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Can My Dementia Keep Me from Christ?

The Most Blessed of Women: An Unlikely Hero

Posted February 26, 2024

March marks the start of Women’s History Month, and with it a flood of stories of influential women in our feeds that aim to teach and inspire. Alongside these contemporary stories, many women from the church’s great cloud of witnesses offer us valuable instruction. One such woman is none other than the tent-peg-wielding Jael of Judges. Though many of us might have grown up chuckling at this awkward Sunday School story, Jael herself was recounted as “the most blessed of women,” (Judg. 5:24) and we would do well to find out why.

Not Merely Strength

Jael’s narrative appears in the time of the judges when God’s people did “what was right in their own eyes” (Judg. 21:25) and repeatedly faced the consequences of invading armies. In his mercy, God continually raised up judges to help destroy Israel’s enemies and bring short-lived peace. In Judges 5, Israel is in the midst of another power struggle with the armies of Jabin, king of Canaan. Under the leadership of Deborah, the Israelite armies go to battle for their freedom against the ruthless Canaanite commander Sisera.

God brings deliverance for Israel by leading the Canaanites to destruction, yet Sisera flees from the battle on foot. He seeks refuge in the tent of Jael, the wife of a Kenite. The Kenites descended from Moses’s father-in-law and ended up assimilating into the Israelite nation. The text makes it clear Jael’s husband had made a poorer decision: he chose to shelter closer to Canaan and went so far as to make peace with the Canaanite king. When Sisera flees to his comrades for safety, Jael welcomes him into her protection, only to drive a tent peg through his head while he sleeps.

Once Far Off

Jael’s gruesome story gives us a glimpse of God’s desire to draw all people to his kingdom. As Israel conquers Canaan, God chooses to use not only a woman but a foreigner to secure victory for his people, instructing readers like us that God’s kingdom is for the outsider, foreigner, and sinner. We see this truth displayed throughout all of Scripture. It plays out through women like Rahab the Prostitute, Ruth the Moabite, and Mary Magdalene the demon-possessed. We read it in the lives of Caleb, the Kenuzzite; Zaccheus and Matthew, the tax collectors; and in Cornelius, the gentile.

Most of all, we see this reality when we look in the mirror. Every one of us, man and woman, were separated from God. Our sin pronounced us unworthy, yet, in his grace, our Father brought those who were far off near (Eph. 2:13). He not only drew us into his fold, but he adopted us as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:5). We are now no longer strangers but a royal priesthood and a people belonging to God (1 Pet. 2:9). Like Jael, even we sinners can be called blessed sons and daughters through Jesus Christ.

Behind the Tent Peg

While many try to make Jael’s actions about the strength of a woman, when we look at the text closely, we’re actually forced to see her dependence on display. Jael’s murder of Sisera deserved blessing not simply because of her brawn, but because it demonstrated her complete trust in Yahweh. Jael already had connections—a husband and security—but she chose to compromise her own comfort and well-being in order to identify with the cause of the one true God.

Sparing Sisera might have even resulted in greater wealth, power, or protection from the king of Canaan. Yet despite that, Jael chose to depend on the God of Jacob for her help. This dependence is incredible. We see traces of this trust throughout history in the brave women who have decided that Christ really was worth the cost. The Hebrew midwives feared Yahweh over the vengeful Pharaoh. Hannah devoted her firstborn son to the Lord. Lady Jane Grey went to her death trusting the Lord to keep her soul. Corrie and Betsie ten Boom hid fugitives, procured food rations, and later labored in a concentration camp, knowing the Lord was their refuge and strength. Patriarchs like Abraham left their home; disciples like Paul endured beatings; and missionaries like Nate Saint gave their entire life for Christ. Like Jael, they threw their lot in with Yahweh even when the alternative would have been easier.

Yet we’d be amiss to read Jael’s story and only think of grand gestures and martyrdom. Sometimes we wield tent pegs in the midst of the darkness, but often we just hammer our pegs in the dirt, trusting Christ to sustain us in our ordinary days. We wake up in the morning and cry out our allegiance to Yahweh when we beg for the strength to drive to work. We wield our tent peg by holding our tongue and praying for patience with the coworker sitting next to us. The sixteenth dish washed becomes a pleasing aroma to the Lord as we spend another day walking in the good works he has prepared for us.

These aren’t small matters. Each day as sons and daughters of Christ we declare our own allegiance to the God of Jacob. We display our dependence on him as we forgive, encourage, read the Word, praise our God, disciple our kids, and gather on the Lord’s Day.

History has shown us repeatedly that our kind Lord has called sinners like me and you to be his sons and his daughters. Let’s learn from Jael and every saint since, and keep throwing ourselves on the mercy of Yahweh.

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Brianna Lambert

Brianna Lambert lives in Indiana with her husband and three kids where they attend Crosspointe Community Church. She is a forthcoming author with InterVarsity Press, staff writer at Gospel-Centered Discipleship, and has contributed to various online publications such as Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, and Risen Motherhood. You can read more of her writing on her website, BriannaLambert.com.