Devotional: A listening problem

Published 4:05 pm Friday, November 24, 2023

8 Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” 

This verse from the Book of Judges is tucked into a very long narrative of the Israelites struggles after the death of Joshua. It was the period where God ruled through “judges”. These judges were leaders raised up in times of trouble, to lead only for a season. The people needed to look to God for everyday direction during this period. Yet, they seemed to turn away from God and then the people would cry out, God would send someone to help them.

In this case, the judge is Deborah. Yes, a female is sent as God’s instrument to guide them back to righteousness. Hearing God’s call, Deborah tells Barak that the Lord has heard the cries of repentance from the Israelites and he is the one who will free the people. However, Barak seems to have a hearing problem, or at least he is afraid he has a hearing problem. He does not trust himself to hear God’s commands and agrees to this mission, only if Deborah will go with him.

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While everything works out in the end, it does seem that Barak had the same problem that many of us have today. It is not a hearing problem; rather it is a listening problem. Barak had not listened enough to God to trust God’s words. He wanted to make sure that Deborah, who connected with God often, would be there to direct him.

Lest we judge Barak too harshly, I do believe that most of us have a similar affliction. When we do not daily talk to God and listen for the answers on “little” things, we have no confidence that we can hear and discern God’s voice at all. We make many excuses for that lack of listening. “It’s a trivial thing, God shouldn’t be bothered”. How about, “God has given me a brain I can figure this out.” There are hundreds of excuses and yet all of those lead us to distancing ourselves from hearing God’s wishes for us. Therefore, we, just like Barak, do not get the opportunity to grow close to God and feel the full effect of God’s love us. No need for the hearing test, we just have to ask and listen!

Keith Leach is Pastor of College Church and College Chaplain at Hampden-Sydney College. He can be reached at