Forward in Faith #30
Judges 4 & 5
Barak (Deborah) Faith Encouraged
Yesterday I was driving and I looked at this girl, she was in a pretty dress, her hair done just right, she looked up at me with her big eyes and she smiled at me, and I smiled, and then this pretty girl waved at me. And I have to tell you that smile and that wave lifted my spirits and made me happy. Now before you worry too much, this girl was no more than FOUR YEARS OLD
But you know what I realized, we all like a little encouragement. And the beautiful, polite, and welcoming little girl lifted my spirits.
As we move toward a finish in our look at these men and women of faith listed in the book of Hebrews chapter 11 seen often as a Hall of Fame of Faith, we find reference to an interesting story in the life of Israel
Hebrews 11:32 says And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets …
We have looked at Gideon, we will look at Samson but the last three names we will not look at alone. However there is a name today that you may or may not be familiar with. His name is Barak. He was a military man in those early days of Israel in Canaan.
There are four main characters in this story. Three I believe to be faithful and one of course a wicked general of a pagan nation.
Barak – the General
Deborah – a godly woman raised up by God in an area seemingly devoid of Godly men who would rise up, hear the voice of God, and speak to his people
Sisera – a wicked man from a wicked people. He led people who raped and pillaged and sacrificed to false idols.
Jael – a simple wife, at home in her tents minding her own business who committed a shrewd, some would admit gruesome, deadly act against this wicked one
The word for the day is Encouragement
I wonder today are there any here that would follow God if they just had a little encouragement
I wonder today are there people here who could hear the voice of God and be an encourager to someone in need of a lift so that they can move forward in faith
In the book of Judges we see a repeatable pattern
1) In the midst of God’s blessing, God’s people forget him and his ways
2) God uses a wicked nation, allowing them to do what their wicked hearts would, to bring discipline to his people
3) The People remember God and cry out to him
4) God raises up a human deliverer, who calls the people to repentance and leads them to rise up against their enemies
5) God delivers his people from their oppression
In Judges chapter 4 it says
The Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the Lord. So, the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin, a king of Canaan … The commander of his army was Sisera … He had nine hundred iron chariots and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for 20 years, they cried to the Lord for help
It goes on to tell us of a woman named Deborah. Most translations call her a “prophetess” and that is accurate enough but I like the simple way the Young’s Literal Translation renders it “Deborah, a woman inspired”
She is listed as the “wife of Lapidoth” which means “torches” or the “woman of torches”
As an aside, Jewish tradition says that she was the wife of Barak, our general in this story. Barak’s name means “lightning” so there is a possibility that the “wife of torches” is also the “wife of lightning” … but that really isn’t important to our story
Deborah had set up under a palm tree and would speak to the people as inspired by God. Under God’s inspiration she sends for Barak a military leader from the tribe of Naphtali. Her word is that God has commanded them to Go against Sisera and his 900 Charioteers because in v6 God says “I will lure Sisera … and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands”
Now Henry Blackaby says that whenever God gives us Revelation it is an invitation to join him and it always brings us to a “crisis of belief that requires faith and action”
Now if you are following with me, here is where the casual reader gives a lot of grief to Barak. In verse 9 he responds to the command and says to Deborah “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go”
And see her response
“Very well” Deborah said “I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will hand Sisera over to a woman.”
Is Barak a wimp? Is he chicken? Does he doubt God’s word?
You know the more I have lived with this text over the last couple of weeks, I don’t think he was weak, I just think he needed reassurance
I think he needed encouragement.
I think he wanted to know that God was with him and he needed someone with skin on to verify God’s presence so he chose Deborah because he knew that God was with her and she spoke for Him so he knew that he would have God’s instruction at every turn.
So I don’t think we have a wimp, we just have a man who needs encouragement
So, they gather to face Sisera and Deborah encourages him again v14 “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?”
As you read chapter 5 you find that the Lord sent a torrent … a storm. In reading I have learned that this little River Kishon, referred to in Young’s Literal as a “Brook” can become treacherous when it floods.
