Our King Has Come

Growing up in church I never heard a sermon on Judges 17-21. After you read these chapters you’ll understand why. They include some of the most violent, brutal stories in the Bible. Stories like we see on the news today: mass murder, gang activity, rape, domestic violence, bullying. “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). A world without a king is:

A World of Idolatry
In chapter 17, Micah coveted, stole and lied about silver, disrespected his mother, made a graven image, and hired his own priest. The Levite Micah hired knew that images of God were wrong, but he went along with it anyway. In chapter 18, the Danites came, took Micah’s idols and his priest, and left him with the question of, “What more do I have?” (18:24). As Micah found, without Jesus, you have nothing!

We are made in God’s image; God is not made in ours. “Well my God would never….” “I don’t believe in a God that would….” The god made in your image says it’s OK to cohabitate together, to have sex but not be married, to get divorced for any reason, to rob God and spend all money on yourself. “After all, God wants me to be happy!” The world has created its own god, but it is not the God of the Bible. You may say, “Well, I prayed about it and God gave me peace.” That does not change who God is or what God’s Word says. You can’t make God as you prefer Him to be. A god of your own making cannot save!

A god of your own making cannot save!

A World of Immorality
God created one man for one woman. In chapter 19 we read of a Levite who had a concubine who “played the harlot against him” (19:2). He goes after her and ends up in the home of an Ephraimite. “Perverted men” of the city surrounded the house and the Levite gives them his concubine. “They knew her and abused her all night” (19:25). The Levite found her the next morning lying at the door of his house, not responding. Verse 29 says, “he took a knife, laid hold of his concubine, and divided her into twelve pieces, limb by limb….” We think, “How could anyone do such a thing?” The truth is, we live in a society just as barbaric. Babies are ripped apart, limb by limb, and sold for body parts! Pornography, polygamy, adultery, homosexuality, gang activity, rape, abortion, no value of human life… there is nothing new under the sun.

A World of Inequality
These chapters are stories about inequality and injustice. In chapter 20, the Benjamites refuse to turn over these guilty men so the rest of Israel fights against them. By protecting the guilty, they caused the massacre of innocent men, women, and children. Sanctuary Cities are nothing new. In chapter 21, we read that more men and women were killed and that 200 women were taken to be wives for the surviving men. Men were oppressors of women instead of protectors of them. Human trafficking still takes place today. The story is about homelessness, prisoners, genocide, kidnapping, abduction, and bullying. Why? Everyone did what was right in their own eyes, ignoring the law of God.

A World of Inadequacy
The book of Judges ends with despair, but the book does not exist by itself. There is another book in the Bible called Ruth that is written as a companion to Judges. Ruth is not an Israelite. She was an immigrant, refugee, and a poor widow. The book of Ruth ends with a son who would be the grandfather of King David. Jesus was born from the lineage of David! We often look at the Bible as individual books and stories, but the Bible is one book, with one storyline from beginning to end. It all leads to King Jesus, the Savior of the World. All have sinned and come short of the Glory of God, but while we were sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus came not to condemn the world, but so that the world through Him might be saved. Our King has come! Will you be your own judge, or will you let Jesus be the King of your life?

The God of Another Chance

The God of Another Chance
It’s great to be back from vacation! I appreciate Chip Dean preaching for me and doing the blog post last week while I was away. This week, we will pick back up on the life of Samson. Samson was strong but he had weaknesses. We all do. His struggle started early and it was something he battled his whole life. Like Samson, if you have messed up and made mistakes God will give you another chance…

To Overcome Bad Habits
Judges 16:1 says, “Now Samson went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and went in to her.” Samson keeps going in the wrong direction, into the enemy’s territory. His first wife was a woman he knew he shouldn’t be with. Samson’s problems started long before Delilah! He keeps making the same mistakes over and over again.

To Overcome Bad Company
“Afterward it happened that he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah” (Judges 16:4). Delilah was devoted to his downfall. She seduced him and brought him low. Are you in an unhealthy relationship? Friends are like buttons on an elevator; they take you up or they take you down!

