Summary: Don’t rely on another person to help you in your walk with the Lord, only rely on the Lord Himself!
Choosing Faith over Fear
Last week we started our series on Impact people of the old testament. In that message I gave you a challenge to be an impact person like Gideon, not an impacted person like his father. I understand, though, that doing this -- that rising up to this challenge -- is easier said than done. How can you become an impact person, even when things get tough? How can you impact other people when the world is telling you to “Be quiet, don’t make a fuss, be tolerant”?
The book of Judges is full of people who dealt with this exact problem. People who were called by God to impact the world around them, but quickly found out that God’s calling doesn’t come easily. I’m going to share the story of one such person, found in chapter 4.
Judges 4 starts off like most chapters in this book start: the nation of Israel did evil in the eyes of the Lord, so they were given over to a vicious tyrant from another land. We saw this when we discussed Gideon two weeks ago. Verses 2 and 3: “So the LORD sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Sisera, the commander of his army, was based in Harosheth Haggoyim. 3 Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the LORD for help.”
Let’s put this into perspective for a moment. Harosheth Haggoyim was a fortress. It was clearly more than just a simple army encampment because Sisera had 900 chariots at his command! This was a major military installation. At the time, 900 chariots were a big deal. These chariots were reserved for oppressing Israel, which they successfully did for twenty years. To think of it in modern terms, a chariot is like a tank. The Canaanites had 900 tanks against the Israelites’ foot soldiers with a few rifles. They had no hope!
At this time the leader of Israel was a woman named Deborah. This was a very strange thing at the time -- in fact, Deborah is the only recorded female leader of Israel in the entire Bible! She was more than just a judge, she was also a prophetess -- she was one of the people specifically chosen by the Lord to be His spokesperson here on Earth.
Deborah was one of the few Judges of Israel who actually acted like we think of judges now. If two or more Israelites had a dispute, she would resolve it with the help of the Lord. It’s interesting, really -- after 20 years of tyrannical rule by a foreign power, the Israelites essentially found a mother figure to lead them. I can see it now, two grown men run up to Deborah and say, “Mommy, mommy, he stole my idol!” The other responds, “No, I didn’t! You’re just stupid!” And Deborah would have to figure out what really happened and make a fair judgement. Sounds like a mother to me!
You see my point.
One day Deborah gets a vision from the Lord that the Canaanites will be defeated and Israel will again be free! Verse 6: “She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, ‘The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. 7 I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’”
Wait, this is awesome! Barak was specifically chosen by God to free his people! How exciting! Barak should have been ready and willing to go -- after all, he’s been under the same oppression that the rest of his people have been, right? Unfortunately, Barak didn’t see it quite the same way.
Barak was afraid. Now, don’t get me wrong -- I would be afraid too if I was told to go to war against a much stronger enemy! But what Barak did next is very interesting. Verse 8: “Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”
Wait, what? The Lord commanded Barak to do something, and he’s trying to make a deal? Barak was so afraid and so weak in his faith that he refused to go unless “Mommy” went with him. He had completely forgotten that the Lord God of Israel, the same God who brought them out of slavery in Egypt, the very same God who created the universe, even, had specifically told him that he would “give [Sisera] into his hands”.
To her credit, Deborah said she would go with him. But we can see in Verse 9 that Barak will be punished for his lack of faith: “‘Certainly I will go with you,’ said Deborah. ‘But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.’”