A name in a program.
A bronze plaque by the door.
A shout-out at the monthly meeting.
Credit. It dangles like a carrot in front of us.
The acknowledgment of good deeds, hard work, or generous donations. The pat on the back feels good. It speaks of approval, respect, and value.
The question becomes, would I do them all—without the credit? Without the carrot? If the good deed passed unnoticed? If the hard work earned only callouses? If the generous donation wasn’t tax-deductible?
Do I need a carrot to obey? To do the right thing simply because God says it’s the right thing? Judges 4-5 gives a multi-faceted look at faithfulness. I want to examine the event from Barak’s point of view, because he has much to teach us about credit and carrots.
In Judges 4-5, Scripture records the victory of the Israelites over the oppressive Canaanites. Because the Israel had turned to idols, God “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. 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” (Judges 4:2-3).
That’s a lot of iron for 1235 B.C.
The prophetess Deborah served as judge for Israel and she held court south of Jabin’s territory. At God’s prompting, she summoned a man named Barak. As he trekked the seventy miles down to Deborah, his mind must have swirled every step of the way. Deborah relayed God’s message to Barak, “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. 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.’” (Judges 4:6-7).
Nine hundred iron chariots? No biggie. Right?
Barak agreed but asked Deborah to accompany him to Mount Tabor. Always good to have a prophetess handy when you go into battle. She consented, then dropped the bomb, “the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman” (Judges 4:9). No credit.
Many translations make Barak sound weak for asking Deborah to come with him. Thus he lost the honor of killing Sisera. However, in Vindicating the Vixens, further study reveals this wasn’t the case at all. When Barak is referenced in other passages of Scripture (1 Samuel 12:11 and Hebrews 11:32-34), he is described as a man of faith, not a weakling and certainly not a doubter.
Still. I feel for the guy. He’d just been given command of thousands of men, only to discover the dreaded Sisera would be taken out by a woman. A bit of a slap in the face for a man of that time and culture. And the Medal of Honor goes to, well, not you, Barak.
But Barak chose to obey anyway. Without the credit. He showed himself humble. Unassuming. Faithful.
In our culture where kids get ribbons just for showing up, I wonder how we would do if we had to walk in Barak’s combat boots.
Is God’s approval enough?
Does His glory come before our own?
Can we rejoice in someone else’s achievements if God receives honor through them?
Look for Barak in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith. Note that God didn’t chronicle Barak’s accomplishments. God noted Barak’s faithfulness and recorded it for all to see.
And there’s room on that plaque for your name too.
Workout for the Week: The Carrot of Credit
Memory Verse: “The honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” Judges 4:9
Meditation Passage: Judges 4-5
Do It: Go without the carrot.
The spiritual discipline for May centers on Solitude. Solitude involves getting some alone time with God. Start cultivating this habit now before the school lets out for the summer. You’ll be well-prepared for those summer months when you’ll really have to get intentional to find some alone time. My time comes early, usually around 5:30. When is yours?