Judges 11-14

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So with the renovation of our church sanctuary in full speed mode – I missed an opportunity to blog about an interesting phrase that is used throughout the accounts of the various judges over Israel. As we have discussed – after the death of Joshua and all of the leaders of his generation, the Israelites fell into a pattern of evil and disobedience of the Lord’s commands (Joshua 2:8-11). The cycle of disobedience – cry for deliverance – and raising up a judge is repeated over and over throughout this period. The main point is to show how quickly God’s people rebelled and strayed from what Moses & Joshua had instilled within them.

During a discussion with one of the men of our church – it was brought up how many times the judges were described as “the Spirit of the Lord coming upon them”. Not only in Judges – but elsewhere in the Old Testament do we see this happening… and usually with stunning results! Refer these few times in Judges alone:

  • Judges 3:10 – Spirit comes upon Othniel – result: victory in war.
  • Judges 6:34 – Spirit comes upon Gideon – result: blew trumpet, raised army, defeated Midionites. (Before this happened – remember that Gideon walked in fear – even toppling his fathers idols during the darkness of night!).
  • Judges 11:29 – Spirit comes upon Jepthah – result: defeated Ammonites.
  • Judges 14:6 & 14:19 – Spirit comes upon Samson – results: kills lion, slews men of Ashkelon.

In the Old Testamant – the Holy Spirit came upon men for specific purposes. This infusion of power was usually only for a moment and lasted through that certain situation. The result of this was an empowering of that person to do a mighty work which they would have been unable to do alone.

Fast forward to Jeremiah – where this Prophet speaks of a time coming when this was going to change. Unlike the OT – in the future the law would be “IN their minds” and “ON their hearts”. (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

Fast forward further in the story – to Jesus in Luke 3:22. When Jesus comes out of the baptismal waters, Scripture records that the Holy Spirit came UPON Him as a dove. Following the OT pattern we have already seen – what great task was this empowering Jesus to accomplish? Both the mighty miracles He would perform as well as the definitive work of the cross.

Next in Acts 2:1-4 we see the Day of Pentecost… when the Holy Spirit fell upon the 120 worshipers in the upper room. But this time it is different! Instead of the “Spirit coming upon them” as we saw over and over again… this time they were “filled with the Holy Spirit”.

Instead of the Spirit coming ON them – He came IN them!

The results are the same as when in the OT – the individual being infused with the Holy Spirit were empowered to accomplish something mighty beyond their own ability. But after Acts 2 – the Holy Spirit came IN people… and the result was they were empowered to do something mighty which was beyond their ability. And not just for a limited time – but this time it was permanently within them!).

One more thing… if we back up to the prophet Joel and see his words in Joel 2:28-29 we are told that this “pouring out of the Spirit” will be for everyone! (That means you and me as well!).

 

So what are we waiting for? Receive the promise of the Holy Spirit – stand in that power and might (just like Samson) – and do the mighty works of God that you are unable to do on your own!

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

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Judges 10

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Perhaps, like me, you get this frustrated feeling as you read through the first half of the book of Judges? Perhaps you see the repeated promises of obedience on the part of the Israelites as hollow and thin. Perhaps you start to question their truthfulness when they repent in times of trouble – only to fall right back into the same evil choices which led them into the trouble in the first place.

If you are feeling that way as you read – it is clear that God is beginning to feel that way as well. For once again we see the Israelites in need of a rescue. Fresh off the heals of the failure of Abimelech – we see new leadership under Tola and Jair. While under this leadership, we have no record of Israel straying… yet how quickly they resort back to their old ways once the current judge has died? (Judges 10:6). This time it is the Philistines to the south and the Ammorites to the east who come and bring oppression to God’s people.

But – did you notice how God reacted when the Israelites cried out to Him? In Judges 10:10 we see the people react as they had many times before.

