Judges 10 – 12:7
If you are familiar with the book of Judges there is a repeating theme: Israel does evil, God becomes angry, they are oppressed, they cry to God and God raises up a deliverer. Our lesson subject today follows this pattern but this time there is a new wrinkle.
In chapter 10:6 Israel drifts away from God to act like the world around them. In this case, at this point in time, it was worshipping the false gods of Baal and Ashtaroth to name a couple. If we can set aside the specific sin and see it generally as acting like everyone else around them I believe we would be better served. When we think of them bowing down to a stone or wood image we tend to think of it as not applicable to us whereas when we substitute the specific act with wanting to fit in then it applies to us today. We can all relate to the drawing power Satan has against us to fit in. The specifics of those temptations are different but the basic temptation is the same, wanting to act like, and fitting in with, the world.
Verse 7 also fits the pattern in that God became angry and allowed them to be put into bondage. In verse 10 we get the same “cried unto the Lord” that we see in earlier time periods in this book but starting in verse 11 is a departure from earlier rebukes.
We are all different in personality each having what is sometimes referred to as a boiling point. In verse 13 God says I’ve had enough. In verse 14 God tells them to go and pray to the false gods and let them deliver them. Is God condoning idolatry? I’d say we have a clear case of sarcasm coming from God Almighty.
If we accomplish nothing else I hope to establish the fact that God gets sick and tired too. I think it hard to argue this in light of verses 11 – 14.
Understanding this character trait of God along with what Israel does next is information we need to know.
Have you ever heard the same excuses from your children over and over again? Have you grown weary of it and said “that isn’t going to work this time”? This is exactly what happened here.
The children of Israel now understand that they have pushed God. Verse 15 is a good start but verse 16 holds the key to repentance. They showed God that they meant business. They removed all of the idols and worshipped God only. They admitted their sin and surrendered unconditionally. This is the only course of action God will accept. In the latter part of verse 16 God is sorry over their pitiful condition.
A New Judge
In chapter 11 we are introduced to a new figure which will become the next judge of Israel. His name is Jephthah. His beginnings are the subject of modern day soap operas: he was born to a professional lady of the night. His father, Gilead, had an encounter which produced a child. As the scripture reads he obviously was taken into his father’s house and raised along with his other children. However, when the other sons grew up, they didn’t want Jephthah around. We can assume from this that his childhood was very likely one of separation and despair. The one thing I’d like to point out is Jephthah didn’t do anything wrong. The shame of his birth should have been placed upon the father, not the son. The other children didn’t see him as a fit heir so they run him off. Jephthah moves away and becomes a leader of a band of misfits.
Another reason I think his childhood was likely tough is the fact that he was a skilled warrior. He may very well have had a lot of practice growing up.
Now Ammon, due to God removing His hand of protection, invades the region of Gilead and the people look for a military leader to help them defend their homeland. They quickly consider Jephthah for the job based upon his reputation. No doubt they had to swallow their pride to come and ask after years earlier running him out of town.
Jephthah says if I help can I move back home? Will I then become your leader beyond this conflict? They swear before the Lord that he could come home and be their leader so Jephthah comes home and his first agenda is to send a message to the king of Ammon. Why are you threatening us? Ammon sends word because you stole land belonging to us when you came from Egypt. This was actually revisionist history. It has now been 250 years since Israel was led into the land. Upon their arrival Sihon, king of the Amorites, came out against them. When he was beaten his land was taken and distributed to the tribes of Israel. In fact it was the Amorites many years before Israel came that had, by means of war, taken the disputed land. Jephthah says you have no right to claim it now.
Well as you might expect Ammon didn’t listen and they gathered their armies to fight. They sensed weakness in Israel’s ranks and thought they could win. What they didn’t count on was God had heard the prayers of a repentant people and He could help them again. In 11:29 the bible says that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah and he gathered forces to defend their homeland.
Victory by God’s Power
In verses 32 and 33 we get a quick telling of this war. It looks like this was a quick war and Israel soundly defeated their enemies.
Judging people because of their parents
Jephthah didn’t deserve to be an outcast. God’s justice caused the people of Gilead to humble themselves and ask for Jephthah’s help. Jephthah appears to be an honorable man.
God’s anger and the fact that He also gets fed up
On the first couple of pages of our bible we have a recorded temptation, what was said, what was decided and what the consequence were. Satan tries to tell us it will be all right; you can get away with it. Then there are the consequences, if we give in, that God is angry with sin. I commonly use a quote from Albert Einstein which reads…”The true definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”. How many times have we chosen to give in and then, almost immediately, felt bad about it?
In this lesson we learned that God had observed Israel give in over and over again and He is fed up. Do we really want to push God’s buttons?
True repentance means confess and forsake
We must first agree with God concerning our sin. Next we humble ourselves, confess our sin, remove that sin and accept God’s judgment, then, and only then, do we see God’s mercy.