Summary: God uses imperfect people! That's the message of the book of Judges. In the second sermon in this series we see Barak defied the will of God, depended on the word of God, and delighted in the worship of God.
Judges: Ordinary People in the Hands of an Extraordinary God (Barak)
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 7/13/2014
Ever heard the expression—He really dropped the ball!? Sure you have. We use it all the time to describe someone who failed to follow through on an assignment or make a certain deadline or achieve a particular goal. But the origin of that phrase can be traced back to the fourth game of the 1941 World Series—the Brooklyn Dodgers versus the New York Yankees. The Yankees were up two games to one in the best-of-seven series and it looked like the Dodgers were going to take game four, tying the series. Brooklyn was leading the game 4 to 3 at the top of the ninth. The Yankees were up to bat with no man on base. There were two outs, three balls, and two strikes on Tommy Henrich. Then came the wind up and the pitch—it was a swing and miss! That should have ended the game and tied the series, but the Dodger’s catcher, Mickey Owen, dropped the ball. The ball hit off the heel of Owen’s glove and Henrich made it to first base before he could retrieve the lost ball. It all went down hill from there. The Yankees went on to win the game and the series—all because Mickey Owen dropped the ball.
Oddly enough, Mickey set a record that season for the most errorless fielding chances by a catcher—508 perfect catches to be exact. He was also an All-Star for four consecutive years and was the first player to pinch-hit a home run in an All-Star game. But despite his outstanding career in baseball, Owen has always been remembered as the guy who dropped the ball.
The Bible is full of ball-droppers. Several of them can be found in the book of Judges. Last Sunday we discovered the story of Gideon, who was a bit of a coward. Yet God used him to restore the faith and freedom of a nation, proving that God uses imperfect people. Another imperfect ball-dropper in the book of Judges is a guy named Barak. Barak’s story is told in Judges 4.
Remember that this period in Israel’s history involved repeated cycles of rejection, reprimand, repentance, and redemption. The people of Israel rejected God in favor of false deities of every variety. God would then reprimand his people by allowing some foreign tribe or people to conquer or harass them in some punitive way. The Israelis would eventually repent and God would appoint a new judge, a hero to lead them back to victory and redemption. This cycle repeated itself with almost every generation.
Now, in the fourth chapter of Judges we find another one of these cycles beginning. The Bible says, “The children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord” (Judges 4:1 NKJV). And so, the Lord turned them over to King Jabin of Hazor—a self-governed city-state in the land of Canaan. The commander of Jabin’s armed forces was a man named Sisera, who led a massive militia that included nine hundred iron chariots. Together, Jabin and Sisera cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years. Finally, when they couldn’t stand it any longer, “they cried to the Lord for help” (vs. 3 NIV). So God called a heroine and prophetess named Deborah to rescue his people.
Deborah, in turn, called on a mighty warrior named Barak. One day Deborah sends Barak a message, saying, “The Lord God of Israel has commanded you to mobilize ten thousand men from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun. Lead them to Mount Tabor to fight King Jabin’s mighty army with all his chariots, under General Sisera’s command. The Lord says, ‘I will draw them to the Kishon River, and you will defeat them there’” (vs. 6-7 TLB). And that brings us to Barak’s fateful fumble. First, in this brief biography, we see that Barak defied the Will of God.
• DEFIED THE WILL OF GOD
In reply to Deborah’s message from God, Barak says, “I will go if you will go with me, but if you won’t go with me, I won’t go” (vs. 8 NCV). This is the big blunder for which Barak is usually remembered because Deborah then tells him, “Of course I’ll go with you. But understand that with an attitude like that, there’ll be no glory in it for you. God will use a woman’s hand to take care of Sisera” (vs. 9 MSG).
Let’s try to comprehend what’s going on here. Barak received his orders from God’s appointed leader and prophetess. The mobilization of Israel’s army and defeat of Sisera was a command of God. Deborah began her sentence, saying, “The Lord God of Israel has commanded you…,” yet Barak defied the will of God. He was only willing to obey a direct command from God if he could do it on his own terms. He wanted to be in charge. He wanted to call the shots. But it just doesn’t work that way with God!