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By Faith Barak, Deborah, and Jael...Hebrews 11:32

Our text this morning is Hebrews 11:32 which states, “And what more shall I say? For time will fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets…”. Today we will consider the story of Barak and his story which is found in Judges 4 &5.

Before we turn there let us consider that in Hebrews 11:32 the author of Hebrews mentions some of the leaders that God raised up to lead his people at critical times in Israel’s history. Faithful leaders are individuals who display great faith and courage to willingly obey God under very difficult circumstances. Faithless people, however, do not display this faith and courage to repent of this sin (Judges 5:15-17, 23).

I am reading through 2 Chronicles in my devotions and I am seeing that the only time courage is mentioned in that book is when there is a person who desires to do the will of God in his generation. To do this that person needs courage and the way this courage is produced is to live by faith in God and in His Word. For example,

  • In2 Chronicles 15:1-8the prophet Azariah encourages King Asa not be like the generation before who did not fear the LORD and obey Him. Instead, Azariah says to the king, “But you, take courage! For your work shall be rewarded.” Asa takes courage and responds in faith. The king puts away Israel’s idolatry and he also repaired the altar of the LORD so proper worship could be given to the LORD.

  • In 2 Chronicles 19:8-11 King Jehoshaphat implements godly reforms and he sets up certain Levites to be leaders and judges who are supposed to uphold the Law of God. He tells them, “Deal courageously, and may the LORD be with the upright.” If these leaders are to rule well they will need to have faith and it will express itself through courage.

  • In 2 Chronicles 23 when Queen Athaliah usurped the throne in Judah after her son Jehoiada dies,he‘took courage’ and installed Joash the rightful king upon the throne at the risk of his own safety.

All of these leaders were willing to preach, teach and defend the word with courage. All of these leaders had the courage to obey God’s word in season and out of season because they had faith (2 Timothy 4:2).

Now, the author of Hebrews is writing to believers who were forgetting that they had godly and faithful leaders in their church. Therefore, one of the things that the author of Hebrews is doing in Hebrews 11 is showing them what a faithful leader may look like.

In Hebrews 13:7 he says to them, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” These believers could look in their own church and find faithful leaders. But what would they be looking for in a faithful leader?

Well, it takescourage to remain faithful to the LORD in this fallen world. You risk loosing friends, possessions, and family members for the sake of Christ. You may even risk loosing your own life! (Hebrews 12:3-4) Owen once spoke of the courage that Christians need to display in this fallen world and he reminds us of the hope that we have that allows us to be courageous under these conditions. He said, “I do not say that you will be saved in time, but you shall be saved to eternity. I cannot say that you will have peace with men, but you shall have peace with God. I cannot say that you will not lose your lives, but I will say that you shall not loose your souls-and these are our great concerns.1

I hope that our nation is beginning to desire these types of godly leaders? When they do, how will we know it? Well, we will know it is true when, like in the book of Judges, they humbly pray and repent and ask the LORD for help (2 Chronicles 7:14). {If we look for leadership which is not dependent upon humility, the Word of God, repentance, and submitting to God’s authority and rule, then we are not ready to really find deliverance from our situation. We will continue to suffer until we repent and call out to God for help. Then God can respond.}

Similarly, I hope that Christians know that God is always raising up faithful leaders to shepherd His flock. Don’t become so pessimistic that you believe that there are no good Christian leaders and Christian churches in our communities. I talked to someone recently who had lost the hope that God is still raising up leaders. He and his family do not attending church anywhere because they have been disappointed by the failures of Christian leaders. They need to remember that God will always provide and equip faithful leaders to shepherd His church. These shepherds are produced by the Word of God and not through the best philosophies and worldviews of our culture. They will be different than the leaders of this world.

A person who has given up hope in leaders may be encouraged when they consider Hebrews 11:32 because it refers to the diverse types of leaders that God raises up for his purposes. Three things can be said about the men that are referred to in Hebrews 11:32.

First, these men are being commending for their faith and trust in God under difficult circumstances. Four of the men listed here were raised up by God to be judges when ‘everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes’. Because of this, the people were doing great ‘evil in the eyes of the LORD’.

As a result, it would take faith and courage to do what God had called them to do. This is why, as we saw last week, we will see again today, that God always sends His Word to the people to produce faith so that a leader can be raised up. Last week God sent a prophet before He raised up Gideon. This week God raised up Deborah before He called upon Barak to defeat the Canaanites.

