“She sent and summoned Barak . . . and said to him, “Has not the LORD, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 of the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulon. And I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the River Kishon with his chariots and troops, and I will give him into your hand.’”

Deborah had heard from God! What was her reaction? Three action verbs describe Deborah’s response; she sent and summoned and said. Without questioning God or hesitating, even when Israel’s military had been weak and ineffective for 20 long years, she repeated God’s exact message to Barak. Notice that Deborah’s speech to Barak is in quotations marks, and inside her quote in single quotation marks is God’s message to Barak. God specifically stated he would give the powerful Sisera into Barak’s hand. Via Israel’s most trusted human agent at that time, the God of all creation and sustainer of life had revealed his plans for carrying out this freedom-fighting mission. What an honor for Barak! Deborah had given him an undefeatable battle plan. God and Barak and only10, 000 Israeli troops were to attack in concert to overcome the enemy. A command and a promise, God’s perfect strategy for winning.

Barak’s response—like asking God if my mother might come along with me to the Ituri Rain forest when I had agreed to take my three young children to live there—he insisted on Deborah’s presence because he was afraid. God seeks our utter reliance on him; Barak’s, yours and mine (my mom would never have considered going to Congo). Two things are obvious in Barak’s thinking: He lacked Deborah’s complete trust and confidence in God to provide victory while having no qualms about trusting a woman, who was not a soldier, as if both he and God would need her help.  

God’s plan for crushing the enemy did not change because of Barak’s attitude. He was patient with Barak, still allowing him the privilege of participating in the battle, but Barak would get no glory. I imagine spears piercing bodies and swords lopping off body parts. No blame goes to Barak for having a healthy fear of the danger of battle, one likely to be rated “R” for bloody gore. But his lack of courage is obvious when on the day of battle even Deborah’s presence seems not enough. Barak does not attack the fully arrayed enemy until Deborah’s fierce command, “Up! For this is the day in which the LORD has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the LORD go out before you? (Judges 4:14)” I can almost hear her thinking, “what are you waiting for you big wimp!”

In next week’s blog “Deborah: Part 3” we will see how a common tent-dwelling woman, with no military training, finishes off Sisera, and gains the honor and glory that should have been Barak’s. Scripture does not say if Barak learned a lesson from his faithlessness or how he handles the sting of embarrassment. God has never called me to a physical battle, thus my condemnation of Barak’s courage needs to be tempered with a close review of my own courage in the face of danger, with the spiritual battles I’ve fought.

Question: Have I always been brave? Have you always been brave?

Answer: No, the truth is there have been times when I sidled up to God’s plans and the spiritual battles in my life rather than fighting head on with all God’s power in me.

Question: Am to be prepared for those yet to come. Am I ready? Armed with the breastplate of righteousness and the sword of the spirit?

Answer: Some days I’m ready for the adventure of fighting to do right, ready to conquer at God’s command! Other days, I’m the big wimp watching adventure on TV, instead of standing with God. Don’t we all desire to be God’s servants and an overcomers of evil? As Deborah said, “Up! Does not the LORD go out before you!”