A guest post by Joy LaPrade…Barak had only a portion of the Israelite army behind him when he looked down from Mount Tabor that morning. Waiting for them by the river was Sisera, the powerful army commander who had cruelly oppressed Israel for the last 20 years, with the entire force of his army and his 900 iron chariots, the equivalent of armored tanks.
Barak could see. As he looked down into the valley, the view promised defeat at the hands of his enemy.
What happened next, as we know, was unexpected victory—the overthrow of a mighty army by a weaker force, and deliverance for God’s people. Hebrews 11:32–34 indicates this came about through Barak’s faith.
But what was Barak’s faith?
We know what the author of Hebrews tells us; it is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. But it seems we often take this to mean a general belief that, with God’s help, things will turn out ok. We also tend to define our faith by its connection to the past—to our belief in the historical events of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. After all, these are “things unseen.”
But Deborah’s words and Barak’s response in Judges 5 can illuminate Hebrews 11:1. The faith they reveal is so much more than hoping for the best.
Barak’s faith was a gift of better sight.
Barak’s faith did not look back but rather forward in anticipation, with a daring confidence. Barak’s faith was the grace to see beyond what is visible to what is unseen, yet true. And his faith was given to him in Deborah’s words—words we can also hear spoken to us—for our faith: “Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the Lord go out before you?”
Days before, Deborah had spoken God’s words to Barak, promising victory and even describing how it would be accomplished (Judges 4:7). But when the moment of battle came, Deborah did not point back to the past. Instead, she called Barak’s attention to the fact that the Lord was already on the move. This was the guarantee of victory: “Does not the Lord go out before you?”
Barak saw what was visible: Sisera’s iron chariots waiting by the river. But Deborah revealed to him what was true: the Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle (Psalm 24:8), making war on behalf of His people, for their deliverance.
Barak looked not to the things that are seen and transient, but to what is unseen and eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) And in that faith—by seeing the Lord at work as His people’s Savior—Barak became mighty in war, and put foreign armies to flight (Hebrews 11:34).
Deborah’s words are also true for us: “Does not the Lord go out before you?”
Jesus has gone ahead of us, on our behalf, through suffering and death to His exaltation at the Father’s right hand. Like Barak, this hope set before us is the sure and steadfast anchor for our soul (Hebrews 6:18–20). Our faith is grounded in all that God has accomplished for us in Christ, but it also looks forward in anticipation.
We can and should recall—frequently—all of God’s victories on our behalf, and all His promises for the future. But we ought also ask for eyes to see what He is doing even now, so that the vision of what is unseen and eternal can fill our hearts and overflow in joyful, fearless obedience.
And in fact, God has richly provided for our faith. It is the conviction of things unseen to our eyes, but not to our hearts and minds, because He has given us image upon image in His word.
He has revealed Himself to us there as a mighty warrior who is laying waste to our enemies (Rev. 19:11–16), the conquering prince who is returning from battle, entering His city in triumph (Psalm 68), and the victorious king seated on His throne, reigning with all things subjected to Him (Eph. 1:19–23).
We do not see these things at present, but they are more gloriously true than anything our eyes now behold.
Our faith is rooted in and strengthened by all God’s past graces to us. But it is not a backward-looking faith that weakly hopes for a better future. We need not spend our days sitting passively, ticket to heaven clutched in our hands, waiting for the bus to arrive.
Our King is on the move, and He gives us faith to follow. We can listen each day for His invitation to plunge into battle assured of a glorious victory. He calls us to spend ourselves in an exhilarating race, running for the joy set before us, and to rejoice even in trials, because we are obtaining the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1:6–9).
So let us encourage one another, and all the more as we see the day approaching, both with Deborah’s words and with all the rich and varied promises of Scripture.
“Does not the Lord go out before you?”