Secondly, when you consider these men you find that God raises them up from very different places. Each has a different personality and temperament, each comes from a different social sphere, and each was given different gifts from the LORD. The people that God uses will look very different but they will be similar in two ways. They all are people of faith, albeit they may have varying degrees of faith. And they will speak the Word of God faithfully and courageously. (Hebrews 11:7, 17)

Third, each of these individuals had their own sinful tendencies and they were not perfect men (Hebrews 12:1-2). {Next week Jephthahwill make you cringe!} Like you and I, these leaders had a sinful nature. They also had to mature in their faith as the believers in Hebrews are being told to do in Hebrews5:11-6:12.

Dr. Albert Mohler describes these judges by saying, “Gideon demanded signs from God and led Israel to sin when he made an ephod; Samson was sexually promiscuous and broke his covenant with God; Jephthah vowed to sacrifice his own daughter; David committed adultery with a woman and tried to cover it up by arranging the death of her husband.” Then Dr. Mohler says, “Even so, the author does not remember them for their flaws. He commends them for their faith. Though they sinned, their lives were ultimately marked by their faith in God.

Of these men listed in Hebrews 11:32John Calvin said, “There was none of them whose faith did not falter…In every saint there is always to be found something reprehensible. Nevertheless although faith may be imperfect and incomplete it does not cease to be approved by God. There is no reason therefore why the fault from which we labor should break us or discourage us provided we go on by faith in the race of our calling.” (Hebrews 12:1-2) In light of this we should heed Dr. Mohler’s words and try not to remember the penitent for their flaws, but remember them according to their faith which has justified them and which is sanctifying them.

As we look at the story of Barak we will see that faithful and courageous leadership is necessary in the work that God does among His people. Let me illustrate this by using John Bunyan’s book ‘Pilgrims Progress’ because in many ways his book parallels our story. At the beginning of this book we are introduced to a man named Christian. We are told that Christian is a man with a book in his hand (the Bible) and a burden on his back (his sin). The story begins with Christian standing near his home crying out, ‘What shall I do?

WhenChristian returns to his home he speaks to his family and says, “Oh, my dear wife and children, I am undone by reason of an awful burden that lies heavily upon my heart. I am surely warned that this our city shall be burned with fire from heaven, in which terrible destruction all of us shall surely perish unless some way can be found whereby we may be delivered.

Christian’s family thought he was going crazy. They put him to bed hoping that he would sleep off this condition. But when morning came they asked Christian how he felt. He replied, “Worse”. Christian’s family tried to ignore him, they chided him, and they scoffed at him.

One day Christian met a man named Evangelist who tells him what he must do to be saved. The man said, “Flee from the wrath to come” and he pointed Christian in the direction that he should go to be saved. As Christian began to run in that direction, his wife and children cried out for him to come back. Christian put his fingers in his ears and kept running, crying, “Life! Life! Eternal life!” From that time on Christian courageously journey alone without his unbelieving family.

We might wonder, “What ever happened to Christian’s wife and kids? Were they ever reunited with eachother?” John Bunyan must have asked himself this question because he wrote another book in which he tells their story. It begins with these words, “Some time after telling you my story about Christian, the pilgrim, and his hazardous journey through the wilderness of the world to the Celestial City, I had a dream about his family- Christina, his wife, and her four sons. I remembered how she strongly opposed Christian’s call to a pilgrimage life, and how rude she was to him before he left home because she regarded his troubled spirit as an affliction of mind.

A time came, however, when Christina became aware of her own sin and the danger that she and the boys were in. A visitor was sent from the LORD to give her an invitation to take her sons to live in the Eternal City as Christian had done. Christina accepts the invitation and she takes her boys on a journey to the Celestial City.

In their journey they come to a place with dangerous lions and you read these words, “But they went on until they came within sight of the lions. Here the boys, who had been in the lead, cringed behind the others. Their guide, Greatheart, smiled and said, ‘What happened, boys? You like to go before when no danger appears, but as soon as you see the lions, you get behind us.’” Then, Greatheart, who was a godly and courageous leader, takes the lead and protects the family from danger.

Doesn’t this part of the story remind us of the importance of godly, faithful, and courageous leadership? In this story you see this leadership in two ways. First, you see it in the boys mother who plays a vital role on this journey. Secondly, you see it in Greatheart’s leadership as he disciples the family and protects them from harm by defeating their enemies. {If you read Judges 4&5 these things will reming you of the story of Deborah and Barak.}

Young boys can pretend to lead in times of peace but at the first sign of trouble you will need to have a brave, courageous and faithful leader (Isaiah 3:12). Boys will often lead the people into sin and folly. Eventually, they will bring the people into God’s judgment unless they ask for wisdom (1 Kings 3:1-15) or unless a faithful leader leads them by example and teaches them the truth (2 Chronicles 23, 1 Timothy 4:6, 2 Timothy 3:10).

If young boys do not have these types of leaders they will lack courage, they will compromise their convictions (or the convictions of the previous godly generation), or they will flee to save themselves when courage is most needed most (Judges 5:15-18, 23; John 10:12).

