Resolutions: Great Resolves of the Heart
It was a time of war. Israel had been oppressed by the Canaanite King, Jabin, for twenty (20) years. Jabin’s right hand man, Sisera, had nine hundred chariots of iron (Judges 4:2-3). With so many chariots, who could withstand him? Nevertheless, when the children of Israel cried out to God, He heard, and raised up Deborah as a judge (Judges 4:3-4). At his request, Deborah went with Barak, and defeated the armies of Jabin, and Sisera died at the hands of a woman, Jael (Judges 4:8-24).
After this great victory, Deborah wrote a song found in Judges 5. In this song, she praises God for the victory, and recounts the circumstances that led up to the battle. One expression in this song that catches the attention is found in Judges 5:15-16, “By the watercourses of Reuben There were great resolves of heart. Why sattest thou among the sheepfolds, To hear the pipings for the flocks? At the watercourses of Reuben There were great searchings of heart” (ASV).
One might think that this thought is a compliment, but it is actually a criticism. You see, while the tribes of Zebulun and Naphthali enjoined the battle, Reuben stayed at home with their flocks. They passed great resolutions in their assemblies, but could not take themselves away from their comfortable pastoral life. One commentator says:
Deborah first of all mentions the tribes which took no part in the conflict (Judges 5:15-17), and then returns in Judges 5:18 to the Zebulunites, who staked their life along with Naphtali for the deliverance of Israel from the yoke of the enemy. The enumeration of the tribes who remained at a distance from the conflict commences with Reuben (Judges 5:15 and Judges 5:16). In this tribe there did arise a lively sympathy with the national elevation. They held meetings, passed great resolutions, but it led to no practical result; and at length they preferred to remain quietly at home in their own comfortable pastoral life.
Many have “great resolve of heart,” but fail to execute upon those resolutions when it is time to act. These “resolves” take many practical forms. The Pharisees’ oaths in Matthew 5:33-37 were such “resolves.” Failing to follow through on our commitments would be categorized as being such a “resolve.” Passing national laws and then failing to enforce them may be categorized as such “resolves.” It is good to have great resolves, but if we do not have the follow through to go with it, resolutions are meaningless, hypocritical, and at worst downright deceitful.
It has been said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We may intend to do the right thing, have our heart right, and even say the right things, but if those intentions are not backed up with solid action, our intentions become vain. James said it like this:
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed (James 1:22-25).
How many of us prefer the comfortable pastoral life to the life of service that Jesus’ demands? Do we come to worship each week with great resolves of heart, but do nothing thereafter? It is good to have a good heart, but it is better for that good heart to be followed by good activity of faith. Let’s resolve not to be sideline Christians, but to put on the whole armor of God and engage the enemy (Ephesians 6:10-18).