Posts Tagged ‘barak’

Judges 4:1-24 (Part 1 of 3)
Deborah Becomes Israel’s Judge

For the last few days, as part of my fall semester readings for my D.Min. program, I have been reading the book, Trained Up in the Fear of God, by Randy Stinson and Timothy Jones. It is a collection of essays that they have gathered together concerning family ministry and family discipleship and the biblical roots thereof. There are a few of the essays that struck deep chords with me. Certainly, one of them was the essay by Randy Stinson himself about gender roles in discipleship. He takes us back to Genesis and shows that each, man and woman, was created in the image of God. Therefore, we are equal in the sight of God. However, God gave us each equally important but differing roles in the family household. As men, we are given special responsibility to shepherd our families (to protect, defend, provide, ensure safety, and to be the ministers of our families). The other essay that was just as tonal with me was the essay by Kevin Smith, a black pastor and leading figure in the Kentucky state Baptist association as well as a professor of church history at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His essay was about how slavery really screwed up the family unit for black families and how those centuries of institutional slavery set the pattern for how black families are organized now. Because of slavery, fathers were often stripped away from their families and familial bonds among slaves were of no account to slaveowners. The only bond they allowed to continue was between mother and small child (which was not benevolence but simple practicality). However, because many black children only knew their mothers, slavery had a byproduct effect on black families that still exists today – matriarchal rule. The black female is the centerpiece of most black families even into the 21st century. Because of the fathers being bought, sold, traded and shipped around the South, they lost their attachment to family nor could they even find their way back to their families. Kevin’s conclusion was that for there to be a restored biblical order, black churches must invest mightily in the discipleship of men so that they will take up their rightful role in their families and their churches. The surprising thing to me was, when thinking about, Kevin’s essay could be written about society in general and not just black families.

Both of these essays were interesting to me because not only in the black community but in our society in general, there is a growing trend of male detachment from the rearing of their children much less rearing them in the ways of the Lord. Even if we men are not simply being baby daddies, we are often divorcing our first wives whom bear our babies and leaving the parenting job to them. Many men today are weekend Disney dads and that’s it. They leave the tough work of parenting to the mothers that bore them so that we can go off and conquer a newer, slimmer, trimmer female. Even when remain married to the mother of our children we are often abdicating the role of leader of our families to the wife. Often, it is because we are disengaged from our own households. We just want the fun of being a dad but none of the responsibility.

It is that thought of what God created us from the beginning to be, leaders of our homes, and how often we as men abdicate our roles as leaders is what came to mind as I read through Judges 4:1-24 today for the first of three reads> Let’s read it now together:

4 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, now that Ehud was dead. 2 So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Sisera, the commander of his army, was based in Harosheth Haggoyim. 3 Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help.

4 Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading[a] Israel at that time. 5 She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. 6 She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. 7 I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’”

8 Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”

9 “Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 There Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali, and ten thousand men went up under his command. Deborah also went up with him.

11 Now Heber the Kenite had left the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ brother-in-law,[b] and pitched his tent by the great tree in Zaanannim near Kedesh.

12 When they told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, 13 Sisera summoned from Harosheth Haggoyim to the Kishon River all his men and his nine hundred chariots fitted with iron.

14 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him. 15 At Barak’s advance, the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot.

16 Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, and all Sisera’s troops fell by the sword; not a man was left. 17 Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite.

18 Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket.

19 “I’m thirsty,” he said. “Please give me some water.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up.

20 “Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’”

21 But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.

22 Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead.

23 On that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan before the Israelites. 24 And the hand of the Israelites pressed harder and harder against Jabin king of Canaan until they destroyed him.

Here, we see that Barak, for whatever reason, was willing to hand over the authority that rightfully should have been his to Deborah, the prophetess and now judge of Israel. Why is it that he did this? Was Barak a coward. He abdicated his role as a man and somebody had to fill the vacuum. Deborah stepped up.

