Now she sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali, and said to him, “Behold, the LORD, the God of Israel, has commanded, ‘Go and march to Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men from the sons of Naphtali and from the sons of Zebulun. ‘I will draw out to you Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his many troops to the river Kishon, and I will give him into your hand.'” Then 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.” She said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. (Judges 4:6-9 NASB)
This probably never happens to you, but have you ever tried to bargain with God to change His plans for you? I have. Don’t. Barak did, and his fun ended at a woman’s tent. See, God will modify His plans to accommodate us, and our level of faith. But those accommodations often will make clear that we need to up our game with Him, because we will see what we missed with our modifications.
Barak is told that if he will drag himself out in front of the army of Naphtali and Zebulun, then God will drag his enemy out to be defeated. Well, fine, but Barak wants the prophet, the ‘mouthpiece’ for God, to come along as assurance. After all, God wouldn’t let anything happen to her, right? What if he needed a last-minute insight? What if he didn’t understand the instructions (which seems to have happened)?
Barak wanted to obey, but with conditions. His faith wasn’t where it needed to be for full obedience. God called him to put 10,000 men up against 900 chariots and other soldiers. That was simply too intimidating. Those chariots just roll right over people. They’re just not safe at all. So, Barak wanted additional assurance that this scary plan would work. And he got it.
The modification of Barak cost him the final victory, but not God. God still won, but He used another woman, Jael. Barak was not the guy. He didn’t get Sisera, the chariot general of Jabin. Jael, the wife of an ally of Jabin, got the general, and she got him with a tent peg through the temple, into the ground. Very dramatic ending, but not very manly. Barak was kept from defeating Sisera, but God still won the victory.
In similar ways, my Master will accomplish His plans, with or without me. He will accomplish these plans using me as He intends, or, if my faith just isn’t there, in whatever way He wants, just with diminished returns for me. I gain from my participation in His plans only to the level of my faith. In other words, my level of cooperation determines the quality of what I get out of that cooperation.
God does negotiate. Anyone reading Genesis 18:20-23 (a passage to be read with a Yiddish accent, or misunderstood) knows God negotiates. In some ways, the Middle Eastern Bizarre is more the setting for our relationship than the military chain of command. On the other hand, it’s in the midst of those negotiations that we lose something of what our Master has for us. That’s what we bargain away.
On the other hand, there are times when our Master intends for us to negotiate; that’s the act of obedience. Moses is told to step away from the Sons of Israel for Yahweh is going to destroy them. But Moses negotiates for their survival. That is what God wanted from Moses; that was the act of obedience. So, how do you know? What is it that tells you that negotiation isn’t obedience or that negotiation is the obedient thing?
The only way I can think of is to get to know God better. The better we know His voice, His character, His plans and desires become clearer, and we’ll be able to better distinguish His will. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. It is the experience we gain with and of God that enables us to know God’s mind, His will, and then be obedient. Then we will know the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Well, that’s my view through this knothole. What’s your view of God through the fence today?