Summary: Sermon #1 in the Judges series focuses on Othniel (chapter 1 & 3) and how God used him to deliver Israel after they repented of idolatry.
Get off the Sin Cycle
Judges 3:7-11 (Othniel)
For the next 7 weeks, we’re going to be focusing on a book of the Bible that doesn’t tend to get a lot of attention. It is a book that is not that easy to preach. It gives unvarnished history of a tumultuous time in Israel’s’ history.
The book of Judges begins right after the death of Joshua. After wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, Israel has finally moved into the Promised Land. They’ve defeated several Kings and the 12 tribes have each been given a portion of the land to call their new home.
This book is full of action and adventure. It’s a book full of unlikely heroes. It’s a book where the villains are really violent, and many of the heroes are far from perfect. And it’s a book that illustrates the amazing grace of God toward his people.
Over and over in this book, you see a repetitive Cycle of Sin. Again and again you see the sad and monotonous cycle of Sin – Slavery – Sorrow – and Salvation. Even the amazing Victories are local and short-lived --- and every time the people return to sin which plunges them into another period of slavery to yet another enemy.
Each time His people cry out to Him for help, God raises up a hero to rescue the people from oppression. You’ve probably heard of some of them, like Sampson, and Gideon, and Deborah. But how many of you have heard about Othniel?
Othniel was the nephew of Caleb. Caleb and Joshua together were the ones who led the Israelites into the Promised Land. And Othniel lived up to his uncle’s example. We first hear about Othniel in Judges chapter one when he defeated a ruler in Negeb and moved into that region. Othniel settled in the land of the Negeb (south of Judah) and he and his family farmed the land in peace for several years. The battles were over and life was good … but then the people took their first turn on the Sin Cycle.
We read this in Judges 3: 7: The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs.
1. Turned to sin (and turned from God)
These were the two main deities of Canaan – Baal was the farm god ---and his “wife” Asheroth was the goddess of fertility. To sum it up, the people looked to Baal for prosperity and to Asheroth for pleasure. The forms of worship are somewhat different these days, but what do people tend to “worship” today? Isn’t it the gods of prosperity and pleasure?
A couple of weeks ago one of the men in our Pueblo told about a time when one of the executives in his company made the statement: “This company is our life.” He said he couldn’t help but speak up. He said, “I’m loyal to the company, but it is NOT my life. God is first in my life … and after Him would be my family. The company comes after that.” He commented that putting your career before everything else seems like a type of idolatry. I think he’s right about that!
I wonder, sometimes when I see the things we are suffering in our failing economy, if this isn’t a time just like when Israel turned away from God into sin and idolatry. Is it possible we are watching our wealth evaporate, our job’s disappear, even our land dry up because we are living the same way Israel lived … turning FROM God and to idols? If that is the case, then the book of Judges has a timely message for us.
2. Enslaved by sin
8 The anger of the LORD burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years.
The name Cushan-Rishathaim means “doubly wicked blackness.” A far cry from the prosperity and pleasure they were going after! That’s the way sin always is. We think we’re taking the easy road when we sin, but it always leads to slavery that feels like “doubly wicked blackness.”
I find that 8 years under the thumb of this evil Mesopotamian thug seems to have an interesting corollary to something that happens in our own country. With a few exceptions, we generally have our presidents and their regimes for eight years … then, finally we get a reprieve because term limits enable us to vote in someone with another agenda.
Invariably, after 8 years of living under one administration, a good portion of our electorate knee-jerks their way into something else. Then we have to put up with the other party’s foolishness for 8 years. What I’m saying is just this: Here in America, we all know what 8 years under one President feels like. It seems like it goes on forever.