This program is a rebroadcast from August 20, 2016.
Deborah and Barak
This week, we are rebroadcasting part two of our series “Not to the Strong” based on the Old Testament book of Judges. Chris takes a deeper look at the lives of Deborah and Barak. You’ll learn from their story that in life we all need to be encouraged by other Christian friends and family in order to see beyond our own limited scope and to trust more in the Lord for His protection and provision in our lives.
Steve Conover: Thank you for joining us for the Friends of Israel Today. On this episode, we wrap up a two part series from the archives on the book of Judges. We'll learn how the sacrifice of serving God is far better than giving into our fears or the sin of compromise. We know this timeless message will help you handle what causes you to fear and find the freedom to trust God more.
Welcome to the Friends of Israel Today, where we teach Biblical truth for changing times. I'm Steve Conover. We'll join our host and teacher, Chris Katulka, in a moment. First, I want to mention to those that aren't familiar with our ministry, there is no better way to get acquainted with us than to request a free one year subscription to our award winning magazine, Israel My Glory. Visit foiradio.org to learn more, and sign up for your free subscription to Israel My Glory Magazine. You can also call us at (888) 343-6940.
Today, we continue our mini series on the Old Testament book of Judges. As we commented last week, before the time of the judges, Israel had relied on the capable leadership of Joshua to bring them into the land, and before that, Moses to bring them through the wilderness. At this point in Israel's history, they find themselves without a leader, a time where there was no king. And as the book of Judges tells us, everyone did what they thought was right in their own eyes. By God's grace, there was a cycle of deliverers, or judges, that he used greatly between the time of Joshua and the time Israel would have a king. Last week, Chris looked at Ehud and Gideon. Today we look at the stories of Deborah, Barak, and Jephthah, all found in the book of Judges. Now, let's join Chris.
Chris Katulka: Hello my friends, and welcome to the program. I hope you're doing well. We're wrapping up a series here on the book of Judges today, and we've been picking apart the lives of some of the judges that God has raised up. And last week, we saw that the lives of the judges are a lot like us today. We saw some of the strengths of the judges, and we also saw some of their weaknesses. For instance, we saw this strong conviction of the judge, Ehud. But at the same time, we also saw how Gideon was called by God to be a judge, but he lacked the faith to go out confidently in the Lord. Today, we're going to focus in on Deborah and Barak, and then onto the life of Jephthah. Now, if you're interested in hearing last week's message on Ehud and Gideon, just go to our website, foiradio.org, and there you'll find in our radio and podcast archives, last week's show and many more.
Now, before we get started, I want to pull back and give you a bit of a recap to show you the problem here in the book of Judges. Israel continues to sin. Israel has a problem. They continue in this cycle of sin, actually. God would deliver them from their sins, but then years later they would fall back into their old ways. The book of Judges, from a glance, can kind of look a little bit like the Christian life in some ways, when a believer doesn't make the Lord central in all areas of our lives, and in every aspect of our life.
The cycle of Israel's sin in Judges often sounds like this: Israel is loving God, and God is protecting them according to his covenant. And then Israel gets comfortable and complacent after a few years, and begins to dabble in the sin of idolatry. Israel's sin leads God to judge Israel by having another nation, another people group, come in and rule over them. And then Israel cries out to God. God sends a judge, or a deliverer, and the judge delivers Israel from their enemies. And then inevitably, the cycle starts all over again.
And this can kind of sound like the life of a believer who neglects to make God central in every area of their life. This is the kind of cycle sin can create, and it can happen to the best of us. I think that's one of the biggest things to remember, is that no one is immune to this type of cycle of sin. As believers, we can be devoted to the Lord, we can be focused on him, and then over time, we can get too comfortable, we can get too complacent, and we begin to devote our lives to the things which take our eyes off the Lord. And sin has the ability to creep in and rob that devotion we had for our Heavenly Father.
