Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sermon Judges 6 - 8 draft Who is your King?

Sermon Judges 6 -8

Who is your king?

Who reigns over your life?
                        Who is in control?

                        We live in a democratic nation so some may thing we have our government as rulers over us…

Keep this in mind as we look at Judges 6-8

In our passage today so many have looked at it and deduced from the passage  some moral to live by.

What a great guy Gideon was so faithful, so powerful, a great leader, a wise leader.

But so many have missed then what God is saying.

As you read through the story, and a great true story it is, something you’d expect Hollywood would do on the big screen.. what are the significant verses?

There are some and they are crucial.

Let’s recoup the story…

They go off to battle and there’s this interesting bit about whittling down Gideon’s army to a mere 300 men. What’s this ? Any General who knows battles doesn’t down size his army to attack the enemy but that’s exactly what God did to Gideon? Why?

Well he sends them down into the camp of Midian with each carrying a clay pot with a lit torch in each pot, and a “trumpet” the Jewish shofar that is the trumpet used to signal a battle. And when the signal comes they break their pots and the lit torches become evident and they blow their trumpets.

With the torch in one hand and a trumpet in the other they shout “A Sword for the Lord and for Gideon.”

Not really a comforting way to go into battle, armed merely with a torch and a trumpet! Not even a sword in their hand! Judges 7:20

And when the Midian army ran out of their tents the Lord caused the men of the camp to turn on each other with their swords” 7:23

They win the battle, and then the Israelites try to make Gideon the king 8:22-23 But Gideon refused.

He says “the Lord will rule over you” 8:23.


What does all this mean? It’s all about 7:2you have too many men for me! To deliver Midian into their hands.” This is God speaking here!

God is their deliverer.

Already in 7:4 God tells Gideon he has too many men and God will not allow them to declare after the battle that they won it in their own strength.

Some think that Gideon Is shown as a very wise man, - he wins the battle with a really smart move, he placated the Ephraimites in chapter 8:1  Here’s diplomacy at it’s best the world says. Here’s how you get the best outcomes in a bad situation. Butter them up, don’t antagonize. Build up their ego. Speak a quiet word.


Hang on a minute, what was the smart move he did in the battle with the camp of Midian you ask?

Well in the ANE battle it was common for there to be in every group of 100 a man with a torch and a trumpet to signal the battle cry.

So with 300 mean you get sleepy soldiers running out of their tents and seeing the lights and the commotion and they think there’s 300,000 or even 600,000 [ do the maths one torch per hundred, one shofar per 100 ] troops in camp killing them so in a frenzy they lash out. Now there’s a really smart battle move – but it wasn’t Gideon’s master stroke but the Lord God’s!

Yet that’s not the point. It’s not about how wise Gideon is.

Rather look at the chapter in context.

Israel have not listened to God 6:7-10.

And so in a sense God has brought as a consequence, judgment upon them in the form of the Midianites. 6:1-3 …. But together declares the Lord we will beat the Midianites 6:16.

Yet God raises up a deliverer. Gideon.

And still the people after this great success at battle want to make him, Gideon!  king!

All because they are looking at the success first of all in human terms, with purely human eyes. See the boasting in verse ..

Yet the very point of God diminishing the numbers of fighting men were so that they could not boast – that they would have to acknowledge it was God who had saved them – He was their king.

And this has a long history.

God said he would lead his people he would win the land. Back with Moses in Deut 17:14-20 he had prophesied that a king would rule over them.

After all a nation in those days was led by a king. It wasn’t a democracy like some countries today. No, it was to Abraham that God had promised to make of him a great nation. And a nation needs a king doesn’t it?

So the expectation was there. But like many truths, this expectation was miss-focused by man. They thought they’d put in place a king. And so here they want Gideon as king.

But what wasn’t acknowledged was that in asking for a king they were rejecting God as King over them.

This expectation was again and again pushed up by Israel. A bit like continually bringing up the notion of Australia a republic …. If you Don’t pass it first vote, just keep raising it.

It’s a theme that continues till 1 Sam 8 where Saul is installed as their king because they want to be like the nations.

That says something doesn’t it? We want to be like everybody around us.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Judges 1 sermon half hearted obedience isn't satisfactory

Half done is good enough? Not So with God.


