“And Baraq said, ‘If you will go with me, I will go; if you will not go with me, I will not go.’”
We have spoken already of the theme of this account…that of men not standing up and taking leadership in the life of Israel. Here we see Baraq, the flash of lightning, showing his true colors. This is the reason that he did not obey God’s command in the first place. And here, even after the Judge and prophetess is confronting him in his disobedience, we find Baraq still being obstinate and stubborn in disobedience. Such is what happens when one places oneself before God.
Lest in hindsight, we condemn Baraq based on his cowardice and disobedience, we must be reminded that his actions are little different than men in America today. In our culture women tend to be the driving force when it comes to the spirituality of their families and many men are absent or otherwise too preoccupied to work or projects to be bothered. Many men take Baraq’s exact attitude toward Deborah when it applies to church worship on Sunday morning — “I’ll go if you really want me to, but unless you go, I won’t go.”
Yet, as men, we are called to be the spiritual leaders of our homes. We should be setting the bar for our families and living out a model of spirituality and faithfulness for our children and our wives to imitate. We should value the word of God and commit ourselves to studying it so that we can teach our families and then lead our families in the wisdom of the Word. Yet, more often than not, men in the west — men who are professing Christians — do not do so. Thus, if there is repenting to do, Baraq is not alone.
“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.