Poetry communicates in a unique way. Rather than simply detailing the facts, poetry communicates the emotion of an experience. By using rhythm and rhyme, sensory details and metaphor, poets not only convey a word’s meaning but also its sound and the feeling it evokes.
Today’s Bible reading is a poem— the famous and fascinating Song of Deborah. Because poetry is meant to be heard, we encourage you to read the whole thing aloud. While the preceding chapters give the historical account of the battle against Sisera, this chapter offers a more emotional and even haunting response.
Deborah’s song is one of the most difficult and debated passages in the Old Testament. However, there are a couple of key features on which most commentators agree. First, there is a clear narrowing of focus as we move through the poem. It begins with a look at the whole nation of Israel, for whom life was insecure and unstable during this period (vv. 1–11). Then the poem focuses on ten tribes, which did and did not participate in the battle (vv. 12–23). Finally, it retells the story of Jael and, interestingly, the mother of Sisera who is indirectly judged for her own role in condoning the wickedness of her son (vv. 14–30).
Second, some prominent themes emerge from Deborah’s song. Similar to the historical account in chapter 4, the Lord is praised (v. 31). The poem celebrates that He is at work, and without His intervention, there would have been no deliverance. God chose to work through seemingly weak, but willing, vessels. He used two women to destroy an entire army! Deborah raised up Barak, and Jael brought down Sisera—not through their own power, but through the strength of the Lord alone.
>> Too often we focus only on what we feel able to accomplish on our own. While having a “can-do” spirit can be a positive trait, we must never forget that God can accomplish even greater things through us.
Father, an illness is enough to show us how dependent we are on You. Teach us to embrace our dependence, in sickness and in health, and let us not mistake Your grace for our own strength. We joyfully rely on You.