by Marti Fischer
Dorothy Sayers is one of my favorite writers who never found Christianity or life itself, dull. She once wrote, “Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the cradle and last at the cross. They had never known a man like this Man — there never has been such another.”
This Man, we women know, loves us, respects us, and considers each of us His ongoing creation. He did not create all of us women to do the same thing. Rather, He created each one of us to do a special thing in the world, and then set us to toil in whatever each of us does, leaving us to discover, in our task, what it is that distinguishes us.
Whatever “it” is, we know it is unmistakable, for it has been willed and empowered by the Man himself for He is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). Whatever it is, let it be illuminated by the power of our specific calling.
To demonstrate my point, I want to tell about a woman and the special thing she discovered that she was created to do. To tell my story, we need to go back a century or so after the Hebrews entered Canaan (the Promised Land). There is a commander of King Jabin’s Canaanite army, Sisera. Sisera with his troops is spending his days — 20 years altogether — oppressing the Israelites.
There also is a wise and courageous ruler or Judge of the Israelites named Deborah. The only woman among the twelve judges, Deborah followed God faithfully, acting with integrity in her duties. Her boldness came from relying on God, not herself. In a male dominated culture, Deborah did not let her power go to her head, but exercised authority as God guided her.
But my story is not about Deborah.
Deborah prevailed upon Barak, her military general and a heroic leader, to unite the tribes of Israel for greater strength, and because God had gone before him, he defeated Sisera’s Canaanite army at Mount Tabor.
But my story is not about Barak. My story is about Jael.
“The troops of Sisera fell by the sword and not a man was left” — except Sisera, who deserted his army and ran to the camp of Heber the Kenite, near Kedesh. Heber and King Jabin were allies. As Sisera staggered in, Heber’s wife, Jael, welcomed him into her tent (Judges 4:16-17).
The exhausted Sisera asked for water, but instead, Jael gave him curdled milk, a drink that would make him drowsy, and hides him under a blanket where the thoroughly frightened and exhausted man drops off to sleep — a sleep from which he never awakens.
The writer tells what happens next with elaborate detail: Jael takes a tent peg and the mallet with which the pegs were driven into the ground and hammers the stake through Sisera’s head! In a while, Barak arrives. Jael takes him into the tent and shows him the gory sight. In silence, Barak turns and walks away. (The honor of the victory is not his to claim for as Deborah previously predicted, the Lord delivered Sisera into a woman’s hands (Judges 4:9).
Deborah’s poetic version of Jael’s deed follows:
Her hand reached for the tent peg,
her right hand for the workman’s hammer.
She struck Sisera, she crushed his head,
she shattered and pierced his temple. (Judges 5:26)
“Most blessed of women be Jael,” Deborah and Barak sang of her, and what did Jael do to merit such praise? Simple. She did what lay before her — the thing she was created to do.
Jael’s hammer was a hammer of justice. From that day on, the hand of the Israelites grew stronger and stronger against Jabin, the Canaanite king, until they destroyed him. Her heroic act was the beginning of the end of Canaanite control. Thus Israel, the repository of the “seed” through which Christ was born, was spared to that end, that she might play her part in bringing salvation to the world. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
My point in telling this story is this: We never know what heroism lies in quiet obedience to God within our ordinary lives, and there’s no biblical reason why you, in your obedience, should not play an extraordinary role in the unfolding drama of world redemption.
We women will never know a man like this Man, Jesus Christ, because there never has been nor ever will be such another. He created each one of us to do a special thing in the world. He has set us to toil. Our task is to discover what it is that distinguishes each of us. Whatever it is is unmistakable, for it has been willed and created by God. Whatever it is — Go! — with all the force of the Spirit (and all your anxiety) for the needs of the world are immense. Do not copy others but trust that God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20)
Like so many women including Dorothy Sayers, you will never find Christianity or life itself dull again.