It is safe to assume that not all people are familiar with the man named Barak mentioned in the book of Judges. Though he is not that popular, the Apostle Paul included him in the faith chapter. His life may not be as stellar as the other people mentioned in Hebrews 11, we can still certainly learn vital lessons from his story.
The name Barak means, lighting. Barak is mentioned in Judges 4 when “the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD” (verse 1). This verse has occurred in the book of Judges six times, signifying the vicious cycle of Israel’s rebellion against God.
Barak’s life demonstrates the reward of those who faithfully serve God.
For 20 long years, the nation of Israel has suffered in the hands of Jabin, King of Canaan in Hazor. This has led them to again “cried out to the LORD” (verse 2). Deborah, the judge of Israel, summoned Barak to lead the Israelite army against the army of Jabin.
With God’s help and power, Barak, together with Deborah, was able to subdue the Canaanite army.
With these in mind, we must ask ourselves and learn the lessons from the life of Barak. Join me today as we embark on a new journey in exploring the story of Barak and learning the vital lessons from his life.
Lesson no. 1: Choose to first serve God rather than men
Ehud is the previous judge mentioned in Judges 3. After that, Deborah was mentioned to be the next judge. Ehud killed Eglon, the king of Moab, and destroyed his army. The heroic act of Ehud led to the 80 years of peace and prosperity in the land of Israel.
However, it is worth noting that Israel would not be completely and forever be faithful in their covenant with God. After 80 years, the Bible reveals that the Israelites did evil in the sight of the LORD.
This might be really difficult to understand for readers why would Israel again and again, fall into idolatry. We might think that they should have already got the message that disobeying God will lead to tragic situations. So why would they not learn from their previous experience?
The answer is obvious. Like any of us, the Israelites are carnal. They should have realized that the more they rebel and disobey God, the more they will suffer in the hands of a gentile king.
For 80 years, Israel has served God but now, they are to serve Jabin as a result of their rebellion.
As Christians, we need to see the lesson in this situation. Whether we like it or not, we will eventually serve someone. The question would be, who. We can see when the Israelites served God, they were able to have a more abundant and blessed life. However, when they disregard God’s mandates and commandments, they are forced to serve a human being, in this case, Jabin.
Serving God means doing the greatest work here on earth.
Serving other people rather than God leads to many untold sad stories and sufferings. The reward of serving God benefits a person both physically and spiritually. On the other hand, the reward of serving people – the act of putting other people over God – is suffering and grief. Yes, we might enjoy some benefits of serving other people, but the effects would only last for a short period of time.
Jesus Christ explicitly tells us:
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).
This biblical passage clearly shows us that our loyalty, love, and affection should be primarily directed to God. God needs our undivided attention. He wants us to follow Him 100%, not holding back anything from Him.
Why is this so? Is it because God is selfish? Is it because He needs our attention? Is it because He want to control us?
The plain answer is that God wants us to love him because it is in our best interest. God does not really need our praise and help. He is God and He can live without us. However, because of God’s great and indescribable love toward us, He wants us to live life abundantly. This can only be genuinely achieved when we truly serve and love “the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind” (Matthew 22:37).
Again, in this life, whether we like it or not, we will serve someone. And let that someone be God. A life lived for God will bring blessings not only in this life but for eternity!
Lesson no. 2: God is not against using women for His work
In a time where the men of Israel grew weak and discouraged, God raised a woman named Deborah to serve as a judge and prophetess to His sinning people. Deborah is among the women in the Bible who have held a high position in the nation of Israel. Because of her faith and strength, she eventually became the “mother of Israel” (Judges 5:7).
Deborah was the woman who summoned Barak to lead an army against Jabin. Barak is hesitant to take the lead and asked Deborah that he will only do it with her presence. This reveals the character of Deborah and the high regard given to her by the people around her.
