Lessons from Judges 1-8
1:1-2:5 - ‘You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? (Galatians 5:7). Everything seems to be going well - ‘From victory to victory His army He shall lead till every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed’ (1-18; Church Hymnary, 481). Things went badly wrong. God commanded His people to ‘drive out’ His enemies. Again and again, they failed (19,21,27-33). This failure brought a stern rebuke from ‘the angel of the Lord’. God had blessed His people. Now, He has to rebuke them - ‘you have not obeyed my command’. Read of Israel’s weeping, and pray for this: Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation’ (2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 7:10). ‘Strong in the Lord...’ let us ‘tread all the powers of darkness down... and stand complete at last’ (Church Hymnary, 441).
2:6-3:31 - What sadness there is in the words of 2:10 - ‘there arose another generation... who did not know the Lord...’! As the generations pass, we must pass on the Gospel of Christ, praying that those who follow after us will ‘know the Lord’. In Isaiah 30:21, God says, ‘This is the way, walk in it’. Here, in the sin and shame of Israel, He warns us, ‘This is not the way, do not walk in it’ (2:11-15). Don’t be conformed to this world, ‘entangled’ in its ways (3:5-7; Romans 12:2; 2 Timothy 2:4). God is angry with His rebellious people, but He does not cease to love them - ‘the Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel (3:8-9). Read of the deliverers - Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar - and rejoice in our greater Deliverer: ‘Jesus... He will save His people from their sins’ (3:9,15,31; Matthew 1:21).
4:1-5:11 - Barak is an example of ‘faith’ (Hebrews 11:32-34). Faith involves believing God’s promise - ‘I will give...’ and obeying His command - ‘Go’ (4:6-7). God still says, ‘Go... I am with you always...’ (Matthew 28:19-20). Barak needed Deborah’s help (4:8-10). Both needed God’s help - ‘Our sufficiency comes from God’ (2 Corinthians 3:5-6). In Deborah’s song, we learn of the importance of giving all the glory to God: ‘Bless the Lord... To the Lord I will sing, I will make melody to the Lord... Bless the Lord’ (5:2-3,9). We are to repeat the triumphs of the Lord’. This is our high calling as ‘the people of the Lord’ (5:11). ‘Awake, awake, Deborah’... Arise, Barak...’ (5:12) - God is still calling His people to wake up, to rise up: ‘Rise up O Church of God, awake!’ (Church Hymnary, 477; Mission Praise, 178).
5:12-6:10 - ‘The people of the Lord marched down for Him against the mighty (13) - God is still calling His people to march for Him: ‘March on, my soul, with strength, with strength, but not thine own; The conquest thou shalt gain, through Christ the Lord alone’ (Church Hymnary, 614). This is not ‘marching’ for ourselves, for our own cause, trying to get our own way. This is about keeping our eyes on Jesus, living in His strength, living for His glory. Where self reigns, there is sin - ‘The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord’ - and shame - ‘Israel was brought very low’ (1,6). Where Christ reigns, there is prayer to the Lord and blessing from the Lord. With God’s blessing comes our responsibility - Worship God, listening carefully to His Word and living in obedience to Him (6-10).
6:11-7:14 - ‘We are weak but He is strong’ (Church Hymnary, 418). In himself, Gideon was weak (15). In the Lord, he was ‘a mighty warrior’. Gideon was full of questions. God said to him, ‘Go... I will be with you’ (6:12-16). Our true strength does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord - ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth’ (Psalm 124:8). Gideon’s true strength came from ‘the Spirit of the Lord’ (34). We must always remember Jesus’ words, ‘Without Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). Consider Gideon’s weakness. Consider your own weakness. Rejoice in God’s power. Never say, ‘My own hand delivered me’. Our testimony must always be this: ‘...God has given...’(7:2,14). ‘It is the gift of God...lest any man should boast’ (Ephesians 2:8-9).
7:15-8:35 - ‘For the Lord and for Gideon’ (7:18). Notice who comes first. It is not Gideon. It is the Lord! ‘The men of Israel’ attached too much importance to Gideon - ‘Rule over us... you have delivered us’. Gideon gave all the glory to God - ‘I will not rule over you... the Lord will rule over you’ (8:22-23). What happens when people make too much of the man and not enough of the Lord? - As soon as the man is taken away from them, they forget the Lord (33-34). It seems like they were just waiting to turn away from the Lord. The moment Gideon was no longer there to keep an eye on them, they were back to their old ways again (33)! We must never let the servant of the Lord become more important than the Lord. When God’s servant has become a distant memory, we must keep on ‘remembering the Lord our God’ (34).