« PreviousContinue »
in his sight; relapsing into their former sins, and probably with a more daring spirit than ever of open and heinous transgression. For such is always the case of those who being often reproved and chastised, and then spared by the longsuffering of God, disregard both his judgments and his mercies, and return again to their sinful courses. Their last state is worse than any preceding one.
These alternations of suffering and repentance among the Israelites ;-of deliverance from the oppression of their enemies, with returning prosperity on the one hand, and on the other of their violation of covenant-engagements, and their wandering still farther from God ;-are but exhibitions of what the heart of man is, in all ages and individuals, without the sanctifying and restraining influences of the Holy Spirit.
Ah! my young friend, unless you enjoy these influences, such is your heart. Temptations have led you astray. Remorse of conscience and other chastisements have, at times, brought you to reflection. You have feared the still more terrible displeasure of God. Suffering has compelled you to cry for deliverance, and you have promised
nd vowed, if you could but receive it, to abstain from sin in future. Relief was sent. You began to enjoy quiet, and to feel secure. But ere long, the old temptation beset you. The desire which it addressed was re-kindled. Reason, conscience, duty, and even the dread of renewed chastise. ment, plead in vain. Your sinful passions triumphed over them all. You forgot—you broke all your good resolutions, and returned to your guilt and folly with more greediness than ever
And how is it with you now, my young friend? Are you becoming more hardened in sin? Are both the severity and goodness of God losing their effect upon you? Is your last state worse than the former ones? If so, where will it all end ?
Israel under the bondage of Jabin. Deborah and Barak
Another bondage awaited the Israelites as a punishment for their sins. They were subdued by Jabin, a Canaanitish king who reigned in Hazor; becoming his tributaries, and suffering a severe and cruel oppression for the space of twenty years. Hazor was quite in the northern
part of the country, within the portion assigned to the tribe of Naphtali; and the monarch who made it his residence was probably a descendant of the one of the same name that was defeated and slain by Joshua, and his city burnt to the ground. It had been rebuilt, and the power of its sovereign regained; and Jabin and his people now had the opportunity of retaliating upon the Israelites. It seems they availed themselves of it in the fullest manner. He was well able to maintain his despotic sway over those whom he had conquered. Several neighboring powers were his confederates; their armies and his own being under the command of a valiant and skillful general, Sisera, who among other forces was able to bring into the field nine hundred chariots of iron. These were armed with scythes fastened to the axles on each side, by which those who fought on foot might easily be cut down, or thrown into confusion.
Sinning, chastised, and suffering,—the abject vassals of those whom they had themselves formerly subdued,--the Israelites raised the voice of their supplication, once more, to that Almighty Being from whom alone, they knew, they could hope for succor in their extremity. What condescending mercy! He heard them. He had compassion, and prepared the way for their deliverance. How ready he is to come to their relief, as soon as he sees any indications, on their part, of a disposition to feel their dependence, and to acknowledge their allegiance to him.
God raised up a woman, in this emergency, to be a judge, or ruler of his people. Doubtless, peculiar circumstances, of which we are not informed, made this desirable. Her name was DEBORAH. She was a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth. Her residence, overshadowed by a palmtree, was in Mount Ephraim, between Ramah and Beth-el, a few miles north of Jerusalem. Acting, doubtless, under the divine direction, she sent for Barak, the son of Abinoam, who dwelt at Kedesh-naphtali; a place about eight miles northwest from the upper part of the Sea of Galilee. His character and influence rendered him such a coadjutor as she needed in the arduous enterprise which she contemplated.
Barak immediately obeyed the summons; and on his coming to Deborah, she thus accosted him : " Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying, Go, and draw toward Mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali, and of the children of Zebulun ; and I will draw unto thee, to the river Kishon, Sisera the captain of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thy hand ?”
Barak undoubtedly received this as a divine
message, and believed that God would be able to fulfill the promise which it contained ; for he is classed by St. Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews, among those who felt the power of faith, and accomplished wonders while relying on the arm of the Almighty. Still Barak had, it appears, some lack of an entire and unwavering assurance of success, should he go forward alone in the enterprise. His reply manifested his misgivings, "If thou wilt go with me, then I will go : but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.” He seems to have felt the need of being accompanied by one who, enjoying communications with Jehovah, could instruct him more fully in his duty, and encourage him and his countrymen. Having the prophetess of the Lord with them, they would carry to the conflict both the guide and the pledge of their triumph over their oppressors.
Deborah consented to go; but at the same time reproved his hesitancy. "I will surely go with thee,” said she, "notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honor; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Barak was to lose the principal credit of the victory, and a woman enjoy it, as the sequel will show.
On their arrival at Kedesh, Barak took immediate measures for summoning to that place large