Flawed Saviors (Judges 3)

MOTIVATE

Kids in school have returned to taking tests… many of their tests are state required which are simply identifying what students know and do not know – and the impact of last year’s online instruction. When teachers give students a test, it is to develop their knowledge not destroy their ability to learn.

The same can be said spiritually. In the Book of Judges we see a series of tests and cycles of trials for Israel. God’s tests/trials were meant to help not harm Israel.

EXAMINE

Last week we saw the theme verse in this book: “the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” (Judges 2:11; 3:7, 12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1; also 17:6, 18:1; 19:1; 21:25 “no king”). There was a repeated cycle for the nation of Israel, and likewise us as believers today: rebellion, rebuke, repentance, renewal. To note, faith in God is not merely a religious yo-yo of up and down. Faith is relational. Faith not only goes up and down but side to side with twists, turns, and detours. And, just as we navigate the spiritual journey not just of faith, hope, and love with God but also disbelief, suffering, and frustration with God.

Judges 2:11-22 11 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. 13 They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. 14 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. 15 Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress. 16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. 17 Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord, and they did not do so. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. 19 But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. 20 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he said, “Because this people have transgressed my covenant that I commanded their fathers and have not obeyed my voice, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died, 22 in order to test Israel by them, whether they will take care to walk in the way of the Lord as their fathers did, or not.”

Judges 3:1-5 Now these are the nations that the Lord left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan. It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before. These are the nations: the five lords of the Philistines and all the Canaanites and the Sidonians and the Hivites who lived on Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal-hermon as far as Lebo-hamath. They were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the Lord, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses. So the people of Israel lived among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And their daughters they took to themselves for wives, and their own daughters they gave to their sons, and they served their gods.

God permits trials to teach us obedience.

The Canaanites were not in control. God is sovereign to elevate and extinguish. He establishes nations and brings them to nothing (Dan 2:21). The reason God permitted the Canaanites to remain in the land was to test Israel’s faith and obedience. If they trusted Him in the little with each battle, they would expand to be stewards of God’s promised land. Yet, if Israel wavered in faith and following God’s commands, they would be humbled. Indeed, God used enemy nations to humble His people.

  • Israel did not remove the Canaanite inhabitants, so they became a thorn in their side (Judges 2:3).
  • Rather than God’s people influencing the Canaanites for good they compromised their own faith. Like a clean child playing in mud puddles, we do not have to guess which will rub off on the other.
    • GOSPEL Value: Spiritual Growth (We are thermostats not thermometers.)
    • Often we compromise our faith believing things will work out for good or we are in control to stop when we need. Yet, the reality is if we are not intentionally influencing others with faith convictions then they are toward us with theirs – which is not always the right faith values.

Note: This does not mean that every trial or suffering is a result from our disobedience. As mentioned last week’s message, sometimes innocent people suffer due to the consequential actions of others.

The principle to note: God permits trials and punishes disobedience. He is angry with sin. God’s anger does not equate to flaws in His character. The opposite of love is not anger but apathy. But God is never indifferent towards people or the world. God’s love compels Him toward righteous jealousy for our attention and affection.

  • Like a husband for wife OR parent for a child’s priorities

Healthy view of trials

  • God does not tempt us to future disobedience but simply reveals the already present desires of our heart.
  • Trials test what you know and don’t know. They’re meant for growth not harm.
  • Tests give us a testimony to say, “Look what God has done and is doing.”

***All of this is introduction to the 12 Judges. Each passing Judge resulted in more significant corruption. This book is a reminder that our world is surrounded by flawed saviors: socially, politically, military, even locally and spiritually. We need a Judge who is not only perfect (without sin) but permanent (never dies). We need a savior who can deal with our heart (sin) and overcome humanity’s greatest issue of death. Who is such a Judge?!?

  • Jesus says, “I am the Living One. I was dead, but I am alive forever and ever and I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Rev 1:18)

Let’s start with Othniel (Judges 3:7-11).

  • Name means “God is powerful”
  • Caleb’s nephew. Caleb was full of Holy Spirit and seems to have influenced Othniel.
    • Don’t underestimate opportunities to influence nephews/nieces/g-children/etc.
  • A judge who went out to battle with the Spirit of the Lord’s power to provide victory.
  • Othniel died after 40 years of peaceful reign.

Each judge saves Israel from the consequences of sin but not the causes of it. Israel would have to wait for God’s rescuing salvation. Just as God raised up Othniel, He raised Jesus. Our only Savior is the LORD. Yet, God does raise up individuals by His grace and power to lead us in battles. Should we pray for any less today?

  • Pray for God to raise up Othniel’s in our midst.

