Summary: God raises up Barak to lead Israel, but he loses out on the full blessing of partnering with God because of a lack of faith.

Possessing the Promises #3

Deborah & Barak (With a little help from Jael)

The story

• After Ehud, the left-handed assassin of Eglon, Israel has peace for 80 years – the longest period of peace during the period pf the judges.

o Yet they fall in to the cycle of disobedience and faithlessness

o Sold into the hands of a Canaanite king Jabin who reigned in Hazor – a city previously destroyed by the Israelites under Joshua

o The commander of Jabin’s army was a man named Sisera and his army’s claim to fame was the possession of 900 iron chariots.

o This is the equivalent of having nuclear arms – Israel doesn’t have anything to compare to the military strength of Sisera

o For 20 years they were subjected to Jabin when they cried out to the Lord for help.

• At that time an Israelite woman was leading Israel – she was also a prophetess (a spokesperson for the Lord). Her name was Deborah. Her name means “honey bee” – she was the original Yellow Jacket!

o She held court under a tree where people from all over for help with decisions. She was probably more of a judge in the sense that we use the word than any of the other judges.

o It was quite a distinction, especially for a woman.

• Lead by the Lord she summons a man named Barak and commissions him to lead the battle against Sisera. She assures him with these words:

o "The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: `Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead the way to Mount Tabor. 7 I will lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’ "

o Barak seems to have some reservations. He says to Deborah that he’ll do it, but only if she goes with him. If you don’t go, I don’t go!

o This could be a sign of great respect to Deborah acknowledging her leadership and her relationship with God. Or it could be a sign of reluctance on Barak’s part; perhaps a sign of doubt and lack of faith.

o Deborah seems to be a little perturbed leading me to believe that she interprets this as doubt. After all, it’s not as if this battle is Deborah’s idea – she has received a command from the Lord!! Why doesn’t he believe it!!

o She agrees to go with him but tells him that he will not get the honor for the victory. That honor will go to a woman.

o Initially you think that Deborah is going to do something spectacular to bring victory to the Jews, but God already has another woman ready to take action – a woman we will be introduced to later.

• So they gather their 10,000 volunteers from the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali and go off to battle. Everything goes Israel’s way. All Sisera’s army retreats and Barak pursues the chariots all the way to Sisera’s headquarters. Sisera, however, has gone another direction. He has cowardly abandoned his troops and finds a friend among the tent dwelling people called the Kenites.

o The Kenites are not Jews, but the do have a connection with the Jews. Moses married a Kenite girl and they had been friendly to the Jews in earlier days. The Kenites now however have friendly relations with Jabin. So Sisera flees there because he expects to find a friendly people. And it looks as if he does.

o A Kenite woman, Jael, comes out to meet him; gives him some milk to drink and a place to rest. Sisera makes himself look like he’s running from something because he says to Jael, “If anybody comes by don’t tell them anyone’s here.”

o At that point something possesses Jael to take action. Maybe she’s heard of the Jews victory. Maybe her intuition simply says that something is not right with a man who insists that no one find him. Or maybe there are forces working here that are beyond our and her understanding. Anyway, she picks up a tent peg and a hammer. I’m told in the Ancient Near East women were responsible for setting up the tents, so this woman has probably swung a hammer or two. She takes the tent peg, places it at Sisera’s temple, raises the hammer and Sisera is killed – by a woman. A non-Jewish woman.

o Meanwhile, Barak is roaming the countryside looking for Sisera. Deborah’s prophecy has come true – the honor goes to a woman, not to Barak!

o They begin a period of forty years of peace after this great victory. God comes through again for his people. An unlikely heroine emerges to seal an unlikely victory.


After this great victory Deborah breaks out in song. Judges 4 tells the hard facts about the story, but Judges 5 is the emotional response to the whole affair and it’s in this song that we see the emotional impact the victory has had on the Israelites. And it’s in this song that we learn something more about possessing the promises of God.

In this song we learn that:

God is pulling the strings behind the scenes

Reading through the song it is God who gets all the glory, not the Israelite army. Barak, Jael, the fighting men and Deborah herself are praised, but the song clearly indicates that it was God who was leading this battle. God is the source of victory!


19 "Kings came, they fought;

the kings of Canaan fought

at Taanach by the waters of Megiddo,

but they carried off no silver, no plunder.

20 From the heavens the stars fought,

from their courses they fought against Sisera.

21 The river Kishon swept them away,

the age-old river, the river Kishon.

