Why Judges?: Who Were the Judges?

deborah

 

This year, I was allowed to present a lesson before the Dalraida church of Christ concerning the Judges: Why Judges?. The lesson was written and presented specifically for Vacation Bible School: Heroes of the Faith. The first area covered in the lesson was Who Were the Judges?.

Why Judges?: Who Were the Judges?

The nation of Israel entered into the Promised Land with one thing in mind: take the land. But, once they arrived and took the land, other things began to happen. The Promised Land seemed to change quickly from “the land of milk and honey” to a place of hardship and terror. Eventually God rose up a group of men and one woman, spread over various generations called Judges. I found as I began to consider how God used this group of people was the question “Why Judges?” Why did God use these seemingly haphazard, sometimes even downright sinful individuals to lead His people back to Him? I hope that as we study the scriptural reasons for God’s purpose for these Judges, we’ll perhaps understand His purpose for us as well.

Who Were the Judges?

There’s a summary song that kids use to learn the names of the Judges in their order of appearance in scripture:

God set Judges over Israel,

One Brave woman fourteen men.

They helped Israel fight their battles,

Led them back to God from sin.

Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah,

Gideon, Abimalech, Tolah, Jair,

Jepthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon,

Samson, Eli, Samuel.

As you can see, the Judges of Israel were mostly men, but included a notable female. They were also from extremely disparate backgrounds.

  1. Othniel – Was Caleb’s (the faithful spy) younger brother who took a particularly difficult region of Canaan for Caleb through military might. He seems the most likely candidate for a Judge. He kept peace in Israel for 40 years.
  2. Ehud – Assassinated Eglon, the Moabite king. After he did this, he led the people of Israel in battle and killed 10,000 Moabites. Israel had peace for 80 years.
  3. Shamgar – Interesting, but not much is said about Shamgar. Judges 3:31 “After him was Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed 600 of the Philistines with an oxgoad, and he also saved Israel.”
  4. Deborah – Of course, she was the only female Judge of Israel. She had a commander named Barak who might have been more recognized in scripture had he not deferred to Deborah in a particular battle. She effectively led 10,000 men to victory over Sisera, the commander for Jabin, king of Canaan. Israel had peace 40 years under Deborah.
  5. Gideon – Gideon was probably least likely choice to be a Judge. The angel of God found him hiding in a winepress. Then, Gideon tested God twice with the fleece, even though he had already seen miracles from God and done several things with God’s help. Then, he had an army of 32,000 who were going to fight with him that was reduced to 10,000, then to 300. God used this tiny group to completely destroy the Midianites. The land was at peace for 40 years. Gideon had 70 sons, one of whom was Abimalech.
  6. Abimalech – Gideon’s son…A bad dude. Killed 68 of his brothers. Missed Jotham because he hid. God took care of Abimalech Himself by having a woman throw a millstone down and crush his head. Interesting because, even though his story is recorded and he is regarded as a Judge, God did not appoint him so. But, God did use Him to teach his people then and today.
  7. Tolah – All we see of Tolah is in Judges 10:1-2 “After Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tola the son of Puah, son of Dodo, a man of Issachar, and he lived at Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim. And he judged Israel twenty-three years. Then he died and was buried at Shamir.”
  8. Jair – Jair was about the same: 10:3-5 “After him arose Jair the Gileadite, who judged Israel twenty-two years. And he had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys (donkeys?), and they had thirty cities, called Havvoth-jair to this day, which are in the land of Gilead. And Jair died and was buried in Kamon.”
  9. Jepthah – Jepthah started out pretty rocky. He was the illegitimate son of a prostitute and his brothers drove him away when he grew up. He surrounded himself with “worthless fellows” as Abimalech had. Then, trouble came to his old homeplace, against the Gileadites and those who had driven him away begged him to defend them. He agreed to fight the Ammonites for them if they would make him their leader. Of course, he made a foolish vow that ended up in the “sacrifice” of his daughter. He ultimately only judged Israel for 6 years.
  10. Ibzan – Another Judge about whom not much is written: 12:8-10 “After him Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel. He had thirty sons, and thirty daughters he gave in marriage outside his clan, and thirty daughters he brought in from outside for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years. Then Ibzan died and was buried at Bethlehem.”
  11. Elon – 12:10-12 “After him Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel, and he judged Israel ten years. Then Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried at Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.”
  12. Abdon – 12:13-15 “After him Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel. He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys, and he judged Israel eight years. Then Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried at Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.” Interesting mention of donkeys again as with Jair. Could it have been hey had great wealth and possibly passed that on to their children? Is this a good thing?
  13. Samson – Here’s our central hero/judge. Samson, as you saw in the skit, was a real piece of work. He was impatient, impetuous, and inconsistent in just about everything he did. While he was given supernatural strength, he seemed to lack natural intelligence and spiritual understanding. Maybe his story is more about trusting in God than we realize.
  14. Eli – Eli was the beginning of what I would call the Golden Age of Israelite Judges. He was a prophet, priest, and judge. But, of course his sons were ultimately his downfall. In fact, it seems that many of the judges didn’t have faithful children. Perhaps if they hadn’t been given all those donkeys, they might not have been so spoiled and selfish.
  15. Samuel – If there is one Judge of Israel who could be deemed the greatest, it would have to be Samuel. He was basically what I think God would have liked Samson to be. He was dedicated to God from before he was born, judged righteously, and never forsook God. He was also a prophet, priest, and judge and a huge transitional figure from the Judges to the Kings of Israel.

 

As you have probably noticed, each Judge of Israel was completely different from every other Judge. They all had strengths and weaknesses and they were all used by God to bring about His plan and glory and righteousness.

