What counsel can the judges give us in preparing for the last days?
After the death of Joshua, Israel initially followed in his footsteps. They inquired of the Lord and turned not to their own wisdom. This method, proven in their battle against the Canaanites, was the only way to succeed in the work they set out to do. When they learned that Judah would begin where Joshua left off, they obeyed the counsel of the Lord and Judah went forth before them. As the progenitor of the messianic line, this also teaches us that Jesus is to go before us in every battle. In ever confrontation against the powers of darkness that we face or will face, we are to let Him lead the way. As the Lord promised this tribe victory, Jesus promises us victory if we follow Him.
Among Judah’s soldiers stood a true man of faith, Caleb. Of all the generation of Israel that fell in the wilderness, only he and Joshua claimed the Lord’s promise to enter the land of Canaan. Caleb was a man of faith. He saw the challenges he faced as nothing, so long as the Lord was with him. This is clearly evidenced by his conquest of Hebron and driving out the three sons of Anak, the giant.
He sought to ensure that his daughter, Achsah, would have a husband of the same strong faith. When the opportunity manifested itself in the conquest of Kirjath-sepher, he took it. “…He that smiteth Kirjath-sepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife” (Judg. 1:12). Othniel, the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, accepted this test of faith and conquered it. Achsah did not challenge her father’s proposal, as she had a faith in God as strong as her father before her. So strong was her faith, that the Scriptures make a record of her seeking a blessing for the land of her family.
As it was in the days of Israel, such a faith is rarely found in our times. We tend to look at the challenges of the mission God has for us as insurmountable, which keeps us from claiming the blessings that God would have us enjoy. God desires us to enjoy the blessings of heaven, but we see the challenge of overcoming our sins as insurmountable.
This challenge can be conquered: it has been before, it is being done now, and it will be done by those who will enter the courts of heaven. They will manifest a faith like Caleb because they truly understand the value of the land they’re seeking to enter. They will trust in their God and the Sacrifice He made for us to do what He said He would do for us. The faithful will speak of this task as Caleb spoke of the task of taking the land of Canaan. “ And Caleb still the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (Num. 13:30).
Though Israel began their work in faith, they did not continue in it. Rather than walk in the line of Judah’s example, they experienced defeat after defeat. Each tribe was unable to drive out the heathen inhabitants of their land. Even worse, the tribe of Dan was actually driven out of their land by the Amorites. Spiritual defeat does not only affect those defeated, it affects those who are still fighting. It is a domino effect that does not cease until the last domino falls, which was the tribe of Dan in this case, for they were driven out of their inheritance completely. But the worst consequence of their defeat was when these tribes turned to the gods of Canaan. In this fatal move, the Canaanites conquered the conquering Israel.
When we adopt the worship of the heathen, we bond with the very things that the Lord sought to keep us from. He knew that if Israel compromised their faith in any wise, they would eventually turn from Him completely. You may not do as they do, but when you do what they do, you take one step closer towards being driven out of the inheritance of the faithful as Dan once was.
This failure of faith had great consequences. The Lord, incensed by this turning away from Him, sent an angel to them to declare that He would no longer drive out the inhabitants of the land. The people they were to drive out were to be as “thorns in their sides” and “snares” to them. This brought great mourning unto all Israel.
In the last days, all the lost will mourn. They will willingly choose not to overcome their sins and the Lord will depart from them. In this, they will not be left clueless. All will know why the paradise of heaven was denied to them. This is why the Lord sends warning after warning to us. He is trying to keep us from experiencing in our time what they experienced in theirs. In the last days, these warnings must be heeded by all who would be saved.
But things were about to get worse, for Joshua and his generation died. Unfortunately, their example of faith was not diligently passed down to succeeding generations. This eventually led to the rise of a generation had arisen that knew not the Lord and they forsook worshipping Him. This generation arose in Israel for one specific reason: They forgot how the Lord blessed the lives of the patriarchs. They forgot how He, through Moses, delivered them from Egypt and brought them to the Jordan River. They forgot how Joshua and his generation fought for them to dwell in the land they now claimed as their own. The heathen nations indeed had been a thorn in their side, for they helped to spawn a generation of Israel that served Baal and Ashtaroth, and not the Lord.