In the story of Barak and Deborah, we can certainly see that God is not biased or partial. He looks at both men and women equally. However, there should be a hierarchy of leadership to maintain order within the church and family unit. This is the main reason that God appointed men to lead.
Jesus Christ showed us the proper way of treating women. He treated women with high level of respect and dignity. He sees their value in the work of the Church.
Sad to say, many feminists and supporters of women liberation movement dismissed the Bible and call it anti-woman. This is a sad misunderstanding that has led many people to think that the God of the Bible is unfair. To borrow the words of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an early American feminist, they consider the Bible as “the greatest stumbling block in the way of women’s emancipation”.
We must always remember that God “shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34). If we read the Bible, we can read great women recorded in the Bible. These includes not only Deborah, but also Sarah, Rahab, Miriam, Ruth, Esther, and other New Testament women.
We have also seen Jesus interacting with different women during His time here on earth. He championed the treatment of women with dignity and respect. As a matter of fact, it was a group of women who first saw the resurrected Christ.
Today, the role of women in the church is very evident. While it is true that they are not permitted to preach during church service (I Corinthians 14:34-35) for maintaining order, they can most certainly be used for other work. Women can help teach other people in a private and group setting (Acts 18:26). They are also admonished to teach younger women (Titus 2:3-4) and raise their children to the ways of God (II Timothy 1:5).
God did not create man and woman to compete with each other. God intended women to be a helper comparable to man. The word “helper” in Genesis 2:18 is the same word used to describe God as our helper in Psalms 54:4. So we can see here that God really views each of the genders as special.
So the next time someone tells you that the Bible is unfair when it comes to the treatment of man and woman. Remember that God is just and unbiased. God equally loves man and woman and each of them plays a vital role in the work of God.
Lesson no. 3: Fear is an enemy of faith
Like Gideon, Barak is a fearful man who doubts the word of God. Deborah received a message from God that He will deliver the armies of Jabin in the hands of Israel. He immediately called for Barak to “go and deploy troops in Mount Tabor”. He is supposed to take ten thousand men and go against the King of Canaan.
His immediate fearful response is found in Judges 4:8:
“If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!”
Sadly, his attitude will result in stripping him of the honor of defeating the enemies. Actually, if God said so, the victory has already been won. It just depends upon us if we will claim that victory or not.
Of course, we cannot blame Barak to feel and respond this way. In this instance, he is still living by sight and not by faith. Barak is too familiar with the formidable and unconquerable armies of Jabin. Considering the size of Jabin’s army, it is not difficult to see why the Israelites have been subdued for about two decades.
It is said that the army of Jabin consists of 900 chariots of iron (Judges 4:3). Chariots are considered to be a superweapon during their time. With the use of chariots, an army can easily claim victory especially against a weak nation like Israel. And when you consider the number of Jabin’s chariots, you will soon see that he already have a considerable large standing army, something that Barak is afraid of.
Feed your faith and your fear will starve to death.
There is no doubt that the army of Jabin is superior, well-armed, and daunting in every aspect. Fear will easily strike anyone who dares to go against it. This is why Barak feel so reluctant to go and fight.
One of the greatest enemies of faith is fear. Fear can cripple and stun the growth of our faith in God. God knows our frame and our natural tendencies. No one is perfect and all of us experience fear. Even the spiritual giants and faithful men of the Bible feel this negative emotion.
The Apostle John stated in I John 4:18 the antidote to fear:
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”
Love can cast out fear. It is our love to God and to our fellow that will eventually cast out fear from within us. When we are motivated to serve God and help our brethren, we are strengthened and equipped with the ability to overcome fear.
God understands that we will inevitably feel fear. That is the main reason that God has constantly reminded us, from Genesis to Revelation, to “Fear not!” Reading the Bible, you will see numerous passages about encouragement and not being fearful.
When we learn to put everything in the hands of God and fully trust Him that is the time when we get rid of fear and let faith reign in our hearts. Just always remember that every opportunity to fear is also an opportunity to be faithful.
