The Fifteenth in a Series of Sermons on the Book of Judges
Many of us were raised on “Bible stories.” One of the most famous of these is the story of the long-haired Samson, and his evil paramour, Delilah. As we have seen throughout our time in Judges, the various men (and one woman–Deborah) whom we know as the “judges” are raised up by God to rescue his people from their plight whenever Israel falls into sin, and is nearly overcome by neighboring enemies. While many Bible stories present these people as role models for Christians to emulate, the fact of the matter is these people are not role models. Rather, they are living illustrations to us as to how deeply sin is rooted in the human heart, including our own. Gideon is not presented in Judges as an example so I can be a “Gideon.” Gideon is a man who is weak in faith, who needs constant reassurance, and who uses his success in battle as the basis to establish a personal empire. Gideon is not an example for me to follow. Rather, Gideon is a picture to me of . . . me. The judges we meet in this book are all sinners who are used by God to save Israel. But the grim fact is these judges can do absolutely nothing to deal with Israel’s deepest problem–human sin. Therefore, these judges are a constant reminder that while God can and does use sinful men and women to accomplish his purposes, it will take a messiah, who is both God and man, to save us from the guilt and power of sin.
Now that we have made our way nearly to the end of the book of Judges, it is obvious that the Judges we have already met–Ehud, Deborah and Barak, Gideon, and Jephthah–would make great characters in a novel, a movie, or even a soap opera. Although God uses them to accomplish his purposes, their sinful behavior, and their personal foibles shock us. Yet, the reality is that these people are just like us. My guess is that the reason that we remember these characters we read about in our youth so vividly into adulthood, is precisely because they are such scoundrels. The best way to prove this my thesis is with a simple question. “Which of Israel’s Judges is the most faithful, and the most successful?”
It is Othniel. Why do we forget about him? Because Othniel was faithful, he married an Israelite, and he did just as YHWH commanded him to do. So, we forget the one Judge who makes the best role model, and who is, in many ways, the very antithesis of the more dramatic Samson–the subject of the next section of Judges. Samson–someone we all remember–is a man who seems trapped between faith in YHWH, and the lusts of the flesh. In this sense, Samson is just like us, struggling with his sins. He is a mighty warrior, even a savior of sorts, and yet Samson is a hot-head and a notorious womanizer. He is given the Holy Spirit, yet he breaks his vows, and stumbles along through life, disobeying the will of God, and suffering the consequences. As we cover the details of his mis-spent life and heroic death, we see yet again, that no sinful human can save our fallen race from the guilt and power of sin.
To read the rest of this sermon, click here