Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament book of Judges which describes the history and narrative of the children of Israel from the time of the death of Joshua unto the time of Samuel the prophet of the Lord. More specifically, today’s passages is found in chapters eight and nine of this Old Testament book. PATTERNS AND CYCLES! DOING EVIL IN THE SIGHT OF THE LORD! THE LORD RAISED UP AGAINST THEM ENEMIES AND ADVERSARIES! THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL CRIED OUT UNTO THE LORD! THE LORD RAISED UP A JUDGE! THE JUDGE DELIVERED THE PEOPLE OF GOD OUT OF THEIR OPPRESSION! OPPRESSED WITHIN THE INHERITANCE! As I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in the Old Testament book of Judges I can’t help but consider the reality that it is and it was one thing for the children of Israel to be oppressed within a foreign land—namely, the land of Egypt—however, it was something else entirely for them to be oppressed within their own land. Upon reading the Old Testament book of Judges you will encounter and come face to face with the strong reality that the congregation of the children of Israel had entered into the land, they had crossed the Jordan River, they had defeated powerful cities and strongholds such as Jericho and Ai, and they had won great victories against countless kings within the land. It was true that the congregation of the children of Israel had conquered and subdued the land, and that they had indeed taken possession of the land which the LORD had brought them into. What’s more, is that it is true the entire land was divided by Lot unto the nine and a half tribes which would receive their inheritance west of the Jordan River, and that by the time we come to the final chapters of the book of Judges we find the people of God living and dwelling in the midst of the land which was sworn unto their fathers and given unto them during their generation. With that being said, however, the final two chapters of the Old Testament book of Joshua serves as a great foundation for what we find in the Old Testament book of Judges, for these final chapters seem to provide us with a clear indication, warning and word of caution concerning the children of Israel which would remain in the midst of the land. The words which Joshua would speak unto that generation which not only entered the land, but also conquered and subdued the land would not only be spoken unto them, but would also be spoken unto future generations. In fact, it would even be Moses himself who would warn the congregation of the children of Israel concerning the condition of their hearts and souls in the midst of the land, and the danger in turning their hearts away from serving and following the living God. In order to get a better understanding concerning the days of Judges, and to understand just how instrumental the judges were in the midst of the land I would like to present you with the words which are found in the final two chapters of the Old Testament book of Joshua:
“And it came to pass a long time after that the LORD had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua waxed old and stricken in age. And Joshua called for all Israel, and for their elders, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers, and said unto them, I am old and stricken in age: and ye have seen all that the LORD your God hath done unto all these nations because of you; for the LORD your God is he that hath fought for you. Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from Jordan with all the nations that I have cut off, even unto the great sea westward. And the LORD your God, He shall expel them from before you, and drive them from out of your sight; and ye shall possess their land, as the LORD your God hath promised unto you. Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left; that ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them: but cleave unto the LORD your God, as ye have done unto this day. For the LORD hath driven out from before you great nations and strong: but as for you, no man hath been able to stand before you unto this day. One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the LORD your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you. Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the LORD your God. Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you: know for a certainty that the LORD your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you. And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed of all the good things, which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof. Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all good things are come upon you, which the LORD your God promised you; so shall the LORD bring upon you all evil things, until he have destroyed you from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you. When ye have transgressed the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which he hath given unto you” (Joshua 23:1-16).
“And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Tehran, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods. And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac. And I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt. I sent Moses also and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to that which I did among them: and afterward I brought you out. And I brought your fathers out of Egypt: and ye came unto the sea; and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariots and horsemen unto the Red Sea. And when they cried unto the LORD, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them, and covered them; and your eyes have seen what I have done in Egypt: and ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season. And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, which dwelt on the other side Jordan; and they fought with you: and I gave them into your hand, that ye might possess their land; and I destroyed them from before you. Then Belak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and warred against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you: but I would not hearten unto Balaam; therefore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of his hand. And ye went over Jordan, and came unto Jericho: and the men of Jericho fought against you, the Amorites, and the PErizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Girgashites, the Hittites, and the Jebusites; and I delivered them into your hand. And I sent the hornet before you, which drive them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow. And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat. Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:1-15).
