“And Barak said to her, ‘If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!’ So she said, ‘I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.’ Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh.”
The conditions in Israel at the time of Deborah and Barak were very difficult. Moral failure, on the part of the people and their leaders, had led to national decline, and in turn, to losing much of the freedoms they once enjoyed. After eighteen years of oppression, the people finally began to see that the root cause of their condition was not economic, political or even social, but that they had departed from the ways of God. Understanding this led them to return to the Lord, and cry out for deliverance. In response to these cries, God raised up what may seem like two very unlikely heroes. The first was a woman who would rule in a definitively male culture, and the second was a man who was somewhat resistant to the whole idea.
The scene develops as Barak makes his way to Deborah, who exhorts him to lead the people into battle. Barak is, however, unwilling to go unless Deborah will join him. She agrees, but not without making it clear, she is disappointed in his reluctance. She explains that he will succeed, but will not receive any glory because he was afraid to venture out alone.
I, for one, am glad Deborah is not in charge of the honor system in the kingdom of God. While it is true there is a time when bravery must replace cowardice, and even a time when we are required to take a solitary stand, it is also true, God honors the faith that we do exercise. In Deborah’s eyes, the unwillingness of Barak to go it alone meant there would be no reward in it for him, but in the eyes of the Lord, Barak will receive the highest of all honors. Hundreds of years later, his story would be referred to again in the book of Hebrews, in a section that has been aptly titled, “The Hall of Faith.”
I think we are all a bit like Barak and need a little help to be heroic. Maybe the best approach would be to gather with others whose lives will stir us to action. It is amazing how often a person will join a group of believers, and from that group begin to venture out in service, perhaps even for the first time. Instead of emphasizing our fears, let’s focus on faith and gather with the ones who will stir us to step out.