Read Judges 3:1-6
B. The Spiritual Background (continued). In this chapter of Judges the Lord left some enemies in the land to test the new generation. The test was to demonstrate the new generation’s level of obedience to God. The Hebrews intermarried with ungodly people and worshipped the gods of Canaan.
- Developing our abilities to deal with challenges. Notice in vs. 2 that one of the reasons that God allowed some enemies to remain in the land was so that the new generation could learn how to fight. In like manner, God may allow some challenges to remain in our lives, so we can learn how to handle challenges.
Facing, overcoming, and enduring challenges help us develop our Christian character. Think about how dealing with difficult people, trying to make financial ends meet, and dealing with our health issues all help us learn how to pray and appreciate calm times.
Let’s work on appreciating the good that can come out of our challenges.
- Testing our commitment to obedience. Notice in vs. 4 that a second reason that God allowed some enemies to remain was to help the people demonstrate their level of obedience to God. It is one thing to say what we will do, when all is well in our lives.
But it is another thing for us to actually obey God, when we have enemies causing stress in our lives. There may be times that God allows some challenges to remain in our lives to help us see that we are not who we say that we are. We are what we do.
Let’s work on living in obedience to God, not just being people who talk a good talk.
- Negative relationships and idolatry. Notice in vs. 6 of this chapter of Judges that the people flunked the test. They intermarried and engaged in idolatry. First, we should be careful about the company that we keep.
Just like positive influences can pull us in a positive direction, negative influences can pull us in negative directions. There may be no human relationship more influential than the marriage relationship.
Second, especially believers should avoid the sin of marrying someone who is not spiritually compatible with themselves. Christians should not marry none Christians.
Mature Christians probably should not marry immature Christians. (If you are already married unequally yoked, there is hope. But a discussion of this would take us well beyond the scope of what we are talking about here.)
Third, we should guard against anything that competes for our allegiance or commitment. When we are more committed to our recreational hobbies than we are to being spiritually strong, we make our recreational hobbies idols.
When we are committed to our pursuit of wealth more than our being wise stewards of what God has placed in our trust (i.e., wealth accumulation, tithing, and blessing the less fortunate), we make the accumulation of wealth an idol. Let’s work on avoiding the sins of being swayed by negative relationships and idolatry.
Read Judges 3:7-11
II. History of the Period of the Judges (3:7-16:31). A. Mesopotamian Oppression and Othniel’s Deliverance (3:7-11). In this chapter of Judges the Lord was so angry with His people that He sold them to their oppressors. When the people cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised a judge/deliverer.
Othniel was successful in war, and there was peace for 40 years, until Othniel died.
- God’s anger. Notice in vss. 7-8 that the cost of making the Lord angry, by doing evil (i.e., forgetting God, and serving false gods), was 8 years of oppression. It is a terrible mistake to think that we can do whatever we want to do and God will just put up with it.
God is a God of love, but sometimes the loving thing to do is to punish our disobedience with the hope that we will repent. Let’s avoid making God angry. God is angry when we behave as if we have forgotten to obey Him and when we obey the call of false gods.
For example, God is angry when we behave as if we have forgotten that God wants some service and good works out of our lives, but we give more time to watching television than we give to service, worship, and study put together.
- Crying to the Lord. Notice in vs. 9 of Judges that when the people cried to the Lord, the Lord responded. First, we should understand that the people cried to the Lord with a repentant heart. They were not simply saying “Lord save us from the pain.” They were saying “Lord save us from the pain, and we are committed to changing our ways.”
Second, it took them eight years of oppression to repent. How much pain do we have to endure, before we cry to the Lord with a repentant heart?
A great measure of what is in our hearts is what we do with our lives. Saying “I repent” but failing to study and obey God’s principles in the various areas of your life is inconsistent.
Third, it is so good to know that God doesn’t hold a grudge. If we turn to Him, He is still willing to be gracious to us. Let’s cry unto the Lord with a repentant heart immediately.
- God’s use of humans. Notice in vss. 9-11 that God responded to the cry for help by raising up one of their own to lead them into war. First, we should appreciate the fact that God often uses human beings to carry out His will.
God did not supernaturally kill the enemy with locusts or wild beasts. God did not send a priest nor a prophet. God sent a human judge (think about an area council member or mayor). In like manner, God may send a human being into our lives to help us get out of trouble.
In which case, we would do well to simply accept whomever God sends. Don’t miss your blessings because God moves in a way different than you expected.
Second, God moved the man whom He sent to lead the people into war. In like manner, there are times when the will of God includes confrontation with those who are disobedient to His will. We should pray for the wisdom and courage to fight at God’s command.
Let’s work on being obedient to God’s will, even when it comes from a person whom God has raised up from among us.
- Peace until Othniel died. Notice in vs. 11 that there was peace for 40 years. That is, there was peace until Othniel died. On one hand, it is good to see that they had peace for 40 years.
But on the other hand, it is sad to see that the peace was too contingent about Othniel, instead of upon the people’s relationship with God.
In like manner, we should strive to make sure that we do what we do more because of our reverence for God than our reverence for His servant.
It is so sad to see how churches fall apart and go backwards, after a Pastor dies or leaves. If we didn’t know any better, we would think that God died or left.
Since God is alive a well, we should continue to serve Him. Let’s work on living in accord with God’s will, even after our human leader dies or leaves.
Conclusion: Let’s work on being obedient to God. God has much for those who obey His will.
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