The devil has strategically hired someone to be your hit man or hit woman. Delilah never drifts into your life. She is sent to blind and bind you, to keep you from doing what you were called of God to do. Delilah’s come in all shapes and sizes. What is your Delilah? You may be playing games with God, but the devil is not playing games with you. He is committed to your failure.

To Overcome Bad Judgement
Delilah “pestered” and “pressed” Samson so that “his soul was vexed to death” (Judges 16:16). She was trying to expose his secret. He should have run right then, instead, he told her all his heart (Judges 16:17). He told her his secrets. Samson had spiritual gifts but he lacked self-control. Giftedness is no substitute for godliness. Guard your heart! His talent took him where his character could not keep him.

Because of his choices, Judges 16:20 says that “he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.” These are certainly some of the saddest words in the Bible. He is not what he used to be. He cannot do what he used to do. He did not even know the anointing was gone. What have you lost because of sin?

To Overcome Bad Situations
Samson ends up blind, in prison, with the Philistines having him “perform” for them (Judges 16:23). They are laughing at him, mocking him. Samson made a joke of sin and sin made a joke of Samson! Is that the way you want to be remembered? Are you in a prison of your own making? Do you feel trapped? What is it that you can’t stop doing? Where is it you can’t stop going? Are you grinding at the treadmill of sin?

This does not have to be the end of your story. “Samson called to the Lord, saying, ‘O Lord God, remember me, I pray’” (Judges 16:28). God heard his cry and gave Samson more victories in the end than in the beginning. He can do the same for you. You may have fallen, but you are still a child of God. Jesus sets the captives free! God is giving you another chance.

Last week, Tammy and I saw the devastation of the Tennessee wildfires that killed 14, injured 134, and burned 1600 structures. Nothing is left but foundations where homes once stood. However, all over that mountain, in the black ashes, is the greenest grass you have ever seen! New growth! God gives beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for mourning, peace for despair. The fire that the enemy meant to burn you is producing new growth in you! Cry out to the Lord. He is the God of another chance.

Playing with Fire

This week we will look at the life of Samson. There were four fires associated with his life in the book of Judges (13:20, 15:5, 15:6, 15:14). Two fires were of God and two of the flesh. Samson’s life was a mixture of miracles and mistakes. We can all relate. By looking at ways he “played with fire,” we will learn what to do when our flesh wants what the Spirit says is wrong.

The Fire of Lust
Judges 14:1 says Samson “saw a woman.” Jesus equated lust with adultery. Samson looked and was hooked! That’s the way sin works. You may say, “I can handle it.” No! Stronger people than you have fallen. It’s a slow fade. Samson’s struggle was the same as ours: the lust of the flesh, the eyes, and the pride of life. Is it all about what pleases you or what pleases God? If you, then you are playing with fire!

The Fire of Disrespect
Samson demanded that his parents get the woman for him as a wife, even though he knew that would be disobedient to the Lord. Samson was unteachable. He always knows best and does what he pleases. There’s a little bit of Samson in all of us. We want to do what we want when we want. God is sovereign, however. He rules and overrules. What the enemy meant for bad, God can turn for good!

The Fire of Secrets
In Judges 14:6 and 9, we read that Samson “did not tell” his parents about his actions. He had broken his Nazarite vow. Hiding the truth is a sign of disobedience. This man of faith became unfaithful to his parents, his vows, and to God. Where are you being unfaithful? What secrets are you hiding? Your sin always affects more than just yourself. If you play with fire, you will get burned!

The Fire of Anger
Samson has been betrayed by his fiancée. He has been embarrassed by his wife marrying his best man. Judges 14:19 says, “his anger was aroused,” meaning that he burned with anger. We all experience anger. The issue is how you deal with it. We do not make rational, godly decisions when we are angry. What sets you off? Who pushes your buttons? Jesus equated lust with adultery and anger with murder.

The Fire of Revenge
The Philistines kill Samson’s wife and father-in-law, so he sought revenge (Judges 15:7). Because of Samson’s revenge, his own army came to arrest him and hand him over to the Philistines. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath. Be angry and sin not, nor give place to the devil (Eph. 4:26-27). When we are hurt and become angry, we allow the enemy to work and set up strongholds in our lives. Let it go and let God fight your battles.

