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Basic Bible: Deborah Encourages Barak

Judges 4:4-10, 12-16

At this time, the children of Israel were in the land that God had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. At God’s direction and with God’s assistance, Joshua had defeated the inhabitants of the land and driven them out. God had removed every obstacle which could prevent them from prospering in the land of milk and honey. So what happened? The children of Israel disobeyed the first commandment. They forsook the God of their fathers and followed after gods of the people around them.

Chapter 4 begins with the words: “And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord”. It was not the first time nor would it be the last time that Israel should do evil in God’s sight. Each time that Israel followed after other gods, God strengthened their enemies and empowered them to subjugate Israel. In this instance the enemy is Jabin king of Canaan who reigned in Hazor.

This is not the first Jabin king of Canaan to rule from Hazor. Approximately 150 years earlier, Joshua totally destroyed the city of Hazor and executed Jabin. The Lord raised up an enemy from ashes for the express purpose of punishing His disobedient children. The Lord would have His people learn from history rather than repeat it but they were slow to learn that they were to serve no god but the Lord God.

Jabin was able to force his will upon Israel because he possessed a military advantage that the Israelites could not match or defend against. He had 900 chariots of iron. Compared to other metals of use in this era, iron was indestructible. It was also not commonly available and difficult to fashion into weaponry. Jabin maintained his hold over Israel for twenty years until God raised up a judge to deliver them.

God chose Deborah for this purpose. She was a prophetess and judge over all Israel (v. 4). She was not self-appointed. She was a made a prophetess by God and given words which Israel recognized to be from the Lord. Acting upon that which the Lord said, she sent for Barak who dwelt in Kedesh-Naphtali. Deborah resided under the palm tree of Deborah which was approximately a straight-line distance of seventy miles to the south. Barak came because he knew that God spoke through Deborah. She asked him if the Lord had not instructed him to gather ten thousand men from the tribes of Naphtali and of Zebulun. Her question revealed to Barak that she knew that God had spoken to him and she knew the battle plan that the Lord had given to him.

When God spoke to Barak, he was not certain that it was God who had spoken. Upon hearing Deborah repeat the Lord’s words, Barak believed. He responded that he would do as the Lord had instructed on the condition that Deborah would accompany him. Barack believed that God had spoken and he believed that God was with Deborah. He was not certain, however, that God would be with him in battle. Barack needed assurance. Commentators often expound upon the frailty of Barak’s character because he would not do as God had instructed unless Deborah would go with him. The book of Judges reveals that Gideon, the military leader who followed Barack, also required a sign that God was with him. Gideon asked for two signs (Judg. 6:36-40).

Deborah responded to Barack that she would go with him but that the honor of slaying Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, would belong to a woman. Barak then gathered up ten thousand men as God had instructed.

The Holy Spirit moved the human author to record Judges 4 in such manner so that we might comprehend the fullness of what God did and how He did. God did much more than defeat an enemy which boasted of nine hundred chariots of iron. God defeated a superior fighting force with a lesser force, a force led by an individual who was unwilling to lead unless Deborah was at his side.

It cannot be said that Barak was unqualified to lead. His name is listed among the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. His name is there right beside Gideon’s. God would have us understand that the heroes of the faith were all individuals encumbered with weaknesses. They were individuals who, in spite of their weaknesses, acted upon faith. When men act upon faith in God, God provides the victory. Barak, unwilling to trust in his own strength, acted upon the faith. Barak believed that with Deborah’s support that he could do as he was directed.

While Barak was God’s chosen military leader, Deborah was the undisputed leader of all Israel whom God had chosen. When she sent for Barak, Barak came.

Whenever Deborah was faced with a decision, she was quick to respond. When Barak said that he would go if Deborah accompany him, she immediately responded that she would go. Deborah did not consult with an advisor (not even her husband). She did not consult with the Lord. She was fully touch in with Him. In responding to Barak’s request that she go, Deborah issued the prophecy that Sisera (the captain of Jabin’s army) would be delivered into the hand of a woman. These words were given to her by God the very instant Barack expressed his condition.

Barak executed God’s battle plan in the precise manner which the Lord prescribed. God gave the victory, every man of the enemy fell (v. 12-16).

Both elements of Deborah and Barak are present in New Testament believers in that there are times in which we know with certainty (as with Deborah) that the Holy Spirit leading and times in which we need added assurance (as with Barack) that the Spirit is speaking.

When certain, we are to share our certainty. When uncertain, we are to seek assurance from those whom God has spoken. Let us act. The Lord is a rewarder of all who trust in Him.

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