When this happens God will need to raise up a leader who are equipped with His grace to fulfill their calling. If this person responds in faith the LORD will bless them with courage and He will grant them great success. These are some of the things we will see in Judges 4&5.

Judges 4 begins by giving usan account of the suffering of God’s people. Then we get to see how God delivers them from the oppression of the Canaanites which had lasted for twenty years. After the death of Israel’s last faithful leaders died, Ehud and Shamgar- Judges 3, the people once again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD (4:1) A generation of faithful people were replaced by a generation of faithless ‘boys’ who did not know they lived among fearful lions.

Because of this the LORD gave them into the hand of Jabin the king of Canaan and his commander Sisera who commanded an army with 900 chariots of iron (4:2). He used this military might to cruelly oppress God’s people (4:3). I would imagine that during those twenty years Israel tried to raise up an able person who could break them free from this bondage but it never worked. It was only after they cried out to the LORD for help that their was any deliverance.

Oh, the great mercy and kindness of God that saves us from our sins- again and again. Isn’t that what Judges 4:1 says, “And the people of Israel again did what was evil…”. God is so merciful and kind to help us when we will turn away from our sin and cry out to Him for the help that only He can provide (Heb. 4:16; Proverbs 29:26).

The previous generation, like Christian, was faithful to the LORD but once that generation was gone the next generation became more and more faithless. But, just as in Bunyan’s book the LORD raised up a mother to save her kids, now God will raise up a mother named Deborah to help deliver Israel (Judges 5:12).

Deborah was a Proverbs 31 type of woman! She was a wife, a mother, a prophetess, and a judge in Israel (4:1, 5:7). She loved God’s word, His truth, His law; therefore she strove against the idolatry and wickedness of her day (5:8, 23). She was a worshiper of God (5:3, 12). She confronted sin and made righteous judgments even if she was offered a bribe or went against the godless culture of her day (5:14-18). Deborah was bold, courageous and mighty in the unique way that God had called her to speak for Him to His people (5:21).

Deborah was being used by God in a variety of ways, but we also see in Judges 4&5 that she has a high regard for the different roles that God has given to His people even through creation. I believe that Deborah shows great humility even as she functions in these exalted roles that are somewhat rare in Israel’s history. Even as this happened Deborah honored God in respecting these boundaries that God had established.

For example, Deborah is one of a few women in scripture who was a prophet. There are only a handful of other women who were used in this way in all of Scripture (Exodus 15:20- Miriam; 2 Kings 22:14-20- Huldah; Luke 2:36- Anna; Phillip’s daughters- Acts 21:8-9). In addition to this, Deborah is the only female judge that God had called and used during this time in Israel’s history. To put it in our vernacular, Deborah broke the glass ceiling in a lot of ways. However, Deborah did not do this out of her own personal ambition and glory. No, like we will see in Barak, she is humble and careful not to be motivated for her own glory (4:9). She does these things because God had chosen her and called her.

{Application: Contrary to current thought I do not believe the humility of Deborah in these things diminishes her in any way. On the contrary, I believe her humility and submission to authority enhances the beauty of her faithful service to the LORD. Here at Community Church we believe that God’s Word teaches that men and woman have received different but complimentary roles in their families and in the church. Neither role is to be despised or abused by either. We are all heirs of the grace of God and men and woman are to fulfill their proper roles by faith through grace to the glory of God. When this is done it is a beautiful expression of God’s wisdom. When this is not done it does not glorify God.}

In Judges 5 we see that Deborah is a very humble person who is most content to be known primarily as a worshiper of God, a lover of truth, and a mother of Israel (Titus 2:4-8). However, when Deborah speaks of others, when she refers to Barak and the men who willingly offered themselves even unto death, she refers to them as ‘leaders’ (2), ‘kings and princes’ (3, 15, 19), ‘commanders of Israel’ (9,14), ‘remnant of the noble’ (13), ‘people of the LORD’ (13), and as those who are ‘friends’ of the LORD (31).