Before Joshua died and went the way of all the earth he spoke unto the congregation of the children of Israel, and within his words we see a fourth and final phase of taking possession of the inheritance of the land of Canaan. I have previously written that the first phase of taking possession of the land was actually crossing the Jordan River and entering into the land. The second phase of taking possession of the land was conquering and subduing the enemies and adversaries which were present in the midst of the land, and utterly and completely driving them out and dispossessing them. The third phase would be to take the land which had been conquered and divide it by lot between the remaining nine and a half tribes which had not yet received their inheritance. Those nine and a half tribes would receive an inheritance on the western edge of the Jordan River, and all that land would be divided between the people of Israel which were present in the land. There is, however, a fourth and final phase that would be present and found within the land—one that in all reality and in all honesty is not given much thought or consideration. If and as you read the book of Joshua you will focus a lot of attention on entering into the land through the parted waters of the Jordan River, conquering the city of Jericho when the LORD caused the walls to collapse, and even the great victories which Joshua and the children of Israel would win in the midst of the land. There would even be much talk about a supernatural day which would be manifested in the midst of battle, as in the midst of battle Joshua called on the sun to stand still in the heavens, and the moon to remain in its place. Scripture goes on to reveal how the sun stood still and did not go down, and the moon did not arise from its place until Joshua and the congregation of the children of Israel would utterly and completely defeat and destroy the enemies which were present in the midst of the land. While it is easy to spend and focus a lot of time, effort and energy on the great victories and battles won in the midst of the land of Canaan, I am convinced that the final two chapters of the book are more often than not neglected, and aren’t given much consideration. It is in the final two chapters where the fourth—and perhaps the most critical of all the phases of possession actually takes place. Once the land had been conquered and subdued, and once the land had been divided by lot, the children of Israel would need to choose who they would serve—whether that be the gods on the other side of the flood, and even the gods of Egypt, or whether it would be the gods from the land of Egypt. The fourth and final phase of possession centers upon the choice and decision of the children of Israel to choose which god they would serve, and to choose whether or not they would truly serve the Lord who had brought them into the land, and who had fought for them in the midst of the land to conquer and subdue it.
It’s important for us to recognize and consider the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for in order to truly understand the words and language which is found in the Old Testament book of Judges we must first understand the words and language Joshua would speak unto the congregation of the children of Israel in the midst of the land. In fact—before he died and went the way of all the earth Joshua warned the people of Israel that if they went back, and chose to cleave unto the remnant of the nations which remained in the land, and made marriages with them, and went in unto them and they unto them, the LORD their God would no longer and no more drive out any of the nations before them. Instead, the nations which would remain in the land would be snares and traps unto them, and scourges in their sides, and thorns into they eyes, until they perished from off the good land which the LORD had given them. What is so incredibly interesting is when you think about and consider the words which are found in the first and second chapters of the Old Testament book of Judges, for the first chapter ends and concludes with a tragic declaration and statement that most of the tribes of Israel failed to drive out the remnant of the inhabitants of the land, and how they allowed and permitted the Canaanites and Amorites to remain among them within the land. The first chapter concludes with many of the tribes which received an inheritance west of the Jordan River failing to drive out the remnant of the nations and peoples which remained on the western side of the Jordan River. With that being said, we must understand that when you come to the second chapter of this Old Testament book, you will find the warning and word of caution which Joshua spoke unto that generation which entered, conquered, subdued, and inherited the land actually coming to pass. What’s more, is that the words which Joshua spoke unto the generation of the children of Israel which entered into, conquered and subdued the land would come to pass in the very next generation that would emerge within the land. Oh there was a generation that would emerge in the land of Egypt that would experience the deliverance of the LORD from the slavery, bondage and oppression of the land of Pharaoh and his taskmasters. There would be a generation that would emerge in the wilderness that would leave and depart from the wilderness and enter into the land which the LORD promised unto Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. With that being said, there would arise a generation in the midst of the inheritance that would forget the works and word of the living God, and would begin doing evil in the sight of the Lord. Consider if you will the words which are found in the second chapter of the Old Testament book of Judges beginning to read with and from the first and opening verse:
“And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochum, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you. And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you. And it came to pass, when the angel of the LORD spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept. And they called the name of that place Bochim: and they sacrificed there unto the LORD. And when Joshua had let the people go, the children of Israel went every man unto his inheritance to possess the land. And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that he did for Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old. And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash. And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: and they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger. And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies. Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed. Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them. And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after tot her gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did not so. And when the LORD raised them up judges, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them. And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way. And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not heartened unto my voice; I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died: that through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not. Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out hastily; neither delivered he them into the hand of Joshua” (Judges 2:1-23).
