For a couple of months or more I urged you to bring your Bibles with you on Sunday evening. You will find having a Bible this evening will be quite helpful as I call a number of situations to your attention in the Old Testament book of Judges.

To me, what I will call to your attention this evening fits in three categories. (1) First, I find it amazing. (2) Second, I find it sobering. (3) Third, I find it very relevant to typical thinking in our religious society and the church in America today.

  1. I want to begin by calling your attention to several things by reading from Judges.
    1. First, I focus you on the early judges in Israel.
      1. The first judge is Othniel. Read with me Judges 3:9.
        When the sons of Israel cried to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel to deliver them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother.
        1. From this verse we learn several things.
          1. We learn the reasons for God making him a judge: (a) the sons of Israel cried to God for deliverance; (b) God gave them a deliverer.
          2. We learn that His deliverer is a close relative of Caleb.
        2. What does the fact that Othniel is a close relative of Caleb tell us?
          1. There were several things obvious to an Israelite reader and listener that must be called to our non-Israelites' attention.
          2. Caleb was one of only two Israelite adults to leave Egyptian slavery and enter Canaan.
          3. Caleb was one of only two spies [there were 12 spies] who spied out Canaan [about a year after Israel left Egypt] who believed they could successfully invade Canaan. (See Numbers 13,14; Joshua 14:6-15)
        3. These are the facts about the judge Othniel's background:
          1. He was closely related to one of the most faith-filled, godly Israelites who left Egypt.
          2. He was a member of the tribe of Judah.
      2. Some years passed, Israel did evil again [likely turned back to idolatry again], and the Moabites dominated them.
        1. God raised up the judge Ehud to deliver Israel from Moabite control.
        2. These are the facts about judge Ehud's background:
          1. He delivered Israel through personal heroism by personally, courageously finding a private means of killing the king of Moab.
          2. He was a member of the tribe of Benjamin.
        3. In one verse (Judges 3:31) we are told Shamgar was a judge, and we are told that he saved Israel, but nothing else.
        4. Then we are told about the only woman judge in Israel, Deborah. Read with me Judges 4:5.
          She used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came up to her for judgment.
          1. I want you to note one fact about Deborah.
          2. She is an Ephamite from the hill country of Ephraim.
    2. Second, I call to your attention the last judge in the book of judges: the judge Samson.
      1. Note two things about Samson.
      2. First, Samson is from the tribe of Dan.
        Judges 13:2 There was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had borne no children. [Manoah and his wife were Samson's parents.]
      3. Second, Samson delivered Israel by heroic personal acts (as did Ehud), not by being commander of a military force.
    3. These are the facts I want you to keep in mind:
      1. Othniel came from an outstanding godly family in Judah.
      2. Ehud came from the tribe of Benjamin.
      3. Deborah came from the hill country of Ephraim.
      4. Samson was a member of the tribe of Dan.
      5. In Judges, some of the prominent deliverers God raised up came from Judah, Benjamin, the hill country of Ephraim, and the tribe of Dan.

  2. The material in the book of Judges easily can be divided into three sections.
    1. Chapters 1 and 2 introduce the situation in this period of Israelite history.
    2. Chapters 3 through 16 tell us about leaders God raised up to deliver Israel in this period.
    3. Chapters 17 through 21 tell us how horrible spiritual conditions were during at least part of this period.
    4. Again, I want you to keep in mind that God raised important deliverers for Israel from the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Dan [tribes in the southern part of Israel clustered together].

  3. The third section tells us just how horrible things were spiritually in this period of Israelite history.
    1. First, I want to call your attention to the two incidents Judges used to illustrate the deplorable spiritual conditions in Israel in this period.
      1. The first incident focused on Micah and his idolatrous shrine (Judges 17, 18).
        1. He stole some silver from his mother, and then confessed he stole it.
        2. She was so thrilled with his confession that she took part of the silver to a silversmith.
          1. He made two idolatrous images for her.
          2. She placed them in her house.
        3. Micah made a house for the gods and placed several sacred objects in that shrine.
        4. Then he consecrated one of his sons to be the shrine's priest.
        5. Sometime later a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah came to Micah's home in the hill country of Ephraim, and Micah hired the Levite to be priest over his shrine.
        6. Micah then said, "God will give me prosperity because I have a Levite as priest."
        7. Chapter 18 told how some troops from Dan stole Micah's idols by convincing the Levite to become the tribes' priest.
      2. The second incident focused on a man from the hill country of Ephraim who had a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah (Judges 19-21).
        1. The concubine went back to her family in Bethlehem, Judah, and the husband went to Bethlehem to woo her back.
        2. He was successful, so he and his concubine started back to Ephraim.
          1. He had to spend the night along the way.
          2. He decided to spend the night in an Israelite city in the territory of Benjamin instead of the Jebusite city that would later be called Jerusalem.
          3. He was invited to be the overnight guest of a man from Ephraim living in Gibeah.
          4. That night, Benjaminites of that city demanded the guest be given to them for homosexual purposes.
          5. The host protected his guest by giving these base men of the city his virgin daughter and the concubine.
          6. The men raped the concubine all night, and the next morning the Ephraimite man found his concubine dead.
          7. He was incensed that he was not safe among fellow Israelites, so he cut his dead concubine into pieces and sent parts of her to the other tribes.
          8. The tribes were incensed at the actions of the Benjaminite men and demanded that the guilty men be given to them for punishment, but the tribe defended the men.
          9. The end result was a war in which all but 600 male Benjaminites were killed.
          10. The men of the other tribes took a vow not to allow their daughters to marry any man from the tribe of Benjamin.
          11. So they devised a plan: after making peace with the 600 men, they gave those men permission to each steal one of the virgin girls who went to Shiloh to worship God.
          12. The men of Benjamin did, and the tribe survived.
    2. This was a horrible time:
      1. The horrors:
        1. A son stealing from his mother.
        2. The conviction that a person could obtain God's favor by worshipping idols.
        3. A Levite allowing economics to determine what he did.
        4. Threatened homosexual abuse.
        5. Rape
        6. Murder
        7. "Playing games" with vows to God.
      2. Now I ask you to take a careful look at some facts.
        1. In these two horrible incidents, from where did the principal people come?
        2. The hill country of Ephraim, Judah, Dan, and Benjamin.
      3. The fact that I call to your attention is this: the tribes from whom God called godly rescuers are the same tribes that Judges used as examples of how misguided and evil Israel was in this period.
      4. Deliverance and great evil came from the same tribes! The source of their deliverance also served as the proof of their decline!

  4. To me there are three striking lessons.
    1. The first striking lesson is seen in God's incredible patience.
    2. The second striking lesson is seen in the incredible wickedness of God's people.
    3. The third striking lesson is seen in God's people misunderstanding of God.
      1. Micah totally missed the point in seeking God's favor and presence.
      2. In providing the men of Benjamin with wives, the other tribes were conducting a yearly feast to God at the right place at the right time, but they had a horrible understanding of what God is all about.
        1. Which is worse: to think of God in idolatrous terms, or to go through the right motions with a wrong understanding of God?
        2. Judges said both were wicked, so wicked that such conditions could only be understood if we understand that at this time Israel had rejected God as their king.

The book of Judges encourages me when I note God's patience. Judges frightens me when I note that God's people are capable of incredible wickedness. Even when people do commanded things at right places, if God does not rule them, they produce great wickedness.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 20 October 2002
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