Judges: Ordinary People, Extraordinary God
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by Woodrow Kroll
Description: The fourteen lessons in this Bible study guide give a glimpse of the cycle of sin, captivity, repentance, and deliverance that occurred between the nation of Israel and God.
eBook Publisher: Crossway Books, 2009
eBookwise Release Date: June 2009
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [239 KB]
Reading time: 111-156 min.
Will Go Up?
Othniel, the first judge of Israel, was a man of strength and courage who fought fearlessly for the Lord. Through this lesson, we'll see that success comes not just from personal strength but from our trust in God as well.
7And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. 8Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia. And the people of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years. 9But when the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother. 10The Spirit of the LORD was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the LORD gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. 11So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died. Key Verse
The Spirit of the LORD was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the LORD gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand (Judg. 3:10).
In Judges 3:11 we read, "So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died." Did Othniel know the importance of the fight against Cushan-rishathaim? Did he realize that this one battle would usher in peace for just one generation?
Maybe not, but even if the result had been only 40 days of peace, the fight would have been worth it. Today God's enemies take the form of immoral lifestyles and selfish decisions in our daily lives. Instead of seeing an army of invaders threatening to take our life, we see an army of propaganda and worldly lies threatening to draw us from the very Source of life.
Not all enemies are for us to fight, but God has a calling for you. And whether you change things for a nation or for just one person, the fight is worth it.
I f you were to list all the biblical judges you know, who would first come to mind? Probably Samson with his incredible strength. Or Gideon whose army of 300 men won a might victory. Perhaps you'll think of Deborah the woman warrior. But what about Othniel? If If you read your Bible straight through from beginning to end, you might know that this isn't the first time we meet Othniel. We are first introduced to this future judge of Israel back in Joshua 15.
"And Caleb said, 'Whoever strikes Kiriath-sepher and captures it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter as wife.' And Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, captured it" (Josh. 15:16-17).
Now that's a résumé for a judge! First of all, Othniel knew how to fight. Kiriath-sepher was one of the Canaanite strongholds in the Promised Land and would be a hard city to take. But Othniel rose to the challenge, and the city fell.
Next, notice who Othniel's uncle is: Caleb. This is the same Caleb who stood alone with Joshua and declared, "Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it" (Num. 13:30), when Israel was too afraid to enter the Promised Land. God Himself described Caleb as a "servant ... [who] has followed me fully" (Num. 14:24). Caleb led many battles in the conquest of the Promised Land and remained a faithful servant of God to the end. That's a family history to be proud of.
So, not only was Othniel a proven warrior and a man with a proud family heritage, he was a devoted servant of God. That's evident from the days he led Israel as a judge.
Remember, many of the judges were military leaders raised up by God to lead the people and drive out the foreign enemies. God allowed these enemies to menace Israel when the people turned from Him to worship the idols of the surrounding pagan nations. This disciplinary action wouldn't have been necessary if Israel had remembered that God commanded them to drive out all the existing nations in the Promised Land. Israel didn't, and as a result, the people of Israel were pulled away from God by the pagan practices of the Canaanites left behind. God knew that if all the pagan nations were not driven out, a situation like that of Judges 3:6-7 would arise:
"And their daughters they took to themselves for wives, and their own daughters they gave to their sons, and they served their gods. And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth."
The enemy God brought in was Cushan-rishathaim (his name means "doubly wicked"), king of Mesopotamia (modern Iraq). And after eight years, the people of Israel had enough and cried out to God for help. God called on Othniel, and "the Spirit of the LORD was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war" (3:10).
Though Othniel was the man who led the battle, the real hero of this story is God. God heard the cry of Israel, God raised up Othniel (v. 9), God's Spirit came on Othniel and God gave the foreign army into Othniel's hand (v. 10).
Notice, too, how God used Othniel. It was in a very straightforward way that played to Othniel's strengths. There were no surprises here. He had fought many battles and stood up for the Lord before; this time was no different.
God doesn't always call us out of our comfort zones to serve Him. For as many people as He calls to live as missionaries in a foreign land, there are those He calls to serve Him right where they are with what they do best.
What are the talents, skills, and abilities you have? Are you making yourself usable to God with them?
Sometimes people get so caught up in expecting God to call them elsewhere they forget to serve Him where they are. As you pray, ask God to show you how you can serve Him where you are today. Praise Him for the abilities He's given you, and thank Him for the opportunity to use those abilities to make His name known.
As you read Judges 3:7-11, consider these questions:
1) What does God hate about the Canaanite gods?
2) What are things today that could be considered idols?
3) How do you think God feels about the idols we entertain today?
4) Are there any ungodly influences you've allowed to stand in your life?
5) What do these verses tell you about how God deals with sin?
6) What are the areas where God has made you strong?
7) What ways can you use those strengths for God?