What is so incredibly captivating and challenging about the words that are written and recorded within the second chapter of the Old Testament book of Judges is that it proves and demonstrates that while the children of Israel were oppressed within the land of Egypt for more than four-hundred years, it was possible for the children of Israel to be in the inheritance and still be oppressed. Of course we know and understand that it was never the will, nor was it ever the desire or intention of the living God that He bring the children of Israel into the land of Canaan and allow them to be oppressed by their enemies round about them, nor even by the enemies which remained in the land. The thing that is so interesting and intriguing about the narrative that is found in the Old Testament book of Judges is that it proves, demonstrates and reveals that the people of God could be in the inheritance promised unto them by the God of their fathers, and yet they could still be oppressed and given into the hands of their enemies. If and as you read the words that are found in this particular book of Judges you will find that almost immediately after the death of Joshua the congregation of the children of Israel would do that which was evil in the sight of the living God, and would begin to go whoring after the gods of the land. What’s more, is that we find the root and underlying cause of this was two-fold, for not only did they fail to utterly and completely drive out the remnant of the inhabitants of the land, but they also failed to utterly destroy and tear down the altars, the shrines, the images, and all the symbols of the idolatrous worship that was found in the land. What we find in the second chapter is indeed a summary of the days of the judges, but what we must recognize is that much of what we read about in and during the days of the judges is centered upon and around the reality that they failed in two critical areas which were commanded by the Lord their God. The Lord their God issued two very specific commands when promising to bring them into the land, as well as once He had actually brought them into the land—namely, that they utterly drive out the inhabitants of the land, and utterly destroy all the altars, shrines and images that were present within the land. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand about the book of Joshua—and not only the book of Joshua, but also the book of Judges—it’s that even though the land had been conquered and subdued, and even though the land had been divided as an inheritance for the people of God, that didn’t mean that all the altars, shrines, and idolatrous places and practices of worship had been utterly destroyed. The book of Joshua reveals a great deal about the land itself being conquered and subdued, and it reveals a great deal about peoples more and mightier than the children of Israel being put to the edge of the sword, however, the book of Judges reveals and brings us face to face with the fact that while the land was conquered and subdued, there would still remain remnants of conquered people in the land, and remnants of the idolatrous practices in the midst of the land.
