As we began to see last week, Deborah was a special woman with a special relationship with God. However, what made Deborah stand out was not that she had exclusive access to God, but that she took the time in a spiritually dark culture to pursue a relationship with the God of her forefathers. Now, we will see how that relationship with the Lord was used by God to redeem Israel from their oppressors.
“She sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali 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. And 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”?’”
I love this passage! Here, Deborah is confronting Barak, a leader in Israel, and calling him out for his lack of faith. Notice who summoned who. Barak did not seek out Deborah’s advice. Rather, she summoned him and gave him a lecture few adult men would want to receive from a woman. Based on the verb tense in this passage, we know that God had already called Barak to lead an army to deliver the Israelites from the Canaanite oppressor, Jabin, and promised him victory. However, Barak did not obey. Rather, he kept his little assignment and the call of God to himself. He continued going about his daily life as if nothing had happened and God had not spoken.
In many ways, Barak’s response to God’s calling reminds me of Jonah. While Jonah rebelled against God’s direction by running in the opposite direction, Barak rebelled by neglect. He did nothing. Even though the living God of Israel had spoken directly to him during an era when few men heard from God, Barak was unwilling to step out in faith and believe what the Lord had promised.
Maybe Barak doubted God’s calling. Maybe he wondered if the God of Abraham had really spoken those words to him. I can guarantee that he was afraid, as we’ll see in the next couple of verses. But I also believe that Barak did not have a personal relationship with God and so did not personally know God’s heart. Therefore, Barak was unable to trust God fully and believe with faith in His promises.
Can you relate to Barak? Maybe God has called you to do something scary, seemingly impossible. Maybe you’re doubting whether it was God’s voice you actually heard or just a figment of your imagination. Or maybe you just don’t have a close enough relationship with God to be able to discern and understand His heart and will for you. Some things to ponder the next time you doubt God’s calling on your life.
So Barak was hiding from God’s call by keeping it as a secret to himself. However, when God gives you an assignment, He will not let you shirk your calling. He will pursue you until you are ready to surrender to His will and purposes. Remember, Jonah? God pursued him to the middle of the ocean and used a big fish to help him reframe his perspective. In Barak’s case, God used a spiritually wise woman to call him out for his lack of faith.
Unlike Barak, Deborah intimately knew God and was very familiar with His heart and His will. Therefore, God gave her insight into the message He had given Barak, and as a faithful and obedient follower of God, Deborah was not pleased to discover that Barak was neglecting his calling. So she summoned him and confronted him about his lack of faith. She exhorted him to follow God’s calling and trust Him to give the victory He promised.
While I doubt that this was a pleasant conversation for either person present, I see it as a beautiful picture of what the Body of Christ ought to be. While it was probably awkward and uncomfortable, Deborah was willing to exhort and provide accountability to her brother in the Lord. Likewise, Barak, a leader in a male dominate culture, was willing to listen to the exhortation and admonishment of Deborah, a spiritually wise and discerning woman, and rethink his life’s purpose.
Likewise, we as the body of Christ and brothers and sisters in the family of God, ought to call each other out and exhort one another in our God-given callings. We should not be afraid to respectfully and lovingly confront a brother or sister in the Lord who is not living up to their spiritual potential and divine assignment, and we should be willing to be on the receiving end of such conversations. Also, we should not be reluctant to cross over cultural norms to speak life and encouragement to someone else.
Deborah was a woman who confronted a male leader on his lack of leadership which was completely counter-cultural during that era. This is a point I have brought out multiple times, but it is worth repeating. In our modern American culture, I don’t think we fully realize the weight of this reality. It was unheard of and culturally unacceptable. However, God uses whoever is obedient to Him to fulfill His purposes and does not always follow cultural norms. Therefore, we must be faithful to follow God however and wherever He leads us regardless of how society and cultural dictates.
However, we must be prayerful and in tune with the Holy Spirit before having one of these tough conversations. Just a Deborah was inspired by God to summon Barak, we also need to be motivated by love and be Spirit-directed when exhorting a brother or sister. We must always remember the end goal of building up, not tearing down, and helping our brother or sister live out their God-given potential, ultimately expanding the kingdom of God. Therefore, let us follow the exhortation found in Hebrews 10:24 and always consider how we may spur one another on in our faith throughout the course of our lives.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”
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