Uniform Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday June 4, 2017
Purpose: To consider how we can accomplish great things when we work together to carry out any mission God gives us
Bible Lesson: Judges 4:1-10
Background Scripture: Judges 4–5
Key Verse: Deborah answered, “I’ll definitely go with you. However, the path you’re taking won’t bring honor to you, because the Lord will hand over Sisera to a woman.” (Judges 4:9)
Judges 4:1-10 (CEB)
(1) After Ehud had died, the Israelites again did things that the Lord saw as evil. (2) So, the Lord gave them over to King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, and he was stationed in Harosheth-ha-goiim. (3) The Israelites cried out to the Lord because Sisera had nine hundred iron chariots and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly for twenty years.
(4) Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was a leader of Israel at that time. (5) She would sit under Deborah’s palm tree between Ramah and Bethel in the Ephraim highlands, and the Israelites would come to her to settle disputes. (6) She sent word to Barak, Abinoam’s son, from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “Hasn’t the Lord, Israel’s God, issued you a command? ‘Go and assemble at Mount Tabor, taking ten thousand men from the people of Naphtali and Zebulun with you.
(7) I’ll lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, to assemble with his chariots and troops against you at the Kishon River, and then I’ll help you overpower him.” (8) Barak replied to her, “If you’ll go with me, I’ll go; but if not, I won’t go.”
(9) Deborah answered, “I’ll definitely go with you. However, the path you’re taking won’t bring honor to you, because the Lord will hand over Sisera to a woman.” Then Deborah got up and went with Barak to Kedesh. (10) He summoned Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh, and ten thousand men marched out behind him. Deborah marched out with him too
Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter
After a three-month absence, I am once again posting my weekly blog on the Uniform/International/Standard Sunday School Lessons. As I have stated I do the Uniform lessons to honor a long history of Sunday School teachers and writers. My grandmother, my father, my father-in-law, my uncle all taught Sunday School from the Uniform Series. In addition, one of my mentors was the editor of the Higley Commentary for many years, Dr. Loyal Ringenberg. He continued to mentor me until his death in 2000.
I grew up in a small town (Butler, Indiana) that had a Christian publishing house, called “The Higley Press” each year they put out a commentary on the yearly lessons of the Uniform/International Series Sunday School Lessons. I think the last one published was in 2000.
In addition, one of the great but underappreciated gifts to the church universal is the work of the Committee on the Uniform Series. The work of this interdenominational body of Sunday school scholars and editors had its origin in 1866 in the Sunday School Teacher of the Reverend John Heyl Vincent (a Methodist clergyman who was elected bishop in 1888). From the beginning, the goal of the Uniform Series was to standardize the lessons taught in Sunday school classes so that persons could study the same lesson in any Sunday school class they attended, no matter the denomination, anywhere in the United States. To that end, the Committee on the Uniform Series meets annually to prepare detailed lesson outlines that are then distributed to more than 20 denominational publishing houses. Then the varied publishing houses can locate writers within their own faith communities to draft Scripture-based lessons on eight general topics (such as God, Faith, and Worship) that provide an overview of the entire Bible every six years. For more than 150 years, these dedicated church workers have guaranteed that teachers and students in Sunday school classes— large and small, rural and urban, conservative and liberal—have the opportunity to explore the full breadth of God’s Word in the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Now for today’s lesson. First, we need to set the time, approximately 1426 B.C. is when our story takes place. Joshua has died and only parts of Canaan have been conquered by the tribes of Israel. Each tribe was more or less responsible for conquering the territory given it by Joshua.
Just as both Moses and Joshua had warned, many of the tribes failed to drive out the Canaanites. The people and leaders of the different tribes began to worship the Canaan gods of Baal, they especially liked the fertility gods and the ceremonies that took place during that worship. This of course grieved Yahweh, the God that had brought them out of Egypt. (The Israelites were forbidden to use or say the word God, so they referred to Him in some unpronounceable name, we interpret as YAHWEH.)
With the death of Joshua, each of the twelve tribe’s leadership fell to one of those within the Tribe. For the tribe of Ephraim, Deborah was chosen for the position of leadership and she was also a judge and a prophet. Deborah’s reputation was such that she had influence over several of the other tribes.
Deborah devised a plan whereby Barak, a member of the Napthal tribe in Kedesh would be able to defeat Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army. Now today we might say Barak was hiding behind a woman's skirt.
Deborah’s reply consented to Barak’s wishes but she warned him a woman might become the hero rather than him. As you read the full story in verse (21) But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent stake and a hammer. While Sisera was sound asleep from exhaustion, she tiptoed to him. She drove the stake through his head and down into the ground, and he died. (22) Just then, Barak arrived after chasing Sisera. Jael went out to meet him and said, “Come and I’ll show you the man you’re after.” So he went in with her, and there was Sisera, lying dead, with the stake through his head. So, Jael, Heber’s wife, becomes the hero, not Deborah nor Barak. It should be noted Jael was not an Israelite, but rather a descendant of Jethro, Moses’s father-in-law, a Midianite, that had settled in the land near Kedesh a sanctuary city.
The lesson for me points out how easy it is for us to stray from God’s commands and teachings. We set up our own God’s, created by us, in our image, the way we would like it to be. Ignoring God and His word, we worship in a way that pleases us rather than what pleases God. Which is exactly what happened in the story of Cain and Abel. Cain worshipped God his way, Abel followed God’s commands.
My hymn for this week is “Thy Word is a Lamp Unto my Feet.”