IF there is one thing that so intrigues and challenges me about the Old Testament book of Judges it’s that it is possible to be in the inheritance which the LORD promised you and to be oppressed by enemies and adversaries which the LORD has raised up against you because of your disobedience. What we must be absolutely and incredibly clear about when reading the words of this book is that the LORD didn’t bring the people of Israel into the land to oppress them—either by those nations and peoples round about them, nor the remnants of the nations and peoples which remained in the land. In fact, there are multiple times in the final chapters of the book of Joshua when we read how the LORD gave the people of Israel rest from their enemies and adversaries. The question we must ask is how do we go from rest from all our adversaries to being unsettled, opposed, and oppressed by a number of enemies and adversaries? How did the people of God go from enjoying the inheritance with rest from all their enemies and adversaries to being oppressed and given into the hands of those who would overpower them? The answer quite honestly lies in rebellion and disobedience, as the children of Israel would give themselves to idolatrous worship with the gods which were present in the midst of the land that was given unto them as an inheritance and possession. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the absolutely tremendous reality that the book of Judges is not only about one generation rising up which knew not the works of the LORD, and which die evil in the sight of the LORD, but about many generations which would rise up in the midst of the land which would do that which was evil in the sight of the LORD. It wouldn’t just be one generation that would rise up in the midst of the land and do that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, but it would be a number of generations which would do evil in the sight of the Lord. As you study the book of Judges you will find that there were more than just one judge that would rise up in the midst of the land, and more than one judge which would deliver the people out of the hand of their oppressors, their enemies and adversaries. The book of Judges is about multiple patterns and cycles in the history and narrative of the children of Israel when they would do that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, when the LORD would deliver them into the hands of spoilers, adversaries and enemies, and how they would cry out unto the LORD in the midst of their oppression as they did in the land of Egypt, and how the LORD would raise up for them judges. In the land of Egypt the LORD would raise up Moses His servant, and in the land of Israel He would raise up judges who would deliver them out of the hands of their enemies, for the LORD wouldn’t simply remove those who oppressed them, but would require them to join themselves together with the judge, and essentially drive out and drive back those who would oppress them.
THE LORD WOULDN’T SIMPLY DELIVER THEM OUT OF THE HAND OF THE OPPRESSOR, BUT WOULD REQUIRE THE PEOPLE TO ENAGE THEMSELVES IN DRIVING THEM BACK! THE LORD COULD HAVE SIMPLY REMOVED THAT WHICH OPPRESSED THEM, BUT THE LORD WOULD RIASE UP A JUDGE AND THEY WOULD HAVE TO ALIGN THEMSELVES WITH THE JUDGE AND DRIVE BACK THAT WHICH OPPRESSED THEM. The more I read the Old Testament book of Judges the more I am confronted with the tremendous reality of how the LORD would deliver His people up to being oppressed by enemies and adversaries round about them, and would allow them to suffer at their hands for a period of time. Eventually and ultimately there would come a point in the midst of the oppression when—just as their fathers did in the land of Egypt—they could cry out because of those who oppressed them. IN the land of Egypt it would be their fathers who would cry out by reason of the taskmasters who were appointed over them, but here in the land which was theirs as an inheritance they would cry out by reason of their oppressors. It’s actually quite interesting to think about and consider the fact that the children of Israel would not only be present in the midst of the land, but would be in the land be oppressed by enemies and adversaries which were round about them. What makes this even more astounding and remarkable is when you consider the fact that it came directly on the heels when the LORD had given them peace from their enemies and adversaries which were round about them. When the LORD brought His people in the land of Canaan they would and could not know peace, nor would or could they know rest until they conquered and subdued the land. This is truly remarkable when you think about it, for although the LORD promised rest for His people, and although the LORD would give them rest on all sides from their enemies, it would require work and effort on their part. More often than we think about and consider the concept of rest, and we think that it is always something which the LORD simply gives us without any questions asked. More times than we care to admit we pursue peace and rest as something the LORD simply hands out unto us immediately when and as we ask for it. There are those among us who think and believe that the rest which the LORD offers unto us is something that is more of a handout than something that actually needs to be fought for. There are men and women among us in the house of the LORD who think about and consider the peace of God in their lives as something the LORD freely and willingly gives and that’s the end of the story. While it is true the LORD does in fact give us both peace and rest, I would submit unto you that there are times within our lives when in order to experience the peace and rest we so desperately desire, we must rise up and engage those enemies and adversaries which are before and all around us.
