Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Judges series - Judges 3

The way to read this article is that the orange underlined texts are the verses of the Bible (NIV, unless otherwise stated). The black texts following the Bible verses (and enclosed by square brackets) are my commentaries. At the end of these Bible texts and commentaries, I have inserted a section on "Points to take note".
{For full listing of all articles in this series, click here}

Judges 3

1 These are the nations the LORD left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan 2 (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience): 3 the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath. 4 They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the LORD's commands, which he had given their forefathers through Moses. [What is stated here is that there were 2 reasons the Lord did not secure all the territories in the Promised Land under the hands of Joshua who died at the age of 110. The territories not yet secured are listed here, and the reasons for non-securing according to the Lord are, firstly to teach the descendants of Israelites warfare, and secondly to see if the Israelites would obey the Lord’s commands, which He had given to their forefathers, a testing from the Lord. It must be understood that followers of the Lord will be tested and chastised for their good, but at no time was the meditation of the heart of God evil for He is absolute holiness, no evil can be found in Him.]
5 The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 6 They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods. [In the covenant between God and the forefathers of the Israelites, the Israelites, for their part, were commanded not to make treaties with the locals, and to break down all the local altars, i.e. completely destroy the practices of worship of the locals which were detestable and abominations to the Lord. We read here the inter-marrying of the Israelites with the locals, and not only that, they served the gods of the locals. The disobedience of the Israelites caused the break of the covenant the Lord made with the Israelites’ forefathers, this we read in Judges 2:1]

7 The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. 8 The anger of the LORD burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years. 9 But when they cried out to the LORD, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, who saved them. 10 The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, so that he became Israel's judge and went to war. The LORD gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him. 11 So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died. [We read in Judges 2 that the Lord, nevertheless had compassion on the Israelites and began to raise up judges to deliver the people. Othniel was one such judge. We read here that judges were not appointed by men but were supernaturally raised by God when the Spirit of the Lord came upon the persons. We also read in Judges 2:19 that the Israelites behaved when a judge was alive and with them, but the moment a judge died, the Israelites would return to the evil ways. We read here in the last verse (v11) that peace ended with the death of the judge Othniel.]

12 Once again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and because they did this evil the LORD gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel. 13 Getting the Ammonites and Amalekites to join him, Eglon came and attacked Israel, and they took possession of the City of Palms. 14 The Israelites were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years. [Once the judge died, the Israelites resumed the practices of worship of the local gods, evil in the eyes of the Lord, the protection the Lord was again off, and we read here that Israelites again became subject to a local king, Eglon king of Moab.]
15 Again the Israelites cried out to the LORD, and he gave them a deliverer—Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite. The Israelites sent him with tribute to Eglon king of Moab. 16 Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a foot and a half long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing. 17 He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man. 18 After Ehud had presented the tribute, he sent on their way the men who had carried it. 19 At the idols near Gilgal he himself turned back and said, "I have a secret message for you, O king."
The king said, "Quiet!" And all his attendants left him.
20 Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his summer palace and said, "I have a message from God for you." As the king rose from his seat, 21 Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king's belly. 22 Even the handle sank in after the blade, which came out his back. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it. 23 Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.
24 After he had gone, the servants came and found the doors of the upper room locked. They said, "He must be relieving himself in the inner room of the house." 25 They waited to the point of embarrassment, but when he did not open the doors of the room, they took a key and unlocked them. There they saw their lord fallen to the floor, dead.
26 While they waited, Ehud got away. He passed by the idols and escaped to Seirah. 27 When he arrived there, he blew a trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went down with him from the hills, with him leading them.
28 "Follow me," he ordered, "for the LORD has given Moab, your enemy, into your hands." So they followed him down and, taking possession of the fords of the Jordan that led to Moab, they allowed no one to cross over. 29 At that time they struck down about ten thousand Moabites, all vigorous and strong; not a man escaped. 30 That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years.
[Again the Israelites cried out to the Lord and the Lord gave them a judge, Ehud (v15). Notice that the deliverance of the Lord came when the Lord heard the outcries of the people. Outcries to the Lord, is a manifestation of the condition of our hearts. When the Lord sees that the condition of our hearts is right, He will respond – this we should always remember for our own good.

Here we read of a very detailed account of how judge Ehud killed the king of Moab, and how the Israelites, led by Ehud subjected Moab; and the land following that had peace for 80 years.]

31 After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel. [After judge Ehud, came Shamgar; all of the judges raised by God did mighty exploits. Shamgar struck down 600 Philistines with an oxgoad. A goad is stick for driving herds, therefore an ox-goad is stick for driving oxens. Just imagine, stricking down 600 people with an ox-goad!]

Points to note:

Testing and chastisement are inevitable for man. Right from the beginning, at creation, man was created with a free-will. We should not deny it or pretend that it was not so. Even when we have become a Christian, we are capable of committing a sin. In whatever way you explain the new creation theology, please do not say or imply that all of a sudden, we somehow became a “goody” man who will not sin. Our free-will is not taken from us when we become a Christian. You and I have a free-will, if we give in to a temptation, we will sin. Something is mystical in the faith, something is not, and we should not make this aspect sound mystical because it stumbles people, confuses people, and costs people to be disheartened. Misled people got disheartened because they thought how come they were struggling not to sin when every other person was seemingly above sin. The truth is that every other person was managing his or her propensity to sin. The process of sanctification is a lifetime affair. When there is sanctification, there is testing and chastisement. God is the examiner, we are the candidates; we do not tell the examiner what to test us on, the examiner decides, and he knows what you must learn. By the time Joshua died, the Lord left some territories untaken because He wanted to test the Israelites whether they would obey his commands (Judges 3:4).

The other point to note here is that God has a big heart of compassion. If you are bent on being wicked, I do not know how to advise you, other than that, if all else failed, you can always cry out to God. I am not saying you can abuse the good nature of God, but I am saying if your heart condition is right, your outcries to God can move his heart. We have already read that even when God was not obligated under covenant to act for the Israelites, when the Israelites cried out to God out of desperation, God still raised up judges, repeatedly, to deliver them.

Anthony Chia - Lord, help me in my managing of my propensity to sin.

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