Thursday, December 30, 2010

faithlessness & the dumb things we say

She sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali and said to him, "Has not the LORD, the God of Israel, commanded you, 'Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulun. And I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin's army, to meet you by the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops, and I will give him into your hand'?" Barak said to her, "If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go."
Judges 4:6-8

The narrative of the story of Deborah is one of God moving despite the faithlessness of His people. First we need to know the characters. There were good guys and bad guys. First the bad guys... Jabin is the Canaanite king who is oppressing Israel at the time. Sisera is the general leading an elite force of 900 iron chariots. He is leading the military occupation. Israel is powerless to defeat this technology.

But there are good guys. And the leader of the good guys is a good gal: Deborah. She is called a judge, a prophetess, and a "mother in Israel". She has a "court" of sorts under a palm tree and the people travelled to the hill country of Ephraim for her assistance and leadership. When things got bad enough, she called upon Barak to lead a military campaign to overthrow Sisera and Jabin. She knows it is just a matter of force, and the right leader can motivate 10,000 men to eliminate the military advantage of 900 chariots.

But Barak is not a brave leader. He is at best just a little less than confident. He refuses to take on God's call unless Deborah joins him in the battle. She does so, but warns him that the humiliation coming to him would be that the general would fall to a woman's hand.

What really bothers me when I read this passage is that Barak made this choice readily. He was willing to modify God's call due to his own fears. Think about it: a spokesperson for God (the prophetess Deborah) approached him and told him to take on this task... that God would deliver the enemy over to him. There is an army ready to be led, just the right man to do the leading was all that was left. And God chose Barak to be the commander of that army. That should have been all the confidence that man needed. But faithlessness will lead you to say some bold and defiant things. And Barak refuses the assignment UNLESS a woman goes with him. He has more confidence in the messenger than he has in the message or the God Who spoke it to him. He is really dictating to God the terms of his obedience. But Israel needs deliverance, and God graciously allows for this in His sovereign plan. It does not make Barak's lack of confidence any less disturbing. But it makes God's victory even greater.

True to the prophecy, Israel wipes out Sisera's army. The general flees to an allied city, only to find death at the hands of a woman, Jael, who offers him refuge. He meets a gruesome end with a tent peg driven through his brain by an enterprising and scheming woman who also wanted to end his oppression. The Canaanite tyranny of Jabin is ended, and God is glorified, even in the faithlessness and dumb statements of a leader named Barak.

So the real lesson is between Deborah and Barak. God will use us sometimes, even in our faithlessness. That is the lesson of Barak. God wants us to be faithful, and will use faithful people even above what we might think, as evidenced by Deborah.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

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