“It wasn’t meant to be nice. It was meant to be decisive.”
In her book Really Bad Girls of the Bible: More Lessons from Less-Than-Perfect Women, Liz Curtis Higgs shares the story of Jael from the book of Judges. Jael was a woman allied with the Israelites who lured the commanding officer of the enemy army into her tent and killed him with a tent peg while he slept. The story raises more questions when we see that the judge and prophetess Deborah praised Jael for the killing through a prophetic song.
What are we to make of this? Is God praising an act of murder?
Liz tells this story as a reminder – God’s ways are not our ways. Jael’s actions were foretold by God through Deborah, so God had a plan to use her for His purposes. It may be a hard truth to accept, but God uses the actions of sinners to further His sovereign plan. We may not understand it but we can affirm that truth without knowing fully the mind of the Lord.
Chuck Colson understood this; he was quoted as saying he never wanted people to feel that he spoke for God because of the weight of that claim. We can’t claim to understand why God allows certain things but we can trust Him because of His faithfulness and character. There are certain things we need to accept without trying to explain.
“I just want us to always be careful not to speak for the Lord. And so when I look for lessons out of a story like Jael’s – which is gruesome, there’s no question… But I come back to – it’s in the Bible. God even uses an act like this one.”
What can we learn from Jael? Liz cautions us against imitating her actions. “We are not called to go out and do it as well. ‘Go and do likewise’ is not at the end of the story in the Bible.”
Instead, we can imitate her character. We can model ourselves after the character of a strong woman who made decisions and stepped out at God’s urging. We can ask ourselves this question:
“What situation might God put me in where I would need to be as brave as Jael, as decisive, as unwavering? Where I’m willing to stick my neck out, be not liked, be not applauded, not appreciated?”
When we’re called to faithfulness, we may not always be recognized or applauded in this life. Jael couldn’t have known the prophetess Deborah would put her deed into a song to be remembered for centuries after her death. She acted in faith – as we all are called to do.
Featured Songs: Shake Yourself Loose by Vickie Winans; Press On by Mandisa; Whom Shall I Fear? (God of Angel Armies) by Chris Tomlin