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Jael Part 5: Ordinary People

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So, was Jael an ordinary woman or Xena Warrior Princess? I’m going with ordinary woman.  She was patient, didn’t rush during a tense situation, she didn’t make promises to lie, she kept quiet and then she used her peg and nail at just the right time.  And ya know what? She was praised in Deborah’s song celebrating the victory God gave Israel on that day of deliverance.

24 “Most blessed of women be Jael,
the wife of Heber the Kenite,
most blessed of tent-dwelling women.
25 He asked for water, and she gave him milk;
in a bowl fit for nobles she brought him curdled milk.
26 Her hand reached for the tent peg,
her right hand for the workman’s hammer.
She struck Sisera, she crushed his head,
she shattered and pierced his temple.
27 At her feet he sank,
he fell; there he lay.
At her feet he sank, he fell;
where he sank, there he fell—dead.”

Catchy, isn’t it? It’s going to be stuck in my head all day, now…Especially the part about the crushed head, shattered and pierced temple, and him laying at her feet–dead. Lalala lalalala!

The Lord most definitely delivered Sisera into the hands of a woman — our girl, Jael! And the story is told twice in the Bible, once as a narrative and then again in Deborah’s song. It’s a pretty amazing story, isn’t it? God used the honor of a woman who was not an Israelite, but who pledged her allegiance to Jehovah. God used an ordinary woman, and she used ordinary things with which she was familiar to get the job done. God used all of this ordinary-ness to deliver Israel from an oppressor in an extraordinary way.  Isn’t that just like God?  Finding a way to bless those who choose him with opportunities to serve him, often times with tools he’s already equipped us with but we just haven’t recognized it.

Jael’s story is very encouraging, I love it! As an ordinary woman, Jael must have needed patience, and a lot of it!  God replenished her “patience tank,” allowing her to realize all of that patience potential she possessed. Apply that to today with our sweet toddlers and all of their…challenges, we can be sure God will help us to realize that His grace, and patience is sufficient in our life.

Though I’m tempted to call Jael a Bible time Xena Warrior Princess, she was neither a warrior nor a princess but rather an ordinary tent dweller who lived an ordinary woman’s life in her tribe, with no extraordinary possessions or strength. But, God loves to use ordinary people, including ordinary women for His glory. Why? So that in our weakness, we can know He is strong. When God uses an ordinary person to do extraordinary things for His Kingdom, there’s no doubt to whom the glory should go.

I’m thankful God uses ordinary people because it means He could use little ole, ordinary me. See, I told you that was a cool story, didn’t I?

(Judges 4: 15-24)

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Jael Part 4: Intentionally Patient

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Jael remained cool, calm, and collected before killing the enemy of Israel and of God. Patience, what a virtue!

Oh, to be a woman of patience! Moms need to have a lot of patience. The problem is, no matter how much patience I feel like I’m stocked with at the beginning of the day, by mid-day (or sooner), my stock seems to have vanished! And as my patience dwindles, the pressure of trying to maintain a calm presence and relaxed atmosphere seems to grow…exponentially! Maybe it’s just me, maybe no one else has children who try their patience.

Not long ago Isaac frustrated me from “son up til son down.” I mean, this kid was just an enigma and I didn’t get him at all!  It was during this time that I looked Jael for the first time as an adult. If I could harness Jael’s patience under pressure and adapt it to my life, what would it look like? Inviting Sisera into her tent must have just been tense and intense!  Taking her time to meet his needs, intentional patience while waiting for an opportunity

So, with my Isaac who could create a tense situation out of nothing and everything all at once, the idea of taking my time, focusing on remaining calm as I try to meet Isaac’s confusing tornado of changing emotions seemed to be a good plan.  I determined to stay patient with him until I had an opportunity, a better time to let my frustrations out.  I think that’s the key, be intentional with patience. It’s got to be my choice to remain patient and just keep working at it!  And then, use quiet time/nap time as an opportunity to reward myself for making it through storm Isaac.  Work on a fun project or watch a movie while folding laundry.   My goal was to keep Jael cool until I have a chance to “nail” it with an outlet of some kind!

