“And he (Sisera) said unto her (Jael), ‘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….”
King James Version
“Never Give Evil What It Asks For!”
“The evil of the world is made possible by the sanction you give it.”
Has something evil or someone evil ever walked unexpectedly into the “tent” of my life?
How did I respond?
“The lesser evil is also evil.”
“Only if, deep inside, we rebel against every kind of evil, will we be able to put a stop to it…while everything within us does not yet scream out in protest, so long will we find ways of adapting ourselves, and the horrors will continue.”
Many years ago, a friend and I were invited by a group of water enthusiasts to spend a long weekend water skiing at Lake Mohave, a fabulous place for enjoying warm weather and cool water.
We left Los Angeles in the early morning when the temperature was a pleasant 70°. But by the time we arrived in Needles, California, the outdoor temperature had shot up to 115° and my little Datsun did not have air conditioning. I can’t begin to tell you how thirsty we were when we finally stopped for a drink of ice cold water. There’s nothing like cool, refreshing water when your lips are dry and your mouth is parched.
This is the picture painted in Judges 4 of a tired, thirsty, and worn out Sisera as he arrived at the encampment of Heber, the Kenite.
Biblical historians estimate that Heber’s tents were pitched perhaps 30-40 miles north of the scene of the battle between the Israelites and Sisera. It’s quite possible, Sisera was on the run for several days and think about the condition he may have found himself in, traversing the harsh desert of Palestine, trying to scrape by on what water and food he could find.
In this famished and thirsty condition he arrived at the camp of Heber. Since we hear nothing about Heber’s presence in the camp, it is likely he was away. This may be the reason Sisera went to Jael’s tent. If we recall, at this time in history, the men often had their tent and the women had a separate tent. In the story of Abraham and Sarah, while they were married, they each had a residence or tent of their own and when Isaac married Rebekah, we are told he brought her to his mother’s tent.
Whatever the reason, Sisera, uninvited and unexpected showed up on Jael’s doorstep, a tired, hungry and thirsty man. His arrival may have surprised Jael, but her response was well thought out. And herein lies a big lesson for you and me. Long before Sisera came into camp, Jael had obviously come to the conclusion how she would handle this snake if he ever tried to rattle his way into her world.
Hannah Arendt penned these enlightening words: “The sad truth of the matter is that most evil is done by people who never made up their minds to be or do either evil or good.” This wasn’t Jael! She didn’t ride the fence.
Before Sisera entered her tent, Jael knew she did not want to make “peace” with this evildoer. So when he arrived, she was prepared – heart, soul, and body.
There are several other interesting things we need to take note of as we study Judges 4:19.
First, it was an ancient practice, common to all Bedouin tribes, that if you ate or drank anything in the tent of someone, this act was viewed as a symbol of peace. Even your known enemy could rest comfortably and securely in the tent of an adversary if food and drink had been shared together. Jael’s hospitality lulled old Sisera into believing he was safe.
Second, and of critical importance, is the fact that Sisera turned to Jael and asked her for a drink of water. But instead of giving “evil” what it asked for, Jael gave “evil” what it needed to be eradicated. We had better sit up and take notice of this seemingly small and insignificant detail.
As I read this passage of Scripture in Judges, I asked myself, “Was there really a difference between giving Sisera the water he asked for, or the milk that Jael provided him?” To find my answer, I went to information provided by the world-renowned Mayo Clinic. Here’s what I learned.
“If your mother used to give you a cup of warm milk before sending you off to bed, she had the right idea. Dairy foods are a good source of tryptophan, an amino acid that your body converts to melatonin and serotonin – both of which are thought to induce sleep.”
While Jael may not have been aware of all the enzymes present in milk which promoted sleep, she obviously had observed the effect of milk in others and so rather than giving Sisera, the evil snake, what he asked to feed upon, she gave him something that would eventually cause his demise.
Like Jael, our lesson today should be strong and clear – never feed evil what it asks for. Never let evil feast on a banquet table of goodies in your life. Instead, every moment of every day, you and I should pray that like Jael, long before evil ever shows up at our door, we will have made a decision that there’s no place in our tent for “evil” and that we will give “Sisera” only what we know will destroy him.
“I will never be able to hate any human being for his (or her) so-called ‘wickedness’…I shall only hate the evil that is within me, though hate is perhaps putting it too strongly, even then. In any case, we cannot be lax enough in what we demand of others and strict enough in what we demand of ourselves.”
“Hear me and help me, O Lord, for I am poor and needy; teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your truth with an undivided heart.”
Psalm 86: 1,11
“Most loving Lord, give me a steadfast heart, which no unworthy thought can drag downwards; an unconquered heart, which no hardship can wear out; an upright heart, which no worthless purpose can ensnare. Give me also, O Lord my God, understanding to know You, diligence to seek You, and a faithfulness that will finally embrace You; through Jesus Christ, my Lord.”
St Thomas Aquinas
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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