From our earliest days, we want to do things our way.
We don’t want anyone else to tell us what to do.
Though we may appear to go along with rules as we get older, in our heart of hearts we often think we know what’s best for us.
But do we?
The books of Judges and Ruth give us interesting pictures from Old Testament history on what happens to individuals and people when they either—
- Do what they want to do regardless of what God wants
- Or trust Him no matter how difficult it might be.
Judges is a little-studied book in its entirety, but as you’ll see it’s a very relevant one for our world today as you’ll see in our lesson.
Below is a copy of the podcast, video, and notes.
• There is a popular song that boasts “I did it my way!”
• Though it sounds appealing, is this really the best way to live?
• We’re going to look at almost 400 years of history when an entire nation decided to do it their way in our lesson on…..
The books of Judges & Ruth
My Way or God’s Way, which is the better way to live?
Teacher, Yvon Prehn
From our earliest days
• We want to do things our way.
• We don’t want anyone else to tell us what to do.
• Though we may appear to go along with rules as we get older, in our heart of hearts we often think we know what’s best for us.
• But do we?
The books of Judges and Ruth
• Give us interesting pictures from Old Testament history on what happens to individuals and people when they either—
• Do what they want to do regardless of what God wants
• Or trust Him no matter how difficult it might be.
• Judges is a little-studied book in its entirety, but as you’ll see it’s a very relevant one for our world today.
Basic facts about Judges and Ruth
• Both most likely written by Samuel, time frame approximately 1380-1045BC.
• The books cover the same time frame, about 335 years, a significant amount of time.
• Many people often skip these books, or only read selective stories out of them and that’s understandable.
• Judges is an incredibly depressing book as the people and their leaders go from being a victorious people of God to a people oppressed by their enemies because of their sins.
• The Bible summarizes the span of the book in this this way in Judges 21:24 where it says, “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. Judges 21:24, NLT
Tips on reading Judges correctly
• Remember or review the lesson on how to read the narrative/story parts of the Bible.
• Keep in mind that not every story, very action recorded in the Bible is something to follow.
• Judges is an example of how God reports true events, but many are not positive ones.
• We are supposed to understand as we see the people’s actions and consequences, why this is happening and how people ought to behave.
• And from their examples, successes, and failures apply the lessons to our lives.
Be especially careful in reading about “heroes”
• This may be the first time you’ve read Judges in detail.
• When you do it may be surprising to see a more complete picture of the life of characters such as Gideon and Sampson.
• They did some great things, but their lives aren’t ones to emulate.
• We are reminded in all of Judges that the true hero of the book (and all books of the Bible) is God.
• God is the one who shows mercy, who uses imperfect people to accomplish His plans.
Joshua died and passed on leadership to…….
• That’s the first problem—he didn’t.
• Judges 2:7 The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel.
• 8 Joshua . . . . .died . . . . .
• 10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.
• We are never told why he (and the other elders) didn’t intentionally train a leader(s), but we see the results in the next 400+ years from the death of Joshua until the Saul becomes king.
I am asking why this was?
Contrast Moses and Joshua
• I’m sharing this as simply my opinion and not a categorical truth from scripture, but as I’ve thought about it, why one passed on strong leadership and the other didn’t.
• Both led, legislated, and fought numerous battles.
• Even though the Israelites didn’t go into the land they still had to fight during the 40 years.
• Many similarities in the demands of their lives, so that wasn’t the reason.
A big difference in one area
• Moses preached to the people continuously about how they ought to serve God.
• Other than battle instructions, Joshua had one final sermon where he says the famous line that “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
• That’s very good—but he basically says—My family will serve God, but whatever the rest of you do—that’s your problem.
• The results were not good.
• I can’t help but wonder if the history of Israel for the next 400 years would have been different if Joshua had cared as much about instilling the commands of God in the people as Moses did.
That was then, this is now, and what lesson can we learn from them?
