So far we’ve seen two introductions. The first detailed the political decline of Israel. The second detailed the religious decline of Israel.
What preserved Israel during this downward spiral was the discipline of the Lord. The Lord’s kindness is evident even in his chastisement. God is accomplishing his redemptive purposes through intentional acts of discipline (Hebrews 12:11).
Chastisement is ultimately followed by rescue in the form of judges who served as (1) Civil Magistrates and (2) Deliverers.
Othniel serves as a representative example for all of the subsequent judges to follow (e.g. first game of backgammon). All of the elements that make up Othniel’s experience are repeated with some variation in the accounts of the judges who follow.
Cycle: Evil > Sold > Cried out (repentance?) > Deliverer > Saved > Rest > Died.
The darkness of Israel’s evil is only eclipsed by the light of the Lord’s compassion.
Read Judges 3:7-11
I. Israel’s Evil (7)
- “They forgot the Lord their God” This is the first generation of Israelites born in Canaan. How could they forget the Lord so quickly? Because they were too busy serving other gods…
- “And served the Baals and the Asheroth” Last week we considered what fertility worship involved. Israel engaged in cult prostitution and eventually child sacrifice (Psalm 106)!
This all seems to have occurred within 50 years of inhabiting the Promised Land.
The Evil of Evils by Jeremiah Burroughs
Chapter 10: Sin is a striking against God…wishing God would cease to be God…
You would think it is a horrible wickedness for any man to be so deep in lust with another woman as to wish the death of his wife. This would be a horrible wickedness! And yet this is in your hearts, to wish that God had no being so that you might have your sin.
Downward Spiral: Sin always disrupts.
John Owen Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.
Forgetfulness = sinfulness: Forgetting to do something you are obligated to do is not an excuse, it’s part of your condemnation. Left unchecked forgetfulness is followed by apostasy.
Dave Hatcher Poor historians make great sinners.
Amnesia > Apostasy: It is sinful to teach history without acknowledging the sovereign hand of God. Connect the dots for your children!
Israel’s evil was the reason for…
II. The Lord’s Anger (8)
- “The anger of the Lord…” His anger isn’t passive (i.e., removing his guidance). He pursues his children with the rod of discipline.
- The Lord “sold them”… Does this make God responsible for the evil they endured? Not directly. The Lord was perfectly just to bring punishment upon Israel, but he had a larger purpose in doing so.
- “Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years.” The Lord’s purpose took eight years to manifest itself.
DRD It shows that the covenant God who has bound himself to his people will not allow them to become cozy in their infidelity.
God used eight years of affliction and hardship to prevent the greater evil of their apostasy from occurring. This is an important truth to keep in mind whenever you go through devastating trials. You have no idea what God is preserving you from experiencing.
Romans 8:28; 2 Cor. 4:17
Does an angry God pose a challenge to your Christian worldview? If so, maybe you haven’t quite grasped the application of the first point. Not until we see sin as “the evil of evils” will we see any form of divine punishment as just.
Although God’s anger is never pleasant it is a stark reminder of his covenant faithfulness. The Lord only disciplines those he loves.
For God’s covenant children, his anger is always followed by compassion.
III. The Lord’s Compassion (9-11)
- “Israel cried out to the Lord” in distress and misery, but not repentance.
- “The Lord raised up a deliverer…who saved them” God raised up a judge who broke the mold. Othniel exhibited:
- political victory
- moral integrity (marriage to Achsah rather than a Canaanite)
- religious perseverance (Spirit led)
- “The land had rest forty years.” Israel enjoys military peace after Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, and Gideon. Only judges in the first half.
It is only where the Spirit of the Lord is actively at work that the people have any sense of hope. As with Othniel, time and time again we will see the Spirit-empowered and anointed judges being led to victory.
The irony of a good testimony > the world perceives as boring, yet he magnifies God’s grace. The temptation is to prize a “pure” testimony, making much of ourselves rather than making much of God.
Thank God we have governing authorities who maintain social and civil order. It is a bonus when they are not a hindrance to our worship and practice of faith. Remember to pray for your political leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
More importantly, the Lord’s raising up of a deliverer typifies his redeeming grace. When we, an undeserving people, were at the peak of our rebellion, God sent his Son to deliver us from sin’s oppression.
“Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died.” Othniel’s death was followed by rebellion (12), but Christ’s resurrection is followed by obedience. The Gospel never leaves us neutral. We are justified by faith, and now we live by faith, walking in the Spirit, no longer gratifying the flesh.
- Israel’s Evil (7) provoked…
- The Lord’s Anger (8) followed by…
- The Lord’s Compassion (9-11)
Jeremiah Burroughs Never, until sin is seen and sorrowed for as the greatest evil, will Christ be seen and rejoiced in as the greatest Good.1
- The Evil of Evils (Soli Deo Gloria Publications 2008), xviii. ↩︎