The Philistines came against Samson and “the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him” (Judges 15:14). He killed 1,000 of them with the jawbone of a donkey but did not give glory to God. He said, “I have done this.” Every victory we have is because of the grace of God. I have done nothing. Neither have you. Apart from Him we can do nothing. It is always about Jesus and the Gospel, His Name and His Glory!

What do you do when the flesh wants what the Spirit says is wrong? The answer to the burning lust of the flesh is the revival fire of the Spirit. In Judges 15:18 we read that Samson “became very thirsty” and he “cried out to the Lord.” Verse 19 says “he revived.” Are you going through a dry season spiritually? Have you been playing with fire? What God did for the Israelites in the wilderness, God did for Samson. He will do the same for us if we thirst for Him. We must cry out to God in prayer, humble ourselves, and become a servant. God resists the proud. Then, and only then, will He revive us again.

A Baby Story

The story of Samson is one of the most famous stories in the Bible. His name means sunshine or sunny. He is a ray of light in a dark world. Samson is the last judge. Arguably, he has more flaws than all the others, yet he’s still listed in Hebrews 11. That gives us hope! This week we will look at Samson’s birth.

The Pattern – Hard to Break
In Judges 13:1 we read that Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. This verse sums up the book. Their sin is cyclical. Old habits are hard to break. There is no mention of them crying out to God in this chapter, yet He sends Samson. Salvation is God-centered. The Bible says that none are righteous and none seek after God. God makes the first move. Love does not need a reason; it is the reason.

Love does not need a reason; it is the reason.

The Pregnancy – Hard to Conceive
Manoah and his wife (Samson’s parents) were unable to have children. Why is it that some who don’t want children keep having them and couples who love God and want to have children are childless? It is hard to conceive why it is so hard to conceive! What is your life situation? Is there something you deeply desire that has so far been denied? Submit your soul and situation to God. James 1:4 says, “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” Enjoy the season you are presently in. You may be able to do some things for God now that it will be harder to do later. If you are single, have an empty nest, or have grandchildren, whatever your present season of life, enjoy it! Take all your questions and disappointments to God. His thoughts are not our thoughts, but His will and timing are perfect!

The Parents – Hard to Understand
Samson had good, godly parents, yet he rebelled against everything they taught him. It is hard to understand why this happens. Stop beating yourself up if your child has rebelled! God was a perfect Father to Israel but they sinned. You are not responsible for your adult children’s choices, only yours.

In Judges 13:3 an Angel of the Lord appears to Samson’s mother and tells her that she will have a son who will be a Nazarite and will begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines. Nazarite means separate. He was to take the Nazarite vow. It should be evident to everyone that he is dedicated to God.

There can be temptation to shelter your child from all the harmful influences of this world, but I have seen too many godly parents isolate their kids and when they left home, they went off the deep end! Yes, God demands holiness; but, it does not come from the outside. Holiness comes from the inside. Don’t miss the purpose of the Nazirite vow. God wants us to be different to make a difference!

The Prayer – Nothing is Too Hard for God
In Judges 13:8 and 12, Manoah prays that the Lord would teach him what they should do with Samson, and he prays for Samson’s life and his work. Parents, ask God to teach you what to do. You can’t lead your kids to walk with God if you are not walking with God. Also, ask God to prepare your children for their life’s work and mission. Every child, every person, has a calling and mission in life. God’s got this! Your child does not belong to you; they are on loan from God. Ask Him.

Judges 13:24-25 says, “So the woman bore a son and called his name Samson; and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him….” Pray your kids grow up. Pray your children grow in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man. Pray for them to be blessed of the Lord. Pray the Spirit of God will move on them. He will answer your prayers in ways you never dreamed possible!

Winners and Losers

The next few chapters in Judges are among the hardest ones of the book to study and preach. God’s name is not mentioned in chapters 8-10. They are a great reminder, however, that God is still on the throne even when He is silent! There is much to learn from these chapters.

God is still on the throne even when He is silent!

