Objection: The prophetess Deborah, in an inspired psalm, pronounces Jael to be blessed above women, and glorifies her act by an elaborate description of its atrocities.
Answer: Scripture is inspired by God. God gives His mind on any particular subject to anyone spiritually capable of understanding it.
However, just because scripture provides a record of peoples’ words, that does not mean that what they said was inspired. We have Satan’s words, wicked men’s words, and human accounts of various facts, recorded by inspiration, but not themselves inspired. Scripture gives us a picture of what man, and particularly Israel, is. It does it, not just by dogmatic statements, but by giving us a historical development of what man has does and felt in various circumstances. If the Bible had merely given us God’s judgment, we never should have had the testimony to our consciences that we have. Scripture affords us man’s actual history under the various dispensations of God. We get an inspired testimony of what God’s mind is, adapted in grace to our consciences. A gracious father speaks to his child according to what suits the child, yet always in a way worthy of himself. That is how God has dealt with Israel and all men. How else could He have done so?
In the Old Testament we have a perfect, divinely-given picture of man, in various relationships with a gracious God. His whole condition is brought out, so that by a divinely given history, we might know ourselves, and at the same time appreciate the whole course of God’s dealings with man. Ultimately, in perfection God Himself is manifested in Christ in supreme grace. Man and God get into a relationship according to the security of His nature, and the perfectness of His love. When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom. 5:6).
We should not have the knowledge either of man or God, and His wondrous, perfect and patient ways, if we had not seen men presented at exactly as they were. A statement of morality by God would, no doubt, have shown what man ought to be. We have that in the law. But that would not have shown us what man is.
People who were used to communicate things, such as Deborah, were pious and animated in their hearts by God’s Spirit. In their dispensations, they were just not as instructed, as we have been in ours.
Deborah’s song is not a communication of God’s thoughts, but of Deborah’s feelings. Doubtless, her heart was moved by the Spirit in thankfulness for the deliverance of God’s beloved people, but there is no sign of its being a communication from God to His people. It was consistent with the light she possessed, and coloured by the general condition of the people. Like Hannah, she appreciates God Himself known in mercy to His people. The song does not rise above the measure of Israel’s blessing. Things were to be extended under David, Solomon and the prophets.
The Old Testament is a spiritual instruction for us, so that we can know God, and His perfect ways, more fully. I may know some scientific facts, and rely on these but I have the perfection of Christ to judge by. To use the Word rightly depends on my spiritual progress and moral state. This is exactly as it ought to be.
We are tempted to judge things from the standpoint of a clearer revelation. I may pass a moral judgment on many things in the Old Testament, because God has given me the true light, and the darkness is now passed. He who is light, has given me the light to judge these things. Christ has given the perfect key by which to judge of it all.