Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Book of Judges

The Life Project: Judges
Pastor Matt Roberts

The book of Judges spans about 350 years. It encompasses the time between Joshua’s death and the reign of Samuel. It was a tumultuous time with great rebellion in Israel. Judges 17:6 says “In those days Israel had no king, so the people did what seemed right in their own eyes.” This verse just about sums up the rule of the day. Israel had no king. The people did what they wanted, which generally included much evil. The people did evil and then the Lord punished them. He allowed other nations to overtake them. The Israelites, encouraged by their oppression, would cry out to the Lord to save them. And God in his mercy would send a judge, a leader, directed by God to champion the cause of the Israelites. This happened 12 times over. 12 times the people rebelled and 12 times God sent a leader to save them. I believe the Israelites were a little thick-headed. They sound a lot like us.

The 12 judges during the time period were leaders that God chose. But I might add that not all of these leaders were equal in effectiveness or righteousness. The book of Judges had its share of great leaders, who put the cause of Israel and the Lord above themselves. Consider Gideon who, though he felt unworthy, led an army of 300 to defeat tens of thousands of Midianites. Each step of the way Gideon listened to the voice of God. He was diligent; making sure he was listening only to the Lord. On the other hand Judges also had its share of immoral, selfish leaders, who were only able to save Israel because God had purposed it. Samson is a prime example. He was consumed by his own pride and sensuality. He used his great, God-given strength to avenge his own name. Samson ultimately met his demise when he allowed his lust for a Philistine woman to betray the calling of God on his life.

While reading Judges this week, I encourage you to contemplate what type of leader you want to be. Some of you may be hesitant to call yourself a leader at all. But the truth is, all of us have people that look to us for leadership. Are you a parent? Do you have siblings? Do you have people under you at work? Do you have friends? Then you have the opportunity to lead. You have the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life, to make a difference in eternity. You have the opportunity to be a hero.

Brooke Foss Westcott, a theologian in the 1800’s, was noted for saying,
“Great occasions do not make heroes or cowards; they simply unveil them to the eyes of men. Silently and imperceptibly, as we wake or sleep, we grow strong or weak; and at last some crisis shows what we have become.” The question is then, how do we grow strong, so that we are ready, when the time arises, to be heroes for the Kingdom?

Ephesians 6:13 -18 (The Message) says this:
Be prepared. You're up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it's all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You'll need them throughout your life. God's Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

From this passage in Ephesians I think we can gain five keys for unlocking our inner hero:

1. Realize the call is bigger than us. “You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own.” Remember Gideon? God tells him to pare down his army. Judges 7:2 “The Lord said to Gideon, ‘you have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength.’” See God does the work. A good leader is just a vessel, a tool for our Lord.

2. Have Faith. Hebrews 11 is often referred to as the Hall of Faith. It lists great men and women were believed God, who trusted Him and therefore received what God had promised. Guess what? In Hebrews 11:32, 3 of the Judges from ancient Israel are listed. Even Samson gets a shout out. Not because of his righteousness, but because of his faith that God would do what He said He would. (Our righteousness is as filthy rags anyway, right?)

3. Righteousness and salvation. They go hand in hand. And we are incapable of either on our own. We must look to Christ for our right-thinking and right-living. Gideon knew the importance of being ruled by God. In Judges 8:23 the people ask him to be their king and Gideon responds, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son. The Lord will rule over you.”

4. God’s Word. 2nd Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of Godmay be competent, equipped for every good work.” Equipped, ready, heroic.

5. Prayer. It is how we get our marching orders. As leaders we have to be attuned to what God is doing. Gideon didn’t make a move until he knew God was speaking, and he did exactly as the Lord commanded him. We’ve been called to be tools that God can use. God is bringing salvation to His people and just as He used the Judges of old, He has chosen to use us. Are we ready?

Suggested Reading In Judges
Monday, 2/20/12 - Judges 1-3
Tuesday, 2/21/12 - Judges 4-7
Wednesday, 2/22/12 - Judges 8-11
Thursday, 2/23/12 - Judges 12-15
Friday, 2/24/12 - Judges 16-18
Saturday, 2/25/12 - Judges 19-21

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