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31. Judges 3: “Can One Person Make a Real Difference?”
Salem County Correctional Facility in Woodstown, NJ – Men’s Evening Chapel Service on 8/25/2013
(edited February 2020)
In dark times one light, even a small one, can shine through brightly and make a huge difference. We will pick up this theme here in the Book of Judges. This is the Old Testament account of Ancient Israel between the rule of Joshua and their first King, Saul.
God was challenging that generation of His people:
Verses 1-4: “Now these are the nations which the Lord left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan; Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof; Namely, five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baalhermon unto the entering in of Hamath. And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the Lord, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.”
This is, unfortunately, how they responded to God’s challenge:
Verses 5-7: “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.”
They were failing as a nation. As a group they lacked faith and disobeyed the Lord, their God. Soon they would suffer at the hands of their enemies. But my point, as always in an Old Testament study, is not to judge anybody but to try to learn from what they experienced.
At this time, the Nation of the Israel began to unravel, by the hand of God and really by their own hand as they became vulnerable to attacks from the heathen nations that surrounded them. The defense of Canaan’s Promised Land was supposed to be very doable, with God’s help. But they pushed HIM away! Knowing the Law, or knowing the Bible today, does not mean that that you will follow what it says in everyday living.
Verse 8: “Therefore the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushanrishathaim eight years.”
But we do see here, and I would say wonderfully, that, despite their unfaithfulness to Him, God does not just abandon them to their fate. In fact, He helps them, anyway. But in a different kind of way. And He does it by speaking to the heart of ONE PERSON!
I think we should also note here that the men God calls to deliver Israel at this time are not superheroes. They are ordinary, struggling people, in trouble along with everybody else. That is, until the Lord lifts them up and gives them the strength they need:
1. OTHNIEL, who defeats King Chushanrishathaim of
Verses 9-11: “And when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother. And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the Lord delivered Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushanrishathaim. And the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died.”
2. EHUD, who kills King Eglon of Moab
Verses 12-30: “And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the Lord. And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees. So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years. But when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab. But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh. And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man. And when he had made an end to offer the present, he sent away the people that bare the present. But he himself turned again from the quarries that were by Gilgal, and said, I have a secret errand unto thee, O king: who said, Keep silence. And all that stood by him went out from him. And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat. And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly: And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out. Then Ehud went forth through the porch, and shut the doors of the parlour upon him, and locked them. When he was gone out, his servants came; and when they saw that, behold, the doors of the parlour were locked, they said, Surely he covereth his feet in his summer chamber. And they tarried till they were ashamed: and, behold, he opened not the doors of the parlour; therefore they took a key, and opened them: and, behold, their lord was fallen down dead on the earth. And Ehud escaped while they tarried, and passed beyond the quarries, and escaped unto Seirath. And it came to pass, when he was come, that he blew a trumpet in the mountain of Ephraim, and the children of Israel went down with him from the mount, and he before them. And he said unto them, Follow after me: for the Lord hath delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand. And they went down after him, and took the fords of Jordan toward Moab, and suffered not a man to pass over. And they slew of Moab at that time about ten thousand men, all lusty, and all men of valour; and there escaped not a man. So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest fourscore years.”
(Are you noticing that, so far, for every Man of God that has been called, there is a man (or an army of men) who have answered a darker call to oppose God’s will!)
3. SHAMGAR, who defeats the Philistines
Verse 31: “And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad: and he also delivered Israel.”
The Lord is no longer calling whole nations into service for Him. The Gospel in the New Testament is, upon inspection, directed at each individual person in the world, regardless of nation or background.
Does this mean He expects heroics from each and every one of us, today? I think, in a way, that He does! HOW ABOUT YOU? Could you be someone else’s spiritual hero, right now, or in the future?
Let’s look at what the New Testament says about the calling of some other Old Testament heroes, like Moses and Joshua, in the Book of Hebrews. It is recorded here, I’m sure, to inspire all of us:
“By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace. And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”
Are you inspired yet? I am, but also kind of unsettled at this point. Is this what we must face? Does this all apply to you me? Let’s read more:
Hebrews 11:39-40 and Hebrews 12:1-3
“ And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”
Surely this isn’t meant to make us imagine that, like old Shamgar mentioned earlier, the Lord expects us to go out and kill six hundred soldiers at once, or to part the Red Sea, or to suffer as our Lord Jesus did at Calvary. But the message is that whatever our individual calling, it may involve suffering and personal sacrifice, and it matters. It matters to those around us that need our help and compassion, and it matters up in Heaven, and it matters to the Lord. The question I have to ask myself some mornings is, does it still matter to me?
In closing, I want to bring attention to a spiritual hero that you may have never hear of. I want to preach, just for a minute, not about Jesus, as I usually do here. I want speak to you now about George.
George was a man I met very early in my ministry, about 20 years ago. We worked together on occasion at some local Christian Drug Rehab Ministries. I was just getting started, singing and occasionally sharing or preaching. George was usually there to give his testimony and sometimes after that he would sing a simple hymn or two, completely acapella.
If you think I’m at all shaky or awkward now, you should have seen me, then. I looked up to George because he seemed to be a favorite of the residents and I, too, was very moved by the stories he told.
George used to ride a Harley in a very well know and notorious Motorcycle Club. By his own admission he had been violent, selfish, spent several years in the NJ State Prison System, and was a hopeless drug addict for many of his earlier years.
But that wasn’t the George I knew. He ministered to me each time I heard him speak or sing. I also got a hold of a few of the cassette tapes that he offered back then. He always encouraged me even when I knew I wasn’t hitting the mark with my ministry due to nerves, fear, or just inexperience or ignorance. Please do not think that because George was so much more street smart than I was, that he must have been just befriending me as part of some kind of con. Believe me, that wasn’t the case.
From sharing needles in his earlier life, George had become HIV Positive. Now, Thank God, today there are many new medicines and real hope for those with this disease, but back then HIV was almost always a death sentence. George didn’t want my money or any special favors. He was slowly dying right before our eyes. In fact, I only knew George for about a year and a half. But he was, to be very honest, one of the sweetest and kindest Born-Again Christians I have EVER met. And I have NEVER forgotten him.
So don’t look at me as some kind of a fool if you see me preaching in a setting just like this one and it doesn’t seem to be working.
(Please Note: A few of the men (just a very few) at this facility had been, for a few months now using their posture and a glaring expression to let me know that they weren’t “buying what I was selling,” if you can see what I mean? And though usually extremely meek in this setting, I suddenly became emotional and filled with a courage that didn’t seem to belong to me personally. At this point and I began staring back at these men who were sitting together in a row, and I continued…)
It’s not like that old Beatles song, Eleanor Rigby, you know: “Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave, no one was saved…” You see I’m not bound by that. I don’t have to see physical results every time. In fact, I can come in here ten times in a row and have things totally flop, and I won’t like it, but I won’t be completely discouraged. I already know that Christ can re-create ANY man, and place His image into the life of ANY man. Because I knew George. And I think there are some Georges in here tonight. And if not, it’s well worth it to me to come back and come back again until I am able to minister to that man and to try to assist him in his spiritual journey!
Even if it’s only one man, that’s the whole point, one life and every life justify all the effort. And every one of us has a calling and a purpose, just for you, that is written in the heart of God and, I believe, in your heart too. So yes, I do get discouraged at times in this ministry, but not broken. Because I knew George. And one person CAN make a real difference. Let’s pray, Men.