Monday, October 27, 2014

Didn't the Lord Say...?

"Hath not the LORD God of Israel commanded…?”

Barak gets a bad rap. For one thing, people tend to forget who he is and what he did. (Admittedly, he did bring that on himself.) People are more likely to remember Deborah than Barak, and they certainly can’t forget the actions of Jael when she killed Barak’s enemy, Sisera. We tend to think of Barak as the judge with weak faith, if we remember he was a judge at all, since he wouldn’t go into battle unless Deborah went with him. But when we look at the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11:32, it is Barak (not Deborah, not Jael) who is held up as our example of faithfulness. It makes me think that we should look a little closer at Barak.

In reading Judges 4:4-7, it appears that the Lord had already spoken to Barak, in some way, before Deborah called for him. It doesn’t tell us how the Lord spoke. It may have been through a prophet or an angel, it may have been that the Lord spoke directly to Barak, but the Lord had spoken and Barak knew the will of the Lord. How like us. How often we know the Lord’s will, but we ignore it.

How do we know that the Lord had already spoken? Because Deborah used the words “Hath not the LORD God of Israel commanded?” She wasn’t telling Barak something he didn’t know, but she was reminding him of his duty. That’s part of why we fail to see the faithfulness of Barak. Somewhere inside of us, we know that we shouldn’t have to be reminded to do what the Lord has asked us to do. If I miss church one Sunday, I shouldn’t need someone to call me to remind me that I should’ve been at church. If I make a commitment to the church or one of the church leaders to perform a certain task, I shouldn’t need someone to remind me of what I’ve committed to do. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t remind people of their commitments. God takes it very seriously when we don’t honor our promises to him, so our reminding someone to honor their commitments may save them from chastening from the Lord. I see this as the role that Deborah played.

But Barak wouldn’t go without Deborah. On one hand, I get this. One of the things I struggle with is serving the Lord alone. More often than not, I don’t have a choice. But Barak didn’t really have the same situation as I do. For me, even though I would rather have someone help me, it is easier to do things alone than to go find someone who isn’t busy with their families. For Barak, even if Deborah hadn’t gone, he wouldn’t have been alone. He was leading 10,000 men into battle. Barak may have thought that he would get out of going because Deborah wouldn’t go. But she did go, and because she did, Barak lost the honor of being the one to kill Sisera.

Where is the faith of Barak? He stood on Mount Tabor and Sisera positioned his host and his 900 chariots. We don’t know how many foot soldiers Sisera was leading, but 900 chariots is a lot, when you consider that Judges 5:15 tells us that Barak was on foot. Think about that. Barak, on foot, led 10,000 men against an army with 900 iron chariots and likely, superior numbers of foot soldiers. Barak had some courage to face a situation in which the enemy had better technology and outnumbered Barak’s army. The thing that makes it faith is that Barak did it because the Lord told him he would succeed. Yes, it took some prompting, but Barak had some faith.

So, Barak should serve as our example and as a warning. Barak is our example in that he trusted the Lord and led the army according to the instructions the Lord gave him. He is a warning to us, because like Barak, when we rely on people to hold our hand or to goad us into doing what we know the Lord has told us to do, we won’t receive the complete blessing that the Lord intends for us to receive for completing the task. Someone else will receive the recognition. Someone else will receive the reward. If we want to receive what the Lord has in store for us, we had better honor our commitments and do what the Lord has asked us to do without the Lord having to send someone to remind us.