See the short video on The Fuel Cast here, filmed at Torre Abbey ruins, Torquay.
Judges 4 & 5 (1 Sam 12:11 & Heb 11:32)
The story of Barak is intertwined with Deborah, the incredible Judge and Prophetess of pre-Monarchy Israel.
When Hebrews 11:32 names Barak, the author is recalling Judges 4 & 5.
The Book of Judges operates in repeating cycles:
- The people forget God
- The people fall into the sin of idolatry
- Their regional enemies oppress and enslave them
- They cry out to God for help and he sends a judge, a saviour.
This had happened a few times by the time of Deborah and Barak.
But it is Deborah who is centre-stage. She is the Prophetess; She is the Judge.
Dispensing her verdicts on all manner of disputes among the people
But Barak is not among these people presumably because he had no disputes to settle.
Maybe she had heard that Jabin king of the Canaanites was on the warpath.
So Deborah speaks to him a message from God:
“Has not God already commanded you? Go and gather all 10,000 men and together we will meet Jabin’s General, Sisera in battle and defeat him.”
Barak, as a man of faith, would recognise this as the Word of the Lord.
He accepts the challenge but offers a non-negotiable condition.
He says, “I will only go if you go with me.”
Deborah replies with a condition of her own:
“I will go with you, but when we win, you will not get the glory, I will.”
This didn’t bother Barak one bit.
Barak responded as the meaning of his name suggests: ‘like lightning’.
They both went off to rescue God’s sinful covenant people.
When the Canaanite General Sisera heard that Barak was among them, he mobilized all 900 iron chariots and all his men.
Barak himself must have been a feared; a warrior of renown.
Eventually, the Canaanite General’s army is defeated and totally wiped out.
But Sisera escapes on foot, and finds Jael, a Kenite.
Kenites were at peace with Canaanites. He feels safe.
She welcomes him and gives him a blanket.
He asks for water; she gives him milk. It’s all looking rather good for Sisera.
He tells her to tell anyone she sees, that he is not here.
In time Sisera falls into a deep sleep:
On the run; afraid, weary from war, full of milk and wrapped up in a blanket.
But his charming host had deceived him.
She quietly went into the tent, and quietly kneeling down;
She hammered a tent peg through his temple and into the ground.
Sisera would not have known a thing.
When Barak arrives, Jael told him what she had done.
This story is bookended by two brave women.
Barak neither claimed the glory in victory or the capture & death of his enemy.
Outsmarted on both flanks.
But he didn’t care.
Why is he a man of faith named in Hebrews 11?
Barak is not a self-promoter.
He didn’t ask for this job. He was chosen. It was given to him.
In a totally patriarchal world, the women around him took the lead.
This didn’t phase him.
He had no dispute to settle because he was a man of peace; a man of God; a man of faith.
And although the Israelites had once again fallen into deadly idolatry, just as Elijah would learn centuries later, God will always have those who remain faithful, despite how things may seen.
Barak is in Hebrews 11 because of his faith (in the God of Abraham)
He’s also mentioned in 1 Samuel 12:11 because of his faith.
When the Israelites succumbed to their besetting sins and cried out: God heard.
God hears us when we cry out to him in our besetting sins.
In the Bible, God always had people in every age who he uses to rescue and restore.
A judge to judge sin, and a saviour to save us from it.
As Barak is a kind of mini-saviour; so Jesus is the ultimate Saviour.
As Barak is sent to win the battle; so Jesus is sent to win the war!
The Father sent Jesus into the sin-weary world to save it.
It is Jesus who chases down our enemy – sin.
He chases sin down, right to the very bottom.
To the pit of hell if need be.
As Jesus defeats the powers on the Cross
In this way, the devil himself is defeated in the most unsuspecting way.
As the tent-peg pierced Sisera’s head;
So the crown of thorns pierced Jesus’ head, and hands and feet.
As Jael killed Sisera by ramming the tent-peg into the ground.
So Jesus defeats sin, death and the devil, by hanging on a cross that has been rammed into the ground.
In his way, Barak delivers the people from their enemies and brings peace.
In a greater way, Jesus, the Warrior-King delivers us from evil and brings peace to the land of the whole world.
In the Kingdom of God, we are delivered from sin to dwell in safety.
That’s good news.