Abimelech’s Pride
In chapter 9 we read of Abimelech. In short, he killed his brothers and then God repaid his wickedness by allowing a woman to drop a millstone on his head and kill him. Abimelech is not a Judge, but he made himself King. If the Judges foreshadow the Righteous Judge to come, Jesus, then Abimelech is a type of anti-Christ or devil. Selfishness and pride are what made Lucifer the devil and got him cast out of heaven. We are never more like the devil than when we are full of pride. We are not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. Pride comes before a fall. It looked like the evil was winning, but in three years Abimelech was killed by a woman’s kitchen utensil! There is a payday someday! The judgment of God may be slow, but it is sure.

Tola’s Peace
Judges 10:1-2 gives us all we know about a Judge named Tola. Just two verses! During his time, Israel experienced 23 years of peace. You don’t have to be famous to serve God!

Jair’s Prosperity
The next Judge that arose was Jair. Judges 10:4 tells us that he had thirty sons, thirty donkeys, and thirty towns. Jair was very wealthy. Only the wealthy could provide 30 sons with their own donkey (or the BMW, Mercedes, or Jaguar of the day)!

With both Tola and Jair no outside enemy is mentioned. The real problem is on the inside. Our biggest problem is the human heart. We are our own worst enemy. Verse 6 says that “Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord,” and in verse 10 they finally cried out the Lord and admitted their sin. Verse 16 says, “So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord.” True repentance is a change of mind and direction! They had completely abandoned God, but He heard their cry. “His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel” (v. 16). God is not a pushover, but He is tenderhearted!

Jephthah’s Pain
Have you ever prayed something like, “God get me out of this and I will do anything you ask”? That’s what Jephthah did in Judges 11:30-31. While this is one of the most disputed passages in the Old Testament, we know He either offered his daughter as a human sacrifice or as a living sacrifice. We will not know which this side of heaven, but we know God is not pleased with human sacrifice. All that we learn about Jephthah in Judges 11-12 reminds us again that these earthly Judges all point us to Jesus.

Jephthah was born to deliver Israel, Jesus to deliver the world. Jephthah was rejected by his brothers; Jesus’ own received Him not. The Spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah; Jesus said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me….” Saving Israel cost Jephthah his daughter; saving the world cost Jesus His life. Jephthah mourned what was required of him, but still followed through. Jesus said, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Jephthah’s deliverance lasted 6 years; Jesus’ salvation lasts forever! Jephthah saved them from their enemies, Jesus saves us from our enemies and ourselves!

Judges 11:1 says, “Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, but he was the son of a harlot….” Even if you start the son of a harlot you can end a mighty man! How will you finish your life? As a winner or a loser in the sight of the only Judge that matters?

Human Heroes

Today, we continue our look into the life of Gideon. In Judges 6:13, Gideon says, “…now the LORD has forsaken us….” The truth is they weren’t in their situation because God had forsaken them, but because they had forsaken God. You can choose your sin but you can’t choose your consequences. You can’t live your life doing what is right in your own eyes and then blame God for the mess! The good news is God does not see us for what we are, but for what we can be if we cry out to Him.

Gideon’s Faith
In Judges 7:2, the Lord tells Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me….” It was 135,000 Midianites to 32,000 Israelites. Can’t you hear them questioning, “God, you think we have too many?” God sent the cowards home. Fear is not of God. God has not given us a spirit of fear. Are you afraid of failure, the unknown, or the future? Courage is not the absence of fear. It is following God in the face of fear.

In verses 4-6, God reduces the size of the army to 300. You may experience a reduction in your health, finances, or other areas of your life, but if you have God, when you are weak, He is strong! You don’t need a big army when you have a big God! Gideon’s faith grew as he obeyed God. You don’t have to have great faith for God to use you, but your faith should be growing.

Gideon’s Fight
The battle plan was simple: “Then he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet into every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, and torches inside the pitchers” (Judges 7:16). Something is missing…a sword! They blew the trumpets, broke the pitchers, and held the torches. Some explain the victory by saying the enemy thought every division had a trumpet, the vessel would hide the light of the torches until they got close, and the breaking of the vessels would sound like the clanging of armor. If so, God is the one who put the plan in Gideon’s mind. Don’t explain the miracle away!

Here is what it means for us today: The trumpet is symbolic of the Word of God, our offensive weapon against the enemy. The torch is the Holy Spirit. The vessel is you. With a trumpet in your hand, God was saying, “Get My Word.” With the torch inside, God was saying, “Be filled with My Spirit.” With the broken vessels, God was saying, “Let My light shine through you.” God uses broken people. “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Cor. 4:5-7).

