Week of Proper 15: Tuesday, Year 1   10 comments

Deborah, by Gustave Dore

With God All Things Are Possible

AUGUST 22, 2023


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Judges 5:9-23 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

My heart is with Israel’s leaders,

With the dedicated of the people–

Bless the LORD!

You riders on tawny she-asses,

You who sit on saddle rugs,

And you wayfarers, declare it!

Louder than the “sound of archers,

There among the watering places

Let them chant the gracious acts of the LORD,

His gracious deliverance of Israel.

Then did the people of the LORD

March down to the gates!

Awake, awake, O Deborah!

Awake, awake, strike up the chant!

Arise, O Barak;

Take your captives, O son of Abinoam!

Then was the remnant made victor over the mighty,

The LORD’s people won my victory over the warriors.

From Ephraim came they whose roots are in Amalek;

After you, your kin Benjamin;

From Machir came down leaders,

From Zebulon such as hold the marshal’s staff.

And Isaachar’s chiefs were with Deborah;

As Barak, so was Isaachar–

Rushing after him into the valley.

Among the clans of Reuben

Were great decisions of heart.

Why then did you stay among the sheepfolds

And listen as they pipe for the flocks?

Among the clans of Reuben

Were great searchings of heart!

Gilead tarried beyond the Jordan;

And Dan–why did he linger by the ships?

Asher remained at the seacoast

And tarried at his landings.

Zebulon is a people that mocked at death,

Naphtali–on the open heights.

Then the kings came, they fought:

The kings of Canaan fought

At Taanach, by Megiddo’s waters–

They got no spoil of silver.

The stars fought from heaven,

From their courses they fought against Sisera.

The torrent Kishon swept them away,

The raging torrent, the torrent Kishon.

March on, my soul, with courage!

Then the horses’ hoofs pounded

As headlong galloped the steeds.

Curse Meroz!

said the angel of the LORD.

Bitterly curse its inhabitants,

Because they came not to the aid of the LORD,

To the aid of the LORD among the warriors.

Psalm 85:8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8 I will listen to what the LORD God is saying,

for he is speaking peace to his faithful people

and to those who turn their hearts to him.

9 Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him,

that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11 Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12 The LORD will indeed grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness shall go before him,

and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

Matthew 19:23-30 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Jesus remarked to his disciples,

Believe me, a rich man will find it very difficult to enter the kingdom of Heaven.  Yes, I repeat, a camel could more easily squeeze through the eye of a needle than a rich man get into the kingdom of God!

The disciples were simply amazed to hear this, and said,

Then who can possibly be saved?

Jesus looked steadily at them and replied,

Humanly speaking it is impossible; but with God anything is possible!

At this Peter exclaimed,

Look, we have left everything and followed you.  What will that be worth to us?

Jesus said,

Believe me when I tell you that in the new world, when the Son of Man shall take his seat on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also be seated on twelve thrones as judges of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Every man who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or land for my sake will get them back many times over, and will inherit eternal life.  But many who are first will be last then–and the last first!


The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


An understanding of Judges 5 depends on a grasp of the previous chapter in that book.  The prophetess Deborah, wife of Lappidoth, was the judge of the Israelites.  She held court under a tree, where people came “to her for decisions” (4:5, TANAKH).  Barak was her army commander.  Deborah informed him that God had commanded her to tell him to take ten thousand men from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulon to confront the military forces of Jabin, a Canaanite king, commanded by Sisera.  God would deliver Sisera’s forces into Barak’s hands.  Barak did as Deborah said, on the condition that she accompany him.  She agreed, saying, “Very well, I will go with you.  However there will be no glory for you in the course you are taking, for then the LORD will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.”

So Barak, Deborah, and the ten thousand men set out to confront the forces that have oppressed the Israelites for two decades.  They did, and Sisera fled to the tent of Jael, wife of Heber.  She concealed him long enough to kill him by driving a pin through his temple.

So, as the narrative says, God had delivered the Israelites through the actions of women.  The message of this story in a deeply patriarchal culture is that there is no human glory here; all glory belongs to God.  The role of the feminine as opposed to that of the masculine in the story is foreign to me, a product of North American feminism.  Within my memory women have always had the right to vote, as well as to seek and hold public office.  And, as far as my memory has been stable (roughly since I was seven or eight years old), I have known of female clergy and not thought twice about them holding this status.  So the sexism of parts of the Bible rankles me.  These books are products of their times and the cultures of the people who wrote and edited them.

But let us not lose sight of the main point:  All glory belongs to God.  With God all things are possible.  In God is liberation, which is always spiritual and sometimes temporal.

The reading from Matthew proceeds from the immediately preceding verses, in which Jesus has conversed with a rich young man too attached to his wealth.  This man’s wealth was a barrier to a proper relationship with God because it (the wealth) blinded him to his dependence of God.  The glory is God’s alone; none of it is human.

Thus we have the famously hyperbolic statement about a camel passing through the eye of a needle.  It is similar to an older Jewish maxim about an elephant attempting the same feat.  The meaning is not complicated, for the narrative makes it plain:  Salvation is possible only with God.  All the glory belongs to God.  This does not mean that our sacrifices are meaningless, for these indicate our faithfulness and sincerity.

The famous line about the first being last and the last being first is consistent with other portions of the canonical gospels.  Consider Luke 16:19-31, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, for example.  The neglected poor man goes to a happy afterlife.  The Kingdom of God operates on different principles than does the dominant human order on the Earth.

With God all things are possible.  Thanks be to God!



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