Lesson no. 4: Out of weakness we are made strong
One of the fascinating ironies in life is when we are at our weakest, that’s the time God become the strongest. So many times in our lives that we have seen the MIGHTY power of God when we are completely helpless and powerless.
Barak is one of the people who God made strong when he was weak. Hebrews 11:32-34 tells us this:
“And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell… Barak… who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises… out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.”
That’s exactly what faith and God can do to us.
Out of weakness, we will be made strong. As Christians, we must realize that apart from God, we are nothing! We are made of dust and to dust, we all shall return. We are literally and virtually NOTHING! We are not strong but are weak.
However, with God’s help, we will be powerful. For God “has not given us a spirit of fear; but of POWER and of LOVE and of a sound mind” (II Timothy 1:7). When we COMPLETELY surrender and submit our life to God, He will strengthen us – the type of strength that will see us through many trials and tribulation! This is the SWEETEST surrender that you and I can ever make during this lifetime!
Don’t pray for life to be easy but pray to be strong.
Though we are dust, this lowest form of dirt has the incredible and astounding potential to be part of God’s family and be partakers of God’s divine nature (II Peter 1:4)!
So whenever you feel being weak remember the words of God, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:9).
Jesus Christ also comforts us with these words:
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Brethren, Jesus Christ said that we need to COME to Him, TAKE His yoke, and LEARN from Him. This is not just a promise, but it is a command. Jesus wants us to come to Him whenever we feel like giving up. When we do that, we will renew our strength and mount up with wings like eagles. We shall run and not be weary and walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:11).
Lesson no. 5: God will humble the proud
It is really true that power can potentially corrupt the character of men. We have seen the proud army of Jabin and his general, Sisera. With a formidable army, it is not difficult to see how this lifted up the heart of Jabin. Sisera, a man of military genius, led the army of Jabin to many victories. However, Sisera’s proud look will soon come to an end.
As the battle between Barak and Sisera commenced, God turned the table and helped the Israelites claim victory. Barak was able to pursue the chariots and their enemies and “all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not a man was left” (Judges 4:16). Meanwhile, Sisera “alighted from his chariot and fled away on foot” (verse 15).
The death of Sisera has been humiliating. In his effort to evade the army of Barak, he eventually came to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. Jael compelled the exhausted general to stay in her tent and rest for a while. Instead of giving water, Jael gave Sisera milk. This further caused a deep sleep to Sisera due to its sleep-inducing effect.
While sleeping, Jael “took a tent peg and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went down into the ground; for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died” (Judges 4:21).
The moment you realized that you are humble, you have just become proud.
The great, proud, and boastful Sisera has been reduced to nothing. Of all the people who could have killed him, Sisera, a military genius, died in the hands of a woman. He was killed during sleep, a state when a man is totally helpless. The tent peg has driven his head to the ground, a metaphor showing how low God has put Sisera down.
In time, Israel has regained their strength under the leadership of Barak and Deborah. Eventually, they have subdued the armies of their enemies and destroyed Jabin, the king of Canaan (Judges 4:24).
There are a lot of Bible verses that talk about pride and how it makes a person fall. Being proud has been a snare for many people in the Bible and it is equally true when it comes to Christians today. People who have been given power and authority are in danger of being proud. Christians who are intoxicated by unbroken success should remain humble and always give back the glory to God.
We must always remember that it is not by our power that we have gained our wealth or blessing. It is through the grace, mercy, and love of God that we enjoy an abundant life. Before we become proud and great in our own sight, let us remember the words of James, the half-brother of Jesus:
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10).
So be humble. Let your praise be from God and He will eventually exalt you in due time.
Barak is a man just like any of us. He initially experienced fear and reluctantly accepted the task given to him. As this might be the case, God expects us to grow our faith and make it stronger day by day. We can nourish our faith by choosing to serve God rather men. Though it may be difficult at times, we can be sure that God will always be with us and give us the necessary strength to endure.