Sermon delivered October 27, 2001 by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Jael's Nail

JUDGES 4:1-24

How many of you have ever heard a sermon on Jael's nail? When I announced that topic i thought , well, it may not be a bad sermon. Now that I've worked on it a lot, I'm thinking, there's not enough here for a sermon, really. But I'll try. You know, we should preach about this because the Bible says in Judges 5:24 Most blessed of women be Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, most blessed of tent-dwelling women. The most blessed of women is Jael. Most blessed of all women is Jael! I mean, she was the most blessed of all the ladies up to this time. So why should I not be preaching about her? We've missed something here. So, let's get started in this story.

Let me give you a thumb nail sketch of this story: One day a long time ago a big bad army with nine hundred iron chariots ruled over God's people in Israel with an iron hand. But they were rescued by three people. Two of them were ladies. One was named Deborah, one was named Barak, and one was named Jael. And that's the end of the story. That's a thumbnail sketch. Now I'd like to give you a full-hand sketch.

Come to Judges 4:1. After Ehud died, the Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the LORD. You know, you can read this over and over and..over in the Old Testament. They sinned,, they fell from the Lord, they worshipped idols, God allowed the oppressors to come, they cried for help, God sent a deliverer and saved them, and they had peace for a number of years, and then they fell again, and started worshipping idols again. These people, There's something wrong with these people. Idol worship resumed shortly after the death of Ehud, the left-handed deliverer. They got out the idols again and started worshipping. Idolatry was a chronic sickness they never got over. dusted off the idols and started all over again. Each time they slipped back they slipped further down and further away from God. Finally God just abandoned Israel and treated them no differently that any body else. I want to tell you that each time God used a different method to save them. Which tells me that God's resources out-number our ability to sin. Praise the Lord for that! His resource are far greater than our slippage and our sinnage.

God allowed Jabin the ruthless king of pagan Canaan to cruelly oppress Israel for 20 long years. You may recall that a hundred years before this, Joshua had gotten the victory over these Canaanites and had burned their capital city. But then, Israel had got lax and permitted their enemies to rebuild. And they permitted these evil men to forge weapons of iron. And up there in Canaan, occasionally the Israelites could see the smoke of these furnaces and they could hear the hammering, they could see the glow of the fire at night. These people were working. They were rebuilding. They were strengthening themselves. Gradually the enemy had become powerful and the city was strong. Then one day they came and took over. You know, you need to be careful when you allow evil to grow unchecked in your life. Because, some day it's going to get strong, and some day it's going to take you. You need to be very careful about that habit that you've got. That thing is going to be bigger than you are some day. You need to nip it in the bud. Finally they woke. They were in a terrible strait. For twenty years they had been suffering. And so they cried to God for help. God listens. The heathen general's name as Sisera, who lived in Harosheth Haggoyim. Do you know what He had? You can read this. He had nine hundred iron chariots! Can you imagine anybody having nine hundred iron chariots? IRON chariots. Chariots that were strong. And, you need to understand, of course, that this period of the world's history shows that this was the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age. And who were the first people to have the iron chariots in that area, it was none other than Sisera. This was the latest technology in military hardware. His war machine is invincible. Nobody can fight against him. And Israel's future was hopeless. But I will tell you that with God on your side, there is always hope. Never forget that. There is always hope.

So do you know what God did? God sent a woman! We have a book called God Sent a Man by Carlyle B. Haynes. Have you ever read that book? It's about Joseph. Well, there ought to be another book written because God sent a woman. And you can read about this. God does not look at our gender. God looks at our willingness. We have more women in our church than men. And I think, ladies, God could be tapping you on the shoulder. He may want you, and are you ready? Judges 4:4. Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She was the president Israel. Can you imagine having a woman president here in the United States? It might not be such a bad idea. Especially if she was named, Deborah. It's a great name. If you want to name your kids something great, use Deborah. That's a good name. Female leadership was the only guidance Israel had at that time. Where were the devout men? I don't know. Deborah was Godly. Deborah was powerful. She was also a prophetess of the true God. She was a great leader. She was what you could call, Woman of spirit.

