“She sent for and she called Baraq, the son of Abinoam, from Qedesh-Naphtaliy, and said to him, ‘Has not Yahweh, the God of Israel, given an order to you? ‘Gather to Mount Tabor and bring with you 10,000 men from the Sons of Naphtaliy and from the Sons of Zebulun and I will gather to you, to the river Qishon, Sisera, the commander of the army of Jabin and his chariots and his multitude. And I will give him into your hand.’’”
If the presence of a female judge was a shadow of the theme of men shirking their duties, Deborah’s calling out Baraq is a clear indication of what is taking place…or perhaps we ought to say, what is not taking place. Notice Deborah’s words, for she is not calling Baraq to build an army and attack the armies of Sisera. Deborah is saying to Baraq, “Look, God’s already called you to do this, why are you dragging your feet?” Her words are not only the words of a prophet and a judge, but they stand as a reminder to all of us today that when God commands us to do this or to do that, we have an obligation to obey. We are not given freedom to drag our feet.
In Hebrew, Baraq’s name means, “a flash of lightning.” Clearly, in the case of this general, the name speaks little of his military prowess and boldness but more aptly speaks of how quickly his nerve flees from him. Again, names often give us a little insight into what is taking place in the historical account. Deborah’s name, by the way, means “a swarm of bees” which is in many ways a very appropriate name given how the little group of Israelites will torment and chase off the “multitude” of Sisera. Interestingly, Deborah’s husband’s name means “To Redeem Them,” which is interesting as God does use the little swarm of bees to redeem his people.
As we read, then, Deborah reminds Baraq of the command that God had already given to him. There is a bit of a play on words in this command that is worth drawing our attention to. God says to Baraq, “Gather to Mount Tabor … and I will gather Sisera to you.” The same word, Æ;KAvDm (mashak), is used in both places, drawing attention to the actions required. Basically, God is stating to Baraq, “You go muster an army and I will go and gather together Sisera so we can have a battle.” It is a reminder to us not only of God’s hand of deliverance, but also that God is sovereign over the armies even of his enemies. Such is the way with God. And though, on a human level, Sisera fielded a mighty army, if God has the power to draw them out and to gather them in a given place, he has the power to scatter and destroy them as well. Such is the way with God, may we always be in his hand and not positioning ourselves against it.