The Song of Deborah

The Song of Deborah

Robert McClurkin

There are five references to group singing in the Bible, and each reference tells of the singers expressing sweet harmony and deep joy before the Lord. The morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted the song of creation (Job 38:7); Israel sang the song of redemption (Exod. 15:1); Israel sang again, this time the song of restoration (Num. 21:17); Deborah and Barak joined in the song of acclamation {Judges 5:1); and the Bible closes with the redeemed from every nation singing the song of consummation (Rev. 15:1).

The harmonious song of creation was broken by sin, so that from the opening of Genesis where we read, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow” (3:16) to its end where it closes with a coffin in Egypt, there is not one song.

Redeemed humanity sings for the first time on the shores of the Red Sea, and their song becomes the pattern of the perpetual song of praise, for God joins that first song and the last one in Revelation 15. Glorified saints will prolong the note of redemption throughout all Eternity, for “They sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.”

There are three features about this divine song which are very interesting: it is put in the mouth by the Lord, “He hath put a new song in my mouth” (Psa. 40:3) ; it is raised through devotion to Him, “When the burnt offering began, the song of the Lord began also” (2 Chron. 29:27); it is prolonged only through communion with Him, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land” (Psa. 137:4)?

The song of Deborah, which celebrates a mighty victory in Israel, sets before us some divine principles which illustrate the way of recovery and revival among the Lord’s people. Inasmuch as there is a general longing in the Church of God for a recovery of lost power, and a revival of true spirituality, let us prayerfully consider these essentials:

A Returning To The Word

First, there must be a return to the authority of the Holy Scriptures. The name Deborah means, “The Word.” It was derived from “Debir” (Josh. 15:15) meaning “The living Oracle”. Recovery began when Israel came to Deborah to be judged (4:5). Deborah, The Word, however, had to express herself through an instrument, so she sends for Barak in Kadesh, which means “sanctuary”. Only there, in the sanctuary, does God find the instruments He can fill with His Word and His Spirit. Only when we appear empty before God, and learn of Him in the solitude, will He fit us to be vessels through which the Word can flow in the freshness and the power of the Holy Spirit to the blessing of others.

A Recalling of the Past

Secondly, there must be a remembrance of first love, first works, and first principles. “Lord, when Thou wentest out of Seir… the mountains melted from before the Lord” (5:4-5). They looked back to the time when the shout of the King was heard among them. The very thought of their first love and first works stirred up longings for a return to God, the God from Whom they had drifted. Is it not so with us as individuals? We look back to better days when we would have gone anywhere with our Lord, when we would have given up anything for His glory, when we enjoyed the light of His countenance shining upon us, when we were warm in our love to Christ and fervent in our testimony to the world. Alas! The clouds of worldliness, carelessness, indifference, and carnality have shut out the light of His face, so that the consciousness of His presence is not felt and enjoyed as formerly.

Is it not so with us collectively. When godly men and women left the formalities of stereotype religion to meet in subjection to the One Head, the dew of youth was upon them. The impact of their testimony was felt in almost every country in the world. They attracted many thousands of the saints to share recovered truth with them, because they believed it to be the property of the whole Church. Alas! The blight of exclusivism, the bane of party-ism, the pride of ecclesiasticism, and the greed of self-aggrandizement have grieved the Spirit of God and marred our testimony before the world. Let us look back to better days, and let the contrast between the past and the present produce longings of heart for a return to first love, first works, and first principles. Then the shout of the King will again be heard, and the beauty of the Lord our God will be upon us.

A Repenting of Their Ruin

In the third place, they must honestly acknowledge their ruin which was so evident in:

THE CONFUSION OF PURPOSE: “The highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through byways.” In Galatians 5:12, Paul spoke of the teachers of legalism who threw God’s people into confusion, and who threatened to cut them off if they did not bring themselves under the legal yoke (Gal. 4:17). The saints, thus disturbed, had no clear perception of God’s path for them, and were going around in circles instead of moving forward.

THE DISRUPTION OF FELLOWSHIP: “The inhabitants of the villages ceased.” The lovely sight of holy concourse and happy communion was no more. The assemblies of saints, like the villages of Israel, were meant to be places of fraternal relationship and of mutual communion where the saints could share their joys and sorrows. Sadly, the enemy has crossed our borders, and has trampled on the inheritance of the Lord, for strife, bitterness, malice, and envy, those enemies of all good, have turned scenes of holy concord into scenes of unholy discord.

THE DISREGARD OF DEVOTIONS: “They chose new gods.” The affections that should have found their centre in God were squandered on other objects. Loving the Lord with fervent heart will correct every phase of our lives, but departure therefrom will be the harbinger of many evils.

THE DETERIORATION OF LEADERSHIP: “Then was there war in the gates.” That is, there was strife among their rulers who sat in the gates. The general spiritual tone of Israel could not rise higher than that of their leaders. Likewise, the spirituality of God’s people today reflects that of the elders among them. Oh, that God would raise up men of character, principle, and piety to go before His people; “Men that have understanding of the times” (1 Chron. 12:32).

THE NEGLECT OF NATIONAL DEFENCE: “Was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?” Only as we put on the armour of light against the flesh (Rom. 13:12), the amour of righteousness against the world (2 Cor. 6:7), and the whole armour of God against the Devil (Eph. 6:13), will we be fitted for the good fight of faith and be saved from shameful defeat.

A Recognizing of Unity

Little Benjamin is as necessary as mighty Ephraim (v. 14). Here is a combining of talent and a linking of strength for the cause of victory. The people collectively and willingly identified themselves with God’s cause as an army of volunteers and not as conscripts (v. 9). The New Testament counterpart of this is taught in 1 Cor. 12, where we are warned that schism will appear in the Body, the Church, if independency is asserted. The Body is so organically joined together that the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of thee.” All that individually we have received from God must be contributed for the good of the whole assemblage of the saints, and we must learn to recognize and appreciate each other’s gifts and talents for the successful witness of the Church on earth.

God’s displeasure is seen toward those who refuse to contribute to victory. Distance and prosperity kept back Reuben (v. 16). He, although the firstborn, is true to his character, unstable as water. When he chose his inheritance on the other side of Jordan, he was wrongly separated from his brethren, for it placed him so far from them that he did not come to their aid. Let us never mistake the plea of isolation for the path of separation. Any position that keeps us back from helping our brethren is unscriptural. Home comforts kept back Gilead, Dan, and Asher (v. 17), while indifference brought a curse upon Meroz (v. 23).

On the other hand, the weakness of a woman triumphs over the strength of a man of arms, for the pilgrim’s weapon, a tent peg, was used with the skilful-ness of the workman’s hammer (v. 26). This reminds us of 2 Tim. 2:15, where the use of the sword of the Spirit must be controlled by that heavenly wisdom which fills the saints who are instructed in the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Deborah’s song closes with the expression, “Let all them that love Thee be as the sun.” This is the secret of that victory which is within the grasp of all true lovers of Christ. As the sun rises at the behest of its Master, and moves with undeviating course to fulfil the divine purpose, let us put ourselves at God’s disposal and move in the path of His will right to the end of our little day. As the sun, wherever it shines, sheds light, warmth and healing upon the earth, even so is our mission in life, for such is the ministry that constitutes the witness of the Church. No enemy can stay the progress of such a testimony. God help us to be like the sun.