Scripture Reading: Judges 4:1-24, Judges 5:1-31, Job 19:25-27, Psalm 68:7-10
My husband and I have the privilege of shepherding three little ladies through life, and our evenings often end with the same bedtime ritual. We read a story, pray together, and sing. For my middle daughter, it is quite important that we sing the same three songs every evening: “Before the Throne of God Above,” “Magnificat,” and “The Lord’s Prayer”—usually in that order. If I’m honest, this sometimes frustrates me. Why can’t we have some variety in our song choice? But, as I continued to think through today’s readings, I have come to see our same three songs in a new light.
The book of Judges recounts the tragedy of forgetfulness. It is a story of the Israelites’ downward spiral, culminating in Judges 21:25: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever seemed right to him.” However, there is a momentary break in this downward spiral with the arrival of Deborah.
We first meet Deborah in Judges 4. She is sitting under a tree conducting business as usual, judging and prophesying. The Israelites, having suffered oppression at the hands of the Canaanites for twenty years, cry out to the Lord for deliverance. He inclines His ear, and speaking through Deborah, reveals a rescue plan by way of a woman named Jael, who ultimately kills King Jabin’s military leader, Sisera. This victory sets in motion the unraveling of Canaan’s defense and, ultimately, makes way for the Israelites to enjoy forty years of peace—double the amount of time they originally spent under King Jabin’s oppression.
What is Deborah and Barak’s response? They break out into a victory song! They sing, detailing how God provided deliverance from their enemies. But their praise did more than serve as a celebration in that moment. It became a vehicle for future generations to remember God’s faithfulness. Compared to the rest of the book in its entirety, the song of Judges 5 interrupts the narrative flow, and is an intentional break in the story for the purpose of remembering. Like David in Psalm 68, Deborah and Barak are recalling and recounting the faithfulness of God. May we do the same.
May we remember what God has done: “God, when you went out before your people, when you marched through the desert… You, God, showered abundant rain; you revived your inheritance when it languished” (Psalm 68:7,9).
May we remember what God is doing: “Israel’s leaders took charge, and the people gladly followed. Praise the LORD!” (Judges 5:2).
May we remember what God has promised to do: “But I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the end he will stand on the dust… I will see him myself; my eyes will look at him, and not as a stranger” (Job 19:25,27).
Which brings me back to those same three songs my family sings together at bedtime. We, like the Israelites, are tempted to forget, to lose sight of who we are and why we are here. It is our remembrance of what God has done for us that fights forgetfulness and propels us forward in our mission as followers of Jesus. May today, tomorrow, and all the days we’ve been given, be spent singing the praises of our holy, just, and infinitely loving God.
Emily Chapman Richards is the daughter of Grammy® award-winning recording artist, Steven Curtis Chapman, and his wife, Mary Beth Chapman. She graduated with a BA from Baylor University (’07) and received her Master of Theology (MTh) degree from Queen’s University, Belfast, in 2012. Emily currently serves as the Vice President of Show Hope, a nationally recognized voice for adoption advocacy and orphan care support work. She and her husband, Tanner, reside in Franklin, Tennessee, with their three daughters Eiley, Della, and Verity.