Print This Page Print This Page

THE FAITH OF BARAK – Hebrews 11:32b

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on May 25, 2016 under PM Bible Study |

PM Home Bible Study Group; May 25, 2016

Hebrews 11:32b

Theme: The writer of Hebrews shows us how the Old Testament hero Barak—though timid and insecure—nevertheless trusted in the promise of God and brought about a great victory for his people.

We have been studying from Hebrews 11, and the many great inductees into the ‘hall of faith’ that the writer of Hebrews describes to us. After highlighting the details of several of these heroes, he lists others with just a quick mention:

And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens … (Hebrews 11:32-34).

The thing that these great heroes have in common is that they illustrate for us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (v. 1); and show us that “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (v. 6). They were men and women who believed the promises of God; and who—against the seeming impossibilities from a fleshly standpoint—went forth in obedience and found that God rewarded their faithfulness and kept His promises.

These words were written to encourage believers who—like us—also need to trust in the promises of God and to stand against the tide. Particularly, he wrote to Jewish Christians who were being persecuted for their trust in Jesus Christ, and who were tempted to forsake their faith in Jesus, to simply go along with the cultural pressures, and to return to the old ways of Judaism. In opposition to this temptation, the writer wanted them to keep their focus on the promises of God; to trust that He truly is a rewarder of those who have faith in Him and who diligently seek Him; and to hold on tight to their faith in Christ in anticipation of the promised reward.

Among the many Old Testament saints that he merely mentions by name is a man that many wouldn’t immediately recognize—a man named Barak. And yet, his name is surrounded by such well-known heroes as Gideon, Samson, Jephthah, King David and Samuel; so this is a man who stands in great company! And it may be that the short phrase in verse 34—“out of weakness were made strong”—is meant to call him to our memory. He was a man who, it seems, was timid and insecure by nature; and yet, nevertheless, he believed God’s promise, went forward in obedience by faith, and was used mightily by God for the good of His people.

* * * * * * * * * *

Barak’s story is told to us in Judge 4 (with some supplemental material from Judges 5); and his story can be divided into six distinct parts:

I. BARAK’S TIMES (Judges 4:1-3).

The times of Barak were the difficult times of the Judges of Israel. Just as we saw on our last study (on the faith of Gideon), it was a time that was characterized by a sad and repeated pattern: (1) the people of God would turn from Him to other gods; (2) God would punish them by handing them over to the oppression of their enemies; (3) because of their cry to Him in their oppression, God would have mercy on them and raise a deliverer (a “judge”); (4) the judge would deliver His people from their oppressor and lead them back to Him; (5) they would praise Him for His mercy; and (6) in time, they would forget Him again and return to their worship of false gods. The pattern repeats over and over in Judges.

We’re told of how the period of one such judge named Ehud came to an end. Judges 4:1-3 tells us:

When Ehud was dead, the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheth Hagoyim. And the children of Israel cried out to the Lord; for Jabin had nine hundred chariots of iron, and for twenty years he had harshly oppressed the children of Israel.

They were under the oppression of a Canaanite king named Jabin; and Jabin administrated his oppression through his evil henchman—a general named Sisera. Sisera lived in an area called Harosheth Hagoyim; which, when translated, means “Workmanship of the Gentiles”. It was a region near what came to be known as Galilee in New Testament times. And these were particularly oppressive and intimidating times; because Sisera administrated his twenty-year long oppressive work though the use of Jabin’s 900 chariots of iron—which, in those days, was like having 900 tanks! In Judges 5, in the song that was written about this story, we’re told that “the highways were deserted, and the travelers walked along the byways. Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel …” (vv. 6-7). And we’re also told that the people were defenseless against their oppressors; “Not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel” (5:8). These were very dark times; and they came because the people had—once again—become unfaithful.

* * * * * * * * * *

But that’s when we come to …

II. BARAK’S CALL (Judges 4:4-7).

Now; God once again raised a judge to serve His people. But interestingly, it was not Barak. It was a remarkable woman named Deborah. We’re told;

Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time. And she would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of Ephraim. And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment (vv. 4-5).

Apparently, she met with the people under a tree that became famous because of her—the Palm Tree of Deborah. And because she was a prophetess, it must be that God let her know that He had appointed a particular man to be the deliverer of His people. It could be that Barak was unaware of his calling until he heard of it from Deborah. Or it could also be that he had heard God’s call, but was being hesitant or fearful. In either case, we’re told;

Then she sent and called for Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “Has not the Lord God of Israel commanded, ‘Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor; take with you ten thousand men of the sons of Naphtali and of the sons of Zebulun; and against you I will deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand’?” (vv. 6-7).

Mount Tabor was south of the Sea of Galilee. And Barak was to gather 10,000 men from his home tribe of Naphtali, and the nearby tribe of Zebulun, and go to Mount Tabor to do battle with Sisera and his vast multitude of iron chariots. And notice that God had promised victory—and in a rather remarkable way. He said, “against you I will deploy Sisera … at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand”. What a surprising way of putting things! Barak was to deploy his troops, and God would deploy Sisera’s troops. They would end up right were God wanted them—at the River Kishon—and all into the hands of Barak.

Barak, in spite of his own sense of his human limitations, could have faith in God’s call; because it was God who made the promise and would do the deploying!

* * * * * * * * * *

But that’s where we encounter …

III. BARAK’S WEAKNESS (Judges 4:8-10).

Whether or not Barak had any previous military experience is hard to say. In fact, it’s likely that—because of the nature of the times—he had none at all. He was, it seems, a man with an inherently timid nature—a man with a measure of weakness. And frankly, given the circumstances of this call from God through the mighty prophetess Deborah, it might be hard to blame him. And so, we read;

And Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!” (v. 8).

