Mockery of the Wicked
“Out from the window, she gazed from above, and the mother of Sisera lamented from behind the lattice, ‘What is the reason for his chariot being so long in coming? Why do the hoofbeats of his chariots delay?’ Her wise noblewomen answered — she likewise returned her answer to herself: ‘Maybe they haven’t found and divided up the booty — two slave-women for every man, a booty of dyed cloth for Sisera — a booty of dyed and embroidered cloth; dyed cloth that is embroidered around the neck as booty!’”
The indignity of Sisera’s death is not complete with the account of Jael, but Baraq and Deborah now mock Sisera’s mother as she laments the absence of her son. As we mentioned above, it is often uncomfortable for us to mock like this in today’s world where we are taught to be polite rather than true, but God is not concerned about the ways of men. And thus, the Spirit inspired our singers with these words that celebrate the lament of the wicked.
So, how do we reconcile these words with Jesus’ statement that we are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44)? The key word, of course, is “your.” There comes a point of discernment to determine whether this enemy is your personal enemy or he or she is an enemy of God. The former group, we are to love and pray for — one day we may call them brother or sister in Christ even! But those who are enemies of God not only may be mocked, but should be. Could we be wrong in that point of discernment? Yes, but perhaps God will use your mocking words to shake up those who are acting wickedly. So, if one who seemed an enemy of God comes to faith, you seek forgiveness for the mockery and celebrate the mighty power of God, for that which is impossible for man (the conversion of a sinner) is possible for God (Matthew 19:26).
Mockery in the Service of God
“Thus, Ehud made for himself a dagger (and it had two mouths) a cubit in length. And he bound it to himself under his robe on his right side. And he took the gift to Eglon, the king of Moab. Now, Eglon was a very fat man.”
As the elements of this story are laid out, you can almost hear the elders of the family telling the story to the children around a fire or a dinner table, all the while, the children (who have heard the account numerous times), giggling in anticipation for what comes next. You have the making of the 18” long dagger, the tribute or gift mentioned again (and again in the context of the dagger) and that it is hidden under his robes, so there is some intrigue afoot. Further, we are told that the “fattened calf,” Eglon is a fattened man as well. As a storyteller, this is the point in the story where you feign fatigue and tell the children it is time for bed and we will resume the next night. It is also the point where the children cry out, “Noooooo!”
And so, the fun of the story continues. When the dagger is introduced, it is introduced as having “two mouths,” a reference to the double-entendre of this account, though the natural interpretation is that it is two-edged. Its mouth can cut in both directions. Further, Ehud hides it in an inconspicuous spot to avoid detection (perhaps we can equate Ehud with an ancient James Bond…just a thought). Anyway, the story unfolds.
One thing that I think we miss, in our “politically-incorrect-aphobic” society is the value of being able to genuinely mock those who honestly deserve to be mocked. Even God mocks those who raise their puny fists into the air against him (Psalm 2:4). Eglon, though raised up by God to punish the people for their idolatry, has still raised his fist against the people of God and thus against God himself. Similarly, while there are many who aim their wrecking balls at the true church, God assures us that those who take refuge in Him will never be destroyed (Psalm 34:19). And thus, those who target the church with their foolishness deserve to be mocked.
We, of course, need to be wise as to how we go about mocking, for some of those we mock may one day be called “brother” or “sister” in Christ. Yet, where those ideas are raised against the knowledge of God, we should not be shy about tearing them down. And where the ideas of the enemies of God are clearly foolishness, then the only right response is to point out their foolishness, which is mockery. Perhaps even, the embarrassment caused may be the tool that the Holy Spirit uses to illuminate the fool as to his foolishness. Otherwise, it leaves the fool with no excuse.
Mockery should not be spiteful nor should be be arrogant, it is simply the normal response, when one knows the truth, to the incredulous ideas that the fools espouse. And, it is my contention that if Christians paid more attention to what they believed, they would be more apt to recognize foolishness for what it is and respond accordingly.
The Bruised Reed
“And they stripped him and laid a scarlet cloak on him. And they twisted together a crown from a thorn vine and put it on his head with a reed in his right hand, and they knelt before him and mocked him saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews.’ And they spat on him and took the reed and beat him on the head.”