• We need to be intentional, consistent, and persistent about Biblical truth we pass on to coming generations.
• We do not live in times favorable to the Christian faith and I don’t imagine it will get much better.
• Our world is similar to the one the Children of Israel faced.
• I think we need to very seriously warn coming generations of how hostile our culture is to our faith and how we must respond by knowing and living God’s Word.
• We need to be more interested in preparing and challenging the next generation than in making sure they have a good time.
Back to Judges, here is the overall pattern of the book
• The people sin, serve other gods, the ones they should have gotten rid of, but didn’t.
• Serving other gods results in moral deterioration that you see especially in the later chapters of Judges.
• God punishes them by allowing the people who should have been conquered, such as the Philistines, to oppress them.
• The people cry out to God for deliverance.
• God responds and sends a “judge,” and they are delivered, but then the cycle repeats itself when they forget God’s deliverance and go back to worshipping other gods.
Who were the Judges?
• Overall, Warren Wiersbe defined a biblical Judge in this way: ruler, military leader, one who decided in judicial matters, over limited areas. No income or taxing power, not a hereditary office. Called and empowered by God.
• Warren Wiersbe says regarding Judges that “the monotony of Israel’s sins can be contrasted with the creativity of God’s methods of deliverance.”
• No two stories are the same.
• 12 is the traditional number of them, but some we know very little about some such as Ehud, Shamgar, Tola, Jair, Iban, Elon, and Abdon.
• Let’s look at a few of the more complete stories.
Deborah, Judges 4-5
• Israel was suffering 20 Years of oppression.
• She was already leading Israel and serving as a judge.
• God called her to deliver people; she summons Barak to lead the army.
• He is victorious though the war ends with the opposing general being killed by Jael, a Kenite woman (Kenites were relatives of Moses).
• Once again, land has rest for 40 years.
Comments about Deborah
• She was the only judge called “a prophet”
• Until Samuel, she is the only one who was actively serving God when called to deliver the people.
• She is the only one who writes a Psalm of praise after victory, included in the Bible.
• Her life shows, and it is interesting that there is no comment she was unique or unusual, that women did lead, prophesy, and hold a position of spiritual authority and power in the Old Testament.
Gideon, Judges 6-9
• Israel oppressed by Midianites for 7 years.
• The Midianites were also descendants of Abraham, they were the people Moses fled to, but something had gone very wrong in their relationship with the Jews.
• Idol worship was rampant and public—in Gideon’s town there was an altar to Baal.
• Angel of the Lord appears to him hiding and threshing grain.
• “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior—mighty man of valor.” Judges 6:13
• Gideon protests—if God is with us, why all the problems? The Lord doesn’t answer, simply calls him to be the deliverer.
Then the situation with the fleece….
• Testing to see if God would make it wet or dry to confirm God’s calling.
• It was NOT a sign of trust, but a sign of his continuing unbelief.
• God is merciful in His answer, but we aren’t to do this.
• NOT an example we should follow.
• Gideon calls out his army.
• Then the Lord reduces his army from 22,000 to 300 and gives them a great victory!
• Lesson here—if you don’t think you have the resources to do what God wants –that might be precisely the point, precisely where God wants you to be.
But after the victory
• People wanted Gideon to rule over them.
• He refused, but he makes a golden ephod and people worshipped it.
• 40 years of peace, but then people return to sin.
• His son, Abimelech kills all his brothers and is a tyrant until dies in battle.
While all this drama—story of Ruth is taking place
• There is a famine in Israel and Elimelech and Naomi go to Moab.
• Their two sons marry Moabite women. All three men die.
• Naomi hears things are better back in Israel and decides to go home.
• Both daughters-in-law start out with her, one turns back, Ruth remains .
• “Where you go, I’ll go. (Ruth 1:16) ” Ruth says and the most significant part of her declaration is when she says, “your God, will be my God.”
They go back to Bethlehem
• Important—this was obviously a city that still revered and lived by God’s law.
