One day she sent for Barak son of Abinoam, who lived in Kedesh in the land of Naphtali. She said to him, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: Call out 10,000 warriors from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun at Mount Tabor. And I will call out Sisera, commander of Jabin’s army, along with his chariots and warriors, to the Kishon River. There I will give you victory over him.” Barak told her, “I will go, but only if you go with me.” “Very well,” she replied, “I will go with you. But you will receive no honor in this venture, for the Lord’s victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh….. But when Sisera fell asleep from exhaustion, Jael quietly crept up to him with a hammer and tent peg in her hand. Then she drove the tent peg through his temple and into the ground, and so he died.
– Judges 4: 6-9, 21 [NLT]
God calls us to be leaders in specific points of our lives. But fear and questioning the potential God sees in us causes us to run away and hide. And many times when we hide, we hide behind the shelter of our spiritual leaders.
Our spiritual walk is a constant battle between fight and flight. Just as our physical bodies undergo certain stressors that requires action, so does the body of Christ.
As the church we will be tried and stretched beyond belief and to the point that we want to snap. But God is our strength, not our leaders.
The purpose of our leaders is to provide guidance and to tell us when we are going down the path where the presence of God is not necessarily there. Our leaders weren’t placed in their positions to be the spiritual crutch of every individual in the church. When that becomes a reality we are placing impossible expectations on them that only God can meet.
We view our leaders with great respect and at times see them in a light that covers all their faults and shortcomings, which is why we rely on them so much.
Being so reliant on them causes us to not reach the glory God desires for us. This is something Barak had to learn.
The Judge, and Prophet, Deborah went searching for Barak, per the instruction of God, to tell him that God wants him to raise up an army to deliver Israel from the persecuting hands of King Jabin and Sisera, the commander.
Deborah specifically told Barak that God said he would have victory over Sisera and his army. But Barak discredited everything Deborah said and replied to her saying that he will only go into battle if she goes with him.
I believe Deborah was a true woman of God, strong in her faith, and a competent leader. Why else would God raise her up to be a judge “to rescue the Israelites from their attackers,” (Judges 2: 16 [NLT]) especially when the Israelites would return to their evil ways once the current Judge died? For these reasons God was constantly with Deborah (Judges 2:18).
So I don’t think Deborah nonchalantly told Barak that he would win in battle. I believe she passionately and with joy told Barak all that God had told her. Her role was to encourage Barak and fill him up with a sense of pride associated with serving his God in one of the most prestigious roles in their current day. Despite all God promised Barak, he chose to hide behind the leadership of Deborah.
Some scholars believed Barak’s response shows the great trust he had in Deborah, and her relationship with God, to insist that she leaves her place under the Palm tree and follow him into battle.
Other’s believe Barak’s response was in a mocking manner because she was a female prophet. I guess because as a woman there might have been the idea that she couldn’t handle the constant mental strain of warfare. Bodies dropping all around, cries of pain calling out to their specific god, and blood everywhere.
And then there are some who think Barak said what he said out of fear. Possibly because he knew the battle ahead would be tiresome and difficult and needed Deborah to serve as a reminder of what the end was going to look like.
Whatever the reasons were behind Barak’s response, he still chose to disregard every promise God gave him. For this reason God didn’t allow Barak to receive the praises for the battle over Sisera as God initially desired.
This doesn’t mean that Jael was God’s Plan B and was used to be a punishment to Barak. God knows everything and already knew exactly how the battle would be won.
God knows where every decision we make is going to bring us. In this particular scenario, Jael was supposed to be the one who brutally killed Sisera. But there is a possibility that if Barak accepted the mission he was put on without asking Deborah to go with him, then Sisera wouldn’t have escaped and Barak would have defeated King Jabin’s army by his own leadership.
Barak ended up having to share the “fame” associated is rescuing Israel with two other woman. It is the same thing with us. When we choose to use our leaders as a crutch we limit what God can do in and through our lives. We remain stagnant in our walk and sometimes God will use other people to do the job he meant for us.
God knows the final path we will take, but he also knows what the ideal path is too. We should seek God when the path is uncertain. But when God clearly tells us we are going to win the battle then we are to walk boldly and rely on his strength for endurance, not that of our spiritual leaders.
This Week’s Challenge:
Think about where you currently are in your walk with Christ. What battles are you currently facing? Are you trusting in your leaders more than you are trusting in God and his strength that he has placed in you. If you are, then ask God for forgiveness and come up with ways that you can begin taking back leadership, but not ostracize your leaders and their guidance.