And if we continue in that sin, God will find a way to get our attention, to draw us back to him. And it may not be something we like, much like the Israelites in the book of Judges. And that's when we would cry out to God and turned to him and his deliverer, his rescuer. The one that we would turn to his Son, Jesus, our deliverer who restores us. And then the cycle could potentially start all over again. But as a part of the Christian life, we should always be ready to be guarding against this cycle of sin.
Now, let's turn our attention to Deborah and Barak. Barak was called by God to be a judge for Israel, to free the Israelites from the oppression of the Canaanites. Now, here's what's interesting. As a reader, you're reading through the story here in the book of Judges. You would never know that he was called by God, because he was ignoring God's call. It was as though God was calling Barak on his phone, but he simply ignored the call. The story of Deborah and Barak opens, not with Barak, but with Deborah, a prophetess who the Israelites trusted.
She called Barak and said to him, in Judges 4:6-7, "Barak, has not the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of Naphtali and from the people of Zebulun. And I will draw out Sisera, and the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the river Kishon with the chariots and his troops, and I will give him into your hand’?” Something happened here in the story that the scriptures don't tell us. Why did Barak refuse to follow God's call? Deborah says, "Hey Barak, you've been called by God. You need to go do what he's asked you to do."
And Barak looks at Deborah and says, "If you go with me, I will go, but if you do not go with me, I will not go." Here's something interesting. Barak feared God's call, so he ignored him. But he knew if Deborah would go with him, he would be more likely to defeat Sisera, the Canaanite General. And Deborah agrees to go with Barak, and she says this: "I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman." And this is so interesting because this is a jab at the man Barak, and also it has a double meaning. Deborah is clearly thinking about herself. If a woman goes with you, then you're going to lose the glory of taking Sisera yourself. But God also had another woman in mind as well, and you'll see that later on in the story.
Deborah and Barak go out to battle against Sisera. And just as the Lord promised, Sisera's Canaanite army was defeated. But Sisera escaped, and he ran to the tent of Jael. And Jael welcomed Sisera, the frightened General, and offered him a safe place, a place where he could let his guard down. And she gave him a little milk to drink, which helped him put him to sleep. And that's when Jael grabbed a tent peg, and drove it into his temple. Deborah's vision of a woman being known for defeating Sisera came true. Jael killed Sisera.
When I look at this story in the book of Judges, I always think of how amazing it is that God's call on someone's life can always get worked out, no matter how many times you might ignore it. When you're called by God, he is summoning you or me to a task that he will accomplish no matter what. Barak was called to be a judge for Israel and to defeat the Canaanite General, Sisera. And technically, Barak did that, but he went into a battle without confidence in the Lord's leading. The Lord was going to defeat the Canaanites. That's a given, everybody. The next part of the story is getting Barak to do what God called him to do. So God commissioned Deborah to remind Barak of his call.
We all need a friend like Deborah. We all need someone to see what is the best the Lord has for our lives. We need a friend who can see the call the Lord has given us, and how we can live it out for the Lord's glory. We need a friend who is honest, and who knows the issues that we're dealing with in life, who can see our shortcomings and where we need to be more diligent to work through maybe areas of sin in our life. God puts people in our lives like Deborah, so that we don't miss the best of what the Lord has for us. And notice, Deborah didn't simply share a message with Barak, where he's missing the best of what the Lord has called him to do, and then walk away in his fear and trepidation. She didn't just simply leave him there. Instead, Deborah agrees to go with him into battle.
Sometimes in life, we are Baraks. And sometimes in life, we are Deborahs. Sometimes we need to be encouraged by other Christian friends and family to see beyond our own limited scope, to see beyond our reality, and to trust more in the Lord for his protection and provision in our lives. And then there are times that we need to be like Deborah. There are times where we need to be the person who speaks truth into our friends' and family's lives. We need to encourage our friends and family to step out of a sin that is plaguing their life, or to step into a new role at work or in ministry, or to simply walk alongside a friend who is struggling.