Ehud (Judges 3:12-30)

  • V12) Eglon (calf) king of Moab (who’s your daddy)) is king and power over Israel.
  • V13) Eglon took possession of the City of Palms (Jericho)
    • What once belonged to God was attacked and defeated. Stay alert!
  • V14) God raised up Ehud
    • Ehud name means “Where is the splendor, majesty?”[1]
    • Son of Gera, who is son of Benjamin, which means son of right hand. Interestingly, many Benjamites were trained to be ambidextrious (Judges 20:16; 1 Chron 12:2).
    • Left-handed or literally restricted right hand, which could mean he had a deformity, or simply that it was not his dominant hand.[2]
    • Sent as God’s messenger to take sacrificial tribute to the king. Yet, there will be another sacrifice to liberate God’s people!
  • V16) Ehud made a double-edged sword to kill the enemy king.
  • V17) Eglon was a very fat man.

Ehud presents the tribute to Eglon with deception: “I have a secret message for you.” Eglon was probably expecting to hear there was Reeses pb cups in the bottom of the tribute basket. He sends everyone out – because who wants to share Reeses?!? After everyone is gone, Ehud reaches for his hidden sword and plunged it into Eglon’s fat belly. The king is so obese that the fat skin closes over the sword blade; even more his guts/bile exits his body.

  • Here we have a lefty killing a hefty. (sorry)
  • At this point, you’re glad there’s not a scratch & sniff version of the Bible.
  • Seriously… the gory details are provided not to make us turn away but to keep looking because of its truthfulness. This isn’t the only gory story in the Bible. (Cain kills Abel; Noah’s sons unclothe him; deception, theft, rape, murder; etc.).

Ehud escapes but the king’s servants figured Eglon was relaxing on his throne – not that one but the toilet 🙂 Ehud returns to the Israelite army to rally the troops to overthrow the enemy now that their king is de-throned. The Lord provides them victory and there is peace in the land for 80 years.

Shamgar (Judges 3:31)

  • After all the earlier details, this Judge gets one verse.
  • Shamgar was son of Anath, who was a Canaanite goddess. Therefore, it’s likely he was son of idolatrous parents. Yet, God still used him.
  • Shamgar delivered Israel by striking down Philistines with an oxgoad. He was likely a farmer and used the tool in his hand.  

APPLY/THINK

  • Sin makes us slow and stubborn.
    • After 40 years of peace under Othniel, they experience 18 years of slavery to Eglon.
    • After 8 years of peace under Ehud they are enslaved to the Philistines.
    • Israel would be oppressed for 20 years until another judge named Deborah.
    • Too often we are content to be complacent. We must choose between the gods who enslave and the God who saves.  
    • Are there any sins you are coddling instead of crucifying?
  • National leaders often reflect the citizens’ character.
    • God punishes Israel with evil and violent plunderers.  
    • God raises up judges, but they are flawed and eventually fall away.
    • The key to each judge being raised up is Israel’s crying out to the Lord.
    • Psalm 85:6 “Will you not revive us again so that Your people may rejoice in you?”
    • Daniel 9 – Lord forgive our faults, heal our rebellion, grant peace and favor.
  • God’s salvation starts with weakness.
    • Like Moses and Joshua, we think Israel’s judges will be strong deliverers. Yet, they are surprising saviors because of their flaws. Othniel was nothing without Caleb’s blessing. Ehud was left-handed killing a slow and stinky fat man. The rest of the judges will have their flaws, likewise will the kings Saul, David, Solomon, and onward. The trajectory of weakness points forward to the most unexpected and surprising Savior of all – Jesus Christ.
      • Isa 53:2-3 “He grew up like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He did not have impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, nor appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away. He was despised and we did not value Him.”
      • John 1:12 “He came to His own but they did not receive Him.” Israel did not recognize the Savior of the world and God’s mighty judge.
      • Judges points forward to see that God would send salvation in a surprising and unexpected way with weakness.
        • Jesus is the greater king Eglon. Jesus was the fattened sacrifice that the world pierced and closed the door for the stench of death to overtake Him. Yet, God pulled out the dagger of death and dethroned the powers of death with the resurrection of Jesus.  
        • The gospel of Jesus is the stumbling block for salvation in that we do not approach God with strength and merits but weakness to rely on His mercy.
        • All our righteousness is like fat and dung. Until we see ourselves as weak and vulnerable to confess our need for His grace, we will never be saved.  
  • Availability is more important than ability.
    • Story of boy who said “I’m the greatest hitter in the world” and throws up baseball and swings with bat but misses. Does this 3 times and each time whiffs. After the 3rd time he changes to say “I’m the greatest pitcher in the world!” We have to use what we have and yield to serving the Lord.
    • Othniel was filled with the Spirit of God.
    • Ehud did not have a strong right hand but entrusted his left-hand to the Lord.
    • Shamgar did not use a sword or an army but an oxgoad.
    • Remember the little boy with 5 loaves and two fish?
    • Whatever we place in God’s hand gets magnified and multiplied with His power. God advances His kingdom not through human strength but willing vessels.  

[1] Block, D. I. (1999). Judges, Ruth (Vol. 6, p. 160). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[2] Ibid.

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