Summary: Quick question: Who was Othniel? Give up? Most people would. He's not all that memorable to most believers... but he was to God. God chose him to be the very first judge of Israel. But why him, and why should we care?
OPEN: “Muhammad Ali” was probably one of the greatest heavyweight boxers in the sport's history. Not only was he a skilled boxer, he was very good at self-promotion, and he’d use clever pieces of short poetry to catch the imagination of his audience. For example, before his fight with Sonny Liston he said he was: “gonna float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. (Liston's) hands can't hit what his eyes can't see.”
But he also used that “poetry” to challenge others to do better. He once gave this message to a college audience in NY:
“Stay in College
Get the knowledge
Stay there till you’re through.
If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread,
They can sure make something out of you.”
This morning we’re reading about a man that God “made something out of.”
He doesn't seem like much.
Not too many Christians know who he was or what he did.
But he was important to God (his name is in the book) and God thinks it’s important YOU know who this hero of the Old Testament was and what he did.
His name is Othniel (meaning “Lion of God”) and he saved Israel from their sins.
Now, just a little bit of background.
Years before Othniel was even born his uncle Caleb did something that impressed God. Caleb was just a young man when Israel was held in slavery in the land of Egypt. He was there when Moses came and challenged Pharaoh and said God told Pharaoh to “Let my people go.”
Caleb was there when God brought down the 10 plagues upon Egypt to force Pharaoh to ask the people of God to leave.
He was there when God parted the Red Sea to allow Israel to cross on dry ground and caused it those same waters to collapse upon the chariots and army Pharaoh, destroying the might of Egypt.
Caleb where was there when the people of Israel came to the Mountain of God (Mt. Sinai) and he would have seen God come down upon that mountain with thunder and lightning and the terrifying sound of the trumpet of God.
And he was there just a few days later when God brought Israel to the very border of land He had promised to give to His people.
Moses selected 12 men to go in and spy out the lay of the land and help him decide the best strategy for taking Palestine. Two of those spies were Joshua and CALEB (Othniel’s uncle).
Those two great men were overwhelmed by what they saw. It was literally a land flowing with Milk and Honey. They saw great cities they wouldn't have to build, orchards they wouldn't have to plant, and wells they wouldn't have to dig. And God said it was all theirs!!!!
They remembered how God brought the plagues on Egypt.
And how He parted of the Red Sea.
And how He showed His fearsome power at Mount Sinai.
And they were convinced if God was giving them this land, nothing could stop them.
But the other 10 spies didn't see it that way.
They saw exactly the same things the other two did. They saw the beauty, the splendor and the wonder of the Promised Land, but these wonders were overshadowed by something else they saw. They saw the giants in the land, and in those giants they saw defeat…disaster… and death. And they were afraid.
And their fear spread through the entire camp and the people became so frightened that they refused to obey God and enter the Promised Land.
So God said “Fine, you don’t want to go… you don’t have to. You will never enter the land I've promised you. You’ll die out here in the desert.”
So everyone there died in the desert… except two men.
Two men didn't die in the desert.
Two men were allowed to enter the Promised Land.
The two men who believed God’s promise about the Promised Land.
Two men named Joshua and Caleb.
Forty years later Caleb enters the Promised Land at the age of 85.
And he was STILL convinced that if God promised something… God would do it! And so Caleb said to Joshua: “… give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites (giants) were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” Joshua 14:12
And at 85 years old, he cleaned out the giants in that land.
And Othniel was his nephew.
Now, what was so special about Othniel?
Let’s read it again: “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. 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.