Now; this was a very bold thing to say in the light of God’s call on his life. He was basically saying that if Deborah would go with him, then he would obey God’s call; and if she didn’t go with him, he would not obey God’s call. But perhaps we should not be too judgmental of him. He was unsure of himself; but he was very sure of Deborah. What’s more, she did go in response to his request, and he did then obey. And so, he relied on Deborah’s presence to help him fulfill God’s call.

So she said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; he went up with ten thousand men under his command, and Deborah went up with him (vv. 9-10).

He was emboldened by the presence of this remarkable servant of God; and in the end, they were a team—each doing the part they were suited to. As we’re told in Judges 5:12;

Awake, awake, Deborah!

O son of Abinoam!” (Judges 5:12).

Awake, awake, sing a song!

Arise, Barak, and lead your captives away,

* * * * * * * * * *

So; Barak went by faith in God’s promise—weak and timid as he may have felt about it all. And that’s when we read of …

IV. BARAK’S PROVISION (Judges 4:11-14a).

We see the first hint of God’s divine provision for Barak in what seems like a rather strange intrusion in the story. Verse 11 tells us;

Now Heber the Kenite, of the children of Hobab the father-in-law of Moses, had separated himself from the Kenites and pitched his tent near the terebinth tree at Zaanaim, which is beside Kedesh (v. 11).

We may wonder why this strange detail is told to us; but it ends up being an event that is critical to the promise that God gave Barak through Deborah. Let’s lock this seemingly-unimportant detail away in our minds for the moment; and then read on of what God was doing in “deploying” Sisera;

And they reported to Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor. So Sisera gathered together all his chariots, nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people who were with him, from Harosheth Hagoyim to the River Kishon (vv. 12-13).

As it turned out, Sisera heard about Barak’s army; and ended up going to meet him at the very place that God sovereignly determined that he would go. This was because it would be there—at that very river—that Sisera would meet his “Waterloo” (a somewhat deliberate pun, by the way … as we’ll soon see). With Barak obediently in the place God called him to; and with Sisera sovereignly deployed to where God wanted him to be, we then go on to read;

Then Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the Lord gone out before you?” (v. 14a).

Indeed He had! We ourselves truly can trust and go forth in obedience to God’s call—trusting God Himself to keep His promises! That’s what faith looks like in action!

* * * * * * * * * *

It’s then that we are shown …

V. BARAK’S OBEDIENCE (Judges 4:14b-16).

In faith in the promise of God, Barak went forward to a task that seemed humanly impossible. We’re told;

So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him (v. 14b).

He went right where God had told him to go—in spite of the seemingly impossible odds. And as Barak trusted in the promise of God, he found God to be faithful;

And 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. 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 a man was left (vv. 15-16).

It was a complete victory. And it was specifically stated that it was God Himself who did it. God truly did go before him! How did it happen? It seemed that God had deployed Sisera to the River Kishon so that he could become caught in a flash-flood that would completely render his 900 chariots useless—stuck in the mud. As it tells us in song in Chapter 5;

Lord, when You went out from Seir,

This Sinai, before the Lord God of Israel” (5:4-5).

The mountains gushed before the Lord,

The clouds also poured water;

When You marched from the field of Edom,

The earth trembled and the heavens poured,

Perhaps the place of this event was called “this Sinai”, because Sinai was the place where the law was given—the basis of God’s righteous judgment. And a miraculous judgment it was; because as we’re told in 5:20-21;

They fought from the heavens;

O my soul, march on in strength!” (5:20-21).

The stars from their courses fought against Sisera.

The torrent of Kishon swept them away,

That ancient torrent, the torrent of Kishon.

* * * * * * * * * *

And there’s one more part to the story—one in which we clearly see something of the remarkable thoroughness and the ironic justice of …

VI. BARAK’S GOD (vv. 17-24).

It must have been that Sisera’s chariots were all stuck in the mud; because we’re told that he fled from his. All his army was destroyed;

However, Sisera had fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite; for there was peace between Jabin king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said to him, “Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me; do not fear.” And when he had turned aside with her into the tent, she covered him with a blanket (vv. 17-18).

Do you remember that strange story in verse 11 of the man—Heber the Kenite—who moved his family out to this place? Here’s where the importance of that story is shown. That too was in the hand of the sovereign God. It may be that Heber was no longer living; but because there had been peace between King Jabin and the household of Heber, Sisera felt safe to take up Jael’s invitation.

It turned out to be a treacherous invitation, however.

Then he said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty.” So she opened a jug of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him. And he said to her, “Stand at the door of the tent, and if any man comes and inquires of you, and says, ‘Is there any man here?’ you shall say, ‘No.’” Then Jael, Heber’s wife, took a tent peg and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went down into the ground; for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died. And then, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said to him, “Come, I will show you the man whom you seek.” And when he went into her tent, there lay Sisera, dead with the peg in his temple (vv. 19-22).

What a gruesome twist this story takes! We thought that when Deborah told Barak in verse 9 that “the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman”, that Deborah was talking about herself. But not so! Instead, in the hand of God, the defeat of the fearsome general Sisera came about through the actions of a humble Gentile housewife that Sisera … eh … just couldn’t get out of his head. But we get the point. Apparently, so did Sisera. He probably had the song “Gentle on My Mind” stuck in his head all day after that. (Okay; that’s enough—!)

The passage closes with this clear affirmation:

So on that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan in the presence of the children of Israel. And the hand of the children of Israel grew stronger and stronger against Jabin king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.

It was God who kept His promise! And it was done through Barak who—in spite of his fears and weakness—trusted in God’s promise and obeyed. What an example of faith he gives for us to follow!

  • Share/Bookmark
Site based on the Ministry Theme by eGrace Creative.