They live in fear.
Even a wedding or a birthday is tainted with the anxiety that it could be all be taken away in a moment.
Evil men run the country, men with no interest in mercy or justice or compassion. Men who take what they want, not caring who they hurt or wound in the process.
No one is safe.
No locks or doors are strong enough to keep out this evil.
Beloved children are kidnapped or left as orphans.
Daughters are stolen and abused.
Husbands and fathers are slaughtered.
Mothers weep as all they hold dear is ripped from their hands. They are helpless.
Not even the strong among them can protect them from this evil.
It feels like there is nowhere to go and nowhere to hide.
Fighting back is only rewarded with torture and pain, yet submission seems to be rewarded with the same.
Fear and terror ravage their hearts, as they feel abandoned, forgotten and totally alone.
Where is the Lord? When will he save them?
This could be our brothers and sisters in Africa.
This could be the refugees and the terror they are fleeing from.
This could be dark corners of our own country.
And this could be God’s people thousands of years ago.
I had the chance to read Jill Eileen Smith’s new book, The Prophetess and it struck a deep chord in my heart. She takes the story of Deborah, Barak and Jael from Judges 4-5 and weaves a masterful story with it. I always go into historical fiction, like this one, reminding my heart that these imagined details are meant to help me understand and engage with a well known story. I want to utilize the author’s visualization of a time past as a tool to help me break past my assumptions and familiarity. I wasn’t disappointed here.
We honestly don’t know much about Deborah the prophetess. We are given a few details of her life, but not many. I loved some of the guesses Jill made as she developed this character, giving depth to her trust in the Lord in such a dark time for Israel. There are only a few short sentences in the Biblical account about the terror that was unleashed on God’s people in these days, and so often I quickly skim past them on my way to battle scenes and the death by tent peg. But this story helped them sink deep into my heart. The history in Judges says that they were cruelly oppressed for twenty years.
Twenty years of not being rescued.
Twenty years of living in desperate fear.
Twenty years of wondering if the Lord hears your prayers.
Twenty years of trying to hope for a better life, but wondering if it is a naive, foolish hope.
Twenty years of waiting and waiting.
Twenty years of marriages and birthday and babies, under the shadow of horrible evil.
In these current times, as I look around our hurting, waiting, fearful world, I can’t help but see the similarities between now and God’s people then. There is injustice and oppression. There are orphans and widows. There are refugees and slaves. There are families torn apart. There is prejudice and abuse. Fear runs rampant as we see terrorism seemingly winning the day. Where is the Lord? When will he save us?
I think of Psalm 10 and how it tells of how the wicked seem to prosper as they greedily gain from the poor’s oppression.
The helpless are crushed, sink down and fall by his might. He says in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it. (v. 10-11)
Yet these four little words speak louder than the fear and affliction shouted in those verses: “But you do see..” (v.14) It may seem as though the Lord is not watching. It may seem as though the Lord has forgotten. It may seem as though the wicked have the upper hand. But it simply isn’t what is true. He does see.
I don’t pretend to understand what the Lord is doing. I don’t understand why some suffering he seems to intervene quickly and other horrors last for decades. I’m heartbroken and my spirit is crushed when I think of the terrors that others have endured and suffered. I may not know or understand why, but here is what I do know; I can trust that the Lord is just and will not forget the afflicted.
“But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless.
O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.” (Psalm 10:14, 17-18)
As I read of the Lord delivering Israel, my heart was reminded of this good truth. The Lord does deliver his people. Against all odds. With unexpected people. In the best of ways.
God gave his people victory over an army that was tremendous in number.
God brought down the cruel, mighty Sisera with the humiliating death of a tent peg at the hands of a woman.
God gave his people the strength to win a battle that they shouldn’t have had the resources to win.
This is our God. This is who he is.
Even in the midst of overwhelming horrors, even in the midst of unspeakable evil, even in the midst of tremendous injustice and oppression, he does see. Our hearts do not have to be afraid, when the Lord is our God.
As I closed the pages of The Prophetess and reread the account from Judges 4-5, I prayed.
I prayed that the Lord would keep my heart soft to those who are hurting.
I prayed asking what my part is, and how am I to do justly and love mercy from my little corner in PA.
I prayed for a heart that trusts the Lord when I don’t see why from my limited vantage point.
I prayed that if and when I am the one to suffer, I will remember that the Lord always sees me.
I prayed that I would not look to circumstances to see if the Lord has forgotten us.
I prayed that I would look to the truth: “But you do see.”
*I truly appreciated the way Jill Eileen Smith weaved the truth of Scripture with her own imagination to tell a vibrant, dramatic story of what it might have been like in the days of Judges. She gave depth to Deborah, Jael and Barak that I have never experienced before. I went back to my Bible to read Judges 4-5 after finishing the book, with new eyes and perspective. I am truly grateful for her brave writing (she admits in the afterword that this was a HARD book to write and she didn’t want to!) It was a gift to see these familiar people as real people, relating to them in a way I hadn’t before. 4.5/5 for me.
Revell Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of “The Prophetess,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255