The Thirteenth in a Series of Sermons on the Book of Judges
Strengthened by the Holy Spirit, Gideon saved Israel during a very dark period in the nation’s history. Gideon led a 300 man Israeli force to a stunning victory over a huge Midianite army, driving them all the way back across the Jordan River before wiping them out. Nevertheless, Gideon left behind a very mixed legacy in Israel. Gideon’s son by a Canaanite concubine, Abimelech, became one of cruelest and most blood-thirsty figures in all the Bible. Not only did Abimelech kill his sixty-nine half brothers (Gideon’s sons by his other wives), but Abimelech’s murderous rampage was funded by the leaders of Shechem, and the church of Baal. When the only surviving son of Gideon (Jotham) pronounced a curse upon those who killed his brothers, it was not long before Abimelech turned against the leaders of Shechem who had placed him in power. Abimelech laid waste to Shechem, and then destroyed the citadel at the center of the city, killing thousands. In a rather fitting bit of irony, Abimelech himself was killed while attempting to burn a suburb of Shechem, when a women threw a millstone from the city’s tower which hit Abimelech in the head, mortally wounding him. For three years, Israel endured his murderous and cruel reign. And now that Abimelech was dead (YWHW removed him from Israel, as a doctor removes diseased tissue from the body), the question now becomes “what will happen to Israel?” Will the people learn their lesson and turn to YHWH, or will the downward spiral continue?
Throughout the Book of Judges, so far, we have seen Israel’s continuing descent into unbelief. The Israelites continue to disobey YHWH’s commandments, even though YHWH had made his will perfectly clear to Israel when he made a covenant with them at Mount Sinai–the law and the book of the covenant. But it has been several hundred years since Israel was given the law and wandered through the wilderness of the Sinai. Now, the struggle faced by the nation is no longer that of keeping the faith when the promise had not yet been realized. Having entered the land and defeated the Canaanites, now the struggle is with the inevitable complacency which resulted after Israel took possession of the land, and actually began living in the prosperity that God had promised to them on the condition of obedience.
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