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 JUDGES 5:23

 

"Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty."

 

Cursed, for doing nothing! But that's the point! They did not help in a time of need!

 

 

Dr. Mike Bagwell

LESSON 1, INTRODUCTION:

The verse is unusual.

It, at least in some ways, stands alone.

In the Book of Judges Israel backslides on God again and again.

It's "theme" just might be: "Every man did that which was right in his own eyes." Judges 17:6 and again in 21:25.

In chapters 4 and 5 the cycle repeats itself. Again and again the pattern repeats: Israel Sins! God raises up an oppressor to "punish" the wayward nation! Israel repents, calling on God for deliverance! And God sends relief, under the hand of some leader, most often here called a "judge."

Get those 4 steps, now. They are important to any analysis of the Book of Judges. Sin, oppression, repentance, deliverance!

Back to our two-chapter swath, Judges 4 and 5.

Step one: sin! "And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD." So introduces the account, Judges 4:1.

Step two: chastisement from God! "And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles." Judges 4:2, those two names are important, the enemies Jabin and Sisera.

Step three: cry for help! "And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD: for Jabin had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel." A twenty year "whipping," Judges 4:3.

Step four: deliverance, miraculously so here! "And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedeshnaphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the LORD God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun? And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand. And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go." Judges 4:4-8, Deborah and Barak. All kinds of "weaknesses" are seen here, a sign of those dark times, anthropocentric not theocentric years! But that's another sermon.

The battle is on!

Ten thousand Jewish soldiers, many more should have volunteered, versus the whole Canaanite army, with nine hundred iron chariots alone! "And Deborah said unto Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the LORD hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the LORD gone out before thee? So Barak went down from mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him." Judges 4:14

God gave the victory that day! "And the LORD discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet. But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left." Judges 4:15-16

The rest, as they say, is "history!"

This whole Story is told again, recounted, in the next chapter of Judges, chapter five. Chapter four is prose. Chapter five is poetry. Really, chapter five is a "song" of praise.

Our Text Verse is found there, too, Judges 5:23.

In the midst of the battle, apparently a "war" for their own land, their own territory, one city did not help!

God says to them: "Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty." Judges 5:23

Here's a place that refused to fight for its own cause!

They had become that complacent!

That lazy!

That cowardly!

The "let somebody else do it" syndrome!

It's not just that they would not help Barak fight! The verse says they would not help God fight!

For a couple of days I want us to look at these people.

They've lost their fighting spirit!

No longer do they "contend for the faith!"

And some of their relatives have moved into our land, I think.

Lord willing, more tomorrow.

Until then, remember Paul's words to Timothy. "Fight the good fight of faith," short but to-the-point, 1st Timothy 6:12.

God's judgment, for doing nothing!

"Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty." Judges 5:23

Wow!

                                                                                --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 2, CURSE YE MEROZ:

The city of Meroz must have been in the path of battle. And the people there could have done something to stop the attempted escape of Sisera, the captain of the enemy army.

Could have, but they didn't!

That why Judges 5:23 reads: "Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty."

These people were shirkers. They refused to fight. They idly did nothing. And they faced the wrath of God!

Usually we think of God's judgment falling on people because of what they did. Not for what they did not do!

The noun "help" is "ezrah," meaning "assistance, succour, support."

Of course it was their fellow Jews who were under bondage to the wicked Canaanites. That's what this battle was all about, freedom! In fact, the citizens of Meroz were under that same bondage!

Apathetic!

They, in refusing to help their brethren, fellow Israelites, also refused to help the Lord! That's quite obvious in our verse. Remember Jesus' words in Matthew 25:40. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

And the result of such laziness, or cowardice, or passivity?

They heard God say: "Curse ye, Meroz!"

They received the very curse of God in their lives!

The verb "curse" is an imperative. God is commanding it to come upon them! God Himself is putting it upon them!

It's spelled "arar," and 62 of its 63 times in Scripture is translated just that, "curse." The other time, right here in our verse, it is translated "bitterly."

Yes, "curse bitterly" is in Hebrew "arar arar!"

A double curse!

And the name "Meroz" means "refuge."

But, in this case, the place of "refuge" is going to become the place of "destruction!"

For failing to fight God's battles!

To take this lesson and apply it in our lives today, what are we not doing that we should be?

Could our sins of omission bring God's displeasure on us?

What about witnessing?

Studying our Bibles?

Attending Church faithfully?

