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LOSERS, LAYMEN AND LEADERS
Lessons From The Lives
Of The Judges Of Israel
Series Intro: The period addressed in the book of Judges is a period of time defined by lawlessness, rebellion and moral failure among the people of Israel. The whole attitude of Israel during the time of the judges can be summed up in the words of Judges 17:6; 21:25, where the Bible says, “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes. (Ill. That’s a pretty good description of our world as well!)
God had redeemed Israel from Egyptian bondage. He led them for forty years through a wilderness. He brought them safely into the land of Canaan and promised to defeat all their enemies, if only they would walk with Him in holiness.
God commanded them to enter Canaan and to conquer it, Deut. 7:1-6. The commandments given in those verses are crystal clear. They were to:
1. v. 1 Possess the land
2. v. 2 Utterly destroy all the nations of Canaan
3. v. 2 Make no peace treaties with them
4. v. 2 Show them no mercy
5. v. 3 Refuse to intermarry with them
6. v. 5 Completely destroy every trace of their pagan religions
The reason they were commanded to do this was because Israel was to be different from all the people around them, Deut 7:6. They, among all the people of the earth, had been chosen by God. He had saved them, blessed them and promised them victory, if they would walk with Him.
God demanded total separation among His people. He knew that if Israel allowed themselves to be entangled with the Canaanites, they would become corrupt spiritually and be drawn away from God, Deut. 7:4. When that happened, God promised that He would visit them suddenly, in His wrath, Deut. 7:4.
Israel had their instructions, but they failed to fully carry out the Lord’s command. The record of their failure is chronicled in Judges 1:19-34.
· Judah failed – 1:19-20
· Benjamin failed – 1:21
· Joseph failed – 1:22-26
· Manasseh failed – 1:27-28
· Ephraim failed – 1:29
· Zebulon failed – 1:30
· Asher failed – 1:31-32
· Naphtali failed – 1:33
· Dan failed – 1:34
· The tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh even refused to enter Canaan, choosing to remain on the other side of Jordan.
Israel’s failure to defeat their enemies resulted in them living among their enemies. After a while, they became like their enemies, adopting the wicked ways of the various Canaanite tribes around them. Eventually, Israel began to worship the false gods of the Canaanites. When they followed this downward path, God allowed them to know His displeasure and His judgment.
When judgment came, eventually the people would realize that they were to blame. They would repent and seek the Lord. When they did, God forgave them and raised up a deliverer, called a Judge. These men and women helped Israel throw off the yoke of their oppressors. They also helped them to live for God.
Israel would follow a Judge until that Judge died, then they would revert to their wicked ways and the cycle would begin again. This continued in Israel for about 400 years, until they got their first king.
The book of Judges is profitable for us today. Because in its pages, we see that Israel faced many of the same problems that we face in our world today. They faced physical enemies; so do we. They faced problems from the world, the flesh and the devil; so do we.
I want to take the next few Sunday evenings and bring a series of messages I am entitling Losers, Laymen and Leaders. I want to share with you some Lessons From The Lives Of Israel’s Judges.
As we look at these men and women God used to deliver His people in those days, I want you to see that He is still looking for men and women He can use in our day. God is no longer looking for judges, but He is looking for leaders. He is looking for men and women He can use to stem the tide of evil that threatens to overtake the church in these dark days. He is looking for people who will rise up, taking their stand with God and the Bible. He is looking for people He can use to change the world for the glory of God. Some of the people He is looking for might just be sitting in these pews today! In that age, God used common, ordinary men and women to accomplish His purpose in Israel, and that is the kind of people He will use in this day as well.
With that introduction in mind, let’s turn our attention to Judges 3:1-11 and meet the first Judge in Israel. I want to introduce you to a man named Othniel. His name means “The Lion Of God. He was a man who lived up to his name.
OTHNIEL: THE LION OF GOD
Intro: Because Israel refused to walk with the Lord like He commanded them to, He refused to drive out all their enemies in the land of Canaan. Thus, Israel was forced to live alongside the very people they had been sent to destroy.
We are told in verses 1-4 exactly why God left the people in the land. Look at His reasons.