This generation did not instantly abandon the Lord. It came about from a gradual exposure to the things the Lord forbade them to have amongst them. This combination of forgetting the Lord and allowing the Canaanites to dwell among them eventually produced a generation of Israelites that had no regard for the Lord. This lesson will soon repeat itself to the highest possible extent. The world will soon be divided into two groups: those who regard the Lord and those who regard Him not. This rebellious generation will also forsake the way of the Lord for the things that the Lord forbade and will secure the same fate as they: deliverance into the hand of their enemies.
But even here, the Lord is merciful. Even to the generations of those who hate Him, the Lord sought to deliver Israel from their enemies without and their enemy within. To the end of saving His people from their enemies, the Lord raised up the judges. The judges had a very specific mission: deliver Israel from the hands of their enemies, restore peace to the land, and turn the people from their idolatry and back to the Lord. Herein the Lord provided His people deliverance in all ways, from without and within. Despite Israel’s stubborn refusal to turn from their evil ways, the Lord always sent a judge to them whenever they cried out to Him.
Those who cry out to the Lord today will, in no wise, be disappointed. They will have been so vexed by the evil one and his followers, so tried by their circumstances and challenges, and so tired of their sins that only bring them deeper into the abyss of woe. They will remember that there is a God in heaven who hears what the many false gods will never hear; their soul crying out for deliverance. This call the Lord alone hears and He will surely answer it.
The first judge the Lord called for was a man who had walked in faith as his uncle before him, Othniel. Like Caleb, the Lord appointed him to lead His people to victory against the forces of Mesopotamia and like Caleb, he was successful. Through the Lord’s judge, Israel had rest from the enemies that spoiled them for 40 years.
But this peace was short lived, for in that time, another generation arose that knew not the Lord. This generation continued in the spirit of the one before it by serving the gods of Canaan and marrying the daughters of the land. This course of unrepentance brought the condemnation of the Lord upon Israel and He delivered them into another one of their enemies, Eglon king of Moab. Eighteen years of occupation by him, the Ammonites, and the Amalekites brought the people low and their cried out to the Lord for deliverance. To this call, God sent Ehud the son of Gera. Through the hand of Ehud, the land had rest for 80 years. But this time of peace was also not redeemed, for Israel had once again done evil in the Lord’s sight. The time, once again, had been squandered for the gods of this world.
Here, we begin to see a pattern. In times of peace, the people forsook the Lord. But in times of trouble, the people sought the Lord. As such, the coming crisis upon the world will actually be a blessing in disguise. Through adversity, men will remember the Lord. Even the most rebellious among us will be shaken at that time. They will fear the trouble upon the world, but God’s people will help the world remember the God they despise. In that time, when the oppression will be at its greatest, the wicked will remember the Lord, and they will cry out as ancient Israel. In that day, the Lord will surely answer them as He did in the days of Deborah and Barak.
Deborah, the prophetess and judge of Israel called Barak to deliver Israel from the hand of Sisera, captain of the host of the Canaanites. Barak’s lack of faith would cost him the honor of defeating Sisera, for the Lord had delivered him into the hands of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. The Lord gives us all opportunity to do His work and the things necessary to do it. But when we add an additional requirement for us to do the work of the Lord, we are not trusting in the Lord’s provision to complete the work He appointed us to do. Nor are we trusting His promise of success. This course cost Barak the honor of his battle with Sisera, and it will cost us the honor of fulfilling the Lord’s will.
In the last days, the Lord will call on others to do His will, those who will not make their compliance in doing the Lord’s work conditional on our requirements. They will receive the honor that many of God’s people could have enjoyed.
But in the song of Deborah and Barak, there is something far more disturbing than our making our compliance conditional. “Gilead abode beyond Jordan: and why did Dan remain in ships? Asher continued on the sea shore, and abode in his breaches” (Judg. 5:17). The tribes of Reuben, Dan, and Asher, in no way, came to help deliver their people from their captors.
As God’s people, we are not only to have regard for those suffering in the world, but those in need in our own ranks. When we ourselves are assailed, we are not to seek our own peace. Through prayer, social support, and other means, we are to take action. That these tribes are rebuked by name testifies that they did not aid their brethren when they could have done so. We must overcome the apathy so prevalent in our ranks, so prevalent to seek its own peace. The servants of God in the last days who fail to use their abilities to help God’s people in need will earn the rebuke feared by all who seek the kingdom of heaven. “…Thou wicked and slothful servant…” (Mt. 25:26). The curse uttered upon Meroz will be uttered upon all who fail to come to the help of the Lord.