A few months ago, I was at the 2016 National AIPAC Convention. And one of the featured guests was an elderly woman named Eleanor Jacobson, who was the daughter of Edward Jacobson. Not many people know who Edward Jacobson is. Eleanor told the story of her father. And what most people don't know is that before Israel became a state in 1948, President Harry Truman questioned the survival of a future Jewish state. He didn't really believe it could happen. And Israel's soon to be first President, Chaim Weizmann, really wanted to meet with President Truman to convince him to support the existence of a Jewish state. He really wanted to be able to speak his mind and to speak his heart to President Truman, but Truman wasn't interested in meeting with him.
And that's when Truman's close friend an old business partner, Edward Jacobson, who had access to the Oval Office, met with Truman and encouraged him to spend just a few moments with Chaim Weizmann. And those few moments will change Truman's perspective on a future Jewish state completely, because this meeting became incredibly fruitful. It's from that meeting Truman would be one of the first to support the new Jewish state. But it couldn't have happened, everybody, unless his friend, Edward Jacobson, encouraged him to take that daring step.
That's what the story of the judge of Barak and Deborah show us. It's a true story of what it means to have a friend to step out with you, and to see what the Lord has for the best of your life, to take that daring step. Now listen, when we return from our break, you'll want to be sure to stick around to hear about an often overlooked judge, Jephthah. So stick around.
From beginning to end, the book of Judges chronicles a very depressing moment in Israel's history. The people lost sight of the God who promised them rest and peace in the land of Israel, and instead they worshiped false idols. God, unwilling to let his people wallow in their sins, sent imperfect judges to rescue them from their enemies. Journey to the time of the judges, and examine the lives of four deliverers found in Hebrews hall of heroes: Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson, in Elwood McQuaid's book, Not to the Strong. Steve, we've talked about this book, and I know you had a lot to say about it. What was it about this book that impacted your life?
Steve Conover: Yeah, Chris, Not to the Strong may be my favorite book by Elwood McQuaid. And the influence it had on my life was the reminder of how God uses flawed, imperfect, weak people that are simply obedient to his call, and put their faith in God's plan and provision. This book showed me that things like doubt in my life, things that would prohibit God's work, that he could use them for his glory. Not to the Strong is really practical, and I can't say enough about it.
Chris Katulka: To get your copy of the book, Not to the Strong, visit our website, foiradio.org, or you can call our toll free number, (888) 343-6940, to order your copy of Not to the Strong.
We've been wrapping up a series here on the book of Judges today, and we've been picking apart the lives of some of the judges that God raised up. Last week, we saw that the lives of the judges are a lot like us today. We saw some of the strengths and some of the weaknesses of Ehud and Gideon. And if you're interested in hearing last week's message on the judges, just go to our website, foiradio.org, and there you'll find, in our radio and podcasts archives, last week's show and many, many more that you can listen to.
Now, we're going to turn our attention to Judges chapter 11, the story of Jephthah. Jephthah's story of judging Israel has extreme highs and extreme lows. Jephthah is a mighty warrior. He's a knight. He's the son of Gilead, but his mother was a prostitute, which means he was probably half Canaanite. Again, the people of Israel fell into a cycle of sin, and they worshiped false gods, and there was no leader to lead them out of this cycle. The Ammonites came and seriously distressed the people of Israel, so God called Jephthah to take care of the Ammonites.
When God called Jephthah ... Think about this. At this point in Jephthah's life, he was already kicked out of his house by his own brothers because his mother was a prostitute. So they don't like Jephthah for his history. They think he's tainted. And on his own, while he's out there wandering, he found friends that the scriptures say we would consider the dregs of society. They were unwanted people. When the Ammonites were too much for Israel, the elders of Gilead, where Jephthah was from, came to him, knowing that he was a mighty warrior, and asked him to lead the people to battle with the Ammonites. And Jephthah agreed to lead the people, but only if they promised to install him as the head of Gilead, which means, "If I win this battle against the Ammonites, I am your leader now, of the whole people."