THE CONFLICT OF PEACE! THE FIGHT OF REST! I firmly believe there are men and women among us right now who desperately desire the peace of God within their lives, and there are men and women among us who desperately desire the rest which the LORD offers, however, they fail to realize and recognize that there are times when in order to experience such realities, it requires them to take up the sword and engage the enemies and adversaries which are before them. The living God did indeed promise to bring the children of Israel into the land, and the LORD would indeed give them—both an inner rest from those nations and peoples which were previously in the land, as well as outer rest from those nations and peoples which were round about them. The living God did indeed intend on providing the children of Israel with rest from their enemies and adversaries on all sides, however, what we must recognize and understand is that it was not something that was automatically, nor was it something that was immediately given unto them. The LORD would divide the waters of the Jordan River to allow the children of Israel to enter into the land on dry ground, and the LORD would indeed cause the walls of Jericho to come crashing down before them, and He would indeed cause the sun to stand still and the moon to remain in its place until Joshua and the children of Israel defeated their enemies, however, even with all that being said we must recognize and understand that the peace and rest the children of Israel would enjoy and experience in the midst of the land would come with great responsibility on their part. The LORD would indeed give them rest on all sides from all their enemies, and He would indeed deliver their enemies into their hands, however, it would not come without and absent their willingness and ability to march within and throughout the land as they would engage enemies and adversaries which were more and mightier than they were. Oh there are times when we desperately desire the peace of God within our lives, and we even quote verses such as “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusts in you,” and even “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet,” and we even speak about the peace that passes all understand, and yet we fail to recognize that sometimes peace is something that requires us to take up the sword and engage our enemies and adversaries in conflict and battle. There are times within our lives when we must be willing to enter into the fight of rest, and enter into the conflict of peace, for although the LORD would indeed give it to us, He requires us to fight for it. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely astonishing reality, for even during the days of the judges when the LORD would raise up those who would deliver the people of God out of the hands of their enemies and those who would oppress them, it would require the people themselves to join and align themselves with the judges and engage the enemy and adversary in conflict and battle.
During the days of the conquests of Canaan, as well as during the days of the judges which the LORD raised up in the midst of the land of Israel when the people would cry under the weight and burden of those who would oppress them—the peace and rest which they so desperately desired was something they needed to fight for, and something they needed to take up the sword and wage war for. The LORD would indeed give them peace, and the LORD would indeed give them rest, however—even though He would give them rest and peace from those who would oppress them, it would require them to fight for it. I can’t help but think about and consider the fact that more often than not we tend to appreciate what we have all the more when we have to fight for it. I would dare say there was something about the peace and rest the people of God experienced within their lives when they themselves would have to fight for it, and when they themselves would have to take up the sword in order for it to come to pass. Let us not for one minute think about and consider the fact that the LORD was somehow not willing to give them peace, and that the LORD was somehow not willing to give them rest. Let us not think for one minute the LORD could not have simply defeated the enemies and adversaries which oppressed them, and destroyed them as He had done in the land of Egypt. If there is one fundamental difference between the cry that arose in the midst of the land of Egypt versus the cries that emerged within the land, it’s that the cry that was heard in the land of Egypt would lead to the arrival of Moses, and the judgments, signs, and wonders of the LORD the God of the Hebrews in the midst of the land of Egypt. In the land of Egypt, the LORD would respond to their cries by raising up a deliverer, and by decimation the land of Egypt with judgments, signs, wonders, and plagues that would humble Pharaoh, his rulers and princes. In the land of Egypt—when the children of Israel cried out by reason of their task masters, and when the heart of Pharaoh was hardened by the LORD Himself—the LORD would unleash a series of judgments, signs and wonders in order that at the appointed time the people might emerge and go forth from their slavery, their bondage and oppression. As it pertains to the land into which the LORD had brought the people of Israel into, however, the narrative would be entirely different, for the LORD would not unleash plagues, nor would He unleash signs, wonders, and judgments upon their oppressors. Nowhere in the book of Judges will you find and read of the LORD sending plagues upon the Ammonites, nor upon the Midianites, nor upon various other enemies and adversaries which would rise up to oppress them. There would be no frogs, no locusts, no flies, no rivers turning into blood, no hail from heaven, and no darkness that would cover the land. Instead, the LORD would raise up a judge among and in the midst of His people, and the people would have to choose and decide whether or not they would align themselves with that judge to experience peace, respite and rest from those who oppressed them.