As a Judge she sat under the palm tree of Deborah, the Palm of Deborah. That's where she sat. Under that great palm, she would sit and judge her people. That tree was famous, not only because her only, but because of another Deborah who happened to be Rebekah's nurse and was buried under that tree. So here, two Deborahs made this tree famous, I guess. And she sat there. She judged her people. She settled all the law suits, disputes, arguments. She was wise. She was unprejudiced. She was fair. And she did not wear a black robe. Don't picture her with a gavel in her hand and all this mighty thing about a judge. The judges in those Old Testament days were the heroes. That's who they were. They were the leaders. They were the most respected. They were wise and courageous. And that's what Deborah was.

The ark was down in Shiloh. The people didn't go there because there was no priest there. They bypassed Shiloh and came all the way up to Bethel where Deborah was to get leadership, to get guidance and direction.

Now, the ultimate enemy is the devil. Isn't that true? The under-devil, and Satan always has under-devils, (and I think we have a few in the world today), the under-devil at that time was Sisera. He was the local terrorist. Are we supposed to be afraid of these terrorist over here? Are we supposed to be afraid of white powder? Well, maybe we ought to be awake, but we're not supposed to be afraid of terrorists. This man was the terrorist. And are God's people supposed to fear terrorists? No. We are supposed to fear God. If you fear God, you're not afraid of the terrorists. So here they were cowering down to this heathen commander.

Sisera lived in Harosheth Haggoyim. That first word means Iron Smith and the second means Gentile. He was a gentile blacksmith of this town of black smiths. This area had a monopoly in iron technology. Sisera lived among the Canaanites but he was not a Canaanite. In fact, his name is of European extraction. He was probably from Greece, possibly a Philistine who did have a knowledge of iron.

All iron work was done outside of Israel. Their enemies had come through and systematically confiscated all of their weapons. There wasn't a spear, there wasn't a sword in all of Israel. Remember Shamgar in Judges 3:31? He went out and with an ox-goad that was tipped with a little piece of metal on the end, he slew six hundred people. That's the only weapon they had.

This tragic situation is better described in Judges 5:6. Here's how bad it was. ...In the days of Jael, the roads were abandoned; travelers took to winding paths. Did you get that? They couldn't walk on the highway. It was too dangerous out there. The enemy would get them. They had to sneak around through the woods on these little trails and sort of walk at night and hide. God's people were pussyfooting along these small trails deep in the woods for fear of Sisera. Verse 8 says that not a shield or spear was to be found among all the forty thousand men in Israel. Not one of them had a shield or a spear.

Judges 5:7 "Village life in Israel ceased, ceased until I, Deborah, arose, arose a mother in Israel." Ah! She was a mother in Israel. You know, we have some mothers in Israel here in our church, don't we. You could probably start listing some of the mothers in Israel right here in the McDonald Road church. We have them, don't we. Praise the Lord for these people!

Deborah was a mother in Israel. In fact, her name means "honey bee." She was the queen bee. Deborah means, the mother honey bee. And she called Barak to lead to lead her people to victory. At first he may have thought that this was a fantastic idea. I'll just do that. But as he began to think about all those iron chariots he thought, "I can't do that. Iron chariots? We don't even have any iron. How could... We don't even have a spear or a sword and they have iron chariots and there's no way. They have nine hundred tanks. They're invincible. This is impossible." Was God asking him to do the impossible?

You know, he may have thought "God doesn't know what He's doing here. Have you ever thought that? "God doesn't know what He's doing with my life. He's asking me to do something that I can't do." No, that's not the case. We think that way because we look at our big problems instead of looking at our big God. Don't look at the size of your troubles, look at the size of your Savior. That's what you want to look at.

Maybe your big enemy is divorce. Maybe your big enemy is cancer, or loneliness, or some bad habit, or the stress of being a single parent. Get your eyes off your problem and focus on Jesus. The Iron chariots of life can be conquered. Our need is not superior iron. We need the God who created the iron. He is the answer. Have faith in God.

