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Introduction to Judges

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Greet One Another: Before you sit down, say, “Good Morning” to the people around you. (Dismiss Children)
Welcome to North Village Church. My name is Michael. It is great to see you. This morning we are going to start a new series in the book of Judges in your Old Testament.
Tablets: We do have a system to stay in touch with people. We have these tablets that we pass through the audience. We ask everyone to fill it out every Sunday, and if you are new, there is a place for you to provide more information so we can get in touch later.
If you don’t have a bible grab one in the back, because we are going to be in the book of Judges the next 4 months, which is why we probably need to ask everyone to put your hand in the air if you have heard a sermon on any part of Judges at any point in your life. Now, how many of those hands have heard sermons on Judges that didn’t have anything to do with Gideon or Sampson?
Handout: That’s why we provided a trusty handout for our message this morning. Be sure to grab one of those around you. That is also why we are focusing this year on connecting to Jesus through His Word.
Do you remember we started off with Giant White Binders on Malachi? We all went home for Christmas and Thanksgiving showing off all our new insights from Malachi.
Then, we did a deep dive into . Wasn’t that great way to prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate Easter?
Now, we are going to study through Judges and we are going to touch on every chapter in Judges, and it is possible you are thinking, “What does the book of Judges have to do with my life personally?”
Illustration: You know those moments where you look at your life and wonder, “What happened?” It might be a relationship goes wrong, it might be an unforeseen shift in the career, it might a broken part of our character being exposed, but something happens to bring those things to the surface, and we have this prevailing thought, “What happened? What went wrong?”
In the book of Judges we see this pattern in the life of Israel where everything was trending upward, and the something happens in the book of Judges so that by the end of Judges the people of Israel are in a downward trend.
In fact, if you look at the previous book, Joshua you see a description of a people who are zealous in their faith, optimistic about life, and encouraged. Lets look at : (SLIDE)
, “16 The people answered and said, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; 17 for the Lord our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and who did these great signs in our sight and preserved us through all the way in which we went and among all the peoples through whose midst we passed.”
Joshua is giving this great charge to the people of Israel to be faithful to the God of Scripture, and the people respond, “Far be it from us…” It is almost like, “I can’t even imagine why you would need to ask us this question.”
Big Picture: I don’t want to lose you. If you are new to Scripture there is , in the beginning God creates everything. Then, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Remember Joseph gets sold into slavery by his brother, ends up in Egypt, and eventually Moses leads Israel out of Egypt. (Chart)
Then, Joshua steps in as a mighty warrior who leads Israel into the Promised Land, and in we see Joshua standing before the people of Israel and reminding them of God’s provision and protection throughout life, and the people respond, “We will be faithful.” Look at verses 20-21, : (SLIDE)
, “20 Then Joshua said to the people, “If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you.” 21 The people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the Lord.”
At this moment the people of Israel are in a sweet place with the Lord. They are confident in His provision. They are encouraged in their faith. In we see three times the people of Israel promise to love God, serve God, and obey God the whole of their lives, and they are in one of those places where you are thinking, “This is going to last forever!” But, then we flip to the last verse in Judges. Look at : (SLIDE)
, “25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
What happened! To be clear, in verse 25 there is a king ruling on the throne of heavens, but in the book of Judges the people didn’t want the God of Scripture to be their king, so they end up doing what was right in their own eyes, which means they are doing the opposite of , so that you have to ask yourself the question, “What went wrong?”
The book of Judges is going to be really practical to our lives today. The book of Judges is going help us take an inside look into the life of Israel, and we are going to see some parallel’s in their lives that still apply to our lives today. You with me? Lets look at Judges chapter 1, verse 1: (SLIDE)
, “1 Now it came about after the death of Joshua that the sons of Israel inquired of the Lord, saying, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?”
In verse 1 we see the reference to Joshua’s death, which is a loss of a leader, but the people rally together before the Lord and pray, “How do we fight these Canaanites?” Look at verses 2-3: (SLIDE)
, “2 The Lord said, “Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand.” 3 Then Judah said to Simeon his brother, “Come up with me into the territory allotted me, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I in turn will go with you into the territory allotted you.” So Simeon went with him.”
Side Note: This isn’t the primary objective of our discussion this morning, but it is easy to read Judges and think to yourself, “How could the God of Scripture send in Israel to conquer a people?”
This is hard. This is why people don’t teach Judges on Sunday morning, but we can’t just pick parts of God’s Word that make us feel comfortable.
