The Bee, Lightning, the Snake, and a Goat

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, May 14, 2016 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

No, this is not a “bee” rated blog, with some campy story about a bee being struck by lightning. While that may be a curious sci-fi plot, it’s not the buzz of the passage we are talking about this week. (Ok, puns over. ;-) )

Take a moment and read Judges chapter 4. It’s important to understand the movement of the story before I explain a few things.

In this chapter we are introduced to Deborah and Barak. Deborah is serving as judge of Israel during this time. Remember, the judges were the God-appointed leaders who served to keep Israel on track with God’s teachings and ensured the nation represented God’s character and nature to the world. Judges were not in a political office, and they had no power or authority apart from God’s leadership. They were not kings or presidents, they were servants of the one true King - God. Barak is commander over Israel’s fighting men, and he is charged with protecting and defending Israel.

Deborah and Barak are serving during a time when Israel has again chosen evil and has been handed over to the king of Canaan - Jabin. For 20 years Israel is oppressed by Jabin, who rules with an iron fist. The general over Jabin’s armies is named Sisera.

All of that may seem straight forward, and as you follow the story most of what happens is pretty obviously seen. But, let me add some context to deepen its impact on us as we read.

Deborah’s name means “honeybee.”
Barak’s name means “lightning.”
Sisera’s name means “snake.”
Jael’s name means “mountain goat”

If you read carefully through Judges 4 again, you will see that Deborah/Honeybee is making decisive judgements about Israel under a date palm tree/”Honey tree.” She summons the soldier and defender of Israel, Barak/Lightning to “go” and take on Sisera/Snake based on God’s promise to deliver Sisera/Snake into Barak’s hand. Biblically speaking, when God sends lightning, it is supposed to strike by His command and according to His promise and purpose. Barak, however, hesitates and says he will only go if Deborah goes with him.

We should recognize the irony here, that ‘Lightning’ will not go as commanded, but wants ‘Honeybee’ to go with him. Barak appears to not be living opposite of his name, and that is confirmed by how God revises His promise regarding Sisera. Through Deborah, God speaks again that Sisera/Snake will be handed over, but it will be a woman who gets the honor and glory for his defeat. At the end of the chapter, we find out it was Jael/Mountain Goat who would get the honor, because she never left her loyalty to God, even though her husband had become an ally of the evil King Jabin. But look more closely at Sisera’s demise. Jael crushed Sisera/Snake’s head. Does that remind you of another promise God made in the Garden of Eden… to another ‘snake’?

Look at who leads and takes action through the whole passage. It’s not Barak/Lightning, who by name and definition as commander should have taken decisive action, trusting God’s promise. It’s God Himself who draws out Sisera and orchestrates every aspect of his defeat and capture. This calls out Barak’s lack of trust and obedience to God, specifically as something we should notice.

Then look again at the women honored in these events around Sisera and Jabin’s defeat. Look at the women who are servants to bring justice, rescue, and peace to Israel. It’s ‘Honeybee’ and ‘Mountain Goat’ who act to restore peace to the promised land that God said would flow with milk and honey.

I suppose we can also see that God is not above using a pun as an object lesson for us. Yet, after all that, we are left with a more personal question - who will we be like? Will we be someone who is a servant of God in name only? Or will we serve Him and trust Him regardless of what our place or position in life may be?

It would be easier to believe that lightning could kill a snake, instead of a honeybee or a goat. But it’s God who promised to crush the head of the snake (Satan, the enemy), and He can use whomever He chooses. He will use and give glory to those who trust Him with their lives. (And just to call this out more specifically – women of God, be encouraged, you are heroes in God’s story as much as anyone else.)

So, what about you and me today? Are we going to step boldly into the next part of our journey, trusting God’s plans and letting Him use us to crush the lies and schemes of the enemy? Will we be those who act to defend the oppressed, rescue the wandering, correct the rebellious, and bring the light of Truth to those who have been deceived? Will we take action to cut off the head of Satan’s accusations and temptations, as God draws them into the light? Or will we shrink back and hesitate?

God will accomplish His promises, whether we choose to be a part of them or not. Barak is an object lesson meant to challenge us. Are you a true “Bee-liever,” trusting God fully with your life? Or are you a “Christian” - in “name” only?

(There is so much symbolic and literary excellence in this chapter that I cannot unpack it in one blog post. It really is worth looking deeper, and here is an article you can dive into for more study.)

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