My heart is toward the governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless you the LORD.
Deborah's heart turns in motherly affection to those rulers of Israel who have willingly offered themselves to the service of their God and their country. It should be the aim of the Christian to emulate such self-devotion in the cause of Christ and of humanity.
I. THE OFFERING WAS TO GOD AND THE COUNTRY.
1. It was to God. Though this fact is not expressly named here, as in the case of Jehoshaphat's captain, Amasiah (2 Chronicles 17:16), it is plainly implied, inasmuch as the people had been incited by a Divine messenger and were living under a theocracy. God was the King, and the soldier's fidelity to his king was fidelity to God. Men devote themselves to business, pleasure, art, literature, science. The highest object of devotion is to live to God. This may be pursued through the necessary earthly occupations, elevating and consecrating them by making them part of God's service.
2. The devotion was also to the country. Patriotism is a Christian duty. But the Christian is called to care for the large human world. We are called upon to live for the good of others, to aim at increasing their happiness and spiritual welfare. This aim is not divergent from that of serving God. We render him service by working for the good of others according to his will, and so as to render him honour.
II. THE OFFERING OF THE GOVERNORS WAS OF THEMSELVES. God is not satisfied with our gifts; he asks for our hearts (Proverbs 23:26). The true preachers of God's will will say, "We seek not yours, but you" (2 Corinthians 12:14). No gifts will be acceptable to God until we have first given our own selves to him (2 Corinthians 8:5). The sacrifice of self-dedication, which was symbolised to the Jew in the whole burnt offering, is a sacrifice still looked for under the Christian dispensation, not as a propitiation for sin, but as a thank offering. This, and no less, constitutes our reasonable service (Romans 12:1). We offer ourselves to God when we render him the homage of our hearts in love, when we sacrifice our wills to his will in submission and obedience, when we make it the object of our life to please and serve and honour him. We cannot compensate for lack of personal devotion by payment, as in some countries the conscript can do in regard to military service. Our gifts will not take the place of our work. We cannot serve God by proxy. The work of the missionary or of any professional agent of the Church must not be regarded as a substitute for the work of the private Christian. God claims the personal service of all of us.
III. THE OFFERING WAS VOLUNTARY. Deborah rejoices in the fact that the governors offered themselves willingly.
1. The only acceptable service of God must be willing service. God leaves us free to accept or reject his service, he uses no violent compulsion to drive us into it. There is no conscription for recruiting the regiments of the kingdom of heaven; all soldiers in that glorious army are volunteers. This is important, because
(1) only voluntary service can come from the heart, - God values devotion of the heart more than work of the hands, - and
(2) only voluntary service will be vigorous and enthusiastic and inspired with the devotion which insures success.
2. We have every motive to render this willing service. We are free from compulsion, but we are not free from obligation. We are to blame if we do not freely offer ourselves, and if we persist in refusing it will go ill with us at the last.
(1) Duty requires the service. The people were summoned by a Divine messenger. We are summoned by the preaching of the kingdom. They were living under the rule of God; God is our King and Lord. They were bound to defend their country in its need; we are bound by nature and Christianity to help our fellow-men in their distress and sin.
(2) Gratitude makes the service one of love. The Jews had seen mighty Divine deliverances; we have the sacrifice of Christ for us and his love constraining us (2 Corinthians 5:15). In application of these truths it may be noticed that some are waiting to be called into the Church or for service. Such waiting is a mistake. Christ is waiting for us. He has called us; he expects our free self-dedication. Let us not wait to be sought or asked, but freely offer ourselves to his service. - A.
Parallel VersesKJV: My heart is toward the governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless ye the LORD.