This part of Judges is hard because it isn’t like Israel is defending themselves from the Canaanites. The Lord is leading Israel to take this land and kill these people. That’s the 6th and 8th Commandment, “You shall not kill and you shall not steal.” What’s going on? Therefore, we need to remember a few things when we are studying Judges: (SLIDE)
First, and you are going to want to write these down in your notes to help you remember. These wars described in Joshua and Judges are NOT ethnically motivated. It isn’t as though the God of Scripture hates a race or an ethnicity in the world, and He is using Israel to attack a specific race or ethnicity. In fact, there are Canaanites in the Scriptures like Rahab who play a pivotal role in the history of Israel.
Second, the wars described in Joshua and Judges are NOT for the expansion of Israel all over the world. These are not imperialistic purposes ordained by the God of Scripture. The description in Scripture is over one specific piece of land that is given to Israel by the God of Scripture ultimately to be a blessing to the world.
Third, the wars described in Joshua and Judges are carried out as God’s judgment toward the wickedness of humanity, and this is going to be hard to understand, but throughout history the God of Scripture does use people and governments as an extension of His judgment.
The God of Scripture knows the hearts and minds of all people, and one day Jesus will return to bring judgment against all wickedness throughout all of humanity, and the wars in Joshua and Judges are moments in history when He brings that judgment early.
Again, our response is to say, “So can we just walk around claiming to be an early gift of God’s judgment upon the wicked?” No, Joshua and Judges is a unique point in history. The Scriptures make it really clear if anyone makes these claims today to bring judgment against the wickedness of humanity is either lying, or mentally unstable.
Listen, I know this is hard. We are going to touch on this subject most Sundays, but we need to remember we are living in a completely different perspective of civility in history, which puts us at an extreme disadvantage.
We have democracy, law enforcement, court systems, and city structure that are not perfect, but they create a measure of civility that these people didn’t have at this point in history, so hang on to these three points and we will keep coming back to this subject, but lets look at verses 4-5: (SLIDE)
, “Judah went up, and the Lord gave the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hands, and they defeated ten thousand men at Bezek. 5 They found Adoni-bezek in Bezek and fought against him, and they defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites.”
In verses 4-5 the people of Israel are winning, and everything looks really positive from Israel’s perspective.
Yes, Joshua has died, but the people are turning to the Lord in prayer, the tribes of Israel are working together, and throughout chapter 1 we see phrases, “The Lord gave them victory and the Lord was with His people” repeated over and over, so that our focus is on the faithfulness of God. Write that down in your notes, “There is nothing wrong with the promises of God.”
Another Side Note: When you study Scripture on your own it is always easy to get swept up in the drama of the story that we exalt some people and villainize others, so that in the church we end up saying, “Be like these people, don’t be like these people.”
But, really it is better to ask, “What does this passage teach us about God and what does this passage teach us about humanity?”
In Judges chapter 1 we see God is providing, and God is faithful to His promises. Now, lets look at verses 19-21: (SLIDE)
, “19 Now the Lord was with Judah, and they took possession of the hill country; but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley because they had iron chariots. 20 Then they gave Hebron to Caleb, as Moses had promised; and he drove out from there the three sons of Anak. 21 But the sons of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem; so the Jebusites have lived with the sons of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.”
In verse 19 we see the people of Israel go into battle, but the people had “iron chariots.” In the ancient world iron chariots would have been like tanks rolling over Israel, therefore, in we see there isn’t anything wrong with the promises of God, but we see the people of Israel doubting the promises of God.
The people of Israel are looking at the iron chariots and saying, “Well, maybe the Lord didn’t really understand how difficult this would be?”
Remember ? Isn’t this the God of Scripture who led Israel out of Egypt? Isn’t this the God of Scripture who dried up the Red Sea? Isn’t this the God of Scripture who tumbled down the walls of Jericho? Then, how come the “iron chariots” would give the people of Israel any problems?
The people in Israel were looking at these “iron chariots” and thinking to themselves, “Maybe we don’t need to fight all these Canaanites.” Remember our question, “What does the passage teach us about God, what does the passage teach us about humanity?” The people of Israel were doubting the promises of God.
In fact, if you look at verse 27 you will see, “Manasseh did not take possession (these are tribes of Israel), verse 29 Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites, verse 30 Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants, and verse 31 Asher did not drive out the inhabitants.” What happened?
Do you remember Judges chapter 1, verse 1, “Who shall go up first?” In verses 2-3 Judah and Simeon are working together. In the middle of the passage the victories are sure, but then Israel sees these “iron chariots” and they begin to doubt the promises of God, and say to themselves, “Maybe we don’t need to fight all these Canaanites? Maybe this is close enough?”
Therefore, we would all do well to ask ourselves, “What are the ‘iron chariots’ in our lives that are leading us to doubt the promises of God?” (Pause) Look at , verses 1-2: (SLIDE)
, “2 Now the angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you, 2 and as for you, you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed Me; what is this you have done?”