Deborah had a problem. Barak became unwilling to do as God wanted him to do. Ladies, some of you may be married to a man like Barak. Maybe your husband... you prefer for him to be in church, or be a Christian, or lead out in prayer, you always have to have the prayer in the house. You can't get your husband to do what God wants him to do. Notice what Deborah did to change Barak. She did not nag him. She did not order him or pressure him in any way. She simply made clear what God's will was and then she encouraged and she helped him at his request. Sh did every thing she could do to help this man to fulfil God's will in his life. When he didn't show much courage, she did not scorn him or snub him. Later when success came, she was quick to give him the credit. That's quite a woman. She was a true humble successful mother in Israel. An example to everybody today.

Barak agreed to fight only if she would go with him. He needed her. He valued her connection with God. Deborah was connected with God. He confessed his own ineffectiveness without her. In fact, Barak's name means "Thunderbolt." And here he was to be the Lord's sword. She was the flash in his sword. She was the wind in his sail. He does his duty but he let's two women have all the glory.

Now, would you say that Barak was a coward? Would you say that he was a man of great faith? "I'll go out there, but you go with me." What do you think? A real shocker os found over here in Hebrews. Come way over here to Hebrews 11 and notice what this says about Deborah. Hebrew 11:32,33. And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets who through faith conquered kingdoms,... What's going on here? The Bible is very confusing, isn't it? Did Barak have faith? He said, "I won't go out there unless you go with me, Deborah." What's going on here. Deborah isn't even mentioned and Barak is mentioned. Wasn't she the real hero here and he gets the credit? What kind of thing is that? Well, that's the way it was. She successfully made him into a man of Faith. He was her doing. She strengthened that man that God had chosen. And I will tell you that many successful man has a Deborah behind us. A mother of Israel. A godly woman, a godly mother, a godly wife, somebody, your grandmother, somebody has mad you successful.

So Barak and Deborah teamed up and they secretly went around the countryside with a plan. "Meet us on top of Mount Tabor tonight and we will slaughter our enemies in the morning." So ten thousand men and one woman climbed up eighteen hundred feet to the tree covered top of that ancient volcano. There they could see this great valley of Megiddo. Remember the Great Battle of Armageddon? Many Christians think earths last battle will be Armageddon fought in the valley of Megiddo at the foot of Mount Tabor. If you want to have a war, this is the ideal place to have a war. In fact, Alexander the Great and Napoleon both fought here.

Notice Judges 4:12,13. When they told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, Sisera gathered together his nine hundred iron chariots and all the men with him, from Harosheth Haggoyim to the Kishon River.

And Deborah and Barak were about to be surrounded up on that mountain. All these troops were assembling at the base of the mountain. Soon that mountain would be surrounded and ten thousand of God's people would be cut off. "God, you've made a mistake. You didn't know what you were doing. Here we are up on this mountain and we can't get off. These iron chariots are soon going to surround us. Lord, you didn't know what you were doing. We don't even have one sword. We have to hide in the woods and they've spotted us. This isn't working out very well.

Have you ever felt that way? Would you say that they were totally dependant on God at that point? They were. And friends, when you are totally dependant of God, then God can save you. That's the key. When you're totally surrendered to God, then He can act.

And do you know what God did for them? Now listen to this. This is exciting. When it got light the next day, God sent a huge thunderstorm! Did you read that there? A huge thunderstorm came. The sky got dark, lightening bolts stabbed at the iron chariots, each one like a little lightning rod. The skies opened and tons of water poured forth. The ground became soaked. The clay earth in that valley got mucky. The fearsome heavy Iron Chariots got stuck in the mud! No wonder they had to be left behind. Left behind dead, by the way. In April of 1799 this same river flooded that whole valley aiding Napoleon in his victory over the Turkish forces.

In Judges 5 we read of God's terrible storm. Judges 5:19-21. Kings came, they fought; the kings of Canaan fought at Taanach by the waters of Megiddo, but they carried off no silver, no plunder. From the heavens the stars fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera. The river Kishon swept them away, the age-old river, the River Kishon. This was a flash flood. This age-old river, the Kishon. Now look back at verse 4. It says, ...the heavens poured, the clouds poured down water. Where did rescue come from? Their rescue came from the heavens above! Our rescue always comes from above! God rescued them that day. The rescue came from the clouds, and some day Jesus is coming with the clouds to rescue His people. He's going to rescue you.