Tithing our income?

Loving our families?

Being filled with the Spirit?

The list could be extended.

It's best for each of us to add something of our own here.

The sin of "doing nothing!"

Not joining the battle, spiritually.

James says this: "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." James 4:17

And Jesus did say, although in a parable: "Occupy till I come." Luke 19:13

What if the Lord today should "convict" one of us of something we have not done!

How wonderful that would be.

It might save a lot of problems in the future.

Like God's Hand of chastening.

Think about it.

                                                                              --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 3, THE ANGEL OF THE LORD:

In a few words, God once judged a whole city because of something they did not do! The Lord is displeased if we do not help His Cause!

Our Text: "Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty." Judges 5:23

There it is, in all its stark reality.

Sure makes me want to stay busy for Jesus, at least helping any way I can! I want to "fight" in His army!

Remember, Jesus did say: "He that is not with me is against me." Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:39

But notice the verse, Judges 5:23. It was not Barak the General who "cursed" lazy Meroz. Nor was it the brilliant and perky lady named Deborah, a leader in Israel in those dark days.

It was the Lord!

Precisely, "the angel of the Lord" who did so.

But Who is this Angel?

Do we have any clues?

If you're saved, you know Him personally!

Most fundamental Bible teachers believe him to be none other than the Son of God! The Lord Jesus Christ, just in a pre-incarnate form.

Jesus as the baby of Bethlehem, with His subsequent earthly life included, can be enumerated in years. About 2,000 years ago He came to die on the Cross.

But Jesus as The Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, is ageless. He is eternal! And He often, we believe, made appearances in Old Testament situations.

When God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of each day, in the Garden of Eden, that was none other than God the Son!

He's the only Member of the Godhead Who is visible!

In the burning fiery furnace, walking with those miraculously spared Hebrew young men, was none other than the Son of God too!

Sometimes these appearances are linked to "the angel of the Lord" activities. He revealed Himself to Hagar, Abraham, Moses, Balaam, Gideon and Samson, among others.

Here's how it happened to Moses. Watch carefully please. "Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God." Exodus 3:1-6

Notice the "blending" of identities. The angel of the Lord, looks like to me, equates Himself as the "God of Abraham!"

For an enjoyable Bible Study, trace the "angel of the Lord" events throughout Scripture, right up to the Birth of our Lord. He was quite busy in those pre-birth days!

So, when Meroz is "cursed" for her indolence, it is God Who does the cursing. God the Son as the Angel of the Lord.

Jesus is the Judge, anyway. "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son." John 5:22

The Lord is sure getting pretty "up-tight" over a little city not going to war! Is it that serious?

The Merozites "slighted" their brethren, leaving them exposed to further danger from the vicious Canaanite armies, by simply doing nothing!

Draft dodgers!

Peaceniks!

Conscientious objectors!

Cowards!

Lazy rascals!

They helped not the Lord in the day of need!

And God "cursed" them.

I'm afraid many of us Fundamentalists in these last days have laid our swords down, electing to "love" the world rather than to "oppose" it. We've learned to "tolerate" deviant doctrine rather than to "attack" and "correct" it!

Let's be careful!

We might incur God's anger!

He is not delighted in that overly passive crowd!

"I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." Revelation 3:15-16

Grandma used to say, "A word to the wise is sufficient."

Fight the good fight of faith!

Don't be a deserter!

                                                                          --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 4, THE INHABITANTS THEREOF:

It almost goes without saying that when God judges a city, like "Meroz" in our Text today, He also judges the people of that city!

Its inhabitants.

"Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty." Judges 5:23

The "inhabitants" are cursed, too.

After all, they are the ones who did nothing when Israel was at war!

If fire falls on Sodom, people die!

If Jerusalem is under siege, people starve!

You just can't separate a city or nation ... from her people.

Whatever happens to Meroz, happens to its citizens as well.

The noun used for "inhabitants" in our verse is "yashab." It means "those who dwell in a place." Those who "remain" there. Who "abide" within its walls.

It suggests that they were "at home" in that environment, the laziness and lethargy and complacency that had become synonymous with Meroz!

And for that, for their refusal to help the Cause of the Lord God, they face his severe Hand of judgment!

I sometimes wonder about America.

Should she face God's judgment for her atrocious sins, what about us?

If the dollar some day becomes worthless, we Christian will be just as penniless as the lost people will be!

If electricity fails, for months I mean, we will be just as much in the dark as are the atheists!