Well, if you are going to do battle on a dry dusty open field 10,000 foot soldiers would be easy pickings for 900 chariots made of heavy iron. But if you are in a tight valley that has been flooded and has soft ground … hmmm things change don’t they? I’d rather, then, be one of the 10,000 foot soldiers than be in 900 heavy iron chariots bogged down in the mud.
V15 says the Lord routed them … Sisera abandoned his chariot and fled on foot
As he is being pursued in verse 17 he comes to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber a Kenite. She is alone. She receives him into her tent. She gives him some nourishment, she even covers him in what could have a been a bug netting gives him some warm sweet milk to drink, he is worn out and he goes to sleep.
Now this is the rough part of the story as we read it. While he sleeps this woman, who would have been very familiar with tent stakes and hammers since the women of her people were responsible for set up and take down of the tents, she drove the stake through his temple into the ground. So when Barak shows up, she has already killed him. And verse 24 she says “come … I will show you the man you’re looking for”
Now before I move on I want to just say a word in her defense because some really struggle with this story
First, God had already seen it and said he had lured Sisera … not only into Barak’s hands but he knew that a woman would defeat him
Two, this was a time of war not peace and thus was an act of war. Though she wasn’t an Israelite she lived among them and was friendly toward them
Three, these were ruthless people, the Canaanites. They were known for their wicked deeds especially towards women.
Finally, chapter 5 gives us more details, though delicately. Let me be delicate but give you a picture. Chapter 5:27 says at her feet he sank, he fell; there he lay. At her feet he sank, he fell; where he sank there he fell – dead
Scholars would tell you that there are several places in scripture where the phrase to “lay at her feet” is also used in a intimate fashion. If you combine that with the pictures of “at her feet he sank” the phrase in the Literal means he “Bowed between her feet”. If he bowed between her feet and lay there in an intimate fashion, it is reasonable to believe that as is his normal pattern, he did or attempted to do with Jael what he did with every woman he found alone. And I believe she responded to the prompting of God in a time of war, under attack by a war criminal, and she defended herself and all in the region by killing him.
This is quite a story is it not?
In our heroes we have two women and one man.
As the best I can tell from this story, both women responded to God’s voice and leading with no encouragement
And our General ALSO was faithful but he needed the encouragement of these women.
Now for you faithful women that is not all surprising but you honest men you say “I know that’s right”. For you men in denial or stuck in machismo … the reality is we often need the encouragement of those who love us
Now chapter 5 is a song, written by Deborah and sung by both Deborah and Barak. It tells the same story in more Poetic form.
Let me read it to you as they praise the Lord for this victory and then I want to make some quick observations about Encouragers who often enable us to be faithful
READ Judges 5
What was the problem of their day?
Why did they need people of faith to be encouraged to rise up?
- Village life had ceased
- Commerce was a shambles
- War was in place of justice
Why had their world fallen apart?
- Because they had exchanged the real for the idol
As Matthew Henry wrote, “their God was the Ancient of Days, still the same, and they grew weary of him, and must have NEW gods.”
Oh people does it sound familiar?
Exchanging the God of Heaven for a god on earth
We need to encourage people of faith to rise up
We need those who will abandon the ways of Reuben, Dan, and Asher who failed to rise up because of fear and failure in faith, but will instead be encouraged to faith and action
• Reuben’s people were busy hanging out with the sheep and listening to the music of the Shepherds … Oh do you hear that New Life …
• Dan and Asher were busy guarding their ships in the coves while Zebulun risked their lives
Are there some encouragers here?
Can we stop guarding the ships and put out into deep water?
Can we stop staying in the comfort of the fold and go rescue lost or attacked sheep?
What can we learn from this Encourager?