1. v. 1 He left them there to prove Israel – The word “prove means to put to the test. God allowed the pagans to live around His people to test Israel.
His people were tested to see how they would live when surrounded by the wicked. His people were tested to see if they would keep His commandments or not, v. 4. They failed this test!
2. v. 2 He left them there to teach new generations about spiritual warfare. God wanted them to learn the lessons of battle their fathers had known. God wanted them to be strong and to know how to fight the enemy when he came around. They failed this test too!
It wasn’t long until this caused some serious problems among the people of Israel. Israel proved that they could not be trusted to stand up against the enemy. They proved that they would rather join the enemy than fight them.
Let’s notice how God delivered Israel from a time of cruel bondage by raising up Othniel: The Lion Of God.
I. v. 5-7 ISRAEL’S COMPROMISE
(Ill. These verses give us the ugly details of Israel’s first great failure. When they did stands as a stark warning to the people of God in any age. What Israel did then is what we see people doing all around us today. Notice how they compromised the Word of God and the will of God to do the things they wanted to do.)
A. v. 5 Interaction With The Canaanites The Bible says that the children of Israel dwelt among the various tribes of Canaan. The word dwelt has the idea of settling down; of setting up housekeeping.
When Israel arrived in Canaan. They were commanded to destroy these people without mercy, not they are living among them. It took a very short time for their former enemies to become their new neighbors.
Here’s the problem, Israel was to be separate from the world around them. They were unique among all the peoples of the world. They had been chosen, redeemed and set apart to serve the Lord God Almighty, and He expected them to remain separate, Deut. 7:6-11. Because they didn’t, they opened a floodgate of sin that would end with them facing the terrible chastisement of God.
(Ill. Do I need to remind you that God’s redeemed ones are to be a separate people as well, 2 Cor. 6:17? Need I remind you that we are a “peculiar people, Titus 2:14? That does not mean we are weird, it means that we are “His special possession”. He loved us, He chose us, He send His Son to die for us; He redeemed us and bought us, 1 Cor. 6:19-20.
When we refuse to walk in His will and honor His Word in our lives, we also open the floodgates of sin that eventually overwhelm us and drown us in its turbulent currents. It is a dangerous thing for a child of God to live like the world around him!)
B. v. 6a Intermarriage With The Canaanites After a while, the people of Israel got so used to living among the Canaanites that they began to intermarry with them. This was expressly forbidden by the Lord. It was pure disobedience on their part.
Maybe they said, “These Canaanites are not as bad as we were told. They are actually very nice people. They’re not monsters at all. Their girls make good devoted wives. There is no reason why we can’t marry them. After all, we might just be able to change them. Israel soon found out that it was them and not the Canaanites that changed.
As they married into the tribes around them, the Israelites began to lose their national identity. The very integrity of their families began to break down. They soon lost the very thing that made them unique.
(Ill. The same danger confronts us today. When we get too close to the world around us, we will soon find ourselves entangled with them in their sins. The company you keep will determine how close you walk to the Lord, 1 Cor. 15:33. That is why God has ever commanded His people to keep their distance from the lost world around them, 2 Cor. 2:14.
We must interact with the world so that we can be a light to them and give them the Gospel, Matt. 5;16; Acts 1:8. But, we must keep our spiritual distance. It is but a short step from walking with the world to living like the world)
C. v. 6b, 7b Idolatry With The Canaanites it was a very short step from living among them, to marrying them to worshiping with them. You can imagine how they rationalized this. Perhaps they said, Well, you marry a Canaanite girl and you just have to understand how they are. They were brought up differently than we were. You have to allow them to bring their gods. After all, it’s just part of her culture.
So, these people, the children of Israel, who had been redeemed by the blood of the lamb, and who had been delivered from Egypt by God’s mighty power, who has been the beneficiaries of God’s power and work time and again, find themselves bowing before the idol God’s of the Canaanites. Verse 7b says they “served Baalim and the groves. This refers to the various gods and goddesses of the Canaanites.
