During the period of the judges, there was a leader named Deborah. She would sit by a place called the Palm Tree of Deborah, where the Israelites would come to her to have their disputes settled. At this time, the Isrealites had been oppressed by Jabin, the King of Canaan for twenty years. The commander of Jabin’s army was called Sisera. One day, Deborah called and sent for a person named Barak, who lived in far away Kedesh in Naphtali.
“Has not the Lord God of Israel commanded, ‘Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor; take with you ten thousand men of the sons of Naphtali and of the sons of Zebulun; and against you I will deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand’?” (Judges 4:6-7)
From Deborah’s words, she was reminding Barak of an instruction that had already been given to him by the Lord. He was to gather ten thousand men from Naptali and Zebulun and go to the Kishon river. Furthermore, the Lord had already assured Barak that Sisera would be given into his hand. This battle would be a sure victory for him. Despite being called up to do this great task, Barak gave a nonchalant response.
“If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!” (Judges 4:8)
What an anti-climax.
Out of all the people of Israel, God had chosen Barak. This was his moment and opportunity to step up and save the Israelites from the oppression of the past twenty years. This was the deliverance that the people of Israel had been waiting for and yet, the man chosen for the job did not sense any urgency in the matter nor was he bothered. However, Deborah was not deterred by Barak’s words.
“I will surely go with you; nevertheless, there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. (Judges 4:9-10)
We see that Deborah was a woman of great patience. She was based in between Ramah and Bethel in Ephraim, south of Israel whereas Barak was based in Kadesh, the northern part of Israel. Sending for Barak would have taken some time and she had to wait for him to come before she was able to pass him her important message. Barak’s words would have exasperated most of us but Deborah’s reply did not show any hint of irritation.
Furthmore, Deborah was a woman of action. Without hesitation, she got up and accompanied Barak all the way back up to Kadesh. This action would have taken time, effort and sacrifice. On hearing that Barak has assembled his men, Sisera gathered his army and chariots at the River Kishon. Once again, Deborah encouraged Barak to take action.
“Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the Lord gone out before you?” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him. (Judges 4:14).
But this time, something is different. There is a change in Barak; he does not delay and leads his men into battle. True to His word, God guides him and he annihilates Jabin’s army. In the heat of battle, Sisera flees on foot and as previously spoken by Deborah, the glory of Sisera’s demise did not to belong Barak, but to Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite.
In the New Testament, Barnabas was a person gifted in encouraging and building up others. No wonder his name means ‘son of consolation, son of exhortation, son of comfort’ as he was able to bring much encouragement to the apostles. When Saul tried to join the disciples, many were afraid and doubted him. However, it was Barnabas who brought Saul to the brethren and spoke of his conversion and preaching of Jesus (Acts 9:26-28). When the believers were scattered due to persecution, Barnabas was sent to encourage the members to continue and remain in the Lord. (Acts 11: 22-24). And later on in the ministry, despite Paul’s insistence that Mark should not join them, it was Barnabas who wanted to give him a second chance. Due to his patience and encouragement, Mark became a useful worker for the Lord (2 Tim 4:11).
When doing God’s work, we should not underestimate the importance of patience and being encouraging to one another. This can take time, effort and sacrifice, but through our words and our actions, we can build each other up and fulfill the task that God has for us.