1. Faith to Encourage Recognizes God’s Hand
- Being an encourager is about being full of faith
- You encourage because of what you believe about them and about God
- To encourage you have to believe that God is active and he cares
- To encourage others we have to believe that God is ABLE
And Believe that all things are possible with God
And Believe that greater is He that is in me than he who is in the World
Recognize that God is behind and in charge of all things
- God truly is Sovereign
2. Faith Like a Mother Encourages
Oh in this day where village life has traded for people who hide in their homes
Where our economic future is uncertain because our present is a shambles
When people have forgotten their True God for a man fashioned fake
We need some faithful mothers
- A Mother sees what CAN be
- A Mother inspires Courage
- A Mother goes along when necessary
- A Mother calls us back to our roots
Notice in Deborah’s song, she wasn’t the only encourager in Israel
Israel didn’t have a Human King at this time. God was their King. So “Israel’s Princes” weren’t the physical sons of a human God. But Israel’s Princes were “sons of God” if you will. These were those like her, throughout Israel, who were used by God to encourage the people toward Godliness and Faithful Deeds
What did verse 2 say about those “princes of Israel”?
“when the princes of Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves – Praise the Lord!”
- Encouragers encourage willingly it is a passion within them
Mother’s nurture it is within them. Mothers may have to learn how to do some things but you don’t have to teach them to lay down their lives and encourage their children.
These princes and governors could have used their title to stay OUT of battle or to attain honor for themselves in the midst of it, but instead, like Deborah they laid aside their own honor to encourage others to great faith and great deeds
And I say with her “Praise the Lord for Encouragers!”
Because we then see a …
3. Faith That chooses to Encourage
we need more like Deborah
She chooses to encourage by saying
“break out in song” … what song? “You can do it” … “God can do it”
Deborah realized that she had to do what SHE did
She was an encourager, speaker, a singer so ENCOURAGE
Barak was a warrior and she tells him to take captive
Verse 10 says those who “ride white donkeys” that would be the rich and privileged
And “you who walk along the road” that’s the everyman; “consider the voice of the singers”
Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you have from God … be encouraged to rise up and join in the fight
Listen to what God has done and believe that he can do it in you
Everyone has their part because
4. Faith is Encouraged to Action
- Barak may have been feeble and needy
Or he may have just needed to KNOW that he had God’s presence and he couldn’t feel that without God’s spokesperson right there with him at all times
But the key is HE WENT!
He didn’t get the credit THEN but he is included in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. That tells me that God credited his faith as righteousness just like he did for Abraham. Notice in chapter 4 that initially God stated the ideal, the he would give Sisera to Barak. But then the reality is pronounced in that because of the level of Barak’s faith needed Deborah then the deal was going to be closed by and the credit given to a woman in Jael.
Makes me mindful of Moses when God told him to go and command Pharaoh to let his people go. But Moses doubted he could pull it. He doubted he had the speaking ability. God reminded him that he shaped him, he formed him, he made his mouth so he could do it. But knowing Moses level of faith, God had already summoned his brother Aaron. God had already made provision. So Aaron would get credit for being the speaker but God was still going to set his people free
So here God had heard the cry of his people, he had seen their repentance and return to him and he was going to free them from the oppression of the Canaanites with or without Barak. But God knew the level of his faith.
- Our level of faith doesn’t determine the completion of God’s plans, but our level of faith is connected to our inclusion in the plans of God
- God had been at work all along setting things in motion for the defeat and killing of Sisera at the hand of Jael.
Jael was married to Heber, who was a Kenite. They were the descendants of Hobab, Jethro’s son and so Moses’ brother in law. Chapter one tells of several generations before. And in verse 16 it says they had settled in this region. God had brought them there, settled them in the region, given them an affinity for Moses’ people. And in the years previous the Kenites and the Canaanites had friendly relations so Sisera would trust Jael.
What does Romans 8:28 teach us we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose
You never know what God has been up to in preparation for the challenge he has given you. So when his invitation comes to join him, know that
- God has made provision for you to walking in Faith.
Warren Wiersbe says “God’s commandments are God’s Enablements”
What can we learn from Barak’s encouraged faith?
If you wait until you have “enough faith” you may never go
When we encourage others to faith we give them the opportunity to participate in great things for God
Encouraged faith is willing to risk it all v18
5. Faith Encouraged Shines
The blessing of faith Judges 5:31
I couldn’t begin to list all the encouragers in scripture that were behind the scenes
- Behind Augustine, there was Monica, his mother, a devout Christian and a tireless prayer warrior who prayed for her wandering prodigal until he was at last converted. Augustine later called Monica his mother both in the flesh and in the Lord.