When I think about all the single moms out there, my heart aches for them. I know that they are carrying a burden that they were not designed to carry. When I think about the moms who have their husbands at home but who take the attitude that the kids are mom’s deal and are withdrawn from the parenting process. What reading this book this week has reinforced in my mind is that we as men are designed by God from the beginning of humanity to be the shepherds of our family. Anything else and the family is damaged in some way or we are forcing the women of our society to carry physical and emotional burdens alone that they simply weren’t designed for. We have a growing generations of children now where there is no strong fatherly influence in their lives among black and white families alike. Women are being forced to fill the vacuum that we have created by abdicating our God-directed charge in life – to raise up families who know and love and obey the Lord God. That is our job designed by God. We must return to our family position, men. Being a leader of a household requires that we love our families more than ourselves and that we are willing to sacrifice anything for them. We must be willing to discipline and guide our children in the ways of the Lord. We must be willing to be more than Disneyland dads. We must be fathers. We must be husbands who are the leaders of our families – a job that our wives and daughters want us to take. Unless we take our role, our God-designed role, much like Deborah in this passage, women will fill the vacuum out of necessity.

The task that we have as Christian men is to step up and be men who love our wives as Christ loved the church. We must be the priests of our household. We must lead, guide and direct our families. We must take our God-commanded role. We must take on the whole job – the not so fun stuff as well as the fun stuff. Let us quit being so self-centered and love our families as Christ loved the church. That involves make tough decisions. That involves discipline of children. That involves being the spiritual leaders of our home. That involves discipling our wives and our children. That is where we as the church universal must invest our time and our resources is in the discipling of men to willingly step up to the their God commanded role in their households. The fate of our nation and the fate of the church in general hangs in the balance.

Amen and Amen.

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Numbers 6:22-27 (Part 3)

The Priestly Blessing

In the Southern vernacular, when a woman says, “bless your heart”, one might think that “Ah, what a sweet lady! She just ask that my heart be blessed!” Wrong! It is the genteel, Southern female way of calling you an idiot, my friend. It’s like “What an idiot! I guess he cannot help how incredibly stupid he is, so bless his little heart.” In a way, though, I guess it is a sweet saying. Southern women are asking the Lord to protect the idiot and give them favor regardless of how dumb that person is. I love my native region of the South. Even though the region is becoming increasingly more like the Best Buy/Wal-Mart/big box generic rest of the country, there are still things about that are unique about the South that make us different, both black and white, from the rest of the country. The politeness is certainly one of them. Instead of calling someone an idiot, we ask for God to bless or show favor to the stupid. “Bless your heart!” is both a request for favor and a polite derision. It’s “how can one person be so stupid” on the one hand and a bold request to God to protect the person who has displayed incredible stupidity. If a person has done an incredibly stupid thing or said something incredibly stupid, they are being told that they do indeed need special favor from God. With my corny and silly sense of humor, there are quite a few of the wonderful and beautiful ladies, my wife included, of LifeSong Church, that have said, “bless your heart” to me or they have used the shortened version, “bless it!”. I think Southern women use “bless it” as an even greatly incredulity over the stupidity shown. Instead of calling you a moron, they say, “bless it”. It means that “I am not sure that this person qualifies as having human intelligence so ‘bless it’ whatever it may be Lord!”

 

Our sweet, genteel Southern ladies are asking the Lord to bless the idiot as a mercy request. It is both a display of derision but a hope that God will take care of the idiot and keep him or her from harming themselves or being harmed. This is my homeland. It’s hot and humid! It’s different! It is wonderfully complex and simple! We have the most beautiful women in the country because being a lady still means something here. And, our women are treasure. “Bless your heart!” or “Bless it!” is a wonderful example of how grand our women are! To have that saying invoked over you, one is not sure whether to be thankful or upset. And that’s how our women want it. Leaving you guessing! You are and idiot but you deserve a special dose of favor and protection from God. It’s like the dumb dog who is too dumb to be useful for anything but you keep them around because you don’t want to see them get hurt or killed. When I do something incredibly stupid or say one of my corny jokes that seems like it came from a five year old, my wife will say “bless it!” She keeps me around so I won’t hurt myself or get run over by a car! LOL!