Gideon’s Finish
Although God used Gideon to defeat the Midianites, and even though he is listed in Hebrews 11 as a hero of the faith, Gideon did not finish well. Gideon had the Israelites bring gold earrings that he made into an ephod and set up in his city. Judges 8:27 says, “It became a snare to Gideon and to his house.” Gold became his god and a snare to his family. In the end, Israel forgot the Lord and Gideon.

What kind of legacy will you leave? So many who live faithfully for God for years, quit just before the finish line! Gideon ended up just like his father. How can we finish well? The answer is Jesus! Human heroes are just that…human! Only Jesus never fails. “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,25 To God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen” (Jude 1:24-25).

How to Find Peace

In Judges 6 we read the story of Gideon and we learn the name for God, Jehovah Shalom, meaning the Lord is Peace (v. 24). Peace is something we all long for in our world, our nation, our churches, our communities, our hearts, and our homes. There will never be peace in each of these places if everyone does what is right in their own eyes. Peace can only be found in:

The God Who Saves
Israel’s story is much like our own story. It’s an endless cycle of doing right and doing wrong. In verse 1 we see that Israel once again “did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” The bad news is man sins. The good news is God saves! Regardless of what you have done, if you are willing to cry out to God, He will save. Whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved! Israel cried out to God and He once again moved on their behalf. Salvation is all the work of God! In verses 8-10, the Lord said, “I brought you up… I rescued you… I delivered you… I drove them out before you… I said to you…” The gods of this world are false gods, with false promises. They cannot save or bring peace. Only the one True and Living God can!

God knows where you are! He went to Gideon in a winepress and addressed him as a “mighty warrior.” God sees not just what we are, but what we can be! Gideon did not “feel” like a mighty man of valor. Gideon asked, “Why is this happening to us?” and “Where are the miracles?” Ever been there? Do you have more questions than answers? God can handle your questions! Cry out to the God who saves.

The Holy Spirit will remind you of who you will be. The Devil reminds you of what you have been.

The God Who Sends
Judges 6:14 says, “The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand.” Gideon said, “My clan is the weakest… I am the least…” but the Lord said, “I will be with you” (v. 15-16). The Holy Spirit will remind you of who you will be. The Devil reminds you of what you have been. Gideon was not the first to be reluctant. Remember Moses? Stop making excuses! God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called. See yourself as God sees you in Jesus. Your sins are under the blood. You were bought with a price. The same God who saved Gideon saves us. The same God who sent Gideon sends us!

God told Gideon, “Go and I will give you the victory.” God promised us victory too – “I build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). In Matthew 28:19-20, God told us to go and promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age. God’s answer to everything is “I will be with you!”

The God Who Speaks
In verse 17, Gideon asks God for a sign that it is really Him talking. After seeing God’s response, Gideon builds an altar and calls it “The Lord is Peace,” Jehovah Shalom. Again, towards the end of the chapter, Gideon asks God for another sign. The Lord responds, making a fleece wet and then dry. You may be thinking, “I wish God would give me a sign and speak to me like he did Gideon.” You have something that Gideon did not have; you have the complete Bible. Confirmation is sweet, but it not the starting place. Gideon already knew what God wanted him to do, he just had doubts and fears.

The cross is our fleece, the ultimate demonstration from God that He is our Peace. The cross was wet! Jesus sweat drops of blood and was beaten and bloody. They thrust a spear in His side and water and blood poured out. Jesus took the cup, the bowl of God’s wrath. The cross was also dry. Jesus said, “I thirst.” As He hung between heaven and earth saying, “Father forgive them” and “It is finished,” the final word was spoken. The cross and resurrection declare sin and death no longer have any hold. True peace is only found in the Prince of Peace, the ultimate Judge and Deliverer, Jesus Christ!

You Can Make a Difference

As we continue our series in the book of Judges to chapters four and five, we see that Israel continued to fall into the cycle of sin. Sin always enslaves you in bondage, but Jesus came to set the captives free! God raised up a judge named Deborah to bring His people peace for forty more years.