- Behind Martin Luther was Johann Von Staupitz, professor of Bible at the university in Wittenberg. When Luther became an Augustinian monk, Staupitz became his spiritual director and counselor. “If it had not been for Dr. Staupitz,” Luther later said, “I should have sunk in hell.” It was Staupitz who taught Luther about grace and who directed him into the study of theology.
- Behind John Calvin was William Farel, who spurred Calvin on to courage and devotion, and who, when Calvin was dying, left his own sickbed to come from afar to encourage him.
- Behind John Wesley was Peter Boehler, who belonged to the Moravians, a group of German Christians who seemed to possess what Wesley seemed to lack—a personal, restful trust in God. It was by following Boehler’s counsel that Wesley eventually found his heart “strangely warmed” at a midweek meeting on Aldersgate Street.
- Behind William Carey was Andrew Fuller, who had broken with the hyper-Calvinistic Baptists of his day and was appealing for people to be converted to Christ. Spurred on by Fuller’s evangelistic zeal, Carey asked the logical question, “What about the people beyond our shores? Don’t they, too, need the gospel?” The two men became soul-mates in missions, Carey in India, and Fuller, his mentor and supporter, cheering from the stands back home.
An encourager sees the opportunity, sees the potential, sees our God and points one toward what can be if we will have faith
And when one steps up in faith that faith shines out into the darkness of this world and shows the glories of God
The Bottom line is that we all need encouragement.
Some of us may be able to receive our encouragement directly from the Lord via God the Holy Spirit but most need encouragement. Our faith encouraged, passed on, acted on will SHINE a Testimony of the Greatness of God
Psalm 37:6 He will make your righteousness shine like the day
Proverbs 4:18 the path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day
Proverbs 13:9 The light of the righteous shines brightly
- But Sometimes our greatest “competencies” bring us down
The iron chariots of Sisera’s army were a hindrance when they were lured into a valley that was flooded by torrential rain
- Barak may appear to have feeble faith but at the bottom of it was a recognition of how desperately he needed the presence of God
We could use a little of that don’t you think?
Is it weakness if we need encouragement? Well yes I guess it is but is that a bad thing?
Is it weakness if you need a crutch because of an injury or disability, or is it just a statement of reality?
Which is more important that you walk in faith with an encourager or that you flounder in inactivity and disobedience without encouragement?
Faith is the victory
Let me take it further
Christ is Creator, Healer, Sustainer
God parted the Red Sea, God brought down Jericho
God brought down a giant with one stone flung by a teenage boy
Christ was born in Bethlehem to a Virgin just as he promised
Christ raised the dead made lame to walk and blind to see
He set us free from the bondage of sin by paying sin’s ransom on the cross
Christ defeated Death rising from the grave on the Third Day
And he is coming again
Someone once said “Believers should not worry about WHEN Christ is coming but should encourage one another BECAUSE we are certain Christ is Coming”
Holding Each Other Up
In Guideposts magazine Donald Vairin of Oceanside, California, told of serving as a young hospital corpsman in the invasion of Guam during World War II. Suddenly his boat came to a grinding halt. They had hit a coral reef, and the commanding officer ordered everyone off the ship.
Donald jumped into the ocean and sank like a rock, his carbine rifle, medical pack, canteen, and boots dragging him down. He forced himself to the surface, gasping for air, only to sink again. He tried to pull off his boots, but the effort exhausted him, and he suddenly realized he wasn’t going to make it.
/Just then he saw a man thrashing in the water next to him, and in desperation he clutched onto him. That proved enough to hold him up and get him to the reef where he was picked up by a rescue boat. But Donald felt so guilty about grabbing the drowning man to save himself that he never told anyone what had happened.
About six months later, on shore leave in San Francisco, he stopped in a restaurant. A sailor in uniform waved him over to sit with him, and as he did so he announced to his friends, “This is my buddy. He saved my life.”/
“What are you talking about?” asked Donald.
“Don’t you remember,” said the man. “We were in the water together at Guam. You grabbed on to me. I was going down, and you held me up.”
Folks isn’t that what we are? When we encourage each other we are just a pair of people drowning in the struggles of life, saving each from drowning and spuring to life and victory?