Many of us know of great Sunday School talks about judges, heroes like Gideon and Samson,

            but have we grasped what God is teaching here?

So many of those stories about the judges,
                                    the rescuers of the people of God,
                                                 miss the point of the passage, [ all because they want grab the attention of children. ]

If we get one thing from this book it's to learn to hear what God is saying.

What about the gruesome extermination of whole cities ? Genocide?

We take heed of 1 Cor 10:11 which says "Now all these things happened unto them as types; and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come" (1 Cor. 10:11).

and Romans 15:4  “to teach us and give us hope.” these tell us that OT there to instruct us not to foolishly commit the same errors, same sins as Israel.

But more significant is 2 Tim 3:16 all scripture is profitable for training equipping the Christian.

What 2 Tim lays out for us is useless unless we devote ourselves to understanding that Word,
            those scriptures,
                        to study of them,
                                    but so many ignore the Word of God.

Just recently two Australians were put to death in Indonesia, and there’s been a outpouring emotional response and sound bites about the death penalty.

But even though this was a great tragedy, that two lives are wasted in this way, that two lives got incredible consequences for their wickedness, still we must not react on merely an emotional level.

We need to have our emotions informed by the Word of God. Even our emotions are to be given to the Lord.

One of the most vocal discussions I’ve had with Christian relatives is about the death penalty and what the bible teaches. And sadly instead of dealing with the Scriptures their response was “I just feel it’s wrong and no one can be certain an innocent person isn’t killed”
What about Romans 13 ? God ordains the State to wield the sword.

So many respond with “but this is what I think”. They don’t even discuss what God says.
They just replay the sound bites of our culture.

Have we let our culture dictate right and wrong? Have you ever even asked that Question?

You might wonder why I am talking of such things in relation to the book of Judges.

I’m raising this for two reasons,
              First because when you study the book of judges you see the warning of God to not succumb to the culture around you
, not to take on their values and attitudes.
              Secondly here we are confronted with apparent genocide, the extermination of a race of people at God’s command.

And we must not just respond emotionally. We must deal with it.

Today I only have time to acknowledge this second issue – it really is a whole other sermon. An important one.

So let me just says this:

Judges 1:17 says they totally destroyed the city – picking up the command of God in Deut 20:16-17 about “not leaving anything breathing but totally destroy those cities”.

Some respond with its just figurative language.
            God wasn’t demanding entire nations to be destroyed.
                        They call it hyperbole.

But let’s really call it what they are saying – it’s divine exaggeration! Really?

Whatever we do this must be thought through carefully.

And that means dealing with God’s Plan as already put forth in Genesis to Judges,

And also the answer is that it is the Just Judgement of God.


One area I’m sure is central in this regard for 10am is homosexuality. Many Christians are now accepting of it and saying you shouldn’t judge – yep that’s true -  we don’t condemn anyone but we do point out what God says is sin and call people to repent!


So let’s go through our passage and see what God is teaching.
SLIDE 2 OUTLINE of 1:1-2:5
Judges 1:1 we begin on a black note in verse 1 – the death of Joshua.

That happened in Joshua 1 “the death of Moses”. It happens again after Judges in 2 Samuel 1:1 “after the death of Saul”
However, the Death of a hero doesn’t mean the end of God’s kingdom, the end of the plan of God.
            It’s not thwarted or brought to nothing.
                        We can see this in verse2 the Lord himself declares ”Judah is to go. I have given the land into their hands”.


1:2 Judah will go for us – the tribe that was at the front of the column of the people of Israel in the wilderness coming out of Egypt. They are the tribe at the front as they enter the promised land, the land of Canaan. They hold pride of place because as Gen 49:10  tells us it’s the royal tribe – the sceptre shall not depart from it.

1:4 speaks of the early success  of Judah in battle, but things soon deteriorate. There’s rot setting in. Even in these first few verses this is hinted at in verse 3 that though the Lord said Judah would go, Judah decides that they are smarter and invite the tribe of Simeon to help out.

