This is it. The final episode in our study in the book of Judges. We’ll wrap up this series with a look at chapters 20-21 in a lesson I’ve entitled, “Doing What Is Right In Our Own Eyes”. As we will see, the book of Judges doesn’t end particularly well. In fact, it doesn’t end well at all. The cycle of sin that permeates the book ends in a spiral of moral decay and a deadly civil war. The people of God end up killing one another. There is no king. There is no moral standard. There is no sense of right or wrong. Right has become whatever anyone deems it to be – for themselves. Moral relativism rules the day. And the people of God have refused to allow God to rule their lives. They are self-obsessed. And in the long run, they are self-destructive. There are so many lessons we can learn from the book of Judges. It is anything but ancient history, because what we see the people of Israel doing, as described on its pages, we see the church doing today. We run the same risk of doing what is right in our own eyes. We can become autonomous and the kings of our own domains, just they had done. We can remove God from the throne of our lives and try and occupy the seat of power and authority. But just as we see with Israel, it will never end well.
This is episode thirteen on the book of Judges and covers chapters 19. It’s entitled, “Without God as King, Sin Reigns”. Amazingly, things in Israel during the period of the judges, go from bad to worse. Their repeated deliverance by God from their well-deserved punishment never seems to get their attention. They sin. God sends a pagan nation to mete out His judgment. They call out to God. He sends a deliverer and rescues them. And the cycle repeats itself. Ad nauseam. And in chapter 19, we see yet another example of just how bad things had gotten in the land of Israel. And this particular story is graphic in nature and sickening in its portrayal of just how decadent and immoral the nation had become. It was a moral free-for-all. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Self-gratification was the code of the day. If it felt good, they did it. If it seemed like something they wanted to do, they pursued it. With no regard to God. With no remorse or sense of shame. There was no king in Israel. And that includes the sad fact that God Almighty was no longer recognized as the reigning sovereign over the nation of Israel. They had turned their back on Him long ago. And now, they were suffering the consequences.
This is our twelfth episode on the book of Judges and covers chapters 17-18. It’s entitled, “A Spiritual free-for-all” and deals with yet another less-than-stellar story involving the people of Israel and their almost inconceivable propensity to sin against God. In chapter 17, we read these extremely insightful and disturbing words: “In those days there was no king in Israel. And everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6 ESV). This was the period of the judges. The people had rejected God as their king and had yet to reach the point where they would demand a human king. The various tribes had spread throughout the land of Canaan, settling in their respective territories and trying to make the most of their situation. But everybody was doing their own thing, not God’s. Rather than seek the will of God, they were giving in to their own self-centered desires, seeking false gods and making forbidden alliances with the nations that occupied the land. And in the middle of all this we are introduced to a character named Micah, who will provide us with a real-life example of just how bad things had gotten in Israel. It was every man for himself. The 12 tribes of Israel were all living in varying degrees of disobedience to God. And Micah will provide us with an up-close-and-personal look into the spiritual free-for-all that was taking place in the land.
This eleventh episode on the book of Judges takes us to chapter 16 and the less-than-stellar ending to the life of Samson. As has been the case in his life all along, Samson would go out in style. His would not be a simple, quiet passing. He lived life on the edge and his death would be no different. What we have here is a picture of a man who had been hand-picked and equipped by God to serve as His deliverer. But Samson would take the attributes and abilities given to him by God and waste them on serving himself. Yes, he would accomplish some incredible feats for God, but they almost all appear to be occasions where he was attempting to meet his own desires, not Gods. As we saw in yesterday’s episode, God tended to use Samson in spite of him, not because of him. And one of the saddest indictments on this somewhat questionable man of God was his inability to remain set apart to God. By God’s command, his parents had dedicated Samson to be a Nazirite. And that unique designation and lifestyle was not an easy one. There were some serious prohibitions and expectations that came taking with the Nazirite vow. But Samson never seemed to take seriously his calling by God to be set apart for His Service. And his roller-coaster lifestyle would end in victory, but also in defeat.
In this, our tenth episode on the book of Judges, we’re going to continue our look at Samson, the long-haired, strong-armed, free-spirited Nazarite called by God to judge the people of God. Far from providing us with a poster-boy model of spiritual integrity to follow, Samson gives us far more negative lessons from which to learn. He was a loose-cannon who was always getting into trouble and who found himself accomplishing great feats for God in spite of himself. He wasn’t exactly an icon of virtue or a stellar example of godliness. He was impulsive, self-centered and suffered from a bit of an inflated sense of self-worth. He could be cocky and self-assured. His incredible strength gave him a dangerous sense of indestructibility. He was driven by his passions, and quick to demand what he wanted – from his parents and even from God. To Samson, life was all about Samson. His universe revolved around him. His thoughts were always about him. And everyone else on the planet existed to serve him. So, why did God use him? What would possess God to put up with someone like Samson? Perhaps his life is provided as a much-needed warning to each of us how easy it is to squander and abuse our calling by God. It isn’t so much that God needs us, as much as it is that God chooses to use us, in spite of us.