If we end up breathing radioactive air, due to some nuclear terrorist act, our bodies will die just like the unbelievers!

Such thoughts should drive us to our knees.

Our Country is inviting God's wrath!

Sin after sin, rebelliously ignoring Almighty God!

Piling one iniquity on top of another!

No wonder the New Testament says so much about "suffering" in the lives of the saints.

I am glad to announce that I strongly suspect, whatever we face, God will be Sufficient for the trial!

He will get us through!

He will even make us stronger because of the tragedies we suffer.

The inhabitants of Meroz may have been hopeless.

We Christians today are not!

Really, truth be told, our primary citizenship is not down here anyway, not here on earth!

We're just "strangers and pilgrims," on our way to Heaven! That's what Peter called us in 1st Peter 2:11.

The word "conversation" Paul uses in Philippians 3:20 is basically our word "politics." It's spelled "politeuma." Watch: "For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body."

Amen!

Whatever happens in days or weeks or months ahead, God will help us. Both with present comfort and future hope.

Because, if things continue like they are, America one day may be under the "curse" of God too.

Like Meroz.

Will we in those hard times be able to stay strong as did Habakkuk?

Habakkuk who wrote: "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength." Habakkuk 3:17-19

Yes, the God of the good times can also be the God of the bad times!

Praise His holy Name!

                                                                            --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 5, THE HELP OF THE LORD:

This verse is more amazing than I first thought.

It may be the only place in the whole Bible where God is explicitly pictured as needing help!

The only place!

"Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty." Judges 5:23

These Israelites, inhabitants of the little city of Meroz, did not come to "the help of the Lord!"

But, God is almighty!

He can do anything!

How could He ever need help?

Yet He apparently did, during this Judges chapters 4 and 5 war against the Canaanite army.

And a whole city refused to help the Lord!

The closest thing I can find to God needing help is recorded Exodus 32:26. There, at that horrible Golden Calf incident, the Bible records: "Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD'S side? let him come unto me."

Judgment needed to be executed on the guilty parties, the idolaters of Israel. God could have handled the problem Himself, for sure! But we are quickly told: "And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him." Exodus 32:26

In the Exodus event here we are given the names of those who stood with the Lord, who "helped" His Cause! The Levites, thank God for them.

And in the Judges event, our Text, where God says He needed help, we are given the names of those who did not come! The people of Meroz, remember them.

When using word combinations like "help" and "Lord," all my computer will find are verses where God helps us!

Where He is our Help!

But no more places where God needs help!

So, I am assuming that if God ever does need help ... and sends for one of us, you or me, we had better be ready!

If we do what we can, helping to the best of our ability, our great God no doubt will generously reward such faithfulness!

If we say "no," we should also assume the Lord will publish our names, just as He did the people of Meroz!

Shame on the shirkers!

What a minute!

This one is close to God needing help. "I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Isaiah 6:8

God needed a message delivered!

Did anyone help?

Yes, Isaiah did.

"Then the Prophet said I, Here am I; send me."

If you ever sense God having a need, hasten to His Side!

Any "helpers" out there today?

Once Paul called the young preacher Titus a "fellowhelper." See 2nd Corinthians 8:23.

And John suggested that we might become "fellowhelpers" to the Truth. See 3rd John, verse 8.

I ask again, anyone ready to help the Lord?

The consequences of not doing so, "curses!"

So says our short Text. ""Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty." Judges 5:23

                                                                                --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 6, AGAINST THE MIGHTY:

All God wanted, according to Judges 5:23, was a few good people to "help" Him! To help Him overcome "the mighty," the current enemies of Israel!

Here's the whole verse. "Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty."

One city especially, Meroz by name, refused the Lord.

As a result it was cursed.

Think of it!

The Lord and you, against the mighty!

The Lord and me, against the mighty!

Wow!

What an honor!

To help, in some small way, defeat the enemies of God!

This sounds like a "David and Goliath" sort of thing!

The word "mighty" is "gibbor" in Hebrew. It is translated "champion" once in the King James Bible. Also it's "chief, giant, valiant, strong and excellent!"

Somehow God needs us, in combating such an enemy!

How?

We can pray against the forces of evil.

We can vote against antichristian philosophies.

We can speak against the lies of Satan, exposing them Biblically.

We men of God can preach against sin, period!