At that exact moment, when the rain started falling, and that valley was flooding, Deborah said: "Charge!" And down the mountain those troops went. They didn't have a pocket knife. They didn't have anything. She said, "Go! Because God has given Sisera into your hands." Judges 4:15. At Barak's advance, the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera abandoned his chariot and fled on foot. All Barak had to do was start marching down the mountain. And instantly God routed the enemy. They spattered mud all over each other. It was a muddy mess down there. Their chariots were covered with mud. They fell into the water, they fell into the river and drowned. There were chariots running over soldiers, killing them. Horses hooves pounding them into the mud. It was a slaughter down there. A sea of mud flooded that whole valley. And they fell in this mud. They were covered with mud from head to foot. And you couldn't even tell who the enemy was. And they started killing each other, not knowing who they were killing. If God is with us, who can be against us? That's what happened. Quickly Barak s men grabbed dropped swords and now the tide was turned.

Verse 16. Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim. All the troops of Sisera fell by the sword; not a man was left. Not a soldier was left alive. Except their leader. Soon our Great Obliterator will come! All our enemies, sin, death, sickness will be gone. Trust in Him.

Now we come to Jael's nail. You've been wondering when Id get to that. All the enemy soldiers were killed. But their Five star general, Sisera got away. He jumped out of his muddy chariot and left. It was useless, it was stuck in the mud. Old Sisera ran for his life. He ran alone to the North-East. He ran as fast as he could. He ran till his lungs burned. He was out of breath. He was huffing and His heart was pounding. Finally he saw some Bedouin tents in the distance. Breathless he ran up to one and saw an old friend (of all things) named Jael. She was the wife of a Sheik.

Judges 4:18 (KJV) And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. That was a lie, wasn't it. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle. And here he thought, I'm safe. Nobody can find me here. You know, it was an eastern custom that when a guest came into your tent you were responsible for his protection. She knew that he was running for his life, she could tell that. Quickly She decided to harbor a terrorist. Is it good to harbor a terrorist? You're just as guilty as the terrorist if you harbor a terrorist. I will tell you that her's was not a safe harbor for this villain. Already she had a plan. You can see this plan developing in the next verse. She did not have time to go and find the Israelite troops. This was her moment. It was up to her or it wasn't going to happen. Her moment had come.

Judges 4:19 And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him.

In the ancient Near East custom prevented a man other than her husband or father from entering a woman's tent. So this seemed to be an ideal hiding place for the fugitive. Nobody would look in that tent. Nobody would think that there was a man in there. They wouldn't think of looking in there. It was the ideal hiding place.

He asked for water. She gave him milk. Her name Jael means Mountain Goat. She gave him artificially curdled goat milk. It was placed in a Skin bottle and allowed to ferment from left over bacteria left in the skin from the previous time. Judges 5:25 says she served it in a bowl fit for nobles. It was her best china. He drank the spiked milk. By the way, that wasn't the only thing she spiked that day. Josephus indicates that this type of milk had sedative qualities.

Judges 4:20. (KJV) Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and inquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No. Notice how these two pagans lied to each other. He lied to her, she lied to him. You can't trust heathens can you. With that, the powerful but exhausted general soon sank into a deep sleep as if years of fatigue had overtaken him. His belly was full of warm milk. A warm cover seemed to give him security.

Notice what happened in Judges 4:21 (KJV). Then Jael, Heber's wife, took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died. He never got free from that Jael, did he. I imagine that He died with a splitting headache!

These Bedouin women were actually tent masters. Jael was strong. She was used to pitching a tent. She had used a hammer many times. Jael surely hit that nail on the head, didn't she! One woman did what ten thousand men could never do. She ended years of oppression by exterminating their enemy. In other words... she Nailed him . (You may smile, but this is where we get this term).

Thus the nation was saved by the efforts of one women aided by one other woman. Two women saved the country, Deborah and Jael. Maybe we will meet both ladies in heaven. Never forget that God is the strength of the weakest link. I may like this story because I am one of those weak links that, hopefully, God has been able to use. Maybe you are a weak link, and if so, God can use you. God can strengthen you. You can be the decisive factor. You may be weak but He is strong. Victory does not come by iron. Victory comes by Faith in God.

Hymn of Praise: #92, This Is My Father's World
Scripture: Judges 5:24-27, 31
Hymn of Response: #608, Faith is the Victory


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