JUDGMENTS VERSUS JUDGES! THE DAYS OF JUDGMENTS, THE DAYS OF JUDGES! In the land of Egypt it was judgments which the LORD would unleash upon Pharaoh, against his rulers and princes, against the people of the land, and even upon the land itself, and yet in the land of Canaan, the LORD would not unleash judgments, but would raise up judges. Joshua the son of Nun—that one who had led the children of Israel into the land and in their conquest of the enemies and adversaries within the land—was dead, and they would no longer fight under his command and his leadership. Instead, the LORD would raise up judges who would also be mighty men of valor that would stand up to the oppressors, and would engage them in conflict and battle. Even when you consider the narrative and account of Gideon you will find that even though he was hiding in the wine press for fear of the Midianites, the angel still called and declared him to be a mighty man of valor. There is not a doubt in my mind that the judges whom the LORD raised up during this period of time were ordinary men—and even an ordinary woman—that would be ordained and appointed by the living God to help deliver the people out of their oppression. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand concerning the judges, it’s that although Scripture would speak of them as delivering the people out of the hands of those who would oppress them, they would lead the people of God against those who oppressed them in order that they might free themselves from their grip and from their grasp. Would it shock and surprise you to think about and consider that there might very well be times within your life when in order for you to experience rest from your enemies and adversaries you will night to fight for it? Would it surprise you to think about and consider the fact that if you want to experience peace in your life from those things which oppress you, you would need to fight for it and engage your enemies and adversaries in battle? What’s more, is that I would dare say there are times within your life when you find yourself in a place of bondage, in a place of oppression, in a place of great sorrow and anguish, and in order to come out on other side of it you need to rise up and fight for it. There are times within our lives when in order for us to experience true and lasting freedom it requires us to rise up and fight and engage the enemy and adversary in conflict and battle. There are specific times within our lives when in order for us to find peace and rest from our enemies and adversaries, and when we want and need to be delivered from that which oppresses us, we need to rise up and fight against it. The children of Israel would be oppressed by their enemies and adversaries which were round about them, and yet in order for them to be delivered from their oppression, and in order for them to experience the peace and rest they so desperately desired, they would need to engage them in conflict and battle. Oh we must recognize and consider that those who oppressed them wouldn’t simply go away and be removed because the people of God wanted and desired it to be so, but they would need to be confronted and essentially defeated in battle.