What Women Do
Deborah’s name means “bee.” She was a Busy Bee, a Queen Bee. She could do it all. She was a wife, “a mother in Israel,” a prophet, judge, song writer, and worship leader! She was like “Miss” Tammy! I did not marry a weak woman. She is my partner in ministry. The problem in the world is not strong women, but weak men! Judges 5:2 says, “When the princes in Israel take the lead… praise the Lord!”

Jesus was revolutionary when it came to women. Just look at the way He interacted and served with them. Women were never called to sit on the sideline. They answer the call of God, use their spiritual gifts, serve in the body of Christ, and make a difference in their day. Thank God for what women do!

What Wives Do
Deborah is introduced in Scripture as the wife of her husband. What a tribute! The leader of Israel is also remembered by God as a faithful, dedicated, loving, supportive, mate. If you are married, your gifting and your calling should not hinder you from being a faithful mate (husband or wife).

Men, we can learn from Deborah’s husband, Lappidoth. He is not intimidated because his wife is a judge. He did not belittle her to make himself look big. He is proud of her. He encourages her. The best thing a husband can do is understand that opposites attract, and let your wife be who God made her to be. Don’t try to make her be someone she is not. A wife and husband should be best friends. Lappidoth allowed his wife to be a blessing to the people of God.

What Warriors Do
You have heard it said, “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.” Well, sometimes a woman has to do what a man won’t do! God sent a judge named Deborah to deliver his people. In Judges 4:6-10, we read that she called for Barak to lead as General of the army. He would not go to war without her. Why? Because she was a prophet and he might need a word from the Lord. In verses 15-21, we read about another woman God used, Jael. She risked her own life to protect herself and her children.

Being a wife and mom requires the mental toughness and physical energy of a soldier. In Proverbs 31:10, we read of a virtuous woman. The word “virtuous” is the same word used to describe Gideon as a man of valor. Over 200 times the word is used to describe an army!

What Worshippers Do
Judges 5:1 says, “On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song….” They sang this ode, this song, to immortalize the victory that God gave through Deborah, Barak, and Jael. They sang to keep the memory alive. To tell the story to a new generation.

Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil.

The song ends in verse 31: “So may all your enemies perish, Lord! But may all who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength.” This pictures the battle between spiritual light and darkness. One day all the enemies of the Lord will perish! When Jesus died on the cross and they drove nails in his hands and feet, every drop of blood that hit the ground drove a nail in the devil’s head! Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. He came to kill the power of sin over us. We do not have to live in bondage. Jesus wants us to have peace and freedom! Praise God saying, “I will go, give, serve, and worship!”

Winning Life’s Greatest Battles

Why does God allow us to struggle in life? Why does God allow the enemy to attack us? As we continue our study through the book of Judges, we move to chapter 3, where we find an answer in the first four verses. God allows these things as opportunities to test us, to teach us, to train us, and to build our trust. Here are a few things to remember when facing life’s greatest battles.

God’s Spirit
In verse 7, we read that the Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the Lord. Choices have consequences. Their compromise and sin brought eight painful years. Then, they did what some of you have done, are doing, or are ready to do; they cried out to God, saying we are tired of being conquered by this world. God, in His mercy, raised up a deliverer named Othniel, who would be faithful like Caleb. Verse 10 says, “The Spirit of the Lord came on him, so that he became Israel’s judge….”

The secret to breaking the cycle of sin and strongholds of the enemy is the Spirit of the Living God.

You self-destruct when you disobey God and disregard His word. The secret to breaking the cycle of sin and strongholds of the enemy is the Spirit of the Living God. Zechariah 4:6 says, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”

God’s Strength
In verse 12, we see the cycle of sin again. “Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord….” The consequence this time was being subject for 18 years to Eglon, King of Moab. Verse 15 says, “Again the Israelites cried out to the Lord, and he gave them a deliverer—Ehud….” How do you break the cycle of sin? You have to want help. You have to cry out to the Lord.

Ehud was left-handed. The Hebrew seems to indicate he could not use his right hand. God can use even our physical disabilities! Weakness is the stage on which God displays His strength! When we are weak He is Strong. Give God your left hand. Give God your weakness.

