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Barach

One of the stories of the Bible that I find most intriguing, is the story of Deborah (D’vorah). Deborah was a judge and prophetess, one of only three prophetesses listed in the Old Testament, along with Miryam, the sister of Moses, and Huldah who lived during the time of King Josiah. Deborah lived between Ramah and Bethel in the hills of Efrayim and would sit under a tree called “D’vorah’s Palm”, and the people would come to her for judgement. She was a woman surrounded by lightning. Her husband’s name was Lapidot, which torch, and by extension lightning-flashes. She would send for another man whose name would mean lightning, a warrior by the name of Barak.

Deborah said to Barak that God was ordering him to march to Mount Tavor with 10,000 men from the tribes of Naftali and Z’vulun, and that He would cause Sisra the commander of King Yavin’s army to encounter Barak with his chariots and troops, but that God would hand Sisra over to him.  Barak’s answer was one that would cost him personal glory. He told Deborah that if she went with him that he would go. She agreed to go but told him that Sisra would be handed over to a woman.

There was a man by the name of Hever, a descendant of Moses’ father-in-law, who informed Sisra that Barak had gone to Mount Tavor, so Sisra gathered 900 iron chariots and all the troops he had with him.

Debora said to Barak, “Get going! This is the day when Adonai will hand Sisra over to you! Adonai has gone out ahead of you!” I want to pause for a moment in the story to point out that Adonai is still in the business of saying “Get going! I have gone out ahead of you!” Whatever battle you are facing, always remember, the battle belongs to the Lord. (Psalm 121) Unbeknownst to Barak, Adonai prepared a torrential storm to hit at the time of this battle. It was unexpected because it was an unseasonable thunderstorm that caused the valley soil to soften, causing Sisra’s chariots to become stuck, causing fear and panic within his army. One by one they fell to Barak and his 10,000. Sisra however, fled on foot and escaped. Or so he thought.

Sisra ran to the tent of Ya’el (Jael) the wife of Hever, the very one who informed to Sisra about Barak, and she offered him shelter inside her tent. He no doubt thought he would be safe there as her husband was an ally. This is something that in normal circumstances he would have never done. She was a woman, and a married one at that. For a man to enter to tent of a woman in this culture was a death sentence. It was forbidden, yet he took her up on the offer because of this very reason. Who would think to look for him in the tent of a woman? He asked her for a drink of water, instead she gave him a goatskin of milk to drink from. One commentary says that the milk was sour milk, meaning it was fermented. As he lay on the floor of her tent, he told her to stand at the entrance and if someone should ask if anyone were there, she was to reply “no”. When she saw that he was deeply asleep, she took a tent peg and a hammer and crept into where he was sleeping and drove the tent peg into his temple, fastening him to the ground. He died without ever waking up. This fulfilled the prophecy which Deborah had spoken to Barak that Sisra would be handed over to a woman. When Barak, in pursuit of Sisra, came upon the tent of Jael, she stepped out to meet him and told him, “Come, I will show you the man you are looking for.” There he found Sisra, lying dead with a tent peg through his temple. The final two verses of Judges chapter 4 reads, [23] Thus God on that day defeated Yavin the king of Kena’an in the presence of the people of Israel. [24] The hand of the people of Isra’el came down more and more heavily against Yavin the king of Kena’an, until they had completely destroyed Yavin the king of Kena’an.

God created a mighty victory from which a song was birthed, much like the song that was sung at the time of the Exodus after Adonai defeated the Egyptians. Sung by Deborah and Barak, the first line of the song, in Judges 5:2 is, When leaders in Isra’el dedicate themselves, and the people volunteer, you should all bless Adonai. The KJV reads a bit differently, “Praise ye the Lord for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves.” Praise or bless in the Hebrew is the word, barach. The literal translation of barach is to kneel or to bless God, adore with bended knees. This is the praise we offer on our knees in worship, in prayer, in communion with Adonai. When leaders dedicate themselves to Adonai, and when people volunteer under their leadership, mighty things happen in the kingdom of God.

