• What is He doing?
• Why are we here?
• Do the stories of the Bible really matter?
Big questions – questions without simple answers. Life is complicated – things happen that don’t make sense. Bad things happen – horrible things – good things – ok things – things of all shapes and sizes…
Are we living just for ourselves? Living for the fun things in life…fishing, cars, money, football….. what happens when we can’t do that anymore?
Perhaps we are living for our family? Yet what happens when you lose your family? When they grow up and move away?
Maybe, just maybe, there is something out there – something larger than ourselves…. What if we could join into this story? A grand story that gives our lives purpose and direction…
Following Jesus is not about knowing facts and figures – doctrines and theology – it is not even about believing in the One True God for as James 2:19 says:
“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.” –James 2:19
Following Jesus means joining Him – it means changing our story to match His – we are no longer driven by the American Dream, driven by the dream of retirement, motivate by the dream of novelty (he who dies with the most toys wins)….
“The Christian life is life in the kingdom, living as ambassadors of the kingdom. It is being the cooperate friends of Jesus, living in creative goodness for the sake of others through the power of the Holy Spirit.” –Todd Hunter, “Christianity Beyond Belief”
• Cooperate friends of Jesus – We see our story, the story our life within the story of God, within His intention for humanity. When we do this, we see how we have chosen our own path – how we try to make the decisions of right and wrong ourselves… When we join into God’s story through faith, trust and confidence in Jesus we find both forgiveness and the gift of reorienting our lives. Repentances – it is a lifestyle in which we enter a new life in the Kingdom of God today – right now – as well as in heaven in the age to come.
• Seeking to life consistent lives of creative goodness – God is up to something; He is healing and restoring His creation. And we get to play!!! Like a little child helping their parents – we get to join with God in being creative – in helping Him in His mission!
• For the sake of others – Loving and serving others is the heart beat of Jesus. He laid down His life for us and He is asking us to set aside ourselves to love others.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” –James 1:22-27
• Through the power of the Holy Spirit – It is not by our strength but by His. The Spirit is our mentor, our teacher, our guide and our strength. He is the constant presence of Jesus in our lives. We must allow the Spirit to flow through us – letting His fruits and gifts flow through us.
Living as ambassadors of the kingdom…. We are God’s ambassadors to the people around us…
Just like the people of Israel.
God had invited the people of Israel to be His ambassadors – they were to be a kingdom or a nation of priests.
‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ –God, Exodus 19:4-6a
They were to show the people around them who God was – they were to be a mirror reflecting God to the surrounding nations.
This was the story that God was inviting them into…This is why God was sending them into the Land of Peace – He was giving them a homeland at the cross-roads of the area – a place where they could tell everyone about Himself.
God is King
When the Israelites entered into the land the Lord gave them directions on how to govern themselves. Following God is practical – it is down to earth and real – it is not all about getting to heaven and the world beyond.
God gave instructions to each tribe. They all had a specific piece of land given to them by God Almighty. He set up the boundaries of each group so that they would not have to fight each other for it.
Each tribe, in turn, was ruled by their elders who were supposed to teach the tribe the words of Moses and live in harmony with each other.Several times a year the tribes were to join together as one people to worship God at the Tabernacle. These feast days were put in place to tie the 12 tribes together as one people worshiping one God.
The tribes were also had a job to do. They were supposed to finish purging the land of evil – they were to finish destroying the idols to Baal and stop the evil practices of the land.
God wanted them to work with Him – cooperate friends.
Things Went Wrong
Sadly things did not work out this way…
Instead of fighting with God against sin, death, evil and injustice, the tribes of Israel started following their own path. They started following the gods of the Canaanites – worshiping the very things they were told to destroy.
They stopped following God as King.
It is in this context that the book of Judges is written. It is a record of how God raised up charismatic leaders full of the Spirit to help bring the people back to Himself.
You see, the ‘judges’ of the book of Judges are not black robed individuals sitting on a bench delivering acts of judgment in favor of one or the other party. No – these ‘judges’ are people who God raised up for a purpose – to remind the people who He was and what their purpose was to be.
They were gifted leaders raised up from among their tribe do deal with the evil that was happening in that tribe.
Interesting enough the book of Judges tells us about 12 different judges over 400 or so.
- Othniel (3:7-11) – Tribe of Judah – Caleb’s nephew and son-in-law – God gave him victory over Mesopotamia
- Ehud (3:12-30) – Tribe of Benjamin – Central area of the land – God gave him victory over Eglon of Moab
- Shamagar (3:31) – Tribe unknown – May have been a Canaanite acting in allegiance with Israel – God gave him victory over Philistines
- Deborah with Barak (4:1-5:31) – Tribe unknown – Central Palestine and Galilee area – God gave them victory over the Canaanite kings Jabin and Sisera
- Gideon (6:1-8:35) – Tribe unknown – Transjordan and Central Palestine area – God gave him victory over the Midianites and Amalekites
- Abimelech (9:1-57) – Son of Gideon – Tried to set up a ‘kingdom’ – killed his own brothers
- Tola (10:1-2) – Tribe of Ephraim – Only two verses about him
- Jair (10:3-5) – Tribe unknown – Leader in Transjordan – Three verses about his life
- Jephthan (10:6-12:7) – Tribe of Manasseh – Made a rash vow that cost his daughters her life – God gave him victory over Ammonites
- Ibzan (12:8-10) – Tribe unknown – Leader in Southern Palestine – Two verses about his life
- Elon (12:11-12) – Tribe of Zebulun – Leader in Northern Palestine – Two verses about his life
- Abdon (12:13-15) – Tribe of Ephraim – Leader in Central Palestine – Three verses about his life
- Samson (13:1-16:31) – Tribe of Dan – The most famous judge – God gave him victory over the Philistines
Each judge was chosen by God for a purpose and for a limited time. They were not kings who ruled more than one tribe and whose children became rulers.
Yet a human king was what the people of Israel wanted – this is why you see the below phrase throughout the book:
“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” –Judges 17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25
The people did not want to follow God as King – they wanted a person that they could follow…
Think about it, how many times have we said:
“If only we had a godly president, boss, governor, pastor…then things would be better.”
Only we need to remember one thing: God set the governance style of the judges.
God wanted the people of Israel to watch Him – He wanted them to follow Him and not a human person. God could have given them a king after Moses, but instead He warns them against having a king in Deuteronomy 17.
But the people wanted that king… so finally God says, ‘yes, you can have a king.’
So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.” -1 Samuel 8:4-9
Having a king does not solve anything – as history tells us (don’t worry if you have not read that part for we will get there soon).
Same for us – we cannot look for a human leader to solve our problems. To keep us from evil – to defeat injustice – to heal poverty – to bring back jobs and fix the economy.
Each of us must follow Jesus.
We must listen to His words – listen for His voice – and walk it out in our lives.
Yes, there will be times when God will raise up a spirit lead leader for a time – that is good – but we must not let this stop us from listening and obeying Jesus ourselves.