God is writing your story. God sees your pain. God knows your suffering is real. His salvation is real too. Our salvation does not come through our strength, but God’s. Weeping endures for the night, but joy is coming. While the Israelites were subject for 8 and 18 years, the Lord gave them peace for 40 and 80 years (v. 11, 30). God wants to give you long lasting victory over sin.

God’s Success
Verse 31 says, “After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.” This is all we know about Shamgar, but this is all we need to know. His name is not an Israelite name, and an oxgoad is a farming tool used to spur oxen. We do not know if he struck down the Philistines all in one battle, or over time. Mark Batterson writes in his book All In, “He could have said I don’t have the right weapon. I can’t do this by myself. These are not even my people. If we look for an excuse, we will always find one.”

Stop saying, “I can’t,” and start saying, “I can win the battle of today through Christ who strengthens me.” Stop focusing on what you can’t control. Stop saying, “What if I had not done that?” and “What if this happens?” There are two days you don’t have to worry about – yesterday and tomorrow. Yesterday is gone, and tomorrow may never come. Live life one day at a time. Focus on what you can do today and God will give you success one step at a time, one battle at a time, one day at a time.

How can you break the cycle of sin? If you really want to change, and want help, you will find a way to win! By God’s Spirit and in God’s Strength, you will experience God’s Success!

Hope for the New Year

Happy New Year! We just started a brand new study in the book of Judges. The period of Judges is the 300-400 years between Joshua and Saul. The key to understanding the book is the last verse. “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (21:25). Notice they did what they thought was right, not wrong. There is a way that seems right, but the end is death (Prov. 14:12). What they called right, God called evil. Doesn’t that sound like America today?

The War to Win
In the book of Joshua, all the tribes are working together and relying on the Lord. In Judges, the tribes were not united or obedient. Judges 1:19 says, “…they drove out the mountaineers, but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the lowland, because they had chariots of iron.” The Canaanites had come into the iron age and had tanks, compared to the foot soldiers of the Israelites. The Israelites said, “We can’t win.” They forgot the God who brought the plagues on Egypt, parted the Red Sea, and brought the walls of Jericho down without firing one shot! They said “I can’t.” God said, “You won’t.”

2017 needs to be a year where you win the victory in certain areas where you have been saying, “I can’t.”

If you will be honest, there are areas in your life where you still struggle. There are areas that need to be conquered, where the enemy must be defeated! 2017 needs to be a year where you win the victory in certain areas where you have been saying, “I can’t.” I can do all things through Christ!

The Mess of Man
The book of Joshua shows us the thrill of victory. Judges shows us the agony of defeat. They were defeated by their disobedience. There is a cycle of sin that is repeated. They are dedicated to God, but in time, the people depart from the Lord.

At the beginning of chapter 2, the Lord reminds the Israelites of His promise and their disobedience. Instead of conquering the enemy, they compromised. They went from friendship with the world, to loving the world, to conforming to the world. Culture conditions us to accept what we would have never accepted. Instead of influencing the other nations, the nations influenced them to do evil and worship false gods. Are you influencing your lost friends or are they influencing you?

The Grace of God
Judges 2:18 shows us the grace of God. “And when the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them out of 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 oppressed them and harassed them.”
We get ourselves in a mess sometimes! God can deliver you out of your mess!

You self-destruct when you disobey God and disregard His word. God is looking for individuals that He can use to make a difference in our culture today. Israel failed in their relationships, failed to reach the next generation, and failed to reach their neighbors. Where have you been failing in 2016? We must recognize the pattern of sin in our lives and break the cycle of self-destructive behavior.

There is hope for you after you have failed the Lord! God is a God of mercy and forgiveness. No one is beyond the grace of God. The human judges were not perfect. They were flawed leaders just like all leaders are. The book of Judges anticipates and foreshadows Jesus, the ultimate Judge and Deliverer to come. Our hope is not in ourselves, because we can’t save ourselves. It is not in others, because other people can’t save us. Only Jesus can save and deliver us from our sins. Jesus never fails! Jesus is coming again to Judge both the living and the dead, and this could be the year! But, He came the first time on a mission of grace and mercy to save us from our sins.