I took three words from this verse in the CJSB translation. Barach, of course being one as it is our key word. The other two were leaders and volunteer. Leader(s) in Hebrew is para while it does mean leader, it also means “to let go, let loose”. We have all heard the saying, “let go and let God”, and I think that applies to the first part of this verse; When the leaders let go and dedicate themselves. Para is made up of the letters Pey (פ), Reysh (ר), and Ayin (ע). When looking at Chiam Bentorah’s descriptions of each of these letters we see that Pey means “A point where something significant is about to happen”, Reysh means “Leadership”, and Ayin means “perception and insight”. While these are just one of the possible meanings for each of these letters, it shows that the leaders used perception and insight (discernment) and was shown that something significant was going to happen, but they had to let God go before them into the battle. We see that He did just that, causing an out of season thunderstorm, securing the victory for Israel.

The second word, volunteer, is the word nadab and in this context of scripture means to volunteer for war or as a solider. I am the wife and mother of veterans. I could not be more proud of both my husband and my son for their service to our country. They were not forced to enlist, they volunteered, giving their hearts to the nation in which we live. Nadab is spelled Nun (נ), Dalet (ד), and Bet (ב). Again, using descriptions from Chiam Bentorah, Nun means faithfulness, Dalet means humility, and Bet means God’s presence. I could not help but think of my son during his time of service when I looked at this. He is faithful, he is humble, and he served with that type of heart, but he also walked with God and spent time with the Chaplain and would tell us of those moments when he would call home. He summed up the Hebrew word for volunteer without even knowing it.

This brings us back to barach. Bet (ב), Reysh (ר), Kaf (כ), and Vav (ו). Bet meaning love, Reysh meaning repentance, Kaf meaning an empty vessel, and Vav meaning a uniqueness in our experience with God. Love brings us to repentance. When we kneel and repent, we are forgiven and cleansed, we become an empty vessel open to a unique experience with God.

Psalm 95:6 says, Come, let’s bow down and worship; let’s kneel before Adonai who made us. We see this type of worship in Revelation where after the Cherubim say “Holy, holy, holy is Adonai, God of heaven’s armies, the One who was, who is and who is coming!”, the twenty-four elders “fall down before the One sitting on the throne, who lives forever and ever, and worship him. They throw their crowns in front of the throne and say, ‘You are worthy, Adonai Eloheinu, to have glory, honor and power, because you created all things – yes, because of your will they were created and came into being!’” One of my favorite praise and worship songs was inspired by this heavenly worship in the song, We Fall Down.  While I always loved this song, having a deeper understanding of barach makes it even more powerful.

When Solomon completed the temple, it says in 2 Chronicles 6:13-14 [13]  for Shlomo had made a bronze platform eight-and-three quarters feet long, eight-and-three quarters feet wide and five-and-a-quarter feet high and had set it up in the middle of the courtyard. He stood on it, then got down on his knees before the whole community, spread out his hands toward heaven, [14] and said, “Adonai, God of Isra’el, there is no God like you in heaven or on earth. You keep covenant with your servants and show them grace, provided they live in your presence with all their heart.” What a humble and beautiful way to start a prayer that by its conclusion, fire would come down from the heavens, consume the burnt offering and sacrifices, and the glory of Adonai filled the house where the priests could not even enter. Upon seeing this, all the people bowed down, with their faces to the ground, giving thanks to Adonai saying, “for he is good, for his grace continues forever.”

When was the last time that we have seen such a presence of the Almighty? When was the last time that we have collectively felt that type of connection with our Creator? When was the last time we have each individually felt that unique experience with God? It comes when we barach, when we volunteer our lives in humility, when we fight on our knees, when we praise Him and seek His face, and we make this the new normal. This type of praise, coupled with humility is powerful. Ephesians 6:12 tells us, For we are not struggling against human beings, but against the rulers, authorities and cosmic powers governing this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm. Like Deborah and Barak, we have a battle that we are in, but in this battle, we aren’t fighting a general with iron chariots. However, just like Deborah and Barak, Adonai has gone before us. Instead of a torrential thunderstorm, the victory was won on the cross. Our best fighting comes when we are in our prayer closet on our knees. Kneeling is a position of vulnerability, and when we kneel, we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice of praise.  

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