Jephthah would go on to battle with the Ammonites. And he made a vow to the Lord saying, in Judges 11:30, "If you will give me the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the Ammonites, shall be the Lord's, and I will offer it up as a burnt sacrifice." Jephthah was willing to sacrifice something of great value to him as a thank you to the Lord's provision in battle against the Ammonites.
Well, Jephthah did defeat the Ammonites, and as he was walking home, the first person out of the door was his daughter. And she came out as excited as could be to see her father, to celebrate her father's victory over the enemy. But she didn't know that she would have to sacrifice her life for the vow her father made to God, not a human sacrifice, but that she would sacrifice having children. And Jephthah, seeing his daughter come out, falls to his knees and cries, "No," knowing that he now sacrificed having descendants. And Jephthah would go on to judge Israel for six more years.
Jephthah's story is a story of serving the Lord and sacrificing something great to do it. I'm reminded of Horatio Spafford, who wrote the famous hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul." He wrote that hymn in the depths of his pain after losing all four of his daughters, when the ship carrying his family to Europe collided with another vessel. Yet, the great sacrifice that the Spaffords suffered didn't prevent them from serving the Lord. They would later start the American colony in Jerusalem in 1881, which would play a major role in the First World War, to aid the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities, with food and medical attention during the war. The Spaffords would sacrifice a lot in the service to God.
Just because you serve the Lord, doesn't mean you get to skip over the sacrifice of serving him. Just think about Jesus, God's own Son. He sacrificed his life that we might have a relationship with the Father. He gave everything, so that we could have everything. Jephthah's story is a lesson that serving God can oftentimes mean sacrificing something we hold near and dear to our hearts. The story of the judges is a story of how God speaks into the cycle of sin that plagued the Israelites, when they didn't have a leader guiding them to trust, and rely, and put their faith in the God of heaven and earth.
And I hope today, if you find yourself in a cycle of sin, if you find yourself spiraling out of control and you're listening, you know that you can look to the God of grace and mercy, and cry out, because he has sent his deliverer already to deliver you and me from whatever is weighing us down. And so my prayer for you, if you're listening, just cry out to Jesus, and he will save you.
Steve Conover: Israel, on the verge of becoming a state, a teenage Holocaust survivor arrives on her shores alone. His name is Zvi Kalisher. Little did he know, his search for a new life in the Holy Land would lead him to the Messiah. Zvi, enthusiastic to share his faith, engaged others in spiritual conversations, many of which can be found in our magazine, Israel My Glory. While Zvi is now in the presence of his Savior, his collective writings from well over 50 years of ministry, continue to encourage believers worldwide. Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life of Zvi.
Mike Kellogg: I often go to Mea Shearim, the ultra-Orthodox section of Jerusalem, because I know how deeply into sin these people have fallen, and the Word of God has charged me to warn them to come to God before it's too late. Recently, I was walking along the street in that area when I heard children singing an old song I had not heard in more than 50 years. The singing was coming from a religious elementary school. The song reminded me of the children I sang it with in Warsaw in 1938. As I listened, I mourned for the children of my youth. The sorrowful lyrics are from Psalm 44. The more I listened, the less peace I felt in my heart.
Finally, I went inside to speak with the rabbi. The rabbi, a very old man, approached me and asked, “Where are you from?” I told him I had come inside because I heard the class singing. I asked, “Why are you singing a song of such deep grief and exile?” He replied, “Because I like it.” I said, “When I was the age of these children in 1938, before the Holocaust, I sang that song many times. But I do not sing it anymore because I have believed in God, and now I know the Lord will never hide his face from me." The rabbi asked the children, “Should we continue our lesson or listen to what this man has to say?” I silently prayed in my heart, “Oh Lord, guide me. Give me the words to say.” At the same time, the rabbi called several other rabbis into the room.