Many of their gods were associated with fertility rituals and their worship involved disgusting sexual acts and the actual prostitution of their daughters in the groves. The groves were tall poles set up on hills. People would have intercourse between these poles in an effort to convince their gods to bless the crops and the ground with a good harvest.
What you have here is a group of people who have gone, in one generation, from worshiping God and fighting evil, to abandoning God while they sleep with the enemy! Worst of all, they took their precious sons and their precious daughters and handed them over to the very people they had been commanded to utterly destroy.
(Ill. The same danger confronts wayward saints in our day! When we refuse to maintain our distance from the world around us; when we continually yoke ourselves to the people and things of the world; when we bow down at their altars, we are sacrificing a generation to the gods of this world. We are teaching our children that they are free to treat God and His Word as they please. We are telling them that it is alright to disregard God, His Word, His House, His worship and His will. We are telling that they are free to chart their own course through this world.)
D. v. 7a Indifference With The Canaanites Each step they took led them farther away from God. Each step they took away from Him led them down a pathway toward totally abandoning Him and His ways. Verse 7a tells us that they “forgat the Lord their God.” The word “forgat means to ignore, or to cease to care. The people of Israel reached a place where they simply ignored God and ceased to care about Him or what He had to say about anything. They reached a place of total indifference toward the Lord.
(Ill. That is where many in our day have come to! Most folk know the Lord is there. They know that His Word has something to say to them about their lives and how they lives them. They know God as a claim on their lives, but they choose to ignore Him. He is there, but they aren’t listening. He calls, but they don’t come. They harden their hearts against God, His Word and the call of the Spirit of God. They turn a deaf ear to Him and His call on their lives. As far as they are concerned, God doesn’t matter, and He might as well not even exist! That is a dangerous place to be!)
I. Israel’s Compromise
II. v. 8 ISRAEL’S CHASTISEMENT
(Ill. That is where Israel was spiritually, but that is not where God would leave them. Charles Spurgeon used to say, “God never allows His people to sin successfully. That is, you might do it, but you wont get away with it forever! There is always a price to pay for disobedience and rebellion against God.)
A. The Focus Of God’s Wrath The word anger refers to a flaring of the nostrils. It is the image of face filled with wrath. The word hot means to be furious. God was not angry with the Canaanites.
Oh, He hated their sin, but they were lost people. They did not have His Law. They had not been redeemed and separated and commanded to be different. No, God was angry, but His anger was directed at His people. They were about to be punished for their sins against God.
(Ill. If you are saved and you choose to walk away from the Lord, you might as well know that there will be a price to pay. God will bring His chastisement into your life, Rev. 3:19; Heb. 12:6-12. God does this, not to hurt us, but to help us to get back to where we are supposed to be, 1 Cor. 11:32.)
B. The Fierceness Of God’s Wrath We are told that God sold Israel into the hands of a pagan king. It has the idea of giving up, or giving over into one’s control or power. In other words, Israel gave themselves to paganism and God punished them by giving what they wanted. They did not want to follow His ruled in their lives, so He allowed them to be ruled by a harsh, pagan king. The name of this king is Chushan-rishathaim. This name means Doubly Wicked Cushan, literally Doubly wicked and black. All this means is that Israel reaped what they had sowed. They wanted paganism. They wanted their sin, they wanted their false gods; and God gave them everything they asked for and more.
(Ill. The same danger faces people in this room today. There are people sitting here today who are not as close to the Lord as they once were. You are not attending church like you used to. You are not as committed as you used to be. You are no longer faithful to the Lord like you once were. You just don’t serve Him like you used to. Other things have taken His place in your life. Other gods if you will. Little things like your pleasure, your desires, your toys; you know what I am talking about.
Well. Don’t be surprised when you reap what you have sowed. Those things that are so important to you can become tyrants in your life. They can become “doubly wicked and black to you.
You might reap your harvest in the lives of your children, when they walk away from the Lord. You might reap your harvest in God selling you to the things you run after. But, you will reap your harvest!
The fact is, Spurgeon was right. “God never allows His people to sin successfully! you will reap what you sow, Gal. 6:7-8. If you fear the crop you might reap, the time to change is now, before any more damage is done! Come home today!)
