Noodling on the story of Deborah and Barak in Judges 4 and 5 this morning. And to be honest, the danger in familiar stories is that the lessons are familiar, too. In this case, before I even start reading I’m thinking about Barak’s unwillingness to go into battle unless Deborah goes with him. And so, when I get to her response, where the prophetess Judge of Israel says, “I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman” (Judges 4:9), I’m thinking, yup, Barak blew it.
Failure because of a lack of faith, I’m thinking. Came in second place because he settled for second best, I’m thinking. Poor Barak, I’m thinking.
But then, something I read in the celebratory song penned by Deborah and Barak after Sisera and his army of chariots are defeated, has me rethinking things a bit.
Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day:
“That the leaders took the lead in Israel,
that the people offered themselves willingly,
bless the LORD!”
(Judges 5:1-2 ESV)
The leaders led. The people offered themselves willingly. Bless the LORD!
Barak’s story might not permit him to take on the super-hero status I would have liked, but bottom line? . . . He was in the battle. He led as he should have. To God be the glory.
As I chew on it, who am I to sit in judgment of this commander of Israel’s army? He had lived through the 20 years of cruel oppression under Sisera and his boss, King Jabin (4:1-3). Though Deborah was known as a prophetess and had been a faithful judge in civil matters, her “thus sayeth the LORD” that now was the time for an army of infantrymen to take on an army of chariots may have come from out of left field a bit. Probably no better way to test how certain the prophetess was that she had heard the voice of the LORD then to say, “Ok then, how about you go with me?”
Regardless of what Barak was thinking, how much he battled the fear factor, or to what degree he sported feet of clay, bottom line is that he went. He was in the battle.
The leaders led. And when they did, the people offered themselves willingly. Bless the LORD!
Barak was man of faith. How do I know that? Because he was in the battle. And, because the Scriptures says so . . .
And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets–who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.
(Hebrews 11:32-34 ESV)
Barak would never have the selfie of him standing over a defeated Sisera, that honor would be given to a pilgrim’s wife who knew how to work a hammer and tent peg (4:21). But Barak had led his army of foot soldiers against an army of horses and chariots, with Deborah at his side, believing that God would go out before him. And the LORD did route Sisera “and all his chariots and all his army” and He did it by the edge of Barak’s sword (4:15).
The leader’s led, by faith. The people offered themselves willingly, by faith.
A prophetess Judge was found trustworthy, a pilgrim’s wife was found courageous, and a commander of the army was found faithful, being where he should have been, in the battle.
And this too, by faith.
Bless the Lord!
For His grace. For His glory.