I began to tell them about myself, my life in Poland before the war, my experiences during the Holocaust, how I lost my family in the Warsaw Ghetto in the concentration camps, my arrival in Israel, and my participation in all the wars through 1973. Then I began to tell them about my faith. I could not start by declaring I believe in Jesus. I wanted them to mention his name first. I wanted them to mention his name first. I quoted several passages from Isaiah, Micah, and other prophets about the Messiah, all the while waiting for the outcry when they realized I was speaking about Jesus Christ.
One of the teachers soon asked, “What books have you read?” I responded, “The book I have in my hand, the Holy Bible, the book I love best. Is it sin to love God’s Word?” I continued to speak for about 35 minutes, and everyone, students and teachers alike, listened carefully. When I finished, one of the students asked, "Why did you come here?" “Because of the sad song you were singing,” I replied. “I wanted you to be able to rejoice in the Lord with me." The Jewish people have lamented long enough. It is time to call upon the Lord. Then you can say with Isaiah, "We will be glad and rejoice in his salvation."
The rabbis just looked at each other in silence. I left the school with a very good feeling. I believe many of those I spoke to were seriously considering the things I said. I trust they will read the Bible passages for themselves, and see the Lord alone can bring them out of sorrow, and into joy and peace, if they will only trust him as their Messiah and Savior.
Steve Conover: As we close, I'd like to remind you once more about Elwood McQuaid's classic book on Judges, called Not to the Strong. To purchase a copy, call our listener line at (888)-343-6940, (888)-343-6940, or you can write to us at FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099, or simply visit us at foiradio.org, foiradio.org.
Join us next week as we look at the life of Elijah, the prophet. Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Our associate producer and engineer is Tom Gallione. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong, and I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. If you would, prayerfully consider supporting the ministries of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. You can find a donate link at our website to learn more about the ways you can support us. The Friends of Israel Today is the production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide Christian ministry, communicating Biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while fostering solidarity with the Jewish people.
As a faith-based ministry we cannot do this without the faithful giving from partners like you! Right now, if you partner with us with a gift of $25 or more we will send as our thanks the newly redesigned and updated It Is No Dream by Dr. Elwood McQuaid!
Please call 1-800-345-8461 and mention the promo code “DREAM.”
*Offer ends 5/31/19
To wrap up our series on the book of Judges, we turn our attention to the eleventh chapter of Judges and the story of Jephthah. His story is one of serving the Lord, and a lesson that oftentimes to do so, we must sacrifice something we hold near and dear to our hearts.
Not to the Strong
BY ELWOOD MCQUAID
Most failure among contemporary Christians is not caused by Goliath-sized problems. We are inclined to stumble when believing God and obeying the simple dictates of His Word are neglected. In Not to the Strong, Elwood McQuaid takes believers into the arena where their persistent foes are met.
Apples of Gold: Mourning the Children of My Youth
While walking along the street in an ultra-Orthodox section of Jerusalem, Zvi could hear school children singing an old song that reminded him of a time when he sang that same song as a child himself along with other children, many of whom perished in Nazi death camps. He desired for them to lament no longer and to call upon the Lord and rejoice in His salvation. Praying for guidance, Zvi entered the school to talk to the rabbi and the children. Hear what happens in this dramatic reading from the life of Holocaust survivor Zvi Kalisher.
Zvi’s story is available in Elwood McQuaid’s book, “Zvi: The Miraculous Story of Triumph over the Holocaust,” available at our online store.
More stories from Zvi are also available in his book, “The Best of Zvi,” available at our online store.
Israel My Glory Magazine
GET YOUR FREE PRINT TRIAL SUBSCRIPTION
Hard-hitting, accurate, up-to-date analysis of Israel and the Middle East. Thought-provoking examination of God’s Word. Answers about the end-times. The truth behind today’s headlines. Immediate access to the latest books and resources. People who want to be informed—and have a heart for God’s Chosen People—rely on Israel My Glory.
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
Also heard on this week’s show:
»Under Suspicion (Lee Rosevere)
»Then You Were There (Ketsa)