Sometimes when I read a Bible story I get that feeling of, “I could never be like that!” You know, at age 13, would you have charged into the battle field to fight Goliath like David did? At age 17 or 18, could you have resisted the sexual temptation of being chased by Potiphar’s hottie wife like Joseph did? If you were Esther, would you have risked your life? If you were Mary, could you have lived with the humiliation of being pregnant outside of marriage in a culture that used to give the death penalty for such offenses? Sometimes the faith of our heroes seems almost overwhelming. In part, I think that’s because we only catch glimpses of their lives and not the full picture. Rarely does Scripture pull back the curtain and let us see the day-to-day grind of those people, but instead, we get the highlights. And those highlights can seem daunting.
That might be one of the reasons I’m so glad Barak is mentioned as one of the great people of faith. In Hebrews 11:32 we read, “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell you about Gideon, Barak....” What? Barak? Seriously? How?
Maybe you don’t know the story of Barak so let me fill you in. Back in the book of Judges, we read of Israel’s worst years. (Believe me, that book is awful as it reveals what happens when we live life without God!) But even during that time, God kept providing holy leaders to help Israel out, and one of them, apparently, was Barak.
In Judges 4 we read that evil king Jabin ruled Israel, and the Jews were miserable. Deborah, a prophetess of that day, receives word from God that He is about to show up and free the Israelites from Jabin’s tyranny. So Deborah tells Barak, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men...I will...give him [king Jabin’s army] into your hands.’” (Judges 4:6-7).
Think about it. God just told Barak, through Deborah, that He was going to deliver the enemy into his hands. God actually detailed the sneak attack He was going to orchestrate and all Barak had to do was show up and win the day. So how does Barak respond to this awesome news?
“Barak said to her [Deborah], ‘If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.’”
Are. You. Kidding. Me?! How did this guy make it into Hebrews 11???
I’ll tell you how. I think at the end of the day, even in his fear, Barak still had faith to believe that God was going to deliver as He promised. Was he scared? Apparently he was terrified! Was he unsure of the outcome? Maybe. But he still believed, he still went to battle and he still brought about a great victory for Israel.
You see, how much faith you have won’t be measured against the faith of others. Barak isn’t being measured against David or Joseph, Mary isn’t being measured against Ruth, instead, faith is measured against revelation and maturity. In other words, the more you know about God, the more you’ve walked with Him, the higher the measuring rod for your faith. Jesus Himself said, “To whom much has been given, much will be required.”
In one story in the New Testament, Jesus and His disciples are walking through crazy big crowds. A woman reaches out and touches Jesus’ cloak in hopes of being healed from a life-long illness. She was a gentile woman (not a Jew). After a somewhat odd conversation (at least from our cultural stand point) Jesus heals her and proclaims, “I haven’t seen this much faith in anyone throughout Israel!” In other words, this woman who didn’t grow up with the reading of the Law and Prophets (the Old Testament), who didn’t grow up going to synagogue each Friday night, who didn’t grow up hearing the stories of the Great God of Israel, believed that Jesus could heal her. Yet how many Jews had been exposed to the truths of God and His Word, who didn’t respond in faith like her?
God isn’t asking me to have your faith, and He’s not asking you to have my faith. He’s asking both of us to live according to the faith that each of us possesses, and to be willing to allow Him to grow and stretch our faith each day. When I meet God, He’s not going to say to me, “Why didn’t you have the faith of Danny?" or "Why couldn't you be more like Jeromy?!” He’s going to measure my faith according to how I lived, how I trusted His promises based on what I knew, how I grew and how I responded to His work in my life.
What promises of God do you need to cling to, today? Even if you’re feeling a little unsure, or maybe you need a little help to hold on, what promises can you turn to? I love that Barak is in Hebrews 11, because even in his doubt, he proved his faith in the Almighty God. And sometimes, if I’m honest, I have doubts, too, but like Barak, I can still lean into the One who never breaks His Word. Here are three of my favorite promises, maybe one of these will give you strength today. Maybe you need to pull out one you’ve neglected for a little while in your life!
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!