Judges ~ Chapter Three
Read: Judges 3:1-31
"Now these are the nations which the LORD left,
that He might test Israel by them,
that is, all who had not known any of the wars in Canaan
(this was only so that the generations of the children of Israel
might be taught to know war,
at least those who had not formerly known it)..."
(Judges 3:1, 2)
God formed the nation of Israel to be the people through whom He would reach and bless all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3). "Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:5, 6a). Israel was set apart from all the other idolatrous nations to worship and bear witness to the One, true and living God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, alone. "...to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen" (Romans 9:4, 5). This nation of priests would lead others to correct worship of the true God, but they were surrounded by nations that worshiped multiple gods. In order for their witness to remain pure, the Lord tested His people; He used the pagan nations that they were meant to conquer as the means by which He would purify their worship and win their hearts. "And they were left, that He might test Israel by them, to know whether they would obey the commandments of the LORD, which He had commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses" (Judges 3:4). God also used the enemy nations that were settled in His land to train His people for warfare. Israel was the Lord's army on earth, and they needed to remain alert and disciplined to fight against the powers of the world that were polluting His holy land. Tragically, they ignored the warnings of Moses and Joshua, and instead, they surrendered their weapons of warfare and stepped over the line of separation the Lord had placed between them and their pagan neighbors. Where the enemy fails to gain ground on the battlefield, he is able to conquer precious territory from within. The hearts of God's holy people were gradually stolen by their heathen neighbors as they married into their idolatry and turned from worshiping Jehovah and began worshiping false gods. "Thus the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And they took their daughters to be their wives, and give their daughters to their sons; and they served their gods" (vv. 5, 6). And so began a cycle of apostasy: "So the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD. they forgot the LORD their God, and served the Baals and Asherahs" (v. 7); which would lead to oppression: "Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and He sold them into the hand of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia; and the children of Israel served Cushan-Rishathaim eight years" (v. 8); and eventually cries of distress from the people that the Lord would respond to by providing them a deliverer: "When the children of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the children of Israel, who delivered them" (v. 9a). The first deliverer, or judge was, "Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother" (v. 9b). The Spirit of the Lord came upon Othniel and empowered him for battle, and he prevailed against Cushan-Rishathaim. The secret of Othniel's strength was the Holy spirit who enabled him to rescue the nation from bondage and serve his people as judge for 40 years. " 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6). His godly leadership brought peace to the land. "The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the LORD delivered Cushan-Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed over Cushan-Rishathaim. So the land had rest for forty years" (v. 10, 11a). The era of the judges was marked by long years of apostasy, ignorance, and lawlessness. The times were difficult. The Israelites were constantly being invaded and harassed. But when circumstances looked the most hopeless, the people cried out to the Lord in distress, and He delivered them. Sadly, the godly influence of God's chosen deliver didn't make a lasting difference on the spiritual life of the nation. It wasn't long before the people were back worshiping Baal and forsaking the Lord, and the sad cycle would begin again. The secret of the judges' strength is to be the source of our power today. Like Israel, we are surrounded by enemies on every side seeking to rob us of spiritual life and power, and we are everyday faced with battles that we need God's help to fight. The church is God's army on earth to fight the spiritual powers of darkness that seek to settle in the land and steal the hearts of men. We too, need to be alert and disciplined; through prayer and fasting and feasting daily upon His Word we will be strengthened and prepared to battle against temptation and walk in victory. "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death" (Revelation 12:11). May we rise early and enter our prayer closets to put on our spiritual armor each day, so that we may be clothed in the garment of Christ and bathed in His light before we ever step onto the battlefield. May we "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith..." (1 Peter 5:8, 9a).
"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal
but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments
and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God,
bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."
(2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
Judges 3:15, 20
"But when the children of Israel cried out to the LORD,
the LORD raised up a deliverer for them:
Ehud the son of Gera, the Benjamite, a left-handed man.
By him the children of Israel sent tribute to Eglon king of Moab...
So Ehud came to him (now he was sitting upstairs in his cool private chamber).
Then Ehud said, "I have a message from God for you."
So he arose from his seat."
(Judges 3:15, 20)
It wasn't long before, "The children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD" (v. 12a), and the apostasy-oppression-deliverance cycle was repeated. This time the Lord raised up Ehud, to deliver them out of the hands of Eglon king of Moab, who oppressed them for eighteen years. God's chosen nation was determined to disobey Him, so He turned up the heat by increasing the power of their enemies in order that they might be brought to repentance. "When He slew them, then they sought Him; and they returned and sought earnestly for God" (Psalm 78:34). Ehud was an unlikely hero, much like most of God's chosen champions. The Lord prefers to use the most unlikely warriors armed with the most unusual weapons to perform His unique acts of deliverance. Ehud fit this description perfectly. "But when the children of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for them: Ehud the son of Gera, the Benjamite, a left-handed man. By him the children of Israel sent tribute to Eglon king of Moab" (v. 15). Ehud provides for us a masterclass in military strategy, as he, first crafted his own weapon, then set about to seek a private audience with the king, so that he could slay "the fatted calf" (Eglon's name means "little bull calf") without anyone watching. The account of his death is graphic, but the result is, a nation that was once in bondage, finally set free. "So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest for eighty years" (Judges 3:30). Ehud visited Eglon in his private chamber to tell him, "I have a message from God for you" (v. 20b). The king stood to receive a message that would pierce him straight through the heart and put him to death. When we wield the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, we have a mighty weapon in our hands that is meant to go straight through the conscience into the heart of our listeners, but we must first be willing to let its' message pierce our own hearts and do its purifying work (Hebrews 4:12). The Lord expects His message to be received personally, so that it may do its healing work in the hearts of men. "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds" (Psalm 147:3). The Lord is making His appeal to us through His Word. Like Ehud's dagger, may His message find its way into the deep places of our heart and do its soul-sanctifying work. Let us pray that the enemies which remain at war within our flesh are finally put to death, so that we can live in victory and bring glory and honor to God. "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore me to the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You" (Psalm 51:10-13). In 2021, may the Lord find in His people bold warriors who are prepared to proclaim the gospel message in the hearing of all people, so that they will hear the "message from God" personally and repent, and the land be purged of sin and the people experience their souls' desired peace and rest. "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?...So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:14-17).
"But what does it say? "The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart"
(that is, the word of faith which we preach):
that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus
and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead,
you will be saved.
For with the heart one believes unto righteousness,
and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame."
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek,
for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.
For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."