Summary: By the Israelite's failure to possess the land, we can learn valuable lessons in overcoming our enemies. This is the intro to the series.
Leaders, Legends & Losers
Series: Leaders, Legends & Losers
May 18, 2014
So today, I’m starting a summer series of messages on the book of Judges. I’ve always liked the book of Judges because of the classic bible characters and stories that you find in it. People like Gideon, Deborah, and especially Samson. I remember as a young boy sitting in Sunday School class, listening to the story of Samson… wishing I had his strength! I could just imagine myself breaking cords of rope and chopping down Philistines with their jawbone of an donkey! Or how about Gideon…and his 300 men, charging down the hill with a torch in one hand and a sword in the other…greatly outnumbered against thousands of Midianites crying out…”For the Lord and for Gideon! Ahhhh!” Pretty exciting stuff for a 9 year old boy!
However, it wasn’t until I got to be an adult that I actually decided to do an in depth study on the WHOLE book of Judges (not just individual stories) and WOW! …what a different picture I got! For most of us, when we think of a “judge”, we think of the justice system. A person with a long robe, coming into a courtroom and slamming their wooden hammer down. “Order in the court!” Kind of like a “Judge Judy” or a “Judge Joe Brown”. (I can’t watch those shows without thinking to myself…"Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when 1st we practice to deceive." Man, we can sure get ourselves into messes, can’t we?)
But the Heb. word ,“soap-tim” that most of our bibles translate as ‘judge’, is actually more accurately translated, “deliverer” or “savior”. The “judges” were men and women that God raised up and anointed for the specific purpose of delivering and saving His people from their enemies, so they could live out their lives for Him. But as we’re going to see…not all of the ‘judges’ fulfilled that assignment. Some of them succeeded pretty well, others were somewhat successful, and still others were outright disasters! That’s why we’re naming this series, “Leaders, Legends and Losers”.
In fact, as we go through the book, we’re going to see that as time goes on, there are more “losers” than leaders! With each chapter, the ‘judges’ become increasingly flawed and failing. So you say, “What in the world are they doing in the bible then?” Well, you have to understand that the bible shows people as they ARE, not as we “want” them to be. It shows them warts and all. So the book of “Judges” isn’t a book about these sanitized, perfect people who always did everything God wanted them to do. No. It’s a book about messed up, weak, flawed and undeserving people (like you and me)…that God (in His mercy) works with and is somehow able to rescue us from our worst enemies…ourselves! So each “judge” we’re going to encounter in this book, symbolizes a weakness that God needs to save us from.
Of course, the ultimate ‘judge’, the ultimate Savior and Redeemer, is God Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. He’s the one who ultimately delivers us and equips us for victory in this broken world we live in. Hopefully, by the end of this book, we’ll be convinced… not only of how BAD we’ve screwed things up…but of how desperately we need God’s help in our lives!
Now, the book of Judges begins by looking backwards and ends by looking forward. Judges 1:1 states, “After the death of Joshua”. You’ll remember from our study in Numbers (about year ago)…Joshua was Moses’ “God chosen” successor to lead Israel. He was one of only 2 men (out of the millions who left Egypt) who stayed faithful, and actually made it to the promised land (Not even Moses did that!) In the book of Joshua we see God keeping His promises (like always), and bringing the nation of Israel into the promised land. It’s a whole book dedicated to teaching that since God always keeps His promises, we can bravely obey and worship Him. (wow, that’s a great lesson to get under our belt! Maybe I need to go back and preach through Joshua 1st)
Judges on the otherhand, tells of the history of how God’s people FAILED to receive their inheritance. How they FAILED to turn the promised land into God’s land. How instead of changing their culture, they let the culture change them. Like the Borg in “Star Trek Voyager” they were “assimilated” into the world, instead of changing the world. Something we’re in jeopardy of today! Like someone said, “The book of Joshua is how Canaan became Israelite, while the book of “Judges” is how Israel became Canaanite.”
“Judges” spans the time between Joshua and the 1st king, (Saul) around 1200 BC.
Now, the land God gave his people wasn’t a “home where the buffalo roam, where the deer and the antelope play.” No, it was a pretty tough place. There were other peoples, tribal groups, whole cities & civilizations already there when they arrived. So as they moved in, it became a mixture of believing and pagan people. Because of that, God’s people faced the choice of either looking to God as their Lord, or following the spirit of their age. We have a lot in common with them because we have to make those same choices everyday, don’t we?