And the Isrealites cried out to the Lord…”

Many times this same plot had played out – with Israel turning away from the Lord – they are oppressed by the enemy – they cry out to God – He hears and has compassion on them – He raises up a judge to rescue them. Over and over and over again this scene plays… until now… This time God does not seem to receive their empty words so easily as before. After reminding them of the numerous times He has come to their rescue – he astonishes them by making the stunning statement, “I will deliver you no more” (10:13).

The Israelites quickly figure out what we have the ease of seeing in hindsight. God is interested in REAL repentance from His people… not mere lip-service. Thus far His people have shown an ill-regard for Him and His Covenant. They have broken it more times then can be counted – and have grown accustomed to simply saying ‘We are sorry’ – then sitting back while God rescues them from their enemies.

But this time God seems to have had enough with that game… and is requiring something more.

As the gravity of their situation falls upon the Israelites (after God shocks them with His refusal) – they take 5 important steps which proves their genuine repentance. These five steps can be a lesson for us today as well.

  1. They own up to their sin (vs 15). By admitting “we have sinned”, the people make a confession and acknowledge their sin… thus one of the first steps to true repentance.
  2. They surrender to God (vs 15). The people give themselves over to the Lord; “do what you will with us”. Like David would do in the future – it has become abundantly clear that being in the hands of the Lord is much better then being in the hands of evil men.
  3. They ask for deliverance now (vs 15). This is a sure sign of desperation – which reveals their hearts are primed for the change they so desperately need.
  4. They remove the sin (vs 16). By “putting away the strange gods from among them”, God’s people take another step towards true repentance. It is one thing to mouth words… but another to take action to correct the injustice done.
  5. They served the Lord (vs 16). The final act of true repentance… making a concisive decision to return to the Lord and serve Him alone.

Whjen confronted with disaster, God’s people were being taught a valuable lesson. True repentance is not simply apologizing – but taking the necessary steps to correct the discretion and moving back into the right direction. In fact – the word ‘repentance’ means to “turn and move in the opposite way”.

The real question is… was this lesson learned?

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

Judges 3-5

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Do you notice a pattern?

Four seasons of rebellion and sin.

Four seasons of slavery.

Four judges raised up by God to rescue His people and return them to peace.

Do you notice a pattern?

 

“And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord” (3:7). The result of those evil choices was 8 years of servitude to the King of Mesopotamia (Babylon). Then God hears their cries for help, and in His mercy He raises up the 1st Judge – Othniel – to rescue them and restore them (3:11).

“And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord” (3:12). The result of those repeated evil choices was 18 years of slavery to Moab. Then the Lord again responds to His people’s cries for help by raising up the 2nd Judge – Ehud – to rescue them and restore them to peace for 80 years (3:30).

Then again the pattern is repeated – with God raising up the 3rd judge – Shamgar – to rescue His people and restore them to peace (3:31).

“And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord” (4:1). The result of those evil choices was 20 years of slavery to the Canaanites (whom they should have exterminated years earlier). This time God raises up Barak and Deborah to rescue His people and restore them to 40 years of peace (5:31).

Do you notice a pattern?

 

Then Judges 5 records a song, which (to me) reflects the life of the believer living under the Blessing. After the war has bee fought – and the smoke clears – the lights go down and the subtle sounds of a song fill the air. Deborah and Barak come out on stage and sing a beautiful duet about what the Lord has done.

Before the victory – life was difficult. Bandits and robbers held the citizens in captivity in their own homes (5:6-7). The people (thinking God had abandoned them) chose new gods to ask for help… which only led to more trouble (5:8). They couldn’t even go to draw water (a normal part of daily life) because the bandits would ambush them (5:11). But – after the victory – there was such peace that even the rich folks would talk about it in the streets (5:10).

Do you notice a pattern?

 

The message here should be clear – we all have a choice in our lives. We can either follow the Lord’s direction and reap the spoils of peace and a good life – or we can choose other ways and reap those spoils of war and slavery. Our God is merciful and He will hear our cries and come to our rescue every time – yet wouldn’t it be easier to simply obey Him from the start?

