I was reading in Hebrews yesterday, Hebrews 11-13 to be specific. That's great stuff, by the way. Once upon a time I thought Hebrews was a bit boring, but now I don't understand how I ever thought that! Chapter 11 is the famous "faith" chapter that quickly runs through a lot of the old testament heroes and how they lived by faith. In verse 32, the author mentions others who he doesn't have time to talk about but who still lived by faith. So my thought was, why Barak?
I went back to read his story again, which is in Judges 4 and 5. Israel was being oppressed by the king of Canaan. His army commander, Sisera, led a formidable army that included 900 iron chariots. Deborah was leading Israel at the time as a prophetess. I've always liked Deborah, probably because she was a female judge and also because she actually went into battle! When she told Barak that God wanted him to lead troops into battle against Sisera, he said he'd only go if she went too! So it makes me wonder, why is he included in the faith chapter? Yes, he did lead an army against Sisera, but he wouldn't do it on his own. I don't really have an answer for this, but maybe God was still honoring his actions, even if they weren't heroic as I would have liked. And I guess asking Deborah, a woman, to come with him showed how scared he was. But despite his fear, he did it anyway. Maybe that's why.
If you don't know the story, they won. Barak leads some of the tribes into battle and rout the enemy. Sisera gets a tent peg through the head and they all live happily ever after. But wait, then there's chapter 5. I've always had the tendency to skip over chapter 5. In my mind it was just a song of triumph, so how interesting could it be? This time I read it more thoroughly.
Barak and Deborah sang the praises of the tribes who fought that day: Benjamin, Zebulun, Issacher, some from Ephraim, and Naphtali. Despite their fear, they rose up and fought. They saw God work a miracle through them! How crazy would that be? They thought they were going to die, but instead their enemies, their tormenters died. I can't imagine the elation, maybe even giddiness, they would feel.
But then, Barak and Deborah also sing about the other tribes, those who didn't answer the call, those who stayed behind to let others fight.
"The princes of Issacher were with Deborah; yes, Issacher was with Barak, rushing after him into the valley. In the districts of Reuben, there was much searching of heart. Why did you stay among the campfires to hear the whistling for the flocks? In the districts of Reuben there was much searching of hearts. Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan. And Dan, why did he linger by the ships? Asher remained on the coast and stayed in his coves. The people of Zebulun risked their very lives; so did Naphtali on the heights of the field." (Judges 5:15-18)
Barak and Deborah sing about the fighters before and after mentioning the cowards, emphasizing their passivity. The line about Reuben was most interesting to me. They really thought about it, but in the end they decided to play it safe. I imagine that they would have regret their actions. They had the chance to be a part of something big. They had a chance to have God work a miracle through them, but they stayed home. How terrible I would feel! Of course, their actions didn't change their standing. They were still God's people, but they missed an opportunity.
I think that could be true for us today. Are we going to take part in his great work or sit at home? This isn't about works or earning salvation at all. But don't you want to be part of the battle? Don't you want to look back on what happened and just laugh at what God has done? I do. I want to fight, hopefully like Deborah, but at least like Barak.