Is God a Pacifist?

Numbers 14:18 – “The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

After the Lord helped Deborah and Barak’s people win their battle, despite being the smaller, less fit army, a single soldier remained – the godless and legendary warrior, Sisera.

Sisera, the legendary warrior, is then put to death by a woman in one of the darkest and most unexpected plot twists in all of Scripture, “Jael the wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand. Then she went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple until it went down into the ground while he was lying fast asleep from weariness.” In perhaps one of the most obvious Scriptures, we then read, “So he died.” It would have been very shameful for a man to die at the hands of a woman and especially a Canaanite soldier to die at the hands of a Hebrew civilian. This is a very ignoble death. 

The loss at this battle, along with the loss of this military leader, was the beginning of the end for evil King Jabin as it says in Judges 4:23-24, “on that day God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan before the people of Israel. And the hand of the people of Israel pressed harder and harder against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.”

In this scene, we learn at least seven lessons about our God. 

1. God is patient, but eventually His patience wears out. God was patient with the Israelites’ disobedience, then His patience wore out and He allowed the evil Canaanites to be used as His sovereign discipline. God was patient with the Canaanites, but His patience also wore out and He toppled their mighty national leadership. 

2. God works through leaders and their courage and character. Without Deborah, as well as to a lesser degree Barak, sin and evil, along with cultural decline and decay, would have continued unabated. Everything rises and falls with leadership. 

3. God is not a pacifist. Some believers wrongly think that war and taking of a guilty life are not sanctioned by God. In this scene, God helps one military annihilate another, and in the next chapter of Judges, a worship song praises God for killing enemies and lauds the woman Jael for driving a tent peg through the head of a foe. Some situations provide us with only two bad options. In such situations, idealism needs to give way to realism and taking the best of two bad paths forward. In Jael’s situation, she could either a. kill a bad guy or b. let the bad guy kill numerous other guys.

4. Anointing is everything. The primary reason that Deborah has wisdom, can judge and prophesy, strategize military battles, and lead is because of the unique anointing of the Holy Spirit upon her. This anointing may explain why Barak wanted Deborah to accompany him to the region of battle. 

5. Some miracles happen in an instant, others through a process. In Judges 4, we see God promising victory, taking time for that to fully occur from the battlefield to the killing of Sisera to the downfall of Jabin. In our own life, God works the same ways. Sometimes, He resolves everything in an instant and other times, He works through a process over time.

6. The battle belongs to the Lord. This is obvious when the weaker army kills a stronger army, and the weaker woman kills a stronger man. 

7. The invisible hand of the Lord is what makes all the difference. Throughout this chapter of Judges, we see the hands of Jabin (4:2), Barak (4:7), a woman (4:9), and Jael (4:21). However, behind everyone and everything in the historical account is the invisible sovereign hand of God working behind the scenes to bring about His sovereign will. In Judges 5, the interpretation of these historical events shifts to reveal the cosmic perspective of what was happening from God’s viewpoint.

Look up the following Scriptures about God being slow to anger: Exodus 34:6-7, Numbers 14:18, Nehemiah 9:16-17, and Psalm 103:7-9.

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