Friday, February 25, 2011

Book of Judge Series - Othniel

Happy Friday everyone.  Today we will get into our study of the judges, and not wasting any time, let us jump right into today's text.
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), namely, five lords of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites who dwelt in Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal Hermon to the entrance of Hamath. 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 3:1-4 NKJV
Here we pick up where we left off last week.  In light of the sins of Israel, God allowed some nations to remain.  At first, the reason was to give the Israelites who knew no war some experience at war.  It was a way to keep them vigilant.  However, instead of removing those nations over time, God kept them there to keep the sin of Israel in check.  Remember, what we read about what happened to the nation Israel is meant to be an example to us.  These things happened not just for their own sake, but to teach us the lessons in how God deals with His people.  Perhaps there are certain perpetual "thorns" in your own life.  Sometimes we wonder why God does not just remove every obstacle and temptation from our lives.  We learn the answer here.  All that we deal with in life is to teach us to keep our faith in God and to keep us close to Him.  If it were possible for anyone to understand that he needs God even if life was absolutely perfect, perhaps then life would be absolutely perfect.  Unfortunately, our own stubbornness and times of rebellion make it so that God must keep us humble and in the knowledge that we do, in fact, need Him.  This is also true for America.  Remember after the first Gulf War started how full the churches were?   Remember how they were even more full after 9/11.  God allows calamity personally and nationally so that we know just how much we need Him.  Even when times are easy, we need God because it is God who gives us those times of great blessing as well.  When we forget the source of the blessing and begin to worship the blessing or ourselves thinking we provided it, then God must act to keep us humble.  And if in those good times, we forget God and begin to fall into sin, God must chastise us.
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 gave their daughters to their sons; and they served their gods. 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.  Judges 3:5-7 NKJV
And so the cycle of sin begins for Israel.  They lived among those other nations and instead of being a beacon of the true and living God, they decided to be just like everyone else.  They rebelled in that they intermarried with the heathen nations around them and even went so far as to serve their gods.  They gave up the true and living God for the false and served the Baals and Asherahs.  Not only did they serve these gods, but in doing so they sinned even more as the service to those other gods was steeped in sexual and other kinds of sin. 
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.  Judges 3:8 NKJV
The cycle continues.  Israel falls into sin and God sends an enemy to overtake them.  In this case, God allows them to come under control of the king of Mesopotamia.  The children of Israel were slaves to this king for some eight years.  Their sin brought this upon themselves and now they are suffering under the chastisement of God. 
When the children of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the children of Israel, who delivered them: Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother.  Judges 3:9 NKJV
After eight years, Israel finally got the hint and cried out to the God they had forsaken.  This is what God was looking for from the start.  Well, He was looking for them to never have turned from Him in the first place, but once they had, this calamity was sent to draw their attention back to the God who delivered them in the past.  God, hearing their cries, raises up the first judge over Israel.  This being Othniel.  Othniel was the son-in-law of Caleb.  Othniel was no stranger to heroics.  It was he who in Judges 1 attacked Kirjath Sepher and took it for Caleb, winning his daughter Achsah in marriage.  Othniel had the witness of Caleb when he married into his family and probably remembered how the Lord delivered his enemies into his hand in the past.  Othniel, while not really being sure what he has been up to, was at this point a man of faith and was so raised up by God for this purpose.
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.  Judges 3:10 NKJV
And so the Lord raised him up and delivered the king of Mesopotamia into his hand.  He was raised up by God and led Israel to victory over her oppressors.  Once again, God had delivered Israel out of oppression. 
So the land had rest for forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died.  Judges 3:11 NKJV
The deliverance of God led to a revival in Israel and so long as Othniel judged Israel, they followed the Lord and had rest from their enemies.  We will see next week that once Othniel died, Israel again turned to sin.  It is the cycle I spoke of last week.  Israel sins, God chastises, the people cry out, God deliverers, the people have a revival, and after a time they once again rebel.  Forty years is about enough time for the generation who witnessed the deliverance of Israel to have died off and the next generation was in charge.  Again, note how this revival only lasted for the generation that had it.  It was not passed to their children.  Once again, we see the importance of bringing up our children in the knowledge of the Lord.

We do not have much detail on Othniel or how God delivered the enemy into his hand.  What we can see this week from this first judge, is a good blueprint for the structure of Judges.  It follows along Israel's revivals and ultimate returns to sin.  We see a clear picture of sin leading to chastisement and how that chastisement was meant to draw the people back to God.  We also see that chastisement does not last forever.  It lasts as long as it needs to in order to complete its purpose, but it does not last forever. 

Let that be the lesson for today.  We all are chastised by God from time to time and sometimes those chastisements seem to last forever.  What we learn here is that the length of our chastisement is largely dependent on us and how stubborn we are to learn the lesson God is trying to show us and to turn our attention back to Him.  God is no sadist and His chastisement is not something He delights in.  No parent delights in chastising their child.  It is something they must do to bring up their children correctly.  A child that is never chastised for wrongdoing becomes wild, disrespectful, and disobedient.  Just like a good parent, God must chastise us as we grow in the Lord.  It may not be something we enjoy, but it is something we need to be thankful for. 
And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives." If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  Hebrews 12:5-11 NKJV

1 comment:

  1. It always amazes me that we, the church, can read this book with it's "cycles" of falling away and repentance, chastising and saving and think to ourselves....Really Israel? and yet not see ourselves and our waxing and waning.