March on, my soul; be strong!

The entire account is deliberately constructed to emphasize the deliverance provided by Yahweh. He is the One pulling the strings, raising generals, deploying armies, dictating strategy, and effecting the victory. … This passage thus encourages us to perceive God’s sovereignty over history and our own lives. Whether it is in his chastening, in his compassionate deliverance, in his financial provision, or in his leading and guiding decisions, God is sovereign over life, and he is at work bringing his plan to fruition. K. Lawson Younger, Jr. The NIV Application Commentary (Judges/Ruth)

I don’t understand when or how but Scripture is clear that God can and does do things like this. The point is when God wants something to be accomplished, he’ll do it! Somehow, someway He gets it done!

He parts seas, he causes suns to stand still, he impregnates a virgin, he empowers a bunch of fisherman to speak languages they don’t know, he guides missionaries, he can and will do anything to get his will done! I believe he still does that today. I don’t know how but I believe he can and will pull the strings when he needs to.

God has put you in the right place to hear the Gospel. I believe he put me in the right place. I believe he sent Oklahomans to Massachusetts for the express purpose of me hearing the gospel. I believe he guided my life and Henriann’s life so we would meet each other.

God has never been portrayed as a God who is unaware of what is going on or as a God who has lost control of the situation. God is in control!!! That does not explain why some things happen in our lives, but it should give us assurance that God will see us through. A lot of you have a lot of questions for God – I have a few myself. But we must believe that God is in control. We will never experience the blessing of his promise when we start to doubt God’s power over our lives and over creation.

That brings us to point #2:

A lack of trust results in a lack of blessing

Barak loses out on a great honor because he has reservations about God’s control of the situation. And so do we. When we hesitate, when we fail to do what we know is right we lose out on God’s blessings.

When Christians fail to trust God, demanding assurance when God, in fact, has already spoken, they lose out on the opportunity to be used by him to the fullest extent…We lose out on his good gifts. And worse, we may find ourselves expending all kinds of time and energy hopelessly trying to make up the difference. - K. Lawson Younger, Jr.

It’s difficult to go into battle. There’s a reason Barak is hesitant – on paper he doesn’t have a chance! It is likely that when God calls you to do something the odds will be against you – that’s where faith comes in. That’s where prayer comes in. James addresses this:

If you need wisdom—if you want to know what God wants you to do—ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking. But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. - James 1:5-7 (NLT)

We’ll see this come up again in Gideon and talk about it more then.

Another sub-theme we find in the song of Deborah is her disgust that the whole of Israel didn’t participate in this battle.

Total participation from God’s people is expected

There are two instances where this is especially evident:

But in Reuben’s divisions there was much second-guessing. Why all those campfire discussions? Diverted and distracted, Reuben’s divisions couldn’t make up their minds. Gilead played it safe across the Jordan, and Dan, why did he go off sailing? Asher kept his distance on the seacoast, safe and secure in his harbors. - Judges 5:15c-17 (MSG)

"Curse Meroz," says GOD’s angel. "Curse, double curse, its people, because they didn’t come when GOD needed them, didn’t rally to GOD’s side with valiant fighters.”

- Judges 5:23 (MSG)

Failure to participate is considered an abomination. God has this expectation that everyone become involved in his work. Non-involvement was unacceptable and is unacceptable.

That may seem to contradict the other points – Well God can pull some strings. Why should I risk my own life. Why should I expend the resources. God will get it done anyway! Someone else can fund the project. Someone else will teach the class. Someone else will lead the ministry.

In a sense that thinking is right. – God will get it done. But that thinking is depriving you of a great blessing to be involved in the work of God!!! We lose out on blessings when we don’t participate in the work of God.

The victory is sweetest to those who have fought the hardest. To those who have sacrificed the most. To those who have invested most. It’s great to sit back and watch your team win, but that feeling is nothing compared to actually being out there on the field, being part of a team and celebrating the victory. Real blessings, the abundant life, don’t come to spectators, they come to the combatants.

We talk a lot here about being involved. Fill out this form. Get involved in this ministry. Contribute to this work. It’s not that God needs you – God wants to give you the blessing of participating in his work and when you do you start tasting the promises of God.

I believe God has a great work to be accomplished in this region, in this world. I know that He will get it done, with or without us. But I want to be part of that victory. I want to be part of that team. I want to feel the unspeakable joy of receiving that crown of righteousness that Paul talks about. And God wants that feeling of victory for each of you – but you won’t feel it unless you join the team.