In the Book of Judges, we learn that an entire generation grew up not knowing or believing the good news of who God is and what He had done for them.
It is similar to the case today when people forget the gospel!
The apostasy begins with a toleration of that which is out of harmony with the holiness of God. Then they start to admire what is out of harmony with the gospel. In Israel’s case, they served Baal and the Ashtoreth. They looked to other sources for blessings. These counterfeit gods allowed for indulgence of carnal pursuits, sensuality, and sexual immorality. By bowing to these idols, the children of Israel were denying that Yahweh was the One True God. They rationalized that they could have Yahweh plus Baal and Ashtoreth for “the best life now.” If Baal was appeased, he promised fertility, success, and prosperity. These gods dominated the culture then, just as money, sex, and power do our culture today.
The history of this period is reflected in another summary verse:
Then the Lord raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them.  Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they played the harlot after other gods and bowed themselves down to them. They turned aside quickly from the way in which their fathers had walked in obeying the commandments of the Lord; they did not do as their fathers. (Judges 2:16-17)
An important truth to recognize is that God will allow us to face difficult circumstances to test us. These are the trials of our faith. The hard times and false ways cause us to be spiritually exercised, gain experience and grow in spiritual discernment.
Judges Chapter 3 begins: “Now these are the nations which the Lord left, to test Israel by them (that is, all who had not experienced any of the wars of Canaan;  only in order that the generations of the sons of Israel might be taught war, those who had not experienced it formerly). (Judges 3:1-2)
The Lord’s will of command was for Israel to drive out the nations. His sovereign will of decree was to use the nations that they failed to drive out to chastise them. His objectives would not be thwarted.
In Chapter 3:5, the declension and deliverance pattern that characterizes the period of the Judges begins.
The sons of Israel lived among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites;  and they took their daughters for themselves as wives, and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods. (3:5-6)
When the sons of Israel cried to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel to deliver them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother.
Othniel is the first of 15 Judges in this period. His victory brought 40 years of peace.
DECLENSION, DEFEAT AND ENEMY DOMINATION
After Othniel’s death, the Israelites were defeated and served Eglon, the king of Moab, for 18 years.
When the sons of Israel cried to the LORD, the LORD raised up left-handed Ehud, who with his secret weapon, a short two-edged sword, attached to his thigh and hidden under his cloak, killed the obese King Eglon and led the sons of Israel to strike down 10,000 robust valiant Moabite men. Ehud secured peace for 80 years.
After Ehud came another judge, Shamgar, who struck down 600 Philistines with his simple weapon of an ox goad. It appears that he did this single-handedly. He must have been a man of great passion and persistence (Judges 3:31). It would require great stamina and resolve to carry this out. He was driven by conviction, but we wonder how effective he was as a leader, especially when he is mentioned in Deborah’s song in Chapter 5.
Judges 5:6 (NIV) 6 “In the days of Shamgar son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the roads were abandoned; travelers took to winding paths.
People did not travel on the main roads for some reason. Perhaps they were not safe from attack. Or maybe the roads were in poor repair. Shamgar may have been successful in some areas, but he neglected some other important areas of concern that could have benefited from his attention.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: Luke 22:14-34;
Jesus would be our deliverer from the leaven of our old man of sin (the Feast of Unleavened Bread) that we might be a new unleavened lump, a new humanity in Christ.
1 Corinthians 5:7 (NASB) 7 Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.
He would be our Passover lamb. Jesus would drink the third cup in the Passover Seder, the first after the meal, known as the cup of redemption,
Luke 22:20 (NASB) 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.
When Jesus lets his disciples know that one of them would betray him, they seem incredulous that one of their number would be able to do such a thing. Luke tells us that at this time, they began to argue as to who would be the greatest in the Kingdom, unaware that they all would soon desert him in a matter of hours. Peter boldly professes that he would die for Christ, only to hear from Jesus that he would deny Him three times.
We can be encouraged that Jesus prays for us as He prays for Peter- that our faith may not fail and that once converted, we might strengthen our brothers and sisters!
Luke 22:32 … “I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
“Flourish” is a wonderful word. “To flourish” is what God wills for us. He desires that we bloom and grow. He desires that we be fruitful in every good work.
Psalm 92:12-13 (NASB) 12 The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree; he will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 13 Planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.
We will not flourish if we forget how great God is and the wonderful work of salvation He accomplished for us in Christ. Do not be senseless or stupid (v.6) but give thanks out loud! Day and night! God has done great things! Sing praises! Declare the truth about God. He is just! He is upright! He is your Rock! There is no unrighteousness in Him!
Celebrate these facts: The Lord is King. He is robed in majesty and armed with strength. Because of this we can stand firm and not be shaken. Although floods and violent storms come, none can topple His throne.
The final note in this psalm concerns God’s impeccable character: He is holy forever and ever! (Psalm 93:5).
Proverbs 14:1-21 The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands. 2 He who walks in his uprightness fears the LORD, but he who is devious in his ways despises Him.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS
(from the Prayer Guide “Operation World”)
Republic of Colombia
Area: 1,141,748 sq. km
Northwest corner of South America. The fourth-largest country on the continent. Mountains in west; plains, forests
and jungles in east.
Answer to Prayer
Colombia is moving toward stability and order. Murder, kidnapping, and crime rates show significant decreases in recent years with crackdowns on violent groups on both sides of the political spectrum. Thousands of guerrillas and paramilitaries are demobilizing due to government amnesty. Problems still abound, and Colombia is far from peaceful, but clear progress in the last several years is an encouragement to most.
Challenge for Prayer
Colombia remains volatile and dangerous, although a strong government has stabilized the nation in recent years. Levels of violence, kidnapping, and assassination are still abnormally high. Leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries both seem to have abandoned ideological agendas and have effectively become gangs profiting from cocaine and kidnapping. Political or religious leaders who oppose such groups are targeted. Cocaine production has actually grown despite the government’s efforts to reduce it. Crop destruction has driven the rebels and coca growers into national parks and ecological reserves, destroying much of Colombia’s rich ecosystem and biodiversity. Pray for a government that will be strong in opposing violence and wise and just in moving the nation forward. A number of key government figures have been exposed as having ties to paramilitary groups. This is a revelation that will ultimately prove healthy for transparency and accountability but will shake many people’s trust in the government in a land where faith in state institutions is already weak.
PRAYER: O God, our hope in ages past, our hope for years to come. You are our deliverer, and in You, we put our trust. Forgive us for seasons when we lean on our own understanding and let the judges rule, doing what is right in our own eyes. You are our Sovereign King and worthy of our trust and obedience. Thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit, who enables us to keep in step with You as we walk in faith with a desire to do what pleases You. We look forward to the fulfillment of all that You have promised in the New Covenant when we drink the Kingdom cup with You when Christ returns. Until that day, may we flourish and bring forth eternal fruit in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Yours in the harvest,