C. The Fullness Of God’s Wrath God sold them into slavery and left them there for eight years. He allowed them to experience the full measure of what their sin cost them. When they dwelt among the Canaanites, married their sons and daughters and bowed down to their gods, they never thought it would come to this, but it did! They paid a terrible price for their folly!
(Ill. What kind of price will you pay for your sin? When you are sold under your sins, you lack the power to free yourself. You lack the power to help others around you. You lack the power to pray as you should. You lack the power to read and understand the Word of God as you could. You lack the power to be who God saved you to be. Someone said, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go; keep you longer than you want to stay; and cost you more than you want to pay. Thats the truth, and if I were you, I would listen to what the Lord is saying to you today!)
I. Israel’s Compromise
II. Israel’s Chastisement
III. v. 9-11 ISRAEL’S CHAMPION
(Ill. When Israel came to themselves, they called on God and He heard them. When they turned back to Him in their hearts, He reached out to them in deliverance. He raised up their first judge, a man by the name of Othniel! Othniel is called “a deliverer. The word means a savior, and thats just what Othniel was.)
A. Othniel’s Credentials We are told that Othniel is Caleb’s younger brother.” We are also told that he is the son of “Kenaz. Calebs father was a man named Jephunneh, Num. 13:6. This is not a contradiction. Kenaz was probably Caleb’s brother, and Othniel was probably his son. That would have made him Caleb’s nephew. And, if Kenaz was dead, Othniel would have been elevated to a place of leadership in the family. Thus, he would have been recognized as Caleb’s brother.
As any rate, Othniel was a man of courage and bravery. In Judges 1:12-13, Othniel defeated a Canaanite city to win Caleb’s daughter as his wife.
So, Othniel was a man of great courage with strong ties to a former generation of leaders in Israel. He was an older man, some believe around the age of 75. He was battle tested. He was available and God chose him.
(Ill. Othniel reminds us that God can use anyone. Regardless of how old we might be. Regardless of our past. Regardless of who we are or what we have for us or against us, God can use us for His glory if we will make ourselves available to Him. Othniel did that and the Lord used him in a mighty way. It has been said, and it is true, that “the greatest ability is availability.)
B. Othniel’s Companion Othniel was useful to the Lord because the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. Othniel did not possess the power to deliver Israel within himself. But, when the Spirit of God took control of his life, God was able to use him in great ways. Othniel did not really deliver Israel. God delivered Israel through Othniel!
(Ill. The truth is, left to ourselves, we are incapable of serving God as He deserves to b served. The only way we will ever be useful to, and usable by, the Lord is when we are controlled by the Spirit of God like Othniel was, Gal. 5:16-25; Eph. 5:18.
The Spirit of God will enable us to stand against the enemies around us. The Spirit of God will make us powerful for the glory of the Lord. The Spirit of God will use us in ways that we can hardly imagine, but we must yield to Him and His power in and over our lives. That is the secret to power with God, Acts 1:8.)
C. Othniel’s Conquest God enabled Othniel to defeat old Doubly wicked and black. God allowed Othniel to deliver Israel from the bondage of that pagan king. God empowered Othniel to judge the nation of Israel for the rest of his life, some 40 years. God gave Othniel victory in his life because Othniel gave himself to the Lord!
(Ill. Do you want the Lord to use your life for His glory? Do you want to see Him do great things through you? Do you want to be free from the yoke of paganism? Do you want to see your family delivered from the bondage of sin and the world? Do you want victory in your life?
If you do, yield to the Lord like Othniel did. Allow the Lord to lead you and control you and He will use you for His glory.)
Conc: I wonder, are you concerned about where you are spiritually with the Lord today. Are you concerned about where your family is headed? Are you concerned about some around you who have gone off in search of the things of this world? If any of these things are true, why don’t you come before Him today and deal with these issues.
Would you like to be used of the Lord in a greater way? Would you like to be more dedicated to Him? Has God been dealing with you about your walk with Him? If so, you come to Him and get the help you need.
If He has touched your heart on any level, you come and let Him do in you what He wants to do. If He is calling, you need to obey His voice. That is the fisrt step toward victory.