Summary: Barak wasn’t much more than just present at first; but he eventually got the vision...
“Deborah said to Barak, “Arise! For this is the day in which the LORD has given Sisera into your hands; behold, the LORD has gone out before you.” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him. 15 The LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army with the edge of the sword before Barak; and Sisera alighted from his chariot and fled away on foot. 16 But Barak pursued the chariots and the army as far as Harosheth-hagoyim, and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not even one was left.”
Here’s a revelation for you. It’s not easy picking a title for a sermon about a Bible character when it’s difficult even to figure out what that character did that deserves mention.
I saw that Deborah means ‘honeybee’, and Barak means ‘lightning’, so I thought of calling the sermon “The Adventures of Honeybee and Lightning”.
As this sermon progresses however, you will see that even that would not have been entirely appropriate.
I was certain that I remembered the writer to the Hebrews mentioning these folks in the eleventh chapter of his letter so I went there. Much to my surprise, Barak is mentioned but Deborah is not, even though she seems to be more of a major player in this story than her General, Barak.
He doesn’t even catch the bad guy!
Sisera, the bad guy, is taken down by a woman named Jael. Jael means ‘mountain goat’ and Sisera means ‘battle array’. But the title, “Mountain Goat Meets Battle Array” just didn’t do it for me either.
The more I thought about it, and after reading Judges 4 about three times, the more I felt the biggest complement I could give Barak was that he was present. He was there.
Now I don’t like to be too critical of Bible characters, especially when they have found their way into the Hebrews Hall of Faith. So when I find myself thinking disparagingly of them I try to compare myself to them and that usually takes the wind out of my sails a little bit.
When I applied that exercise to Barak it occurred to me that very, very often, little can be said of me other than that I am present.
If you can agree with that assessment and are willing to admit that the same can occasionally be said of you, then we are ready to go to this story and find some nuggets of gold.
THE SETTING AND THE PLAYERS
Let’s begin by naming the key players and putting them in their respective roles:
Jabin: King of Hazor in Canaan; a tyrant
Deborah: a Jewish judge; a woman of faith and courage
Barak: a reluctant Jewish general
Sisera: captain of Jabin’s army
Heber: a Kenite neighbor, at peace with Jabin
Jael: wife of Heber; handy with a hammer
Jehovah God: in charge of wars and weather
(above from Wiersbe, W. W. 1996, c1994. Be available. An Old testament study. Victor Books: Wheaton, IL)
Now we see from the last part of chapter 3 of Judges that under the leadership if Ehud, a Benjamite, Israel was delivered from the Moabites and thus enjoyed peace for 80 years.
Verse 31 is a very interesting post script to that chapter.
”After him came Shamgar the son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad; and he also saved Israel.”
Although Shamgar is not specifically named as one of the judges of Israel, he is given honorable mention here as one who had a significant role. Just a simple statement, but powerful. Shamgar killed 600 Philistines with a sharpened stick. Don’t you just love the way things are often said in the scriptures so matter-of-factly? No fanfare, no flourish, just the facts. I love the Bible.
But Ehud finally died and the people once again did evil in the sight of the Lord.
That’s when you know your religion isn’t real; when as soon as you are free of accountability you slip back into your old ways, following your fleshly desires and forget the Lord.
So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin, king of Hazor. This is the pattern through the book of Judges. Oppression sent by the Lord to chasten, the repentance of the people, deliverance from the oppressors, also provided by the Lord, and the return of the people to apostasy.
Israel was in a pathetic state at the time God raised up Deborah to judge for Him. Verses 6-8 of chapter 5 give us a better picture. This is in what is called the song of Deborah and Barak, sung after God gave them victory over Jabin and his general, Sisera.
“In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, In the days of Jael, the highways were deserted, And travelers went by roundabout ways. 7 “The peasantry ceased, they ceased in Israel, Until I, Deborah, arose, Until I arose, a mother in Israel. 8 “New gods were chosen; Then war was in the gates. Not a shield or a spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel.”