Soulbook: The Soul and the Whole Person – Mind @Enwrightened

 

soulbook cover

This is the twenty-seventh excerpt from Soulbook. Order Soulbook from Enwrightened Publications or Amazon.

Soulbook: The Soul and the Whole Person – Mind

Mind

The intellect of the Christian, unfortunately, is often overlooked in favor of a concentration on the service and emotional aspect of the person. However, Scripture overflows with the encouragement to use your mind for God’s service and to His glory. It was through the intellect of approximately forty inspired writers that God conveyed His written message. He used the minds of people to interpret this message into other languages. Today, He still sees the intellect or mind of people as a tool through which His Word is understood and spread. The mind is not simply your brain or the way you think, it is the center of your reason and understanding. It connects your heart, soul, and strength to that of God through the implantation of His message within you. Without the mind, the other parts could not be nourished by that Word to eternal life.

The mind and the heart are often viewed as being at odds with each other. After all, the intellect is usually viewed as being the cold, rational part of a person while the heart is seen as the warm, gooey center of emotions. How can these two parts of a person be compatible? The early Christians seemed to know exactly how these apparently disparate parts should operate together. Acts 4:32: “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” No one commanded these people to share everything, it just made sense to them. They understood that if Jesus could give everything for them, they could easily share what they had with each other. When Christians have their hearts and minds pointing the same direction, selfishness disappears.

The mind and soul are two parts we don’t necessarily relate very well, either. While the mind seems to us to be a mechanical entity that is for thinking, the soul might appear to be a concept more than an existent thing. But, in Scripture, the mind and the soul are often used interchangeably. As the heart and soul are used to mean the same thing in some contexts, the mind and soul have a oneness about them that God uses to depict our whole person. Paul sees this very clearly and explains the concept well to the church in Philippi. Philippians 1:27 says, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” Christians who are united in Soul and mind are working together for the spreading of the Gospel. They have one mind and soul of faith that motivates them to do God’s work and to have the necessary focus to get the job done. The mind and soul are powerful components of the Christian that allow the message of Jesus to be preached and carried to the world.

The mind also lends itself to the perpetuation of strength in the work of God. Through the mind, strength can be gained in a way that only intellect can deliver. For example, there are instances where someone might have an ailment and only intellect can find the cure for this problem. In this particular circumstance, the mind is absolutely necessary. “What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also,” (I Corinthians 14:15). Our strength/fortitude is conjoined with our minds in every aspect of our lives. The thoughts of our minds inform our actions and lend self-control and purpose. Through the mind, purpose and strength within the person are amplified and enhanced, allowing greater and more service to be rendered.

The mind of a person allows the whole person to be raised to a different level of understanding if that individual’s mind is set in the right direction. Through the purpose and direction of the mind, the soul can grow and be prepared for life on Earth and most importantly, life in Heaven. In I Corinthians 4:18-20, Paul tells the church at Corinth, “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue. Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.” Maturity in the mind leads to maturity in the Spirit. With that maturity, people can make good decisions, mentor others, and have the clarity of thinking and purpose that God desires for His work.

Soulbook: The Soul and the Whole Person – Soul @Enwrightened

soulbook cover

This is the twenty-sixth excerpt from Soulbook. Order Soulbook from Enwrightened Publications or Amazon.

Soulbook: The Soul and the Whole Person – Soul

Soul

 

Your soul is who you really are. You are a creation of God after His own Image. You are a person with heart, mind, and strength. You are a life that will last forever. The soul is you. It is human nature to think of ourselves in physical terms and to leave our inner selves out in the ether where we can’t really understand or locate them. But, Scripture plainly brings the physical and spiritual together where we can comprehend the nature of humans more easily. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 states, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Our soul and body/strength coincide in how we can be blameless before God. The more we keep our soul and our physical component in step with Christ, the more we can be blameless. The spiritual component of a person is the part that lives on and is the purest manifestation of who we are. So, it makes sense that the physical nature should be patterned after that spiritual nature in order to be the whole person God wants us to be.

The soul and the heart also share a very strong bond in that they are the emotional center and the personal center of a person. This fact is characterized in 1 Chronicles 22:19: “Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God. Begin to build the sanctuary of the LORD God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD and the sacred articles belonging to God into the temple that will be built for the Name of the LORD.” The Soul and the heart are joined together in the search for God and His will. If we don’t seek God with our heart, then our emotional center will be off target, causing us to get caught up in what we want instead of what God desires for His service and for our own existence. The result will then be a misguided life that comes from a misguided soul. If we are to hit the mark God has set for our souls (i.e., Heaven) then our hearts must be fixed on seeking Him and His will. If the heart is not aimed properly, the soul will miss the target.

In Philippians 2:2, Paul discusses the relationship between the soul and the mind when he says, “then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” This plea from Paul is one that endures today, as well. Without the unity of the mind, our souls will be unfocused, allowing us to go off in any number of wrong directions spiritually. The joining of the intellect allows Christians to see things the same way, clearing the way for our souls to inhabit the Kingdom of Heaven together. With this understanding in mind, we can all work together to bring others into the faith and create within them the heart, soul mind, and strength that God desires. The minds of Christians, as God sees them, should be the mind of Christians, brought into a unified intellectual understanding and picture of His Word.

Soulbook Publisher at Polishing the Pulpit! @Enwrightened

soulbook cover

I just wanted to let everyone know that my publisher, Enwrightened Publications, will be at Polishing the Pulpit (PTP) this year. One of the titles for sale will be Soulbook! Of course, all of the quality materials from Enwrightened will be available as well. Visit their table or booth if you get a chance. You will not be disappointed!

Visit EP and PTP on Facebook, too!