Let’s take a fresh look at Judges 4:8-10. The period of the Judges is an interesting time in the life of Israel. It was the time between the death of Joshua, who brought Israel in from the wilderness and Saul, the first king. It was a time when the older wise people of the village ruled at the city gates. They were called “the judges.” These judges were called “shofet.” And were restricted to a legal function. This lasted for 300 years.
When there is a special need for the people, God calls someone forward to be a leader, these special leaders took a wider role: Gideon, Samson and Samuel One thing we know is that the book is not in chronological order. It is a collection of the stories and events that took place during this time. But today we talk about Deborah.
When the battle is over and the victory is theirs, they sing the song of Deborah, the whole 5th chapter. In that day, songs were a way of remembering the history. At a time when a lot of the masses couldn’t read or write, to sing a song to a popular tune was the way of communicating the story. In the Moses account we have the Song of Miriam. The Song of Deborah begins and ends with praise to God.
Look close at what takes place in this short story of Deborah. “Deborah” is the Hebrew word for “honeybee.” A name that stands out, since women normally were quiet and in non assuming roles. She has a family and still finds time to be a leader. But she was known for her fearless courage. She was also called a “prophetess.” She won this title by her faith in God and the inspiring insights that God granted to her. She held court under a palm tree, known as the “Palm of Deborah.”
Deborah has a vision and goes to Barak: JDG 4:6 “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. I will lure Sisera, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.'” Sisera’s army is powerful and Barak is not only afraid of Sisera’s army but is Deborah really telling what God has said? But now it is an issue of faith!
Barak does a very human thing, he says, prove it. JDG 4:8 Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”
I recently had a conversation with a dear friend who had lost many loved ones in her lifetime. Several key deaths in a short period of time. Most of those deaths tragic and horrible. AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer’s and some unknown. This Christian woman, wondered if God still brought healing? Hundreds of prayers prayed, some travailing and from the gut. None healed or made well. Look around at the violence and war, she said. Wars in Africa, Middle East, eastern Europe. Why doesn’t God answer these prayers? I still believe in God. But God must be impotent!
This sounds a lot like Barak, doesn’t it? Where has God been for the last 20 years? Where was God when the children were dying? Where was God when people became homeless?
Why haven’t our prayers been answered? Christians struggle to live good lives and to make a difference in the world and yet God allows Christians to die. Missionaries are put in prison for their faith. Persecuted for the lives Christians live. Why doesn’t God intervene?
I fully understand were Job was coming from. Where are you God when I need you?
When my family and friends say it is better to die than go through this. It is easy in this hard life to become skeptical or critical. It is easy to put ourselves down and say “God loves them better than me.” It is easy to convince ourselves that our faith is poor and that God isn’t answering our prayers because of our lack of faith.
Faith, hope and trust, they don’t come easy to Barak, or for many of us. So he does something very important. He decides to have faith! He doesn’t have what it takes, but he knows Deborah does. He decides to have hope! He doesn’t see the rainbow at the end of the cloud, but Deborah does. He decides to trust God! I don’t know where You have been for the past 20 years, but I make this choice. He is saying, “God I don’t have the faith that will move mountains.” “God I don’t have a hope that can withstand everything.” “God I don’t have a trust that is limitless.” But I can break the cycle by choosing to start!