• We see that in that they obeyed the laws of gleaning and of the “kinsman redeemer”.
• Important to note: there are always people who serve God in the midst of evil times.
• Back to the story….
• Ruth and Naomi have no money, no income, no protector, so Ruth goes out to glean [gather the leftover scraps] in the fields.
Ruth happens to go into Boaz’s field
• He notices her, protects her.
• He is her “kinsman Redeemer” one who can buy their land, marry Ruth, and have children to carry on the name of the family.
• He does that and their son is Obed, father of Jesse, father of David.
• Ruth is blessed and Naomi ends her life with joy.
Lessons of Ruth
• No matter how bad overall society may be.
• No matter how difficult personal circumstances may be.
• God always has people who serve Him.
• And God is at work in their lives and circumstances.
• That’s why it’s important to not focus on things we can’t control,
• But on our God, who is in control and who will work out His plan no matter what.
Sampson, Judges 13-16
• Called from before birth to be a judge.
• When younger married a Philistine woman (expressly forbidden), it did not go well, and he ends up killing a thousand of them in revenge.
• He then led Israel as a judge for 20 years
• But…never got over sins with women.
• Went to Gaza (a Philistine city) and visited a prostitute.
• Some time later. . . .he fell in love with Delilah, a Philistine.
• After many deceptions he finally reveals the secret of his strength—his hair—he had been a Nazarite from birth.
• His hair is cut, he is weak and captured, his eyes are put out.
But the hair on his head began to grow…..
• The Philistines bring him to their temple so they can mock him.
• He asks the young man with him to put his hands on the pillars of the temple.
• He does and he prays:
• “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” Judges 16:28
• And it crashes down.
• Great example of God’s second chances.
Archaeologists have uncovered two Philistine temples. . . . .
• Both temples share a unique design;
• Two central pillars supported the roof. The pillars were made of wood and rested on stone support bases.
• With the pillars being about six feet apart, a strong man could dislodge them from their stone bases and bring the entire structure down.
More reminders that these early stories are not fairy tales, but real people and places
• Archeological verifications
• Names, places, battles, timelines many verified
• This is not a small thing—does not happen in all religious texts
• See other lessons for the differences in the historical accuracy of the Bible as compared with other scriptures.
Book ends with horrid stories
• Judges 17 and 18—a Levite serves a man for pay and uses his family idols to do it.
• A group of Danites comes by, takes the Levite with them; they go to another city and slaughter everyone.
• Judges 19 is story of Levite and his concubine, who is killed brutally. Then in revenge for her death, a tribe is almost destroyed and because of a foolish vow, they kidnap women to be wives for the warriors.
• This is NOT how God’s people were supposed to live.
• Ends with the summary statement I shared at the start: In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. Judges 21:24, NLT
The challenge of Judges—His way or our way—our choice
• Judges shows what happens when we do it our way
• We have a choice—no matter what might be happening in our crazy world, individual actions matter.
• Romans 12:1,2 MSG tells us how to make the positive choice:
• So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. . . .Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Our choices matter, now and forever
• They matter to the people around you, maybe in a big way like the Judges did to the people they delivered, but most likely, like Ruth, our actions matter tremendously for those close to us.
• Who knows what might have happened to Naomi had she gone back alone.
• Even more, Ruth didn’t see that by trusting God, she was part of a Great Story of Salvation God was working out—she was the great grandmother of King David, the early ancestor of Jesus.
• None of us see our part in the Great Story God is writing, but all of us like the good Judges, like Ruth, can simply trust God as we follow his will in daily tasks and trust Him to take our small efforts and use them as He pleases to work out His redemption of our world.
• I imagine when we look back from heaven at the results of good choices we’ve long forgotten, there will be surprises.
FINAL SLIDE for PODS with devotion
• That’s all for now,
• Please check out the notes from this lesson, they are in Downloadable PDF format and other materials at www.bible805.com
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