…the princes of Issachar came with Deborah, and Issachar faithful to Barak; into the valley they rushed at his heels. Among the clans of Reuben there were great searchings of heart. Why did you sit still among the sheepfolds, to hear the whistling for the flocks? Among the clans of Reuben there were great searchings of heart. Deborah and Barak’s song is emphatic about Reuben’s failure to act, repeating that sad refrain: “Among the clans of Reuben there were great searchings of heart.”Judges 5:15-16
The Canaanites had oppressed Israel for 20 years (Judges 4:3). In distress, Israel called to the LORD for help, and God raised up Deborah and Barak to deliver her. Some tribes, such as Zebulun and Naphtali, went to battle. Reuben, however, stayed behind.
Why did they stay behind? Too much heart searching. As some translations put it, they had great “resolves” and “determination” but no action. They felt in their heart, and even resolved to act, but nothing came of it.
Too often this can be true of us. Maybe we are reluctant to obey the call and so we spend our time in holy deliberation until the opportunity has passed us by. Or we shrink back from decisions to trust God and step forward in faith.
As a child, I sometimes lingered in bed on a school day. In my mind, I dreamed about getting dressed, brushing my teeth, and going out the door. But if the school bell rings and I’m absent, what credit is it that I imagined myself on time? As an adult, I sometimes listen to a sermon and resolve in my heart to apply it. But what comes of all those resolutions?
Peter’s command to prepare our minds for action is followed by an expectation of holy living (1 Pet 1:13-25). And David prays, “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth” (Ps 86:11). The purpose of learning and thinking is proper living. God has saved us to be “ready for every good work” (Titus 3:1, cf Titus 2:14), not merely to be full of good intentions.
Yes, we are to search our hearts and consider our ways (2 Cor 13:5). Yes, it is wise to weigh a matter according to Scripture, to pray for the Lord’s guidance and to seek wise counsel from others. Yes, we are to be fully convinced in our minds that our actions honor the Lord (Rom 14:5). But many matters are not so complicated. The exhortations in Scripture are clear. It is sin when we know the right thing to do but fail to do it (James 4:17).
We cannot obey by human effort alone. By the mercies of God, we are saved, and by the mercies of God, we obey (Rom 12:1, Gal 3:3). You have the mind of Christ and the Holy Spirit living in you (1 Cor 2:16, John 7:37-39). If lacking wisdom, call out for it (James 1:5-6). If lacking faith, ask the Lord for more (Mark 9:24). If needing strength, ask God to supply all that you need by His grace (2 Cor 9:8, Phil 4:13). God is faithful and will surely answer prayers in accord with His will (1 Thess 5:24, John 15:7-8, 1 John 5:14-15).
Let not the best thing about you be holy resolutions or great searchings of heart. Pray for yourself and others according to 2 Thess 1:11-12, and then act. As a doer who acts, you will be blessed in your doing (James 1:25).
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.2 Thessalonians 1:11-12