In verse 1 the God of Scripture reminds Israel of His character. He says, “I brought you out of Egypt.” Do you remember? I made you a promise that I will never break my commitment to you, and yet you have not obeyed Me.”
It is important to see it isn’t as though Israel completely ignores the promises of God. There was obedience, but when confronted with those “iron chariots” their full obedience became partial obedience, and yet the Lord says to Israel, “But, you have not obeyed Me.”
Therefore, when we ask ourselves, “What are the ‘iron chariots’ in our lives that are leading us to doubt the promises of God?” We must remember “partial obedience” to God and His Word is considered “full disobedience.”
Do you understand? There are some “iron chariots” in our lives that are leading us to consider God’s Word in our lives and we are saying, “Close enough.”
Application: In our careers the “iron chariots” might be the pressure to perform. We know God’s Word is calling us to be men and women of character, but because of the “pressure” we say to ourselves, “close enough.”
Do you see how the source of the strength is in ourselves, instead of the promises and provision of God’s grace in our lives?
Or, in our relationships with others those “iron chariots” might be forgiveness, and we say to ourselves, “I know I should forgive this person, but if I forgive this person they are just going to do it again, and I can’t let that happen.” The “iron chariot” is the pain inflicted by others, and the source of our strength is in ourselves, instead of in God’s grace.
For those of who are single the “iron chariot” is sexual purity, and we might say to ourselves, “Sexual purity is so hard. My friends are doing things sexually a lot more corrupt.” Is this one area that big of a deal? So we say to ourselves, this is “close enough.” We are relying on our strength instead of God’s grace.
In our finances we say to ourselves, “I will get my financial life in order when things settle down.” The iron chariot is the circumstances of life, and the source of our strength is ourselves instead of being fully and whole heartedly committed to the Lord.
It is partial obedience, and for the Lord, partial obedience is full disobedience, so it is important to see how the people respond in . Look at verses 4-5 as we close: (SLIDE)
, “4 When the angel of the Lord spoke these words to all the sons of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept. 5 So they named that place Bochim; and there they sacrificed to the Lord.”
In verses 4 and 5 the people are confronted with their sin, and they respond in repentance. You must see we are all guilty of partial obedience. I listed off a few examples this morning, but every one of us in this room have areas of partial obedience in our life.
Therefore, our hope this morning isn’t simply to see our partial obedience and leave kicked in the gut, but instead to turn to the Lord in repentance for our partial obedience.
In verse 4 they are weeping for their partial obedience, and in the same way, might we see our partial obedience through the power of the Holy Spirit and respond with repentance.
In verse 5 you see the people make sacrifices for their sin, which means the people see their sin is deserving of death, and the animal stands in their place as a substitute for their sin, and this happens over and over and over, until one day John the Baptist sees Jesus coming from a distance and says, “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
Today, we don’t need to make sacrifices as they did in chapter 2. The perfect life of Jesus has come to lay Himself down at the cross to become the ultimate sacrifice.
The perfect life of Jesus has come to fully obey where we only partially obey. This is good news! Jesus takes our partial obedience to the point of death at the cross, and by grace through faith in Jesus we are given His full obedience. Isn’t that amazing? When you are in Christ you are fully obedient! This is the good news of Jesus.
Therefore, let us see our partial obedience by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives through His Word, so that we glory of the riches we have been given in Christ.
Which means when we are in Christ and we see those “iron chariots” in our lives leading us to doubt the character of God we can call it out, we can be reminded His grace is better, and we can ask for His help to trust Him over and over and over and over, and He never grows tired.
Listen to me, when we are in Christ we enjoy far greater privileges than the people in Judges. The people in looked back to God’s rescue from slavery in Egypt, but those who are in Christ look back to rescue from the slavery of sin and judgment of hell.
The people in looked back to the blood of a lamb covering a door post as the Spirit of death passed over their homes, but those who are in Christ look back to the blood of Jesus poured out at the cross for our sin. The people in Judges looked ahead to a land flowing with milk and honey, but those who are in Christ look forward to rest in a land without pain, tears, and death.
Therefore, let us not simply weep for our sin, but let us turn to Jesus, receive His grace by faith and become sober-minded so that we might give our lives fully to Him.
Passage: “Introduction to Judges”
Reflect: What or who are the “iron chariots” in our lives that are hindering us from full obedience to God’s Word?
Repentance: Turn to Jesus, seek His forgiveness, and ask for His help to obey.
Rejoice: Jesus has taken our partial obedience, and given us His full obedience.
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