The Soldier's Honour
Judges 5:1-11
Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying,…

Here is —

1. The apostasy of the people: "They chose new gods." This I call the alarm; for ungodliness calls to war. If we fight against God, we provoke God to fight against us. Then —

2. A laying on of punishment. God meets their abomination with desolation; the hand of justice against the hand of unrighteousness: "Then was war in the gates." This I call the battle. Then —

3. A destitution of remedy: "Was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?" Sin had not only brought war, but taken away defence — sent them unarmed to fight. And this I call the forlorn hope.

I. THE ALARM: "They chose new gods." Their idolatry may be aggravated by three circumstances or degrees. They are all declining and downwards: there is evil, worse, and worst of all.

1. "They chose." Here is a frank choice, no compelling. They voluntarily took to themselves, and betook themselves to, other gods. There is evil, the first degree.

2. "Gods." What! a people trained up in the knowledge of one God: "Jehovah, I am; and there is none besides Me." The bees have but one king, flocks and herds but one leader, the sky but one sun, the world but one God.

3. "New gods." Will any nation change their gods? No; the Ekronites will keep their god, though it be Beelzebub; the Ammonites will keep their god, though it be Melchom; the Syrians will stick to their god, though it be Rimmon; the Philistines will not part with their god, though it be Dagon. And shall Israel change Jehovah, the living God? This is worst of all.

II. We come now to THE BATTLE: "Then was war in the gates." If Israel give God an alarm of wickedness, God will give them a battle of desolation. Idolatry is an extreme impiety; therefore against it the gate of heaven is barred (1 Corinthians 6:9). Let us view the punishment as it is described: "Then was war in the gates."

1. The nature of it: "War." War is that miserable desolation that finds a land before it like Eden, and leaves it behind it like Sodom and Gomorrah, a desolate and forsaken wilderness. Let it be sowed with the seed of man and beast, as a field with wheat, war will eat it up. In itself it is a miserable punishment.

2. The time: "Then." When was this war? In the time of idolatry. "They chose new gods; then." When we fight against God, we incense Him to fight against us. Yet if timely repentance step in, we escape His blows, though He hath not escaped ours. But if Israel's sins strike up alarm, Israel's God will give battle. If they choose new gods, the true God will punish. "Then was war." It is a fearful thing when God fights.

3. The place: "In the gates." This is an extreme progress of war, to come so near as the gates. If it had been in the land of their enemies, a preparation of war a great way off, the noise of war — yea, if it had come but to the coasts and invaded the borders, as the Philistines did often forage the skirts of Israel, yet it had been somewhat tolerable, for then they had but seen it only. "Thou hast shewed Thy people grievous things" (Psalm 60:3) — shewed, but not inflicted; shaken the rod, but not scourged us. But here war is come to their thresholds, yea, to the heart of the land, to defy them in the very gates. And now they more than hear or see it; they feel it. You now see the punishment. Happy are we that cannot judge the terrors of war but by report, that never saw our towns and cities burning, our houses rifled, our temples spoiled. We have been strangers to this misery in passion, let us not be so in compassion. Let us think we have seen these calamities with our neighbours' eyes, and felt them through their sides.

III. We now come to the FORLORN HOPE: "Was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?" Was there? There was not.This question is a plain negative. Here is the want of help; great misery, but no remedy; not a spear to offend, no, not a shield to defend. War, and war in the gates, and yet neither offensive nor defensive weapon! It takes away all, both present possession and future possibility; help and hope. You see now all the parts of the affliction: the alarm in sin, the battle in war, and the forlorn hope in the want of remedy. Two useful observations may hence be deduced —

1. That war at some times is just and necessary; indeed, just when it is necessary: as here. For shall it come to the gates, and shall we not meet it? Yea, shall we not meet it before it come near the gates? There is, then, a season when war is good and lawful. Now there are two cautions observable in the justness of wars —

(1) That they be undertaken upon just and warrantable cause. That they be prosecuted with an honest mind. The cause must be just.

(a) The peace of the people; for we must aim by war to make way for peace. We must not desire truce to this end, that we may gather force for an unjust war; but we desire a just war that we may settle a true peace.

(b) The health and safety of our country: some must be endangered that all may not be destroyed.

(c) The glory of the kingdom; and that is, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Wars for God are called God's battles. The destruction of their cities that revolt from God to idols, and the whole spoil, is for the Lord; it is the Lord's battle and the Lord's spoil (Deuteronomy 13:16).

(2) The next caution, after a good ingression, is to be sure of a good prosecution. We say of the surgeon that he should have a lady's hand and a lion's heart; but the Christian soldier should have a lady's heart and a lion's hand. I mean, though he deal valiant blows, yet not destroy without compassion.

2. The other inference that may hence be deduced is this, that munition and arms should at all times be in readiness. Wise men in fair weather repair their houses against winter storms; the ant labours in harvest that she may feast at Christmas. Be long in preparing for war, that thou mayest overcome with more speed. A long preparation makes a short and quick victory. I have held you long in the battle; it is now high time to sound a retreat. But as I have spoken much of Israel's affliction, so give me leave to speak one word of the prophetess's affection, and of this only by way of exhortation: "My heart is set on the governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless ye the Lord." Here is the subject in which this affection resides and the object on which this affection reflects. The subject wherein it abides is the heart — a great zeal of love. Not only the affection of the heart, but the heart of affection: "My heart is set." The object on which it reflects is double, man and God; the excellent creature, and the most excellent Creator; the men of God, and the God of men. Upon men: "My heart is towards the governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people." Upon God: "Bless ye the Lord." Among men two sorts are objected to this love: superiors in the first place, inferiors in the latter. To the commanders primarily, but not only; for if they offered themselves willingly among the people, as we read it, then certainly the people also willingly offered themselves, as the other translations read it, "Those that were willing amongst the people."

1. To the governors of our Israel; that they offer for themselves willingly to these military designs, not on compulsion. His brows deserve no wreathed coronet that is enforced. Come with a willing mind. In every good work there must be cheerfulness in the affection and carefulness in the action. God loves a cheerful giver; so thou gainest no small thing by it, but even the love of God. "Whatsoever good thing thou doest," saith , "do it cheerfully and willingly, and thou doest it well." You that have the places of government, offer willingly your hands, your purses, yourselves, to this noble exercise. Your good example shall hearten others.

2. Now for you that are the materials of all this, let me say to you without flattery, Go forth with courage in the fear of God, and the Lord be with you. Preserve unity among yourselves, lest as in a town on fire, whilst all good hands are helping to quench it, thieves are most busy to steal booties; so whilst you contend, murmur, or repine one at the honour of another, that subtle thief, Satan, through the crack of your divisions, step in, and steal away your peace. Offer yourselves willingly; and being offered, step not back. Remember that it is base for a soldier to fly. And remember always the burden of this song, which everything that hath breath must sing, "Bless ye the Lord."

(T. Adams.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying,

WEB: Then Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam sang on that day, saying,

The Noise of Archer's in the Places of Drawing Water
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