But the help God needed here, in Judges 5:23, is against a supreme enemy. The Canaanites had 900 chariots of iron, a highly trained army, skilled leadership and the backing of all the forces of evil.

Yet with God ... victory is assured!

Am I will to join in a cause that cannot be lost?

It would be unwise not to do so!

I sought a few verses to illustrate today's lesson.

Conquering the big foes!

Here's one. "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience." 2nd Corinthians 10:5, attacking the enemy's "high places!"

Here are those "mighty" enemies, listed specifically. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Ephesians 6:12, after which we are given every piece of needed armour!

Even Romans 16:20. "And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."

Yes, "In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us." That's Jesus, in Romans 8:37.

What big enemy do you need to fight?

What awesome foe stalks you?

Remember Paul's great question: "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31

Don't run from the battle!

Don't become passive!

Fight!

The Lord is our Captain!

Surprisingly to many: "The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name." Exodus 15:3

Reverse our Text in your life!

Instead of: "They came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty."

Make it: "They did come to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty."

Amen!

Then will be spoken the thrice-repeated words of Old Testament fame: "And the LORD wrought a great victory that day."

Challenge that enemy now!

                                                                            --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 7, BLESSINGS IN THE MIDST OF CURSES:

By now you're probably saying, "Enough, Brother Bagwell!"

For a week it's been Judges 5:23 with its "curses, curses, curses!"

"Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty."

A whole city was cursed by God! Because in a time of crucial battle, they did absolutely nothing to help their own families, their nation or their Lord!

I've preached nearly a week about "do nothing" Christianity.

Folks too apathetic to "fight the good fight of faith!"

So today, in the last lesson of the series, I'd like to talk about ... "blessings!"

Let's shift from Judges 5:23 to Judges 5:24, just one verse apart.

"Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent."

Wow!

The people of Meroz precipitated God's anger!

But one brave lady, single-handedly, earned God's approval!

What the city refused to do, for whatever reason, she did decisively!

Here's the Bible story. It's short. Read it all please. "Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent. He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish. She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen's hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples. At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet he bowed, he fell: where he bowed, there he fell down dead." Judges 5:24-27

Or, if you want the full account, Judges 4:15-23. This is an amazing event! A woman God admires for her bravado!

"And the LORD discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet. But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left. Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle. And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him. Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and enquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No. Then Jael Heber's wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died. And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples. So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel."

Her name is pronounced "ja'-el." In Hebrew it's "ya'-el." She is sure painted in a good light in the Judges Text! A real hero! And while the grammar is suspicious, "She did not do nothing!" She was not lazy or fearful or whatever, as were the people of Meroz!

She picked up her hammer, fetched a tent peg ... and, as they say, the rest is history!

After sedating him with warm milk, covering his battle worn feet with a blanket, and allowing him to sleep, she simply slew him!

She helped the Lord!

She fought the mighty!

And she received the blessings the folks at Meroz had forfeited!

Again, "Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent." Judges 5:24

Sometimes it's what you do that counts!

Not just what you say!

Jesus said it in Luke 11:23. "He that is not with me is against me."

That's pretty plain!

When the enemy overruns your possessions, fight!

Don't capitulate.

Don't surrender!

Don't cower down!

Rather, attack!

As did Jael!

And the devout worshipper in Psalm 71:16. "I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD." What resolve! What faith!

And what victory is assured!

Don't do nothing!

The battle is still raging!

                                                                           --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

There's irony in a woman killing Sisera!

Many Bible teachers believe Sisera, this wicked General of the Canaanite forces, was a womanizer anyway! Listen to his Mother longing for his safe return home, a return he never accomplished thanks to Jael's deadly hammer and nail! Pay special attention to the words, "to every man a damsel or two!"

"The mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariots? Her wise ladies answered her, yea, she returned answer to herself, have they not sped? have they not divided the prey; to every man a damsel or two; to Sisera a prey of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of needlework, of divers colours of needlework on both sides, meet for the necks of them that take the spoil?" Judges 5:28-30

He reaped what he had sown!

He kidnapped and abused women.

So, he was slain by a woman.

No wonder God blessed her, Jael, the assassin, so very much!

These were brutal days, during the reigns of the Judges, and God needed help. He asked for it even!

Will anyone respond?

As to a Bible example of God needing "help," consider Colossians 4:7 where Tychicus is called a "fellowservant" to the Lord!

Helping the Lord!

 

 

                                 Blessings or curses, what a choice!

 

 

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