“Because of the people’s volunteering, praise Jehovah!”—JUDG. 5:2.
1, 2. (a) What did Eliphaz and Bildad claim about the effect of our service to God? (b) How did Jehovah make his feelings known?
“CAN a man be of use to God? Can anyone with insight be of benefit to him? Does the Almighty care that you are righteous, or does he gain anything because you follow the course of integrity?” (Job 22:1-3) Have you ever wondered about the answers to questions such as these? When Eliphaz the Temanite first posed them to Job, Eliphaz no doubt believed that the answer was no. His associate, Bildad the Shuhite, even argued that a righteous standing before God is not possible for humans.—Read Job 25:4.
2 These false comforters claimed that our efforts to serve Jehovah loyally are of no benefit to him at all, that our value to God is no more than that of a moth, a maggot, or a worm. (Job 4:19; 25:6) At first glance, we might conclude that Eliphaz and Bildad displayed a humble attitude. (Job 22:29) After all, from the top of a high mountain or from the window of an airplane, human activity may seem insignificant. However, is that how Jehovah views our contribution to the Kingdom work as he looks at our planet from his lofty perspective? Jehovah made his feelings known when he reproved Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar for speaking falsehood but took delight in Job, referring to him as “my servant.” (Job 42:7, 8) Thus, a person can indeed “be of use to God.”
“WHAT DO YOU GIVE HIM?”
3. What did Elihu say about our efforts to serve Jehovah, and what did he mean?
3 Elihu was not corrected by Jehovah for asking: “If you are righteous, what do you give him [God]; what does he receive from you?” (Job 35:7) Was Elihu suggesting that our efforts in God’s service are pointless? No. He was saying that Jehovah does not depend on our worship. Jehovah is complete. We cannot make him richer or stronger. On the contrary, any goodness, talent, or strength that we possess is a trust from God, and he takes note of how we use it.
4. To what does Jehovah liken our kindly giving to others?
4 Jehovah considers acts of loyal love expressed toward his servants as being rendered to him personally. “The one showing favor to the lowly is lending to Jehovah, and He will repay him for what he does,” says Proverbs 19:17. Is this scripture implying that Jehovah takes note of every act of kindness performed in behalf of lowly ones? Can we conclude that the Creator of the universe considers himself to be indebted to mere humans who perform deeds of mercy and that he views such giving as loans that he repays with favor and blessings? Yes, and this was verified by God’s own Son.—Read Luke 14:13, 14.
5. What questions will we now consider?
5 Jehovah invited the prophet Isaiah to speak on His behalf, revealing His pleasure in having faithful humans take part in the outworking of His purpose. (Isa. 6:8-10) Isaiah willingly accepted that invitation. Today, thousands are demonstrating that same “Here I am! Send me!” spirit in taking up challenging assignments in Jehovah’s service. Still, one might ask: ‘Does my individual effort really matter? While it is gracious of Jehovah to allow me to volunteer and participate, will he not provide whatever is needed to fulfill his Word no matter how much I personally choose to do in his service?’ Consider how the events that unfolded in the days of Deborah and Barak answer these questions.
PARALYZED BY FEAR, THEN FORTIFIED BY GOD
6. What contrast was there between Israel’s villagers and Jabin’s army?
6 The Israelites had been “harshly oppressed” by Canaanite King Jabin for 20 years. Villagers were afraid even to be seen in public. From a military standpoint, they were ill-equipped, having neither offensive weapons nor defensive armor, whereas their enemies had 900 war chariots with iron scythes.—Judg. 4:1-3, 13; 5:6-8.*
7, 8. (a) What initial instructions did Jehovah give Barak? (b) How did Israel defeat Jabin’s army? (See opening picture.)
7 Nevertheless, Jehovah gave Barak this clear command through Deborah the prophetess: “Go and march to Mount Tabor, and take 10,000 men of Naphtali and Zebulun with you. I will bring to you Sisera, the chief of Jabin’s army, along with his war chariots and his troops to the stream of Kishon, and I will give him into your hand.”—Judg. 4:4-7.
8 Word spread. The volunteers gathered at Mount Tabor. Barak wasted no time in following Jehovah’s instructions. (Read Judges 4:14-16.) During the main battle in Taanach, a sudden cloudburst turned the surroundings into a marsh. Barak chased Sisera’s army all the way to Harosheth—a 15-mile (24 km) route. At some point along the way, Sisera abandoned his once frightening but now useless chariot and ran to Zaanannim, perhaps near Kedesh. He sought refuge in the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, and was welcomed by Jael. Exhausted from battle, he fell asleep. Sisera was now vulnerable to Jael’s decisive act of courage to put him to death. (Judg. 4:17-21) Israel’s enemy was defeated!*
A CONTRAST IN ATTITUDE TOWARD VOLUNTEER SERVICE
9. What details does Judges 5:20, 21 provide regarding the battle against Sisera?
9 Judges chapters 4 and 5 should be studied together, for each chapter reveals details not contained in the other. For instance, Judges 5:20, 21 reports: “From heaven the stars fought; from their orbits they fought against Sisera. The torrent of Kishon washed them away.” Is this a reference to angelic assistance, or was there some sort of meteorite shower? The account does not elaborate. But to what else besides divine intervention can we attribute such torrential rains at that precise location and exact moment, so as to swamp 900 war chariots? Three times at Judges 4:14, 15, the victory is attributed to Jehovah. None of the 10,000 Israelite volunteers could boast about bringing this deliverance.
10, 11. What was “Meroz,” and why was it cursed?
