Refreshment in Refuge
by Gina Burgess
Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. Judges 2:18
This is a crucial verse to keep in mind throughout the study of Judges.
God is always in control, and He will allow some things, albeit bad things, to happen in order to train us up and to test our hearts. The four essentials for victory in these ‘bad things’ are gifts from God to us, and He expects us to wield them wisely. These gifts are power (read that strength), strategy, courage, and faith. We must remember we cannot do anything without God’s gifts.
Faith – Our faith in the one, true God is what activates all the other gifts.
Strategy – Any good defense or offense uses wise strategies. God infuses us with His wisdom so that we can activates His wonderful and perfect plan for our lives as well as to navigate all those trials and troubles we must sail through each day and moment.
Courage – Our courage to trust our weaknesses on God’s strong arm activates and imbues the godly strategies with godly strength.
Power – Jeremiah said in four different places, “Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.” This is so that our faith doesn’t rest in the wisdom on men, but in the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:5). And the key to the whole is that God’s grace is sufficient for us because His power is made perfect in our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9).
God left some nations within the boundaries of the Promised Land to train Israel. In times of great peace the fighting-man skills deteriorates with the lack of use. Alertness dwindles to sleepiness, and readiness becomes laziness. He also left these wicked nations to test the hearts of Israel. He wanted to gauge their readiness of commitment to His laws and His ways. He had chosen them to be a peculiar people.
“Peculiar” seems like a strange word to use here. It is different from our modern day meaning. For a better insight, the Latin peculium means “private property,” so that “peculiar” properly means “pertaining to the individual owner.” This means God chose the Children of Israel and took them for His own treasure, set them apart from the surrounding, idolatrous nations, and consecrated them for His good purpose. Consecrated, therefore they are holy people. After Jesus bought us with His blood we are peculium of God. We see the same message in the New Testament specifically in Titus 2:14 and in 1 Peter 2:9. Paul and Peter are referring back to Psalm 130:8; Ezekiel 37:23; Deuteronomy 14:2*.
This seal or wall around His people was as strong as their commitment to His laws. When they obeyed God, He richly blessed them. This was a testimony to the unbelieving and wicked nations. They noticed these Hebrews were different. Their ways were different, and their God was mighty. When they strayed, their testimony was destroyed. So, God allowed the other nations to oppress the Israelites. The same holds true for today’s church. God allows heresies so that those who are true to God’s Word will be well-known among His children (1 Corinthians 11:19).
After Joshua and that generation who conquered the land had died, the Israelites broke covenant with God. They gave their sons and daughters in marriage to the foreigners, they worshipped their gods, and rejected God’s ways. Little wonder that the king of Mesopotamia, Chushan-rishathaim, subjugated Israel. This Mesopotamia was situated between the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers, what is known today as part Syria and part Iraq. Since this country was situated so far from Israel, the people weren’t looking for trouble from there. This invasion has God’s fingerprints all over it, doesn’t it?
The name Chushan-rishathaim means “doubly wicked Cushan.” What a telling name for a king. Of course, the Israelites soon turned back to God, crying out for salvation from this doubly wicked king's oppression and slavery.
Thus Othiel (pronounced like Daniel except Oth instead of Dan) enters from stage right. He was most likely Joshua’s nephew. Because of the literal translation of the Hebrew word for son (of literal and figurative relationship, including grandson, subject, nation, quality or condition), some scholars are not sure nephew would be the literal relationship to Joshua. I believe because the word is bên the relationship is one of uncle to nephew. The name Othiel means force of God. How wonderful that the first judge God uses to free His children from tyranny is His Force!
Being the nephew of Caleb and marrying his daughter, Othniel was one that had observed God’s miracles in conquering the land. This is quite telling in that there were still some people “of the old stock” still living while the Israelites were being sucked into the abominable lifestyles of foreign gods. Why do you think those who had seen the works of the LORD allowed the younger generations to sink so low? Didn’t they believe God’s warnings?
Firstly, let’s remember that “everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes.”There weren't any Texas Rangers or governors or kings to track down a plethora of law offenders and mete out the consequences of such sin. Secondly, I don’t think we need look any further than the parable of the prodigal son.
Matthew Henry observes, “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him (Judges 3:10), the spirit of wisdom and courage to qualify him for the service, and a spirit of power to excite him to it, so as to give him and others full satisfaction that it was the will of God he should engage in it.
The Spirit of the Lord came upon Othniel, and he judged Israel, and he rode to war defeating Cushan of Double Wickedness. After Othniel died, the people slipped back into their wicked ways. Are you noticing a cycle here?
Somewhere along the line, the system that God set up broke down. Whether it was the priests or the parents, the break down was human initiated. God’s message was not being heard by the younger generations. So often we rely upon our feelings to guide us in the way we should go. The prodigal son had this same sextant. (Is there a pun in that?) Our society has this same sextant. If it feels good, do it. When our children are recognized as adults by government and society, we lose legal control over them. However, if we instill in them love for God, blessings overflow our cups. Our children have respect for us and the laws of the land… and God’s commands. They seek our counsel. When they are old they do not depart from God’s ways. Most importantly, they raise their own children in the LORD. Of course, there may be exceptions, but one thing we can be sure of is that God’s word never returns void.
After 40 years of peace, the Israelites strayed into wickedness, and God raised up Ehud (unity or strong). He was of the tribe of Benjamin and left-handed (apparently many of this tribe were left-handed). God exerted his strength against the king of Moab with the double-edged sword of Ehud. God chose this left-handed man to be the man of his right hand, whom he would make strong for himself (Psalm 80:17).
Interestingly, God used Ehud to put Eglon the Moab king to death. It wasn’t an execution or murder or assassination. It was divine justice meted out to a wicked king and nation. Ehud also deceived this king by wearing his sword on his right thigh. (Obviously, no king would allow any person to wear weapons into his inner sanctuary.) But he asserts the divine mission by stating he had a message from God for the king. Eglon was blind to wisdom by being alone with a man who could be considered an enemy, but he was so infatuated with power and prestige he eagerly wanted this secret message from God.
Another deception by Ehud was when he left the dead king sprawled in the floor, he closed the doors, locked them and strode through the assembly of servants as innocent and bold as a baby. No guilt stained his heart. He had done the service of the one, true King. Let us take lessons from this, not the killing of a tyrant, although this is proper as in the case of affairs of state such as with Sudam Husein and Hitler. But in the strategies.
1. Deception is not wicked when wielded by God. God uses many different tools to mete out justice to those who deserve it. If a person lives by deceit, his down fall may come by deceit.
2. Even when you cut off the head of the snake, you still must deal with the body, and be careful of the head lest it bite. Ehud and his forces slew more than 10,000 Moabites. Not one escaped.
Be sure of whom you follow. Make sure he or she is godly and on God’s mission because then you can be sure of success… at least the Israelites did for 80 years.
*Crowns of the Believers © 2015 by Gina Burgess. Available at Amazon.com for $6.99.
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She is the author of several books including: When Christians Hurt Christians, The Crowns of the Believers and others available in online bookstores. She authors several columns, using her God-given talent to shine a light in a dark world. You can browse her blog at Refreshment In Refuge.
If you'd like to take a look at some Christian fiction and Christian non-fiction book reviews before the books hit the book store shelves, check out Gina's book reviews at Upon Reflection
Gina is a partner and COO of Common Sense Marketing Strategies, LLC that owns Authors Community and eBookChristian.com
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