Scripture Text – Judges 3
The weapons we fight with as Christian soldiers engaged in spiritual warfare, are not the weapons of the world.
That statement could have been made by a alien from space in a science-fiction novel or a sci-fi movie, but it wasn’t. The Apostle Paul wrote along those lines to the believers in Corinth (2 Corinthians 10:4), reminding them of a principle every Christian needs to take to heart: When God goes to war, He usually chooses the most unlikely soldiers, hands them the most unusual weapons, and accomplishes through them the most unpredictable results.
For example, God gave Shamgar an ox goad, and with it he killed 600 men. Jael used a hammer and tent peg to kill a captain, and Gideon routed the whole Midianite army with only ceramic pitchers and torches as weapons. Samson slaughtered 1,000 Philistines using the jawbone of an ass, and young David killed the giant Goliath with a stone hurled from a shepherd’s sling. West Point isn’t likely to offer courses on how to use weapons such as these.
Even though our world has changed dramatically since the days of the Judges, the “world system” is still the same because human nature hasn’t and doesn’t change, unless God changes man from the inside out (1 John 2:15–17). As long as we’re in this world, God’s people are involved in a spiritual battle against Satan and his armies (Ephesians 6:10–19), and God is still looking for men and women who have what it takes to win: power, strategy, and courage. These three essentials for victory are illustrated in this chapter in the lives of the first three judges.
Othniel: The Power of God
Now these are the nations which the LORD left, that He might test Israel by them, that is, all who had not known any of the wars in Canaan (this was only so that the generations of the children of Israel might be taught to know war, at least those who had not formerly known it), namely, five lords of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites who dwelt in Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal Hermon to the entrance of Hamath. – Judges 3:1-3.
Please continue reading Judges 3:4-11 for the background of this section.
In this chapter, you will find “five lords of the Philistines” and the King of Moab called “lord,” however, more importantly “the Lord,” meaning Jehovah God, is named fifteen times in these thirty verses. That lets us know who is really in charge. The great missionary leader A.T. Pierson used to say that “history is His story,” and he was right. As He executes His divine decrees, God never violates human responsibility, but He does rule and overrule in the affairs of individuals and nations to accomplish His perfect plans on this earth.
The early church used to pray, “Lord, You are God!” and they gladly confessed that their enemies could do only “whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.” – Acts 4:24, 28. The poet T.S. Eliot often said, “Destiny waits in the hand of God, not in the hands of statesmen.”
God’s mercy toward His people (Judges 3:1-4). The tribe of Judah was not able to hold on to the key Philistine cities they had taken (Judges 1:18; 3:3); and as was recorded in chapter 1, the other tribes failed to conquer the Canaanite nations. These surviving nations adopted a “good neighbor” policy toward Israel that eventually defeated Israel from within. Sometimes Satan comes as a lion to devour, but often he comes as a serpent to deceive (1 Peter 5:8; 2 Corinthians 11:3).
God could have judged Israel for sparing the wicked Canaanite nations, but in His mercy He spared them because He had purposes for them to fulfill. Israel had committed a serious blunder in not trusting God to give them victory, but God sought to use their mistake for their own good. Romans 8:28 worked even in Old Testament days.
He would use the enemy to train Israel, to help the new generation learn the meaning of war (see Exodus 13:17). Life had been relatively easy for the Jews in the Promised Land, and they needed the challenge of ever-present danger to keep them alert, disciplined and looking to God. This is not to say God always approves of war or that participating in conflict always builds character. However, the point is that Israel had to keep some kind of standing army, or their enemies could quickly unite and overpower them, especially when Israel was at such a low ebb spiritually. In the years to come, both Saul and David would need effective armies in order to overcome their many enemies and establish their kingdom.
God also used the Canaanite nations to test Israel and reveal whether or not His people would obey the regulations Moses had given them from the Lord. God had made it very clear to the Jews that they were not to study “comparative religion” as it were, and thus get interested in the pagan practices of the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 7:1–11). It was that kind of curiosity that had brought divine judgment on Israel in the land of Moab (see Numbers 25), because curiosity is often the first step toward temptation and thus conformity and sin.
Of course, Israel should have been a witness to the surviving pagan nations and sought to win them to faith in the true and living God, but they failed in that responsibility as well. What a difference it would have made in history if the Israelites had won the Canaanites to the Lord instead of the Canaanites winning the Israelites to Baal! Later, the Apostle Paul would state the truth of this very situation when he wrote, “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” ” – 1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV).
To Be Continued