Barak and Deborah – Judges 4 - 5
On the surface, this seems to be a story of a brave female judge, a ‘fraidy-cat general, and a murderous, nomadic hostess. But, let’s dig deeper into these 2 chapters to discover some clues that will help us see the whole story.
In this story, we see a repeat of the sin cycle, which occurs over and over again throughout the book of Judges. A) The people fall AWAY from God and commit terrible sin. B) God turns the people over to their enemies, who put them into BONDAGE. C) The people CRY out to God for help. D) God sends a DELIVERER (a judge). E) The people experience a time of EASE or rest and peace. This repeated cycle reminds us of God’s patience and faithfulness as He teaches His people. Has God demonstrated His patience and faithfulness in your life?
This story starts with Deborah, a woman who was wise, brave, humble, and who loved the Lord. Note her willingness to give praise to others, especially to Jael (5:24); note the way she praises the Lord (5:2,3,9,31); note her compassion for the people of Israel (5:7,9,18). What great characteristics for a leader, who wants to be used by God!
But, what about Barak? Often, he is characterized as a fearful man because he tells Deborah that he will obey God only if she goes with him. However, in Hebrews 11, he is listed in the hall of faith. How do we make sense of that? Could it be that Barak’s statement is a statement of affirmation – that he recognizes that Deborah is a woman of God, so he wants her presence near him and his men? What if his test of faith is when Deborah tells him that he will receive no honor, and he goes to battle anyway? What about us? Are we willing to serve God in obscurity, or are we chasing recognition and affirmation?
Don’t miss the hero of this story! From 4:3, we learn that the Canaanite army has 900 iron chariots! The odds are overwhelmingly against the Israelites, so how in the world do they win this battle?? Notice the clues in 5:4 – “the earth trembled, and the cloudy skies poured down rain!” What happens to heavy, iron chariots on a wide plain when a huge thunderstorm whips up? They get mired in the mud!! No wonder Sisera and his warriors were thrown into panic when they saw the 10,000 Israelites streaming down Mt. Tabor! God fought the battle for the Israelites with the weather. The Israelites pursued their enemies, and the Israelite victory was complete – except for the general, Sisera.
He ran to the tent of a woman and asked for safe passage. She posed as a friend. Why did she so cruelly betray Sisera and smash his head in as he slept? Look at the clues in 4:3 and 5:28-30. Sisera was “ruthless.” His mother noted that when he returned from war, he usually brought home “a woman or two for every man.” It’s possible that Jael even knew some women who had been taken by Sisera as war booty. Deborah notes that Jael is “most blessed above all women.” Jael used skills she had learned as a nomadic woman – setting up tents and hammering tent pegs – to do the will of God – to rescue the Israelites from their cruel oppressor and to rescue women from being used and abused by Sisera ever again. God asks the same of us – to use our skills and our knowledge to bring Him glory and to bless people.
Coloring Sheet – color a picture of Deborah and Barak. While kids color, discuss the following:
What did you like about this story?
What didn’t you like?
What did you learn about God?
- • God hates our sin.
- • God lets His people experience pain and hardship when He wants to get their attention.
- • God is full of mercy and answers us when we cry out to Him.
- • God sends people to help us when we’re in trouble.
- • God aids His people in very real ways – like sending thunderstorms.
- • God honors people who serve, not to get glory for themselves, but just to serve God.
What did you learn about people?
- • Sometimes people love evil; then, they may be horribly punished.
- • All our sin deserves destruction.
- • People should cry out to God when they’re in trouble.
- • People need God to help them live life.
- • People can use ordinary skills to serve God.
- • People should serve with humility.
What did you learn about yourself?
- • I should look for ways to serve Jesus with the skills I have.
- • I want to serve God, even if no one notices me.
- • I want to help others with compassion and humility.
- • I want to praise God, no matter what happens.