Things started to seem less overwhelmingly frustrating with Isaac…not because they were, but because God showed me that taking time for some kind of outlet where I could release the tension from the day, whatever it may be would help me be a better mommy. My patience didn’t disappear as quickly and I didn’t feel like I was going to blow quite as often. God reminded me that He lovingly created me and He gave me my love of creativity.  Just because I’m a mom doesn’t mean I need to abandon it. So now during quiet time/nap time, I try to do something for myself — something creative which gives me the break I need from the dizzying emotional whirlwind of a 3 year old.

I’m so thankful my Lord knows what I need…and I’m thankful that He’s patient with me.

(Judges 4: 15-24)

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Jael Part 3: Xena Warrior Princess?

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Welcome back to Jael, it’s about to get exciting. Grab your cup and enjoy!

Now comfortable and safe in Jael’s tent, General Sisera asks her to keep watch, knowing Barak’s looking for him.  He advises that should someone ask, tell them no one is here. Pay attention to her answer…there is no reply recorded in scripture. She never agreed to lie for him, she remained silent when words were not her friend.

Wait…you mean, Jael isn’t a friend of Sisera? I thought her husband’s tribe was on good terms with Sisera’s king? She makes a much better alliance.  And so she remains quiet. There’s a lesson for us, knowing when to keep silent and actually staying quiet! I should work on that. But, back to the story.

Exhausted and feeling all cozy after drinking some milk, Sisera falls asleep. Shh…

Remember, Jael’s calm and patient demeanor was intentional and with purpose.  This is where it gets good…

“But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.” (2 Ki 4: 21.)

Did you see that coming?  It plays out like a scene from a movie! Jael hadn’t aligned herself with her husband’s clan’s friends. She allied herself with God. She kept her cool under pressure.  She made Sisera comfy and when the time came, BAM! Jael gets it done for the Lord. What was it that Deborah had said? “The honor will not be yours, for the Lord will hand Sisera over to a woman.” (2 Ki 4:9) Wow, ya think?!

When I heard Jael’s story as a girl I had always thought of her as Xena Warrior Princess. I mean, it fits, doesn’t it? Anyone who can take a tent peg and hammer and nail it through a bad guy’s head is a fierce and formidable warrior, right?

Maybe not. After reading Jael’s story as an adult, I started rethinking that view. I never really watched Xena Warrior Princess, so I don’t really know the story, I just know she was a fierce fighter (in a questionable fighting outfit.)  Jael was a wife and a tent dweller. She had a hard life of a nomad and physical labor. As a woman, we’ve already discussed all the different things she’d be doing — pitching tents, starting fires, cooking, bearing and raising children as part of a farming and metal working community. She probably did many other things, as well. S this was just normal life for her. It’s not like she donned a mask and went about swinging from skyscapers in her spare time driving pegs through the heads of any other bad guys. So, maybe she was actually less Xena and more…average wife and woman?

Now, please please please hear me. I am NOT saying to go and take anyone out!  NO NAILING PEGS IN ANYONE’S HEAD.  Ok?  Promise? (Thank you!)

How ironic that Sisera, the great general fleeing from mighty warriors sought refuge in the tent of a humble woman whose husband was his ally, but ended up suffering the greatest humiliation in his death.  Killed at the hands of an ordinary woman.  Now that’s an exciting and unexpected twist!

(Judges 4: 15-24)

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Jael Part 2: Cool As A Cucumber

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We also left off with Barak trying to chase down General Sisera running for his life and Jael living in a tent. And here, our two stories intertwine…

Jael meets General Sister while he’s seeking shelter. Perhaps she motioned for him to come to her tent, or maybe hers was the first tent he could find.  Either way, the fun’s about to start.  But just to make Jael a little more real since I tend to think of Bible women as super hero types, let’s play pretend for a minute.