It was the same God who raised up the final Judge in His Son, Jesus. At the sound of our desperate cries for help – He came and delivered us from our slavery to sin (Rom 6:16) and restored us to peace and a good life. What Good News that is!

Can you hear the music coming?

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

Judges 1

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The Israelites, under Joshua’s able leadership, have almost completely conquered the land promised to them by God. Joshua – all of the elders – as well as all of that generation died off, leaving Israel in occupation of the land of Canaan. That is how the book of Joshua ends and the book of Judges begins.

The book of Judges is the beginning recording of the downfall of Israel. Under the strong leadership of both Moses and Joshua – the fledgling nation has thrived – obeying the Lord (somewhat) and seeing His goodness come to pass in their lives. But, we now enter a period where the nation has no strong leader – and they vacillate between obeying the Lord and not. The Jewish Talmud says that Samuel wrote this book (although some suggest it was the prophet Isaiah) – and numerous statements throughout indicate that it was written as a “looking back” into history.

Chronicling the events of about 400 years or so after the death of Joshua’s generation – the book of Judges details the Israelites struggle to obey God – coupled with their rebellion. God sends 16 Judges who attempt to lead them administratively in obeying the commands of the Lord. Back and forth we see God’s people move from obeying God (under the leadership of a judge) to disobeying God (after the death of that judge) and being thrust into servitude to a foreign power.

Either way – it is a sad recounting of Israel’s repeated failure to obey the Lord – as both Moses and Joshua had repeatedly implored them to do. It also is a telling view of the incredible patience and grace God demonstrated to them with each judge He sent to lead them.

Right out of the gate we see the problems start as the various tribes attempt to complete the clearing process that was left unfinished by Joshua. The instructions from the Lord were to completely remove these people from the land.

When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you are entering to possess and has plucked away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, And when the Lord your God gives them over to you and you smite them, then you must utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them, or show mercy to them.”Deut 7:1-2 AMP

We have already discussed why it was necessary for the Israelites to completely destroy these people groups – and their failure to do so would prove to be a stumbling block for generations to come.

Judah – Benjamin – Manesseh – Ephraim – Zebulun – Asher – Naphtali – Dan and Joseph all failed to obey the Lord… instead leaving some of the original inhabitants of the land in place. Obviously these Canaanites had no desire to leave their homes – being perfectly willing to settle for slavery and paying tribute in exchange. BUT – God did not tell the Israelites to make them pay tribute or keep them as slaves – He said to destroy them.

The reasons varied – from iron chariots to just plain disobedience – but the results were still the same. One by one the tribes chose to only partially obey God’s instructions. But the truth is, partial obedience is really not obedience at all. By only taking God’s Word so far into their reality – the Israelites only created heartache and drama for themselves.

In fact – notice how things progress: the tribe of Judah disobeys in fear of the iron chariots – this eventually leads to the tribe of Asher “dwelling among the Canaanites” (instead of the other way around). – (Judges 1:32). Eventually the slippery slope of partial obedience leads to the enemy forcing the tribe of Dan to live up in the mountains, instead of in the fertile valley as God had planned. (Judges 1:34).

As we shall see – this compromising attitude will spread and rot the nation from the inside out. Their choice to only obey God in as far as they could understand would allow the enemy a foothold into their lives which would wreck havoc in the future – leading to their total demise.

This is a picturesque warning for all of us Christians today. God has provided instructions in how to live our lives according to His original intent. When we choose to only obey these instructions in part – we give the enemy a foothold into our lives from which he can launch attacks from within (Eph 4:27) – eventually leading to our complete destruction. It is amazing how much of our struggles and problems in life can be traced back to partial obedience.

As we follow along on this bird’s-eye view of the early years of the nation of Israel – may we heed the warning placed before us and ensure that we obey God completely. That is the only way to true blessing, multiplication and fruitfulness.

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK