Sunday, 14 February 2016

In Blood and Fire

'Village life in Israel ceased, ceased until I, Deborah, arose, arose a mother in Israel'
(Judges 5:7)

Here is the triumphant ballad of Deborah, Israel’s Iron Lady, 1,200 BC.  She’d bossed King Barak into line with his troops; the Canaanites were smashed – their General Sisera with a tent-peg through his head.  Ah, it’s not a story for the squeamish – though I was told it when I was five.

If the politically-correct in our hothouse civilisation can’t cope with the Bible’s earthy moments, those flamboyant women of history can educate them – the German prophetess Velleda!  The British Queen Boudicca!  The French peasant girl Joan of Arc!  The Salvation Army evangelist Kate Booth, who signed her letters, “Yours ever in blood and fire…!”

Stage one – Aspiration.   The oppressed Israelites cried out for relief from the Canaanites (4:3). Nothing can happen until there is such a desire; it was Deborah’s arrival that gave them hope.

Stage two – Inspiration.  Beliefs are always more powerful than tanks.  Enter Deborah – a rude instrument for a rude age.  She gets King Barak on his mobile: “Come on; mobilise the troops; leave the rest to me!”  Barak responds with a piteous bleat (4. 8) “Oh, very well; but I’ll only go if you go!”

Stage three – Perspiration.  Yes, someone had to get up and do something!  The River Kishon and the muddy plain of Megiddo were the undoing of the Canaanites’ 900 chariots of iron - and a woman called Jael was the undoing of General Sisera.  Peace held for the next forty years.

Ultimately it’s kill or cure, life or death, heaven or hell.  Deborah’s prayer-ballad says it all – in blood and fire.