Oh Barak… When I first met you I thought, ‘What a wimp!’ But then I grew older, and saw something else. I saw a man who was not all that unlike the people I know, and the person I have become.
Barak is a warrior, the commander of the army, yet he will not go into battle unless the woman, Deborah, goes with him. The question is, ‘Why?’ Why won’t he just go?
God tells him that, since he insists on having Deborah with him, the credit for the victory will be given to a woman, and not to him. I am sure he is thinking Deborah will get the glory, and he is fine with that, after all, she is the leader of Israel, just please God let her go with him! What he does not know is that God, in a typical God-like fashion, does not like to do what people expect. God gives the victory over Sisera to Jael instead. But who cares? Well, any man at this time does! A woman being given credit for a military victory is unheard of and this woman has no status. At least if it was Deborah, people knew who she was, and that she was someone with power and authority! This will hurt Barak’s masculinity. Still, Barak does not care. Why?
Here’s my take on the situation: Barak has faith that God can deliver His people. He knows that God gives victory to the weak who are righteous. He believes that Deborah is righteous. What he does not have faith in is his relationship with God. He knows himself. He knows he is not perfect. Likely he does not feel that he prays as much as he should, nor does he read his Bible as he ought (and it is much shorter at this time in history!). But, he believes that Deborah does, and even though it will cost him in pride and kudos, he knows that Deborah is a person who God blesses and does not want the failings he perceives in his relationship with God to be the downfall of Israel. So give the credit to the girl, in his eyes, she is better than him. And to his credit he gladly shares the credit with her and Jael after the battle is won, singing a duet with Deborah when it is over. (Many men would have been walking around trying to explain that they did all the work, and the Deborah did nothing, and Jael did almost nothing since Sisera pretty much fell into her lap.)
The only thing Barak does not have faith in is his relationship with God. He does not feel ‘good enough’ to be used by God. But how many of us feel this way today?
What I realized is that the list of the faithful in Hebrews is not a list of people with perfect faith, but a list of people who were just like us, insecure and still making mistakes. The point is that God is not looking for perfection, and that we can be sure of our relationship with Him, even when we doubt. Remember: Abraham did not trust God to protect him and allowed people to believe that Sarah was ‘available’ to save his life –twice! Isaac did the same. Gideon too did not believe that God could use someone like him. Yet they are all listed as people of faith. The faithful have doubts. Barak had doubts. The beauty of Barak is that he saw a woman as a faithful person whom God could bless and use, a person whom he perceived as more godly than himself, and was not afraid to let her have the credit for what he, as commander of the army, should have longed to have credit for.
In Proverbs 31 the husband is told to give his wife the praise that is due her. This is exactly what Barak does. He allows women (Jael and Deborah) to receive the praise. This is tough for a man at this time, where prideful talk, patriarchy and war were a manly way of life. Yet Barak humbles himself, due to his own insecurities. But Barak deserves double kudos for this, because typically it is the more insecure who cannot in the end stand to share the spotlight and feel the need to hog the praise…
Many teach that Deborah was judge because there were no godly men at the time. I disagree. Only truly godly men could follow God even when He was using a woman, someone they thought of as lowly and weak, to do His will. This takes trust and recognition of what ‘godly’ is. It is easy to follow someone the world tells you is worthy of respect: the big, strong and powerful. It takes much more faith to follow, when you know you should, someone others would look down on you for listening to at all.