And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites: And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgat the Lord their God, and served Baalim and the groves. — Judges 3:5-7
The summer before the start of my third year of high school, I gave my life to the Lord during a camp meeting. Not having been raised to attend Sunday school or church, my theology was limited. Yet, I knew that the Lord had done something wonderful for me, and I wanted to guard it. I sensed that there would be temptations when I went back to school in a non-Christian environment. However, I wanted to remain faithful, and the Lord kept me throughout high school.
The next big challenge was college. I had heard of young people who had lost their faith when they went to college. Again, I was determined to remain true to the Lord, and again, He kept me throughout this challenge. It was the same thing when, shortly after college, I went into military service. The Lord can keep you anywhere that He allows you to be — if you truly want to be kept. But you must realize that you are in a battle, and you must be careful to sincerely stand true to the Lord.
At the time of our text today, the Children of Israel were living in close proximity to many ungodly people who had all sorts of evil practices and religions. Instead of remaining true to the Lord, and perhaps even leading a few individuals from this group into worship of the true God, the Israelites took the downward path. They intermingled in marriage with the heathen (an action expressly forbidden by God) and eventually embraced their false gods. Because the Israelites did not realize that they were in a spiritual battle, they lost their faith in God without even putting up a struggle.
All of us must make choices. Because I was aware that the temptations could creep up on me, I was careful not to attend functions where my faith might be compromised. By a conscious decision, the people I allowed myself to be closest to were those who would not tear down my beliefs. I did not go some places, and I did not associate with some people. Regardless of our age and situation in life (in school, on the job, in the home, retired), we are likely to be around some people who do not know the Lord. God does not take us out of the world when He saves us, but He does promise to keep us unspotted from the world.
Not only do we need to remain free from the sins of the world, but also we need to be careful that we do not pick up the world’s views on various matters, such as a preoccupation with money and possessions, or of living primarily for pleasure and our own wants. God will help us to remain on an even keel and to be a positive witness for Him, if we pray diligently about this and remain focused on serving Him with all our heart.
The Book of Judges contains a series of episodes where, in response to the sins of the people, God allowed them to be overrun and oppressed by ungodly invaders. Eventually, when the people cried out to God, He raised up a deliverer from within their ranks. Under the leadership of this one, God would then overthrow the oppressor and give the people a period of peace. Unfortunately, each new generation had to learn the same lesson.
Israel had not driven out all the Canaanites, and as God had foretold, those people became a snare to them. However, God used those nations to test Israel, giving them an opportunity to choose whether or not to obey.
Othniel was the first of those raised up to deliver Israel, and he became Israel’s first judge. He was from a good family, being related to Caleb (who, in his advanced age, was still strong to fight for the Lord). Not only did Othniel fight valiantly to free Israel, but following this, he judged them faithfully for the Lord for many years. During this time, the land enjoyed peace and prosperity. Yet, once Othniel died, Israel fell away again spiritually.
The next deliverer was Ehud, who was the leader of the entourage taking tribute money to the King of Moab. Ehud undertook the risky business of slaying the wicked king with a dagger. Eglon’s summer parlor (verse 20) was probably a latticed room on the roof, where he rested on hot days. The servants likely thought their king was napping, therefore they waited outside. Meanwhile, Ehud escaped and then rallied the Israelites to rise up and overthrow the invaders, and peace prevailed for eighty years.
The end of this chapter contains a few words about Shamgar, who killed 600 Philistines using an ox goad. An ox goad was a stick eight or ten feet long. It had a sharp tip, for prodding the animals, and a flat piece of metal that was used to clean the plow. It is unknown whether Shamgar killed all 600 men in the same battle, but whatever the case, he demonstrated true courage and trust in God, who used him to deliver Israel.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. Conditions during the period of the judges
A. Introduction: the religious character of the period
2. The character of the era under the judges
e. The result
(2) The testing nations (3:1-6)
B. The judges of the period
1. Othniel of Judah (3:7-11)
a. Israel’s sin (3:7)
b. Israel’s servitude to Chushan-rishathaim (3:8)
c. Israel’s deliverance (3:9-10)
d. Israel’s rest (3:11)
2. Ehud of Benjamin (3:12-30)
a. Israel’s sin (3:12)
b. Israel’s servitude to Eglon (3:13-14)
c. Israel’s deliverance (3:15-29)
(1) The murder of Eglon (3:15-25)
(2) The demise of Moabite power (3:26-29)
d. Israel’s rest (3:30)
3. Shamgar (3:31)
We can learn a lesson from the Children of Israel — we will be helped spiritually if we do not associate too closely with the ungodly. Let us be diligent to stand true for the Lord.