[OBSERVATION: Deborah is not like Athaliah, the mother of king Joab, who treacherously usurped the rightful place of her grandson for her own benefit to rule as a self-imposed queen of Israel (2 Chronicles 22:10-12, 23:1-15). No, on the contrary, Deborah walked humbly in the calling that the LORD had given her and she upheld the roles that others were to operate in according to how God had called them.}

We see this for example when Barak is told that the LORD had given Israel’s enemies into his hand he does not want to go without her. Unlike Christianwho was willing to pilgrim alone to the Celestial City when his family refused his invitation, Barak will not take this journey alone and says to Deborah, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” (4:8) In response to this request Deborah says, “I will surly go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” (4:9)

We have just witnessed this discussion between Deborah and Barak, but what necessitated this conversation. We are told in Judges 4:4, “Now Derborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time.” So for twenty years Deborah has been sitting and judging for the people of Israel. In one sense, this meant that when there was an issue pertaining to the Law in Israel she would listen to the cases and make judgments between the Israelites (2 Chronicles 19:8-11 gives a description of the judges responsibilities). In another sense, this meant that she used the Word of God to judge not only individuals, but families, and leaders, and even the nations around them. In Judges 5:7-8 we read, “I, Deborah, arose as a mother of Israel. When new gods were chosen, then war was in the gates.” Deborah was a righteous and zealous judge for the LORD and truth.

{Application: Many of us make a choice to either not be used by God, to be used in a little way by God, or to be used in a great way by God. Deborah chose to be used in a great way. She served as a judge to families, to the tribes of Israel, and to the nations around her. She did not sit in judgment each day and become jaded. She did not sit in judgment each day and take bribes or compromise. Therefore, her heart was offended when ‘new gods were chosen’ and she knew there was going to be war. Some things cannot be tolerated and put up with but they must be contended against even at the risk of your own life. (Proverbs 28:4)}

In these things we see that through Deborah God declared His Word and He used this as a means to raise up a generation of faithful men who were willing to fight for the LORD (5:2). This took great faith because in Judges 5:8 Deborah asks a question, “Was shield or spear to be seen among forty thousand in Israel?” The answer to this question is, No! Israel was ill equipped to revolt and make war.

Again we see that God can win great victories for His people without using conventional means. Israel did not have a lot of military strength but they had the Word of God and this produced faith in a new group of leaders that God was raising up. The means that God appeared to defeat this army was a torrential rain storm (Judges 5:4-5).

One day as Deborah was judging she was being provoked by the idolatry of the Canaanites and she sensed that war was coming. She sent for Barak and said to him, “Has not the LORD, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulun. I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops, and I will give him into your hand’?” (4:6-7)

Barak is told to take a small army into battle against a mighty force. He is willing to do this as long as the person who has faithfully spoken the Word of God to Israel comes with him. Barak is even willing to sacrifice personal honor and glory to have the Word of God spoken throughout this process through God’s servant Deborah. On the day of battle it must have been comforting, encouraging and faith building to hear the prophet and judge of Israel say, “Up! For this is the day in which the LORD has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the LORD go out before you?” (4:14)

Upon hearing those inspired words I do not think Barak regretted for one moment asking Deborah to come along. No, we are told that he immediately went down from Mount Tabor with 10,000 men following him and defeated Sisera.

However, the decisive defeat came at the hands of a woman named Jael, the husband of Heber. This man was a descendant of Moses but he had moved away from God’s people and allied himself with their enemy Jabin (Judges 4:11, 17). It was the honor of Heber’s wife to kill Israel’s enemy and she would do so by faith which produced great courage to go against the peace that her husband had made with Jabin. But she knew that Israel would soon destroy Jabin and they needed to obey the LORD.

To honor the faith of Jael, Deborah sings these words in Judges 5:24-27, “Most blessed of women be Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, of tent-dwelling women most blessed. He asked for water and she gave him milk; she brought him curds in a noble’s milk; she brought him curd’s in a noble’s bowl. She sent her hand to the tent peg and her right hand to the workmen’s mallet; she struck Sisera; she crushed his head; she shattered and pierced his temple. Between her feet he sank, he fell, he lay still; between her feet he sank and fell; where he sank, there he fell-dead.

The general of Israel’s great enemy was now dead and his army had been destroyed. From this point on Israel pressed harder against Jabin the king of Canaan, until the destroyed him (4:24).

Similarly, our great enemy, Satan, has been defeated. Every Christian now presses harder and harder by faith against Satan and his kingdom through the preaching of the gospel and the rescue of God’s people from darkness.

There was a day when Satan thought that he had killed Jesus, the Son of God, with a death blow. Jesus died upon the cross and He was put in a grave but He rose again on the third day. What had really happened was that Jesus had given the devil a death blow upon the cross. Let these words comfort you in any circumstance that you are experiencing this morning as we close. Hebrews 2:14-15, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that He helps, but He helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because He suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.

In Bunyan’s book Greatheart is a great leader who saves Christina and her four boys. In our story today Deborah, Barak, and Jael are great leaders who deliver the people from the Canaanites. But as we leave here this morning we should remember that Jesus is the greatest leader who has once and for all saved us from our sins, this world and our adversary the devil (Eph. 1:22-23; Acts 2:36). To Him be all the glory which is due His name! Amen.

1John Owen, Searching Our Hearts In Difficult Times, p. 112


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