With every rebellion came an enemy worse than the last. The kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, were no exception. In those seven long years, the Midianites, Amalekites and the children of the east had so impoverished Israel, they cried unto the Lord in less than half the time they typically took to do so. This is a strong indicator that this was the worst time of oppression Israel endured to this point. But before the Lord sent His next judge to deliver his aggrieved people, He sent them a prophet to remind them why they were dealing with such a foe: They did not obey Him.
They had forgotten Him and turned to the Canaanite gods, repeating the sins of the generations before them. They had forgotten God, but God did not forget them. He proved this in calling up Gideon to deliver Israel. In like manner, the Lord will testify that He has not forgotten our world in the last days. He will soon call upon His prophets to work as Gideon worked for His people.
Though Israel was greatly impoverished, the Lord did not leave off His duty in providing for Israel. Even in times of adversity, the house of Joash had provision of food and of faith. Though Joash had given over his house to idolatry, Gideon still had faith in the God of His fathers. In his testimony to the angel of the Lord, Gideon affirms that he knew that the Lord had brought his ancestors out of Egypt. He also affirmed that he understood that their current plight had come on them because they forgot Him.
To his surprise, God commands him to deliver Israel in his might. Though he does not know it yet, Gideon is a mighty man of valor in the Lord’s sight. While Gideon sees himself as the least in his father’s house, God sees Gideon as who he can be when he trusts in Him. The eyes of men cannot behold this in someone, for they judge by appearance. But the Lord looks on the heart and should we move forward in the path that He lays out, we can become the person He wants us to be.
When Gideon understands that he is talking to the Lord, he begs the Lord to worship Him. This request and offering of thanksgiving are accepted and Gideon is assured as such. Thanksgiving to the Lord is never worthy of death. In fact, we often forget to do this when we are blessed by Him. No one would have been saved (or had the opportunity to be saved) had not God made the Sacrifice that He did. Whether in the past, present, or future, God’s people must never forget to express their gratitude for such a work wrought on their behalf. Through Gideon, a great work was about to be wrought on Israel’s behalf once again.
Israel gathered at the call of Gideon, but the Lord had to send many of them home, for in victory, they would have exalted themselves as their own deliverers. After a series of declarations, the Lord set down a simple test to determine whom He would use to deliver Israel. The Lord’s tests are simple and effective, because they revealed to Him whether or not we are ready to be used by Him. It was by a simple test that 300 men were selected to deliver Israel from the Midianites. But in his dealing with the rulers of Midian we can see the character of Gideon their leader. When Ephraim demanded of Gideon as to why he did not call them, he did not antagonize them. He humbled himself in their sight and through his answer, and the matter was resolved. When Zebah and Zalmunna fled, Gideon did not cease the battle until they were captured. Unlike the generations before him, Gideon was not content with a partial victory. Neither must we be, for the work will not end until Christ returns.
But Israel, once again, forgot the kindness of the Lord and Gideon. Abimelech, the son of Gideon, used his influence among the houses of Shechem and Millo to slay his own brethren so he could rule over the people. This rebellion against the children of Gideon did not go unaddressed. Jotham, the last surviving son of Gideon, rebuked the murderous course of these men and cursed them for it. This curse the Lord fulfilled, for Abimelech and the houses of Shechem and Millo devoured one another.
In the judge Samson, we see someone who was ruled by his passions more than he was ruled by the Lord. So much so, he had married one of the daughters of the Philistines. When her faith in God was put to the test in Samson’s riddle to the Philistines, she chose to betray her husband to save herself and her father’s life. Though she delivered her life in this encounter, she later lost it in another. In the last days, we must remember to trust in God to deliver us from the evil that threatens us. Nothing we can do will save us from judgment, but they who trust in the Lord will surely be delivered.
The story of the Levite and his concubine teach us several things we need to know about the last days. When we entertain sin, we can become so corrupted by it that no relation is sacred to us. The men of Gibeah gave no thought to fighting their own brethren for the sake of their sins. Moreover, sin can cost us everything. The tribe of Benjamin was nearly wiped out because of it. But through the mercy of God, we have the means to avoid this fate. That Benjamin was given the means to revive and eventually become a part of Judah tells us that we can also experience a similar revival from sin and a greater closeness to God than we were. By forsaking our sins, we too, can grow closer to Him. But until we do this, we will do as it was done in the days of the judges, that which is right in our own eyes.
To Be Continued…Check Us Out Next Time!