In Judges 4:17, Jael is identified as the wife of Heber the Kenite, and she is closely associated with the judge and prophetess, Deborah. Together, God used these two women to help the Israelites win the battle against their oppressive enemies: Jabin, Sisera, and the powerful Canaanite army. Unlike Deborah, Jael was not a judge or a prophetess. She did not have any public position of power. She was a simple homemaker (or in those days, tentmaker). Her story shows how God can use anyone, even the most average of women, to pull off amazing feats for His glory.
1. Jael chose faith over fear. Perhaps the most amazing thing about Jael’s story is that Jael was not an Israelite. She was a Kenite woman. The battle that was being fought belonged to the Israelites, yet it was won partly because a foreigner allowed God to use her. 4:17 says “there was peace between Jabin king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite”. Jabin and the captain of his army, Sisera, were not enemies to Jael and her family. In fact, they were on pretty friendly terms. To keep the peace between them, Jael could have taken Sisera in and hid him safely. She could have lied for him and told Barak who was looking for him, ‘No, there is no man here.’ She could have feared what Sisera or Jabin might do to her if she betrayed them. She could have feared what her husband would think of her when he found out about her deed. Jael COULD HAVE feared, but Jael CHOSE TO HAVE faith. She knew that the people of Israel were in trouble and she placed herself squarely on their side.
When you are faced with a stressful situation or tough decision to make, do you trust God or do you give in to fearfulness? Because of Christ, we should not fear anything or anyone. God is squarely on our side. And since He is for us, who can be against us? God wants us to do what He commanded Joshua to do in Joshua 1:9: “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” In life, we will have many times to be terrified and many opportunities to fear; but we will please God if we chose to exercise faith over fear.
2. Jael broke tradition. According to Mary Hallet of Zondervan’s commentary on All the Women of the Bible, “Hospitality was one of the most strictly adhered to, of all desert obligations, and was a matter of honor among the Hebrews.” When Sisera appeared at her tent, it was Jael’s duty to make sure he was properly welcomed, fed, and made to feel comfortable. At first glance, it appears that this is what Jael did but we soon learn that she had something far different in mind and threw all sense of hospitality out the window. Never in a million years, did Sisera think that he would suffer his fate at the hands of a woman. Jael’s actions here remind me of a line in Shakespeare’s Hamlet that reads, “one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.” Now it is never right for one to kill, but there is no doubt that Jael was a villain for a good cause in this case.
Throughout history, there are many instances in which God used non-traditional situations and seemingly bad actions, to have His plan accomplished. Though he was captured and taken away from his homeland, God used Daniel to be a light in dark Babylon. Despite the persecution carried out by Saul, God used him (later called Paul) to become a great Gospel witness. Through the treachery of Judas, Jesus’ death provided salvation for the entire world. God likes to make sense out of chaos. Sometimes His actions don’t seem logical. Remember, it was a virgin that birthed the Savior; young David who slew the mighty Goliath; and one ark that saved humanity from being wiped out. We can be assured that in every situation, God will have His will to be done, so don’t be afraid to break tradition.
3. Jael used the tools she had on hand. The scene described in Judges 5:26-27 is pretty gruesome. It reads:
She stretched her hand to the tent-peg,
Her right hand to the workmen’s hammer;
She pounded Sisera, she pierced his head,
She split and struck through his temple.
At her feet he sank, he fell, he lay still;
At her feet he sank, he fell;
Where he sank, there he fell dead.
Jael’s job might have been easier if she had a sword on hand or some other weapon of war. But Jael did not wait around for the “perfect” object to arrive. She used what she had.
When you know that God is telling you to do something, do not wait for the perfect time or the perfect tools. Use whatever you have available. Don’t cry because you don’t have a sword. Begin working with your peg and hammer. Turn your focus away from what you don’t have and on to what you do have. When God sees that you are serving Him with what He has given you – no matter how small or crude it may be – He will make up for what you don’t have.