“And they clothed him with a purple cloak and they put on him a crown woven from a thorn vine and they began to recognize him: ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they were striking him on the head with the reed and spitting on him and bowed the knee to worship him.”
“And the soldiers wove a crown from a thorn vine and put it on his head and clothed him with a garment of purple. And they came up to him and said, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they gave him blows.”
So we have the robe, the crown, and now we are left with the reed that was given to our Lord, Jesus. And as we look at this element of Roman mockery, there seems to be two ways in which we can approach it. One of the tools of a reed in the ancient world was to form a standard of measure. Reeds were cut to a consistent length and could then be used much like we would use a yard stick. Thus, in scripture, we find Ezekiel measuring the New Temple with a measuring reed (Ezekiel 40) while John repeats that same activity toward the closing of the Canon (Revelation 11 & 21 — note that even the word “Canon” comes from this word for “reed”). As justice was measured along the lines of standards, the reed also became a symbol of righteousness worked out. That in itself helps us to see the horrible irony of this event, for the reed (of justice) is taken from the King’s hand and used to beat him.
We take this one step further, though, when we realize that in addition to making sure that justice is done, a King is given power over men that is often symbolized by the scepter that he carried. And while reeds were known for being straight, they were not known for being the sturdiest of materials to use and could be easily broken. Hence Jesus asks if, when the people went out to see John the Baptist, what they were looking to see was a “reed shaken by the wind.” Thus, the counterfeit that the Romans were using was that of placing a scepter in Jesus’ hand that represented power to be broken.
But there is a second way that this can be perceived, this time not as much in terms of the design of Roman mockery, but in terms of God’s prophetic design. Isaiah writes about the Messiah:
“A bruised reed, he will not break;
A glowing wick, he will not quench;
In truth he will bring forth justice.”
And here we have the one who will not break the wounded and broken but will restore them, having the symbol of the bruised and broken (the reed) crushed over his own head. How often God requires of his prophets seemingly strange acts so they may become living examples of his truth, justice, and grace; here is one more.
Yet, how often we are like those Romans, seeking power in the strength of men and not in the strength of God. How often people in our churches prefer force to humility, preferring to break the bruised and crushed reeds in their midst than to preserve and heal. How often truth and justice are only sought when convenient…yet how often genuine truth and justice are costly.
The Righteous Will Mock
“The righteous shall see and fear, and they will mock. ‘Look at the mighty one who would not have God as his refuge and trusted in his abundance and riches! He found strength in his own destruction!”
(Psalm 52:8-9 [verses 6-7 in English translations])
It seems kind of odd to picture believers mocking the downfall of anyone. We are so used to the language of loving and forgiving our enemies, it seems that we have trouble reconciling the two. Of course, scripture doesn’t seem to see any disharmony in this. Yes, the psalmist is mocking those who have chosen to flee from God’s rule and into the means of their own destruction, but at the same time, repeatedly God’s word has called those outside of the faith to repent of their wicked ways and come to God for forgiveness. When one refuses the counsel of wisdom being offered is rejected and the person continues to choose folly, there is a sense that they are getting what they deserve.
The language of the “mighty one” ought to be seen as sarcastic. Usually the term refers to a heroic warrior on the battlefield, but remember the one being spoken of in the immediate context is Doeg the Edomite, servant of Saul, who slew a family of priests…hardly something that would be marked as a glorious battle or achievement. Doeg trusted in his own status and the wealth of Saul, not taking counsel even from Saul’s other soldiers that attacking priests was just not to be done. How drastically sin and greed blind.
The final statement is the most significant of these two verses: “he found strength in his destruction.” In other words, the things that would destroy him are the things that he sought to magnify and revel in. Such is the pathway of sin. Paul writes in Romans 1 that part of God’s judgment is to withdraw his hand of restraint and allow you to pursue sin and wickedness to your own end. We bury ourselves in our sin, reveling in those things that undo us. How good the grace of God is that delivers us from this end, but how wicked we are in pursuing that end. Beloved, do not find strength in the things that will destroy you; find strength in God alone and you will live.