The Story of a Nation That Forgot Where They Came From, and the consequences of failing to follow The Lord.
By: Jesse Prewitt
Our story comes from Judges 4 and 5. If this was a modern western, I would name it: NO GRIT, with the apparent reference to the John Wayne classic. As we begin looking into this narrative, I cannot help but notice the irony associated with the name of the commander of the armies of Israel, Barak: Commander-in-Cowardice; General Grit-Less! I will attempt to keep myself in check, but it glares at me. I can find numerous similarities to America in this narrative, but I will attempt to confine my comments to the Biblical account and the exposition of it. I will allow you to draw your own conclusions as to the modern application, but most of it is apparent.
Let’s start with a little history so we get the Paul Harvey on the situation. Joshua, the son of Nun, had died, along with Eleazar, the son of Aaron. We find recorded in the final chapter of the book of Joshua, that their able commander’s last words to the people of Israel were to remind them of all that The Lord God had done for them, how He had brought their fathers out of Egypt, delivering them from slavery and suffering. He reminded them how that their fathers had lived in the wilderness for a long time. (Joshua 24:7) Now Joshua urges them to serve the Lord with sincerity and truth (faithfulness) and put away other gods from among themselves, serving The Lord God only. (Joshua 24:15) Joshua is laying it all out in plain language, urging them to make a choice as to whom they will serve, God or idols. We find here the famous words of Joshua: As for me and my house, we will serve The Lord.
The people promised to serve The Lord God even bearing witness to themselves (as Joshua challenged them in verses 22 and 23) that they would obey the voice of The Lord. To further commemorate their commitment, they made a covenant with Joshua by way of a statue with the reminder of what God has commanded, lest they forget. Now, we must bear in mind that this is a generation mostly removed from war, as their fathers had known it. We find, as we read the preceding history, that time and time again it is recorded that Israel did not totally drive out the inhabitants of the land they had been given, by The Lord God, to dispossess them of it and claim it as their inheritance from God. There is also much discussion across the global scene, as to who is the “original owner” of the land of Palestine, but God’s Word states plainly again and again that The Lord God is the Original Owner, and that He is the One commanding Israel to go in and dispossess those living there, because the inhabitants were committing grievous sins against God. “It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going in to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that The Lord your God is driving them out before you”. (Deuteronomy 9:5) God was evicting the previous tenants because of their evil doings! He is giving it to Israel.
The Tail and Not the Head
I find it interesting that many are quick to point out the promise of being the head and not the tail, as found in Deuteronomy 28, but upon closer examination we find that this promise is conditional upon Israel’s obedience and faithfulness to The Lord God. (Deut. 28:13; 15) In fact, God goes on to promise the opposite will occur if they do not listen and observe His Commandments, living their lives as is pleasing to God. It is not my intention to major on the negative, but God’s blessings always come to us as a result of our obedience. Now, I realize we live in the age of Grace, and that means receiving that of which we are not worthy, in reference to salvation and all that involves. But I am not speaking about our eternal destiny, but about our temporal walk, here on this earth, until He returns to take us home. If we are in Christ, our eternity is settled. It is our daily walk to which I refer. We are free from the penalty of sin, but we are not free to live in disobedience to Christ. We expect our children to obey us and do right, and God expects no less.
When They Thought God Wasn’t Looking
Even though they had promised Joshua to follow God and Him alone, the Biblical account reveals that they “forsook the Lord and followed after Baal.” (Judges 2:13) As a result of this disobedience, everywhere they went the hand of the Lord was against them for evil. (Judges 2:15) In the same chapter we find that they did not listen to their judges which God gave them to lead them in victory against their enemies. Each time one of their leaders would die, they would turn back to their idolatrous ways, even more corruptly than before. In the tenth verse of chapter 2, we are told that one generation died and the next one “did not know the Lord nor yet the work which He had done for Israel.” This might be easily overlooked if we are not careful. This is one thing that has happened to America. The current generation does not understand our nation’s history, nor do they understand where America came from, so they do not appreciate it. How can this happen? It happens when one generation fails to pass on, to the next generation, who we are, where we came from and how we got here. We wonder why they don’t respect our history; it’s because they are not familiar with it. It has been suppressed in the classroom. It has not found its way across the pulpits of America, because many have failed to see its importance to the next generation and others have been intimidated by the culture in which they live. We need men of God that won’t be intimidated by anything or anyone. America needs men that stand strong and speak the truth, no matter what. This is the only way future generations will know the God that brought us to where we are, today. We must tell it to our children! It is not the responsibility of the public school to teach our children about God and how to live, it is our job! The school is only a reflection of our society. It is the responsibility of parents that take their children to church and teach them at home about God. It is the responsibility of men, husbands, fathers, to take the lead and teach their families how to walk with God and grow up to be godly men and women.