1:5-8. Adoni Bezek – thumbs and toes cut off. Why is this here?
                        Is it a bit of story telling garnish to make the story more interesting.
                        Is it a filler to make history more personal?
            But how does it fit into the passage? It’s an illustration of Israel succumbing to the influence of her surrounding culture. Pagan culture. This is indicated when Bezek says in 1:7 “as I have done to 70 kings”

1:8 Judah didn’t occupy Jerusalem only set it on fire, they took the city but did not possess it!

1:9-16 is the second vignette like that of Adoni Bezek. It’s about Caleb, his nephew Othniel and Calebs daughter. Caleb it’s understood, is a gentile convert to Judaism. His father was a kenite. Yet he was one of the two spies that gave the good report about being able to conquer the land promised by God. It’s here that we are introduced to Othniel – the first Judge whom we will meet in chapter 3. And he’s given as an illustration of doing the right thing. He marries within the people of God. And she’s a blessing to him because not only does he get some land but she is wise and gets from her father also the two springs to water that land. This is an indication that they were on about settling and possessing the land, not just conquering it! They were in it for the long haul. They were putting down roots.

Then follows in our text a few more successes of Judah in 1:17—18 but then we meet with a disastrous note. They were unable to drive out the people from the plains. They were able to take the hill country, but not the plains. And what’s the reason given? Verse 19. “Because of the chariots.”

Now this is an indictment upon them! This shouldn’t be. From the time of the Exodus to conquest of the book of Joshua they’d been told God is the one fighting for them, He’s the one winning their battles.

So is God unable to deliver?
            Is He unable to keep His Word?
                                                His promises?

Chariots are no problem for God. Look at the escape from Egypt in Exodus 14:25,31 No Jew, no matter how rebellious would have forgotten that story of the rescue of Israel from Egypt. God dealt with the pursuing chariots.
and what’s more in Deut 20:1 God said “don’t be afraid of chariots. The Lord your God will be with you” and finally again in Joshua 11:6-9 the Lord told Joshua you will have success over chariots and God himself will slay their enemies.

So what’s this mean?

It indicates that the tribe of Judah isn’t giving full obedience to God.

They are compromising,
            And that’s what just as we saw with Adoni Bezek, they compromised with the Word of God about whom they let live  - breaking what God said in Deut 7:22-24.
            Kings captured were to be killed,
                        and killed humanely.
                                    Not tortured,
                                                not humiliated,
                                                            not ridiculed
            They weren’t to be water boarded. They weren’t to be driven mad with constant lights and sounds.
                        But they were to be killed.

This is confirmed again later in 1 Sam 15 when king Saul refused to kill King Agag. 1 Sam 15:17-23. And this act of defiance cost Saul the Kingdom. It was removed from him by God and given to one more worthy!

So we have compromise,
                        half-hearted obedience
                                    People thinking they knew better.
This downward spiral is again seen in the next verse, verse 21 when the Benjamites not only fail to conquer the Jebusites and take over Jerusalem but they capitulate and move in with them!
            “to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites”. Cf Deut 20:17!
           They don’t even try!

Again our writer is preparing us for the utter depth of depravity of the tribe of Benjamin in chapters 20-21 of Judges that require all the tribes of Israel to go up and fight one of their own - the tribe of Benjamin.

Things have got so bad that the promised people of God are fighting each other!

There’s fracture, disunity in the people of God. The nation is falling apart. They are acting like a lot of self centred nations instead of being the people of God. And it’s all grounded in disobedience to God and His Word.

1:22-26. Then we read of the gentile man of the city Luz. Another illustration. It’s not just some padding to the story to make it more readable.

Luz was a royal city of the Canaanites, so it was an important city, one that a person wouldn’t just up and leave!

He helps the house of Joseph attack Luz but he and his entire family is shown mercy and allowed to escape and go to the land of the Hittites [ modern Syria ] and there he built a city which he called Luz – he prospered as it were.

What is happening in this story? To grasp it you need to understand What God said about going to battle.

Back in Deut 20:10-18 it was those cities in the promised land that had Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites 20:17 that were to be thoroughly wiped out.

But this doesn’t happen with Luz, and more to the point this man of Luz doesn’t change – he goes back to reside among his own people back in Syria – in the land of the Hittites.