Perhaps one of the most astonishing and telling realities about the narrative of the judges is that while the judges were those whom the LORD specifically raised up to deliver the people out of the hands of those who would oppress them, it would not be entirely up to them to deliver the people out from the hands of their oppressors by themselves. There is one noted exception that comes to mind when considering the narrative of the judges, and that is in the life of Samson whom the LORD would raise up during the time when the Philistines would rise up to oppress the people of God. It would be during and from the time of Samson that the Philistines would oppress the children of Israel, and what we must consider is the fact that the Philistines would oppress the people of God from the time of Samson through and until the time of David king of Israel. The Philistines would continue to oppress and provoke the people of God during the days of Samuel the prophet/judge in the midst of Israel, and they would most certainly provoke and oppress them during the days of Saul and his son Jonathan. The Philistines would continue to provoke and oppress the people of Israel until the days and time of David when he would conquer and subdue them, and give the people of God rest from this ancient foe who had been a thorn in their side from the days and time of Samson. FROM SAMSON TO DAVID: THE THORN OF THE PHILISTINES! Without completely and totally getting ahead of myself it would be noted that Samson was one who was endued with supernatural strength by and from the Holy Spirit, and that strength would not only be used to provoke the Philistines, but also to inflict great damage against and upon them. There would come a point in time, however, when the secret of his strength would be exposed and revealed by Delilah who was secretly in accord and alliance with Philistine lords. Eventually Samson would be captured and subdued and his eyes gouged out by the Philistines as he would be forced to grind in a mill within the land of the Philistines. What is so interesting and unique about the narrative of Samson is that even after he had been subdued, even after he had his eyes gouged out, and even after he was forced to grind in the mill, he would be brought into the temple of the god of the Philistines in order that they might make sport of him. Ultimately he would be placed within two pillars of the temple and cried out to the LORD that He might remember him once more and allow him to avenge the gouging out of his eyes. The LORD would answer and respond to Samson’s cry, and he would push with all his might against the pillars of the temple, thus causing the entire temple to collapse upon all the Philistines that were present in the midst of it, as well as himself. What’s more, is that Scripture reveals that more Philistines were killed at this particular time than during the entire time Samson was in the land of Israel and provoked the Philistines in battle and conflict.
What I so absolutely love about the Old Testament book of Judges is that while it is true the LORD would raise up judges who would not only govern the people of Israel, but who would also be used to deliver them out of the hands of those who would oppress them, the people themselves would need to step up and enter into the fight and conflict to experience deliverance and freedom from those who would oppress them. In the second chapter of the book of Judges we read of Othniel the nephew of Caleb who took the hill country of Hebron—the territory of giants in the land—and how the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went to war against the king of Mesopotamia. It would be Othniel who would be the first judge of Israel, and whom the people of Israel would need to join and align themselves with in battle against the king of Mesopotamia in order that they might delivered out of the oppression of this king. The next judge that would emerge in the land would be Ehud who would not only kill the king of Moab, but who—after escaping out of the land of Moab upon killing the king—would blow a trumpet in the mountain of Ephraim. Upon hearing the trumpet, the children of Israel went down with him from the mount, and he went before them in battle. The children of Israel would go down to the fords of the Jordan river toward Moab, and suffered not a single man to pass over. What’s more, is that they slew of Moab at that time about ten thousand men, all which were men of valor—none of which escaped from their hand. Scripture reveals how after this great victory the land of Israel had rest for eighty years. Shamgar would be the next to emerge in the midst of the land of Israel, which would slaughter and slay of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad. After Ehud was dead, the children of Israel would do what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin the king of Canaan, which reigned in Hazor. This king of Canaan had nine hundred chariots of iron and would oppress them for twenty years. Eventually and ultimately the LORD would raise up Deborah who would not only judge in Israel, but who also would be used to deliver the people of God out of the hand of this king of Canaan. Ultimately Sisera the captain and general of Jabin’s army would be slaughtered by a woman who would pound a tent spike through the temples of his head and fastening him to the ground. This would lead to Deborah and the children of Israel rising up against Jabin the king of Canaan, and they would prosper and prevail against him until they had completely and utterly destroyed him. What’s more, is when you read the song which Deborah sang after this great deliverance you will find that there were those who joined themselves unto her, and those who aligned themselves in the great battle that would need to be fought to finally defeat and overthrow this king of Canaan.