All That Was Introduction
But we also find that God’s Hand of Grace is still at work, even when we don’t understand it. Judges chapter 3 begins with this. Our God is so amazing that He can take our mistakes and use them to His Glory. This is not to give us license to continue in disobedience, but He can take the broken things in life and use them. Despite this new generation not being taught the right way, God allows their enemies to remain to “prove” them, meaning to allow them to go through the fire in order to strengthen them. They had not known war, but they would soon learn. How many times have we mistaken God’s discipline? He disciplines His own; He is making us more like Christ, if we belong to Him.
In Judges chapter 4, we find that Deborah was judging Israel. There had been 3 previous judges: Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar. Each of them led Israel to victory and the land had rest in the wake of their leadership. After each of them died, however, the people would again return to their old habits, and because of this, as God had promised, they suffered the consequences of their disobedience. Then the next judge would rise-up to deliver them. The pattern kept repeating itself. Chapters 4 and 5 give us a good idea of the situation in Israel. Chapter 5 consists of song that they sang about their days of battle. The description is that many days they were at war. Verse 8 tells us that there was not a shield, or a spear seen among 40 thousand in Israel. It also gives us the reason for all this; “New gods were chosen.” The people were defeated, disarmed, and suffering. Some people become defensive when you suggest that nations suffer when they turn against God. We can see that not all suffering is meant to harm us, as in the case of our text, but suffering exists in this world because of sin. Our first parents made a choice to disobey God and we all bear the consequences of a sinful nature. This is the reason Christ came. He came to offer Himself for us on the cross. He came to take our place and redeem us back to God. The fact is, however, that though redeemed in our souls, we still live in this body destined for the grave.
Barak: Commander-in-Cowardice; General Grit-Less!
This brings us to the main idea. Deborah was about to lead Israel to victory against her enemies, because God had heard their cries for help. Deborah called a certain General named Barak. When reading this account, you cannot help but wonder why this general couldn’t just lead them to defeat the enemy, but soon we discover why. When Deborah told him what he was to do, he chickened out! He said that he would go, but only if she would go with him. He was to lead 10 thousand men to attack the enemy and he wants her to hold his hand. Now, to be fair, Barak is indeed mentioned in Hebrews 11:32, the chapter many refer to as the Hall of Faith. It is just that, a mention. Barak did indeed lead the armies into battle, but we can’t escape the shame that was dropped on him by Deborah, in that he would not receive the honor of this victory, but that the Lord will deliver Sisera (the commander of Jabin’s army) his counterpart, into the hands of a woman. We discover later in chapter 4 that Jael, a gentile woman, is the one that took out the enemy general with a hammer and a tent stake. (Judges 4:21)
I’m sure by now many have pegged me and placed me in the complementarian category, but I wonder how many times we as men have failed to claim the honor of victory over struggles in the lives of our families, due to the fact that we have simply lacked the courage to go on with God. I wonder how many men could have saved their families had they stepped up and been the man that God wanted them to be. I admit I have been guilty of this in the past, myself. But, my friend, it is not too late to claim what God has given into your hands. That is one of the wonderful things about living today, in this day of Grace. God is a longsuffering God and He forgives and heals our hearts. He can make you into the man, the husband, the father, that God intended you to be.
It all can start right here, right now. Give it to Him. He uses broken things. If you are a Christian, don’t forget where you came from and let your family suffer the consequences of not knowing God and all He wants to do in their lives. Let Him begin in yours! Become the man, the leader you were intended to be.