This is episode nine on our study of the book of Judges and it covers chapter 13. At this point in the history of the judges, we meet one of the better-known characters whose exploits are almost super-hero like. Of course, we’re referring to Samson, that larger-than-life character who was renowned for his great strength and long hair. But he also had a reputation as a lady’s man and as a loose cannon, who marched to the beat of his own drummer and who was anything but the prototypical servant of God. But chapter 13 is going to provide us with some important insights into how Samson became a judge. This unlikely hero was actually the result of a miraculous intervention by God. In the midst of all the evil taking place in Israel, God would visit a woman who just happened to be barren. She was suffering with the disgrace of childlessness, a powerful social stigma in that day and age. But God was going to give her a child, a boy, whom she was commanded to raise as a Nazarite and whom God said would save the people of Israel from the Philistines. This wasn’t going to be just any boy. He was going to be a God-appointed deliverer. At the worst of times, God selected the least likely woman to bear the child who would become the surprising source of His deliverance for an unfaithful people.
In this eighth episode on the book of Judges, we’ll be looking at chapters 11 and 12. I’ve entitled this episode, “A False View of the One True God.” In it, we are going to take a look at an all-too-common problem that the people of God have always faced: A false or incomplete understanding of who He is and how He works. Knowing God insufficiently or incompletely can lead to some serious miscalculations in terms of how we relate to Him. Some of us fear Him inordinately, seeing Him as little more than a vengeful judge who loves to punish wrong-doers. Others see Him as all-loving and completely tolerant of all our faults and foibles. He becomes little more than a doddering old grandfather in the sky who exists for no other reason than to make us happy. Misrepresentations of God are dangerous. Misunderstanding God can be deadly. And the story of Jephthah and his unnecessary vow to God provides a sobering example of what can happen when we fail to know God well. Jephthah was going to make a mistake he would live to regret. It was going to cost him greatly. But it had all been unnecessary. It was all due to his lack of knowledge of God. And we have been given the Word of God so that we might better understand the nature and character of God. The Bible is the revelation of God to man. He unveils Himself to us in His Word so that we might know how to relate with and respond to Him.
This is episode seven on the book of Judges and deals with chapter nine. It’s called, “From Bad to Worse” and covers the next period in the life of the people of Israel. As bad as things had gotten with Abimelech, things were going to get worse before they got better. The Israelites were slow to learn life’s lessons, painfully repeating the same pattern of rebellion against God, followed by the rebuke of God. You would have thought that a few cycles into this repetitive pattern of unfaithfulness and God’s discipline, they would have woken up and realized what it was they were doing that was causing all their pain and suffering. But they were stubborn and remarkably rebellious. No sooner than God would deliver them, they would go straight back to their old ways of spiritual adultery. Pursuing false gods and turning their backs on the one true God. The one thing they had learned to do was call to God when they got into trouble. Isn’t it interesting to note that when all our false gods fail us, we always seem to turn back to God for help? But this time, when they feigned repentance and called out to Him, He was going to demand actions that backed up their words.
Today’s episode is entitled, “The Dark Ages of Israel” and takes us into chapter nine of Judges. With the passing of Gideon, the people of Israel revert back to their evil ways, worshiping false gods and rejecting the one true God who had used Gideon to provide them with deliverance from the Midianites. Before Gideon’s body had had time to cool off, the people were once again revealing their true natures, rejecting the leadership of God over their lives. In fact, they would choose a far-from-desirable individual to be their king. A man who had murdered his way to the top and exhibited a less-than-righteous lifestyle all along the way. Abimelech was one of Gideon’s many sons and he would prove to be a thorn in the side of Israel. Yet, God would use him in spite of him. God would accomplish His will for Israel, even by using a man who had no business sitting on the throne. When all is said and done, chapter nine of the book of Judges provides us with a powerful lesson in the sovereignty and power of God. It really doesn’t matter who sits on the throne or wields the power, it is God who is in control. And whether we choose to trust God or not makes no difference in whether He is in charge. We can place our faith in someone or something else, but it is always God who will have the last say.
In today’s episode we’ll be in chapters 7 and 8 of the book of Judges and I’ve entitled it “Little Is Much When God Is In It.” Those are actually the lyrics from a song made popular by the Gaither Vocal Band a number of years ago. They speak of God’s ability to use our weakness to accomplish great things for the kingdom. When God is the power behind our efforts, we can accomplish great things and enjoy remarkable victories. We live in a world where everything seems to be measured in numbers. We are convinced that more means better. In fact, we say things like “the more, the merrier” and “bigger is better”. But in God’s grand scheme of things, less is often more. That was to be the case in the story of Gideon and his battle against the Midianites. He was already outnumbered and grossly under-equipped to face the Midianite army, and then found himself receiving some less-than-logical directions from God to reduce his forces even further. What God was telling him to do made no sense. It seemed suicidal. But God was out to show Gideon and the people of Israel that they needed Him far more than He needed them. The victory they sought was going to be up to God, not the number of troops they could muster. Bad odds don’t scare God. And our weakness doesn’t cause God to worry one bit, because when all is said and done, it is He who brings the victory. Not us.