As you come to chapters six through ten you will find the narrative of Gideon who lived during the days when Midian was allowed to oppress the children of Israel for seven years. It would be in the eighth year the LORD would speak unto Gideon and would raise him up to be a judge in the land of Israel, and to deliver the people of Israel out of the hand of the Midianites. So oppressive was the hand of the Midianites that the children of Israel were forced to make for themselves dens int eh mountains, in caves, and in strongholds. Even more than this—when the children of Israel had sown, the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, and came up against them and destroyed the increase of the earth. Scripture would describe how these enemies would encamp against them, and would destroy the increase of the earth till they came to Gaza, and they had no sustenance of Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass. It’s worth noting that the author of the book of Judges would go on to write that these enemies came up with their cattle and their tents, and they were without number, and entered into the land to destroy it. Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites, and they would cry once more unto the LORD. Eventually an angel of the LORD would appear unto Gideon and would not only speak of him as a mighty man of valor, but would ultimately raise him up to deliver the people of Israel out of the oppressive hand of the Midianites. Eventually the Spirit of the LORD would come upon Gideon, and he would below a trumpet, and Abi-Ezer was gathered after him. Messengers would be sent throughout all Manasseh, as well as into Asher, and unto Zebulun, and Naphtali, and all these came up to meet him. Ultimately Gideon would have thirty-thousand men who would fight alongside him against the Midianites, but the LORD would not use thirty-thousand men to bring about a great victory and triumph in the midst of the land of Israel. What was at one point an army of thirty-thousand would dwindle down to a mere three hundred after those who were afraid would return and depart unto their own land. What’s more is that the LORD would dwindle the number of men who would fight alongside Gideon to three hundred, and would do so at waters within the land. Twenty-thousand would initially return and depart because they were afraid, and the LORD would take the remaining ten thousand would dwindle it down to three hundred. It would be these three hundred who would go forth with Gideon to engage in battle and conflict against the Midianites. Ultimately, the LORD would confirm through hearing a dream and its interpretation that He had delivered Midian into his hand, and Gideon and those three hundred men would encamp round about the camp of the Midianites and would blow trumpets and break the pitchers which were in their hands—pitchers which contained torches in the midst. At the sound of the trumpet and at the sight of the fires round about them the Midianites would flee, and the men of Naphtali, the men of Asher, and the men of Manasseh would pursue after the Midianites. Moreover, the men of Ephraim would come down from the mountain and assist in the battle, and into their hands would the LORD deliver the princes of the Midiniates, OReb and Zeeb.
This particular book is a book about peace and rest which was provided unto the people of God being taken away and removed because of and through their disobedience, and how the LORD would sell them into the hands of their enemies and allow them to be oppressed. While that is indeed true, this is also a book about judges whom the LORD would raise up in the midst of the people of Israel, and the people would rally around these judges and would engage the enemies and adversaries which would oppress and afflict them. If there is one thing we must recognize and learn from these chapters, it’s that while the LORD would indeed give the people of God peace and rest from their enemies, and would deliver them out of their grasp and clutches, it would require the people of God to stand up and fight against the enemies and adversaries that would oppress them. The LORD would not send plagues, nor would He execute judgments and manifest signs and wonders in the midst of the land, but would raise up judges and call the people of Israel to fight for the rest and peace which they so desperately desired and longed for. As we read this Old Testament book of Judges, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we consider and understand that although the LORD would indeed give them peace and rest from their enemies and from their adversaries, they would indeed need to fight against those enemies and adversaries and would need to engage them in conflict and battle. Oh, I can’t help but get the strong sense that there are times within our lives when we desire peace and when we desire rest, and yet instead of the LORD simply giving us the pace and rest we desire and which we long for, He requires us to raise ourselves up and fight for it. Perhaps the question is whether or not we are willing to rise up and fight for the rest we so desperately desire, and contend for the peace which we so desperately need within our lives. Are we truly willing to rise up and fight against those things which have oppressed us, and are we willing to fight in order that we might experience the rest and the peace which perhaps has been absent and missing from our lives because we have been oppressed and afflicted? Oh that we would read the book of Judges and would consider this within our hearts and souls, and would ask ourselves what it is the LORD is asking us to do in order that we might step into and experience the peace and rest which might very well be missing from our lives, and to experience deliverance from those things which have oppressed and those things which are oppressing us.