 

Even though there may be a lot humor surrounding the Southern female use of the phrase, “bless your heart”, there is some truth to the use of the word bless in that Southern phrase that is biblical. We are calling upon God to bless what we perceive as someone who does not, in our opinion, merit blessing on their own but need favor. Let us read through today’s passage and think of what “bless” really means here. Here, again, we read Numbers 6:22-27 once again for today:

 

22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

 

24

“‘“The Lord bless you

    and keep you;

25

the Lord make his face shine on you

    and be gracious to you;

26

the Lord turn his face toward you

    and give you peace.”’

 

27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

 

In this case, the word we translate into English as “bless” is the word, barak, in Hebrew. Not gonna go down the political road about the name of a certain US President. I will leave that one for your own mind to bandy about. We will limit ourselves to what barak means. In the Hebrew use of the world it can either mean to give adulation to God or it can also mean to bless man as a benefit from God. In the context of the Priestly Blessing, it is requesting a benefit from God. It is a request that God show benefit, show favor, to His people. We are then asking the Holy One, the Most High, Yahweh, to grant us favor. To show us favor through whatever means that God decides. Part of the meaning of this Hebrew word, barak (בָּרַךְ), is this idea of humbly seeking favor. There is a sense, when reading through the material in the lexicons and concordances, about the word that involves a kneeling, a beseeching, a humbly prostrated request. It is as if there is an asking for something that we do not deserve. It is a request for a special grant, a gift, like a pardon for a criminal who was caught in the act of committing a crime. We the undeserving are asking for that which we have no right, no leverage to deserve but are seeking favor from the Lord.

 

Isn’t that where we all stand before the Lord. We do not deserve His grace given us through Jesus Christ. We deserve hell. Our first sin makes us so impure before God that it excludes us from His presence forever. Pile onto that, a lifetime of repeated sinning in every area of life and we cannot leverage our way into heaven with any amount of good works. We are the prisoner who has been arrested right in the middle of committing the crime for which we deserve punishment. At the same time before the judge, our history of crimes (sins) is read off before the righteous judge. By all accounts we were not only caught in the act of one of our crimes but we also have a long history of criminal behavior (our sin nature). When that day comes for each of us, we will have no defense for our rap sheet. There will be ample evidence that we deserve our punishment (an eternity in hell separated from God where there is gnashing of teeth and burning of flesh and darkness and hopelessness eternally). We deserve that fate, each and every one of us. No amount of cute puppies offered up to God (good deeds) can make up for the ugliness of our rap sheet before the judge. Being a fair judge, we deserve for him to throw the book at us and condemn us to our fate in hell. Yet, there is a man who comes into the court room and says Father, “bless their heart”, yes, they are stupid idiots that do not deserve mercy, but because I love them I am willing to take their deserved punishment for them. There is a need for the punishment to be paid before the Judge. It is only equitable that it be so. Jesus offers to take our punishment for us. All we have to do is to bow down before Him and express our heartfelt thanks to Him for doing so and believing that He did so because He loves us so very much. Bless our hearts! We do not deserve this favor, but it is done. We are free from the judgment for our stupidities. We have been granted favor that is undeserved. Bow down and kneel before the One who took our punishment and set us free from our own idiocy.

 

So, you see, barak is seeking a blessing from a mighty God that we do not have the right to ask. We do so only in a sense of asking for a favor that we do not deserve. And, in His love for us, knowing full well we do not deserve, God grants us blessing. It is not too unlike the invocation of the “bless your heart” by a Southern woman. You may be an idiot that does not know how to get out of a shower of rain but yet a Southern woman is asking God to grant you favor and protection from your own stupidity. Bless your heart! Bless it! Man, that is what we need from God is not! We don’t deserve his favor but we need it anyway. It came in the form of Jesus Christ. Bless your heart! Bless my heart! God grant us favor even though we are idiots.

 

Amen and Amen.