Now get this  - you need to understand Deut 20 very carefully, because the people of Israel decided they could take it as they pleased, they could apply it as they pleased, they could act pragmatically if they chose and that overrode anything they read God commanding in Deut 20.

It’s crucial with this illustration because it signals the complete disregard for God’s word – acting in defiance of it!

Two commands are found in Deut chapter 20.

First for those cities of the nations of the Amorites or Canaanites, or Hittites, or Perizites or Hivites or Jebusites they are to be totally wiped out. 20:16f

Second, for those cities not of those nations, if the people there want to make a treaty then they can and those people can become forced labour! 20:10f

But that’s not what we see happening in verse 27-36 of the book of Judges.

There not only does the phrase “were unable to drive them out” occur over and over again, vs 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 33, but we see the phrase ”forced labor” occurring in verses 28, 33 and 35 and this in connection with Canaanites, and  Amorites.

This is blatant and wilful disobedience to what God has said. Perhaps they imagined that “well he said if a city capitulated we could make them into forced labor” and that way “we prosper”, but this was disobedience to the clear instructions of the Lord himself. Deut 20

Man must not think he knows better than God.

Perhaps you find that distasteful? You just find it unjust that God should command the extermination of those nations? Yep there’s a whole lot of debate about this – what they call the genocide of those nations. This is a whole other sermon – an important one, but let me just say “God did not act on impulse here. He didn’t just carelessly bring punishment on a whole people because he favoured some other group!

These people were deserving of judgment. Their wickedness and evil God says had gone their full measure   – God says in Leviticus and Deut they deserved this judgment. – child sacrifice, sexual wickedness, worship of snakes - total idolatry.

And it’s not as though God hadn’t shown reserve and patience – for over 400 years he’d withheld judgment. From Genesis 15:16 until their wickedness and reached the pinnacle.

Not only that, but the Amorites and Canaanites had heard all about the God of Israel as Rahab at Jericho stated to the people of Israel.
            She knew and so did the people of God’s great acts and that the land has been given by God to Israel. Joshua 2.

This is not a case of genocide, that’s a highly emotionally charged term to not deal with the issue here. It’s about the just judgment of God.

And if you find that unacceptable, then you probably will have problems with the flood as well. In fact perhaps some of us don’t understand sin and the utter depravity of man!

But let’s return to the passage

This is a bleak and woeful situation, the people of God are only half heartedly obeying the Lord, they are wilfully ignoring or disobeying His Word.

Is it no wonder then that God declares in chapter 2:2 “you have disobeyed me”!

 So what is here for us? Here in chapter 1 is a summary outline of the history of Israel during the judges.

If anything is clear it's that the people of God fail so often to obey him. for over 320 years there's this cycle of disobedience and God's faithfulness to His promise. [ that’s nearly as long as Australia has been colonised! ] not that God ignores their sinfulness. No - there were consequences.

The people of Israel either ignored God’s Word
            or misapplied God’s Word
                        or acted against God’s Word

For Israel this was the beginning of the deterioration of the unity of the tribes – instead of unity, becoming as it were the nation that God promised to Abraham, their disobedience was fracturing the people of God.

It’s no wonder that later in Israel’s history we read of the Northern and Southern Kingdom and their later being taken into exile.

But the first hope to which we lay hold of is that God’s plan continues – as verse 1 says, even when the heroes of the faith die, the plan of God continues.

For us it culminates in the Messiah born and crucified and risen again.

And we await his coming return.

But meantime there’s a warning to us – how easy is it that we succumb to our surrounding cultures values and standards?

How easily we ignore God’s Word or change it or misapply it?

You might say “hey we don’t do that”

But what of 1 Cor 6 ? “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the Kingdom of God?” “Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexual offenders,  and then the verse we often ignore “nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor swindlers will inherit the KOG”

And then the verse of hope vs 11 “and that’s what some of you were

There’s Scripture that rattles our cage!

But even with Matthew 28:16-20 The Great Commission – it’s not to make converts “but as you are going about everyday life, make disciples, and disciples are ones that are taught to obey everything that Christ commands.
And that necessitates involvement with people, because you don’t see if they obey the commands of Christ if you only meet them on Sunday at church!