Ugh. Rarely do I ever write a sermon that I don’t completely rewrite in my mind AFTER I have preached it. This not only evidences the richness of God’s immeasurably deep word, it also probably evidences my own desire to try and control more than I actually can. God is in control and speaks what he wants, when he wants, through and to whom he wants, despite me.
Nevertheless, God has graced me a blog to share my revisionist thoughts. This week’s sermon was a difficult one. All week I have been at a loss to the “big lesson” we are supposed to gain from this 4,000 year old story. I am resigned to believe that most of the lessons we can learn from Scripture are secondary to the one lesson we are supposed to learn–God is big, God is awesome, and God is in control of everything. By everything, I really do mean everything…yes, even “that”.
Judges 4 and 5 are confusing because, unlike most of the sections of judges, there is not one clear deliverer but three. The first is a faithful female prophet, the only identified as filling the office of a judge. The second is a partially faithful general, the only one affirmed in the New Testament for his faith as a judge. And the third is unfaithful pagan, the only one who actually does the “judging”.
But as I sit here, a mere hour or so after I finished my second sermon, I can’t stop thinking about the second guy, Barak, and the fact that Hebrews 11.32 cites him as the faithful one. The weird thing is that Barak appears to be the LEAST faithful of them all. God’s word is spoken to him and, in response, he basically tells God he’ll obey what He just said conditionally. He says in essence, “I’ll obey if you do this, and I won’t if you don’t”: Whether or not this is the response of a cowardly man, we’re not told. What we are told is that God, through Deborah, agrees to his condition telling him that the path he has chosen will not lead to his personal glory. Conditions met, Barak proceeds to do exactly what God said to do and, in the process, deliver Israel. God still uses him despite his unfaithfulness, and he still blesses whatever faith he musters in order to help deliver Israel.
That is all he ends up being, though he does most of the work, an assistant. He doesn’t get the glory–that is given to Jael–the seductive wife of his enemies’ ally. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned in Barak’s faithfulness. Perhaps this is why he is commended. In essence, we see Barak accepting that the battle will be fought, but not won, by Him. He is a role player–something he is not used to. Ultimately, he will not be recognized, he will not be commended, and he will not be glorified for the work that he does. Instead, his faithfulness results in someone else being recognized, someone else being commended, and someone else being glorified.
And while it is tempting to believe that that person is Jael, it isn’t. It is God. In the end, we find that all of us are supporting actors to the one true hero of the Bible. That is not only for the glory of God, but for our joy.