***** WARNING: Everything I’m about to say is complete conjecture…I am not quoting from the Bible nor am I trying to add to the Bible…just playing let’s pretend to try and remind myself that women from the Bible are not really different from me. Are you with me, can we try, just for a minute?*****

Jael was a tough, strong woman, with plenty of stamina for all the hard labor she was used to doing.  How about her marriage to Heber? Was it an arranged marriage? Was it a good match or a difficult relationship? Being alone in her tent, had she ever had to fight off unwanted advances from other men who happened to stop her way for a drink of water and rest, knowing full well they’d never be denied hospitality? Did she have children? Maybe she had little kids full of energy and curiosity? Perhaps on the day that General Sistera arrived at her tent, the bickering between the children had been constant as they went about their chores while the baby had found some new trouble to get into? Perhaps she burned the bread while tending to their mischief. Maybe she’d had another sleepless night as one or more than one of the children woke up with nightmares. Perhaps she was tired and weary. Perhaps work had exhausted her more that week than usual.

I have no idea what her life was actually like, and it doesn’t really matter, except to gain perspective and remember that she was ordinary.  She was an average woman just like us.  So imagine on an ordinary day, a person of importance suddenly appears on her doorstep, expecting a pleasant and hospitable host and in need of a hideout. Then again maybe I’m completely off base and her life wasn’t as busy as ours, and she wasn’t tired or weary.  Instead, it was probably full of rainbows and butterflies fluttering about while a chorus of birds whistled harmonizing tunes as she danced and skipped along sweeping her dirt floor, baking date pies, and singing with woodland creatures.  Yeah, that sounds plausible (dripping with sarcasm…)

Whatever it was,  Jael welcomes General Sisera to her tent, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” (Judges 4:18)  She welcomes him with a nice blanket, assures him he’s safe and to not to be afraid. This girl sure knows how to make a guy feel at home!  Sisera asks for some water, but instead of water, she ups it and gives him some milk (ooh la la!), puts him at ease and treats with him respect. She adjusts the covering over him one more time to make sure he’s comfortable.

Throughout all this hospitality…to a very dangerous and wanted man…she never once rushed. Jael practiced calm and intentional patience in her actions.  Her deliberate, cool patience has a purpose and we’ll soon find out why…

(Judges 4: 15-24)

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Jael Part 1: A Tent Dwelling Woman

We’re starting a favorite of mine! I’ve always loved this woman, Jael. She’s so cool!

Our story starts with Deborah but she’s just a supporting character this time, (though she will have her day to shine later.)  Before Israel had a king, it had judges as and Deborah was a judge of Israel.  She sent for Barak and told him the Lord commands you to go to battle against Jabin (king of a nation who was oppressing Israel,) and his general, Sisera.  Barak’s response is completely understandable yet surprising: Only if you come, too!  Then Deborah tells him he’s being a wuss about this whole thing by not trusting God and therefore he won’t get the honor of being “victor.”  Instead, God will give this honor to a woman. Haha! A humble woman would get the honor over the commander — that’s had to have been a hit to his pride.  Hehe, I love it!

So Barak and Sisera and their armies start to battle and, since the Lord has already promised victory, things go Barak’s way.  General Sisera takes off running for his life, leaving remnants of his shattered army behind. And here, our leading lady makes her entrance. But first, a little background.

Jael was married to Heber the Kenite, who was on friendly terms with King Jabin. They were a semi-nomadic tent dwelling people of farmers and metal workers. A woman’s job included pitching tents, making the fires, cooking, having children, raising the children, plus much much more. Seems like a hard life, doesn’t it? But to her, it was just…life. She were strong with plenty of stamina living an ordinary life…her normal.

There were also strict hospitality rules.  After all, there weren’t convenient stores on the corner of the wilderness and the rolling hills where they could stop and grab a drink.  When a stranger appeared at your tent, you were expected to make them feel welcomed, offer them a drink, shelter, and let them rest. Sending them to the next tent however far away wasn’t an acceptable alternative.

So, it’s quite possible that a woman could be left alone going about her business in her own tent with her children, her husband off working for periods of time, when a stranger appeared at her doorstep asking and expecting help. And whether or not it was convenient, she was expected to stop and courteously provide such hospitality.

And this is where we’ll meet Jael…soon.  A surprising visitor comes knocking on her door…

(Judges 4: 15-24)