"And Barak said to her, '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
"All mankind is of one Author, and is one volume...no man (or woman) is an island, entire of itself."
What does the phrase, "no man or woman is an island" mean to me, personally?
"No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it."
H. E. Luccock
"Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable."
When I was growing up, my sister and I had household chores which we were assigned. Our family did not have an electric dishwasher, my sister and I performed the task – I washed the dishes and she dried them.
It was the same with yard work. When we were old enough, I used the push mower and it was my job to mow the front lawn and my sister edged the lawn and swept the walks.
Of course, like most kids, we did our fair share of complaining about how hard we were working and one day my mom, probably frustrated by our griping said, "Many hands make light work." Then she continued to explain that if we would help one another we would get more done and would get it done faster than if we each did our work alone.
Webster's dictionary defines "teamwork" as the "cooperative effort by the members of a group or team to achieve a common goal."
My husband, Jim, is Cuban. While I have found out that a favorite Cuban pastime is smoking cigars (Jim doesn't smoke), there are others, too. My husband loves what is called Cuban Arroz Con Pollo, chicken and rice. It is a Cuban meal favorite. But there's also something else that Cubans love and it is the game of baseball. My father-in-law played baseball as a young man in Cuba. And my Jim was a "star" baseball player in high school.
One of the things that Jim has taught me about this game is that teamwork is essential. He and his father, to this day, watch every World Series game together, even though "Papa" will be 90 this year. Over and over again I've heard them say that a great team is better than a great player. Don't get me wrong, it's beneficial to have terrific players on a team. But if single individuals are more interested in being shining stars than working as a team, failure is often the end result.
In our text for today, a text which we will be studying for several days, Barak responded to Deborah's reminder that God had already delivered Sisera into their hands by telling her that if she would join him in the effort against Sisera, he would accept the challenge. What's more, Barak told Deborah that if she would not go with him against Sisera, he wasn't going either.
In my study about Deborah and Barak, some Biblical scholars have taken Barak's response as a sign of weakness on his part. They talk like the weak-kneed Barak wouldn't go to battle without a woman. What a scaredy-cat!
Well, I have a slightly different take on this story and since this is not a doctrinal but a devotional website, I'd like to offer some thoughts for you to consider as you read this text and contemplate the life of Deborah and Barak, too.
For 20 years, Sisera's hand had ruled. Fear had filled the hearts of the Israelites. Frankly, I can understand why, 900 chariots of iron could make anyone quake in their boots.
While God had promised victory, sometimes even when we know something is for our good, going through the trying times to get to the other side can be a bitter pill. I'll never forget several years ago after the car accident Jim and I were in. I had two very large bolts in my left knee with two rods that ran from one side of my knee to the other. Over time, the rods began to inch out of the bones and they rubbed on my skin. When I bent my left knee, I could actually see them pushing the skin out. What's more, it hurt.
Finally, my doctor said, "This is it! Those bolts and rods have to come out!" I knew it was for my own good. I knew I would have less pain. But I also knew I'd have to go through surgery and because I'd had blood clots in my leg after the wreck, I knew I'd have to go back on blood thinning medicine for 6 months which meant weekly tests to make certain my blood didn't get too thin.
Even though I knew that over time things would be better, I hesitated because I didn't like what I had to face in the present.
This is what I believe happened with Barak. He knew, intellectually and probably emotionally as well, that God would prevail. He knew whose hand was on the helm of the ship. He knew God was in charge. But he also knew that Sisera would have to be fought and Barak felt that going up against the enemy was too much. The fact is, he didn't want just the army to take on the task. He wanted all God's children, both men and women to be united in their challenge against Sisera. This is where I believe Barak was "right on." As we will learn later in our study, Barak didn't care who got credit, he cared only that the unity of God's children stay intact, for as they, all together, took on Sisera – they would succeed.
I recently read this quote by an unknown author: "A snowflake is one of God's most fragile creations, but look what they can do when they stick together." When I read these words I thought about a recent program I watched on television regarding powerful avalanches. To think that the mighty force of an avalanche has, as its core, single snowflakes sticking together, is amazing to me.
The English poet John Donne penned the words: "No man is an island." From this phrase, a beautiful song was written which expanded this thought:
"No man is an island,
No man stands alone
Each man's joy is joy to me
Each man's grief is my own
We need one another, so I will defend
Each man as my brother
Each man as my friend."
"And Barak said to Deborah, 'If you will go with me, I will go.'" God's team to meet God's challenge! Side by side, Deborah and Barak doing their part to take down Sisera.
"It is a fact that in the right formation, the lifting power of many wings can achieve twice the distance of any bird flying alone."
"O God, who hast made of one all nations to dwell upon the face of the earth, and who by Thy Son Jesus Christ hast broken down the wall of partition between us; break down, we beseech Thee, all that divides us one from another. Shame our jealousies and lay low our pride; do away with all our prejudices, that the bonds of fellowship and mutual service may unite all peoples, and we may live in peace together, to the glory of Thy great name."