10 Strangely, though, in the midst of Deborah and Barak’s victory song praising Jehovah for a miraculous conquest, they sang: “‘Curse Meroz,’ said the angel of Jehovah, ‘yes, curse its inhabitants, for they did not come to the assistance of Jehovah, to the assistance of Jehovah with the mighty ones.’”—Judg. 5:23.
11 Meroz was evidently cursed so effectively that it is difficult to say with certainty what it was. Could it have been a city whose inhabitants failed to respond to the initial rally for volunteers? If it lay on Sisera’s escape route, did its citizens have a chance to detain him but fail to seize the opportunity? How could they not have heard of Jehovah’s call for volunteers? Ten thousand people from their region had been assembled for this offensive. Imagine the people of Meroz catching sight of this vicious warrior as he ran right through their streets alone and desperate. This would have been a splendid opportunity to advance Jehovah’s purpose and experience his blessing. Yet, at that critical moment when given a choice between doing something and doing nothing, did they give in to indifference? What a contrast that would have been to Jael’s courageous action described in the very next verses!—Judg. 5:24-27.
12. What contrast in people’s attitude is seen at Judges 5:9, 10, and how should this affect us today?
12 At Judges 5:9, 10, we see a further contrast between the attitude of those who marched with Barak and that of those who did not. Deborah and Barak commended “the commanders of Israel, who went as volunteers with the people.” How different they were from the “riders on tawny donkeys,” who were too proud to participate, and those “who [sat] on fine carpets,” loving a life of luxury! Unlike those “who walk[ed] on the road,” preferring the easy way, those who went with Barak were willing to do battle on the rocky slopes of Tabor and in the swampy valley of Kishon! All the pleasure-seekers were urged to “consider!” Yes, they needed to meditate on their missed opportunity to help Jehovah’s cause. So, too, should any who today are holding back from serving God fully.
13. How did the attitude of the tribes of Reuben, Dan, and Asher differ from that of Zebulun and Naphtali?
13 Those who volunteered witnessed firsthand how Jehovah magnifies his sovereignty. They had something of substance to speak about as “they were recounting the righteous acts of Jehovah.” (Judg. 5:11) On the other hand, the tribes of Reuben, Dan, and Asher were each singled out at Judges 5:15-17 for giving more attention to their own material interests—as represented by their flocks, ships, and harbors—than to the work that Jehovah was having done. By contrast, Zebulun and Naphtali “risked their lives to the point of death” to support Deborah and Barak. (Judg. 5:18) This contrast in attitude toward volunteer service contains an important lesson for us.
14. How do we show our support for Jehovah’s sovereignty today?
14 Today, we are not called on to engage in physical warfare, but we are privileged to show courage by our zealous preaching activity. The need for volunteers in Jehovah’s organization is greater than ever. Millions of brothers, sisters, and young people are offering themselves in various fields of full-time service as pioneers, as Bethelites, as Kingdom Hall construction volunteers, and as volunteers at assemblies and conventions. Think, too, of elders who carry weighty responsibilities with Hospital Liaison Committees and convention organization. Be assured that Jehovah deeply appreciates your willing spirit, and he will not forget it.—Heb. 6:10.
15. How can we determine that we are not being overcome by indifference toward Jehovah’s work?
15 Each of us does well to ask himself: ‘Am I content to let others carry the bulk of the workload? Am I allowing undue emphasis on material interests to interfere with my volunteer spirit? Like Barak, Deborah, Jael, and the 10,000 volunteers, do I have the faith and courage to use whatever is at my disposal to carry out the clear command of Jehovah? If I am contemplating a major move to another city or country for perceived economic advantages, do I give prayerful consideration to the effect this would have on my family and on the congregation?’*
16. What can we give to Jehovah that he does not already have?
16 Jehovah dignifies us by allowing us to share in supporting his sovereignty. Since the Devil first enticed humans to support his rival sovereignty, your siding with Jehovah’s rulership sends Satan a message that is loud and clear. The faith and integrity that motivate your volunteer spirit are pleasing to Jehovah. (Prov. 23:15, 16) He uses your display of support to make a reply to the taunts of Satan. (Prov. 27:11) Thus, by your loyal obedience, you are, in effect, giving Jehovah something that he considers precious, and he finds profound joy in this.
17. What does Judges 5:31 indicate for the future?
17 Soon the earth will be filled with those who prefer Jehovah’s sovereignty over any other. How we long for that day! With Deborah and Barak, we sing: “Let all your enemies perish, O Jehovah, but let those who love you be like the sun rising in its glory.” (Judg. 5:31) This petition will be answered when Jehovah brings an end to Satan’s wicked world! When the battle of Armageddon begins, there will be no need for human volunteers to rout the enemy. That will be the time for us to “stand still, and see the salvation of Jehovah.” (2 Chron. 20:17) But in the meantime, there are many opportunities for us to support Jehovah’s cause with courage and zeal.
18. What is the effect of your volunteer service on those who benefit from it?
18 “Because of the people’s volunteering, praise Jehovah!” Thus, Deborah and Barak began their victory song with praise, not to creatures, but to the Most High. (Judg. 5:1, 2) Likewise today, may your volunteer spirit move all those who benefit from it to “praise Jehovah!”
A scythe is a sharp, long, and sometimes curved blade. Scythes would have stuck out from the chariots, possibly from the axles. Who would dare approach such a frightening war machine?
Further details of this thrilling account are set forth in the article “‘I Arose as a Mother in Israel’” in the August 1, 2015, issue of The Watchtower.
See the article “Anxiety About Money” in the July 1, 2015, issue of The Watchtower.