Why We Sing: A Lesson From Judges


“Then Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam sang on that day, saying, ‘When the leaders led in Israel, When the people volunteered, Bless Yahweh! Hear, O kings; give ear, O rulers! As for me, to Yahweh, I will sing; I will sing praise to Yahweh, the God of Israel. O Yahweh, when You went out from Seir, when You marched from the field of Edom, the earth quaked, the heavens also dripped, even the clouds dripped water. The mountains flowed at the presence of Yahweh, this Sinai, at the presence of Yahweh, the God of Israel.’”
Judges 5:1-5 (LSB)

Out of all the books in the Bible, the book of Judges is my favorite. I might be a little morbid, or I might just like a well-told story. Either way, Judges is my book. Judges 5, the whole chapter—the entire chapter—is a song (somewhat out of place amid the gore and violence of the rest of the book, but it’s no less great). More than likely, the heading of Judges 5 in your Bible reads: “The Song of Deborah.” Here in Judges, right in the middle of everything that’s going on, the LORD saw fit to place a song into the heart of this book; preserved for our reading, for our benefit—a song!

In response to the LORD’s victory, these leaders…sing. Of all things, why do they sing a song?

Deborah and Barak sing because the LORD is worthy! We still sing today because the LORD is worthy of our songs, our praise, our hearts. He is worthy. He deserves our worship. Deborah’s song is a very pointed reminder to the people of God that God—and God alone—is worthy of our praise.

Remember, the Israelites have been worshiping idols, false gods. They have been willfully, rebelliously sinning (transgressing) against the Law. According to Judges, the people of Israel returned again and again and again to the worship of false gods—it’s said of them that they were “following other gods to serve them and bow down to them” (Judges 2:19, LSB). Lest we think we’re any better, we, too, follow and serve and worship other gods. We bow down at the altar of family, sports, money, power, and politics much more often than we would like to admit.

A song is a reminder for us that the LORD alone is worthy of our praise, our worship, our service and devotion. We need songs—biblical songs—to tune our hearts to sing His grace, to turn our attention away from worthless idols to the One True God—the God who lives, who acts, who fights for us. We need to sing to the LORD, because He is worthy.

Deborah sings of the LORD, and in so doing, ascribes all glory and all power and all strength to Him…and none to Baal. The LORD and the LORD alone is worthy of our praise. Not Baal, not an idol, not any of the false gods we serve, only the LORD is worthy! That’s why we sing.

Turn your attention to Judges 5:6-8: “In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the paths had ceased, so travelers went by roundabout paths. The peasantry ceased; they ceased in Israel, until I, Deborah, arose, until I arose, a mother in Israel. God chose new leaders; then war was in the gates. Not a shield or a spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel” (LSB).

Why do we sing? We sing because we need the LORD. Deborah is here recounting days gone by, years past.  She includes some familiar names for us, so we can understand the timeframe. Shamgar and Jael are the two most recent deliverers of Israel: Jael, of course, is the hero of the time immediately preceding this song—the woman who hammered Sisera’s head to the ground. Shamgar, the deliverer who gets a one-verse mention at the end of chapter 3, is the deliverer prior to the whole Deborah/Barak/Jael episode.  

Deborah is clear. In the days of these two deliverers, “the paths had ceased, so travelers went by roundabout paths” (Judges 5:6, LSB). This is just as it sounds. So dangerous, so perilous were these days that the Israelites kept off major roadways for fear of being attacked, killed, robbed; they traveled instead on lesser known, less-traveled paths. It was not a good time for the people of Israel: they were scared, oppressed, crushed. God’s people were oppressed, helpless to do anything about their situation, so they cried out in misery and distress, and the gracious God who saves, raised up these deliverers—Shamgar and Jael, two foreigners—to save them. 

The Israelites, in those days, were entirely helpless. They were defeated, and they knew it (Judges 5:7). The people were utterly helpless. As He does, per His gracious nature, the LORD stepped in. He arrived. He came on the scene, and brought help, provided deliverance, expressed His care for the people He loves.

This is why we ought to sing. At our most helpless, the LORD came down and made His dwelling among us.  In the dark night of our souls, the LORD—the One of Sinai—came to us, to save us and deliver us from our sin and darkness. We sing because we need Him, desperately. This is why we sing.

In the helplessness of His people, Judges 5:8 tells us it was the LORD who acted. God stepped into the chaos and the helplessness of the situation. The people of God were helpless, weaponless. The LORD, and He alone, could save and pull them out of the miry pit.

Can we see how this applies to us? We are helpless here and now. The LORD must act. He must fight for us.  To use a metaphor, we don’t even have any weapons at our disposal—no shields or swords have we. We are helpless. We need the LORD. This, friends, is why we sing. Singing is a mark of our dependence upon Him—we offer ourselves in song, bowing before Him, expressing our helplessness, our dependence, our trust in Him.

Let us sing aloud to the Worthy One, the One we need. To quote Jonathan Leeman: “Far better than the sweet harmonies of a few trained singers is the rough and robust sound of pardoned criminals, delighting with one voice in their Savior” (Reverberation, 158). That’s us, friends. Let us sing!

For further reading
Judges: Such a Great Salvation by Dale Ralph Davis
Judges and Ruth: The New American Commentary By Daniel I. Block
Reverberation: How God's Word Brings Light, Freedom, and Action to His People by Jonathan Leeman
Corporate Worship by Matt Merker
Barrett Case

Barrett Case

Barrett Case has served as Pastor of Rich Hill Christian Church in Rich Hill, MO since October 2010. Case served as preaching pastor, associate pastor, and interim pastor in churches throughout Kansas before moving to Rich Hill. He graduated from Manhattan Christian College in 2005 with a BA in Pastoral Ministry. Barrett and his wife, Meghann, were blessed to adopt four incredible children: Magal, Miracle, Patience, and Makai.

October 9, 2023

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