This is episode four in our series on the book of Judges and covers chapters 5 and 6. This episode deals with an unlikely hero named Gideon. That’s why I’ve given this episode the title: “The Reluctant Rescuer.” We’re going to find out that Gideon was hand-picked by God, not because he had a lot to offer or had proven himself a well-qualified leader, but because God wanted to reveal His power through Gideon’s weakness and doubt. Gideon was a worrier. He was a fearful man who showed no signs of desiring to be a great leader for God. He would have preferred to have remained in the shadows, living his life in relative obscurity and letting the world go on without him. But that wasn’t going to be his lot in life. He got a call from God. But he didn’t exactly respond to God’s call with enthusiasm. He had his doubts. He even demanded that God give him proof. And God graciously did. But the issue Gideon was going to have to come to grips with was his own inadequacy and God’s power. God wasn’t choosing Gideon because of what he brought to the table, but because God wanted to reveal His power through Gideon’s weakness. God chose Gideon, not because He needed him, but because God uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary. He uses the weak so that He can display His power through them. As the apostle Paul so aptly reminds us: “God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29 NLT).
This is episode three in our series on the book of Judges and I’ve titled this lesson, “Thank Heaven for Little Girls.” I know, that’s a bit of a strange title, but I think you’ll see that it actually fits what takes place in chapter four of Judges. Here we meet Deborah, a prophetess, who will play a significant role in the deliverance of the people of God from the oppression of Jabin, the king of Canaan. Barak, a valiant warrior, was charged with the task of leading the troops of Israel into battle against the Canaanites, but he was reluctant to do so unless Deborah, the prophetess, went with him. But there’s another woman whose name gets mentioned in this chapter. She is Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. This relatively obscure individual will play a major role in Israel’s victory over the Canaanites. It will be by her hand that Sisera, the commander of the Canaanite army, meets his untimely end. She and Deborah, two women in a culture dominated by men, would be used by God to accomplish His will for His people. They would do what the men of Israel failed to do. Deborah would lead the people into battle. Jael would singlehandedly end the life of the Canaanite commander. Two women who served the one true God, would be used by God to accomplish His will and deliver His people. They would prove to be instruments in His hands, ready, willing and able to be used for His glory and the good of His people.
This is episode two in our series on the book of Judges. It’s entitled “Our Standard Achievement Test” and covers chapters two and three. These two chapters serve as a kind of preface for the rest of the book, providing a backdrop against which to evaluate all that will take place in the subsequent chapters. In chapter two, God reminds the people of Israel that it was He who brought them out of captivity in Egypt and delivered them to the land of Canaan. But He also reminded them that they had been disobedient and had failed to follow His commands. Rather than rid the land of its pagan inhabitants, they had chosen to make alliances with them. And before long they found themselves worshiping the false gods of these very same nations. Chapter two also records the death of Joshua, their God-appointed leader. This led to the various tribes scattering to their own territories to live out their lives separately and independently from one another. There was no king or central government. And on top of that, we’re given the not-so-good news:
“And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work he had done for Israel.” – Judges 2:10 ESV
And then chapter two tells us that the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. They worshiped false gods instead of the one true God. So, God was forced to discipline them and test them. But He wasn’t just punishing them. He was preparing them
This is episode one in a new series on the Old Testament book of Judges. Over the next 20 weeks, we’ll be unpacking this remarkable book one chapter at a time and looking at any and all lessons to be learned from this historical account of the nation of Israel, the children of God. The book of Judges provides us with a unique glimpse into the lives of God’s people during a time when they were supposed to be experiencing God’s blessings, but instead, they were struggling with unfaithfulness and disobedience to the one who had delivered them from captivity in Egypt and given them the land of Canaan as their possession. During their years of wandering in the wilderness, they had been led by Moses, but when it came time to enter the land, they were under the leadership of Joshua. He got them into the land, but they had failed to obey God fully and remove the inhabitants of the land. This would lead to all kinds of problems, including idolatry and a rejection of God as their King. The book of Judges is a no-holds-barred, warts-and-all portrayal of God’s people, revealing their inconsistency as His followers and their ungratefulness for all He had done for them. I think you’ll find their story more than ancient history. At times, it will provide a much-needed and somewhat uncomfortable reminder of our own struggle as the children of God. We too can find ourselves wrestling with our status as citizens of God’s kingdom, and longing to fit into a world in which we don’t really belong. To get the most out of each episode, be sure and read the accompanying chapter.