The history of our faith back through the centuries to the time of Christ, and back even further through the nation of Israel, is laced with people who chose to follow God’s command when others did not and they challenged others to do the same.
Looking at the early judges, Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar, the only one that I remember learning about is Ehud, the famous left-handed judge. As a child, I liked to squirm under a somewhat censored story of his takedown of Eglon, the king of Moab. In my mind this played out like a Jabba the Hutt scene from Star Wars.
But when the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. 10 The Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he judged Israel. . .11 So the land had rest forty years. . . (Judges 3:9-11 ESV)
Today in reading, what strikes me is the faithfulness of these men. Othniel’s uncle was Caleb. We don’t hear a lot about Caleb as Joshua became the primary leader during the acquisition of Canaan, but clearly he was a man of God, and the faith of Othniel shows that faith spread through the family as well. As a result of Othniel’s obedience to God, Israel returned to God and enjoyed 40 years of rest.
15 Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, and the Lord raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. The people of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab. . . 20 And Ehud came to him as he was sitting alone in his cool roof chamber. And Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.” And he arose from his seat. 21 And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. . .
24 When he had gone, the servants came, and when they saw that the doors of the roof chamber were locked, they thought, “Surely he is relieving himself in the closet of the cool chamber.” . . .
26 Ehud escaped while they delayed, and he passed beyond the idols and escaped to Seirah. . . 30 So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest for eighty years. (Judges 3: 15-30 ESV)
Ehud carried out his deadly rebellion and ushered in 80 years of peace.
In Acts 7, Stephen recognizes the importance of remembering our spiritual heritage and tracing the story of our faith to understand the fulfillment of Jesus Christ. As he spoke specifically to Jews, he called to mind God’s call on their nation from the time of Abraham.
51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. (Acts 7:51 ESV)
Stephen also pointed out the need for continual reminders to return to God and His ways. Just as Israel ignored God’s law, so the leaders he challenged were ignoring the Messiah.
21 “Therefore, behold, I will make them know, this once I will make them know my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is the Lord.” (Jeremiah 16:21 ESV)
The dark beauty in this cycle of rebellion, discipline, repentance, deliverance might have been more vivid during the time of the judges, but I see it mirrored in my own life. Not quite so harshly, and the Holy Spirit pulls me back before too long. But when routine becomes stale or quiet times get trampled by a full calendar, God wakes me up with a verse or experience and through His power and might makes sure I remember He is the LORD, and I should be living and prioritizing accordingly.
17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17 ESV)
God’s grace keeps calling me back close to His side, in step with Him, reflecting Him to those around me that they may follow more closely also.
Father God, thank you for your perpetual faithfulness and gracious forgiveness. I love because you are love. I show grace, because you showed it to me. When I see your character less evident in my life, I know it is because I have not been faithfully drinking from Your word. Draw me close, keep my steps in line, shine through me. In Jesus name, amen.