07 June 2014

Barak: a man of faith, and under authority

By Bob Mendelsohn
Given in Moscow, Russia
7 June 2014

Yeshua was met one day by a man who was a soldier, and at that, a very high-ranking soldier in the Roman army. The man told him, “
“For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.(Matthew 8.9) The centurion had approached Messiah with the wish that Yeshua would heal his servant who was unwell. Yeshua replied that he would like to come visit the centurion’s house and see to the paralyzed servant. But the Roman declined Yeshua’s wish, saying that he was unworthy of such a visit. Then he said this famous line I quoted at the beginning.

What was Yeshua’s response to this statement? He said
I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.

Yes it was faith, and faith alone which the centurion demonstrated. And it’s that kind of faith that God is looking for out of each of us today and each day. On Shabbat and every day of the year. And as has been our custom all week, we turn to the book of Judges to see that again in evidence.

Today, we look at chapter 4 and see Deborah and Barak. Mind you Barak is mentioned in the Newer Testament also, in Hebrews chapter 11. He is in the rank of Abraham and Moses and all the heroes of faith. You know, yesterday Reggie and I were speaking about countries around the world and how each country needs its own heroes, people the children can admire, and people the adults can say defined them. I was walking near the metro station up north in VDNKh. And there I saw the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics and the lineup of heroes of space aviation. Fantastic. I loved the Monument to the Conquerors of Space. And I remember that time in history. I remember when we as Americans were hurrying, rushing madly to beat the Russians in the Space War. We wanted to put a man on the moon before Russia. And we did, but the Russian cosmonauts were first in space and thus we were #2. That said, the memorial and the museum there are fair tributes to the pioneers who are real heroes, who really did a great job in getting out there.

Reggie and I were speaking about the need we all have for a real hero. And maybe that’s why some unbelievers look to comic books and cartoons for heroes like Superman or Ironman. Maybe that’s why musicians look to famous composers or rock and roll stars and celebrities to be their heroes. But in the Bible, we have a hero. A real hero. His name is Yeshua. And he comes in a line of famous heroes like we read in Hebrews chapter 11. Including the one from our story today, Barak.  So let’s read chapter 4.

The story as most in Judges begins with Israel doing wrong and failing God. He therefore sends us into the hands of Sisera, the commander of the army, and Jabin who was his king, the king of Canaan. We are enslaved for 20 years. Remember, if you live like a slave to sin, God will allow you to be a real slave.

Then the story highlights a woman who is a prophet of Israel. Her name is Deborah. She has a general named Barak who will lead the battalions of Israel against Jabin and against Sisera. There is one more important player namely Jael who is the wife of a certain Kenite who plays a big role in the ending of the reign of the Canaanites over Israel.     

Deborah is not only a prophet, but also she is also sitting and ruling, under the palm tree, which apparently was the location of the Supreme Court of the day. She made judgment for the people; she was also the military organizer along with Barak. She told him (.6) to go get ready, to be in a certain area, ready for her word. When she sent him word, he should go out to battle and God would lead the victory. He was to gather 10,000 men into the battle from two different tribes: Naphtali and Zebulon.

As an obedient soldier, he who knew how to take authority and to wield it, said, “Yes, ma’am” and went to gather the troops. He did just that and waited at Mount Tabor, by the River Kishon. This is where the battle of Armageddon will be. This is the river coming down from Mt Carmel near Haifa. So General Barak goes to Mt Tabor and waits.

Sure enough, Deborah gets the clues, however prophets get clues, and sends word to the army to go; they go under Barak’s command and they win the battle. Only as happens often in Bible stories, Sisera the commander of the Canaanite troops escapes and runs away. He runs to a nearby location where he thinks he has a friend in a man named Heber who is living peacefully (or at least like Switzerland, as a neutral state) with Jabin, the king of Canaan.

Sisera thinks he is safe, and all he wants is a hideout for a while from the mad Barak who is chasing him. Little does Sisera know but Jael, the wife of his host is onside with the Jewish people. She has faith in the God of the Hebrews. She has faith in Barak and Deborah. She takes matters into her own hands and takes an ordinary tent peg and while Sisera is taking a nap, she kills him with a hammer into the peg through his skull. She leaves him there.

Then Barak shows up and Jael says, the guy you were chasing is here. I took care of him. But notice what the Bible says.

So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the sons of Israel. (Judges 4.23)

It’s historic; it’s ironic; it’s appropriate. God has done this great thing.  Even though Barak and Jael were involved; even though Deborah did some preliminary organizing and later sang her famous song about this conquest. The reality for a believer is that God subdued the king of Canaan that day. That’s what faith says. That’s what the Newer Testament centurion would have said about the story. He was a man ‘under authority’ and knew that the real power was his boss; not himself.

Look at chapter 5. This is Deborah’s song, her poem of praise to the Lord.  She invites others to listen to her song (.3), and praises God for the volunteers (.2, .9). Only half the tribes of Israel responded to the call to volunteer, which is very different than it was when Joshua was leading the troops just a century before. Listen, you here are a great team, each of you has volunteered to be on Campaign and to serve the Almighty together. But don’t look down on others who are not here. Don’t be pompous and proud. Deborah chided the people who lived nearby who didn’t want to participate. The accusation is in verse 23: Because they did not come to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the warriors.’
Deborah accused the tribes who did not attend of not only not helping her and Barak. She labeled them as people who didn’t help the Lord.
But you, listen, you must be humble. God called and you responded, and yet, you are a person under authority. You are His person, and therefore HE gets the credit for your victories and battles. Amen?

Deborah then sings and thanks God for the victory itself.  (.19-23). She tells how the victory was won with natural weather conditions, which were not even natural at all. This was the dry season, probably like we are in just now in Moscow. So the 900 iron chariots of Sisera would have easily conquered the Jewish settlers. But the rains came super-naturally and thus bogged the chariots, making them unusable, and in fact, making their drivers sitting ducks for the assaults of the tribes of Zebulon and Naphtali. Remember, God uses ordinary things given to him, available to him, for His supernatural purposes. Deborah saw the hand of God in the rain and the gushing of the River Kishon. (.21)

Look at the final verse (.31). We read Deborah’s closing chorus:
“Thus let all Your enemies perish, O LORD; but let those who love Him be like the rising of the sun in its might.”
         And the land was undisturbed for forty years.

The Bible is clear that the people of God, who love Him will be like midday sunshine. We are going to shine His light in the midst of terrible darkness and we are going to make a difference for Him. We are people under authority, not only in this campaign, to Ilya and Larissa. We are people under authority to Yeshua. He alone gets credit for all we are doing in His name. We are not worthy of God’s love; He alone gets the honor for loving us first.

Today, let’s go out in the name and authority of Yeshua. Let’s proclaim Him to the lost. Let’s empower the lost to hear. Let’s make it clear who we are, whose we are, and what people need to know before they enter eternity. They need to be saved. They need to be forgiven. We have the answers for them. Let those who love Him be like the rising of the sun in its strength. Amen?

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