, somewhat reluctantly) the army of Israel. But Barak is really more of a figure or symbol. The song is definitely offered as a solo.

There are some beautiful images here of how leadership flows into the mobilization of a group. The song begins,
That the leaders led in Israel,
That the people volunteered,
Bless the Lord!

As anyone in leadership knows this is no small accomplishment. This is a song. And so Deborah sings and what happens? God moves.
To the LORD I will sing
From there God marched out and the earth shook and the heavens were wrung of their moisture. Before this song community life was at a stand still but Deborah arose as
a mother of Israel
She saw that war was at the gates but even among 40 thousand not a shield could be found. Deborah's heart goes out to the people as they approach the gates. And what happens?
Awake! Awake! Deborah!
But to what end? She must take responsibility as their leader. She must be laying plans for war. No!
Awake! Awake! Sing a song!
And what comes? Here the translation could be challenged but perhaps,
Then survivors came down as nobles;
The people of the Lord came down to me as warriors.

The people are transformed and mobilized. And there was,
great resolve of heart
And for those who were not mobilized there was,
great searching of heart
For many people were not mobilized with God. But war went on as the kings fought and so did the stars in heaven. The stars fought from their own paths. There ordering is also mobilized for God's battle. The river torrent in its own path also sweeps along and carries away the enemy of God. And Deborah pauses,
Oh my soul, march on in strength
But those still searching and watching are now cursed they have not joined the fray.
But Jael did join. From her humble tent and her humble position she is now most blessed. To took what was at hand.
She offered milk.
She reached for the hammer.
She drove the peg.
She smashed his head.
And there between her feet Sisera,
and lay.

And far off in a luxurious palace the mother of Sisera looks out and wonders,
Why does his chariot delay in coming?
Why do the hoofbeats of his chariots tarry?

Her plump princesses assure her. Oh don't worry. They are taken their time dividing spoils. They are trying to figure who can have one and who can have two women as their prize. No don't worry mother. He will return draped in fine cloth.
They lay in luxury but they are already decimated.
Thus let all Your enemies perish, O Lord;
But let those who love Him be like the rising of the sun in its might.

The battle belonged to the Lord. May we sing that God (and his people) would move.
This is the work of song. This is liturgy. Thanks be to God.

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