Judges 1-21 - The Bible from 30,000 Feet - Skip Heitzig - Flight JUD01
The Bible From 30,000 Feet, soaring through the scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
Would you turn in your bibles, please, to the Book of Judges in your Old Testament. Judges, chapter one-- Bible From 30,000 Feet, I want to remind you of that. Because there are sections of this book that a lot of you would love to study in depth, we have done that before. It is recorded for you to get any time you wish, but this is the Bible From 30,000 Feet, so we're not going to be uncovering every branch, every twig, every leaf-- just looking at things in general and telling the story.
As we begin, I was thinking how I remember, back in school, the empty feeling I used to get when I would do bad on a test or get a bad grade in a test. If I got below a certain GPA, my parents didn't deal with that well, I didn't deal with that well. Israel, in the Book of Judges, gets an epic F for failure on their test to obey and serve the Lord. Here's what I mean. Do you remember how the Book of Joshua ended, when Joshua gave his farewell speech to the nation?
And he says, "choose this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house--" finish it for me. "We will serve the Lord." "We will serve the Lord." That's what Joshua said. He put his gauntlet down and said, I'm going to serve the Lord with my family. Israel responded immediately, saying, us too. We will serve the Lord. With that sentence still ringing in the air, so to speak, we come now to the Book of Judges that shows their total failure to serve the Lord.
Verse 1 begins now after the death of Joshua. This is the end of a strong centralized leadership in the nation of Israel. When Moses died, God raised up Joshua to take his place. But now Joshua is dead, even though his death will be mentioned here again in this book. And after Joshua dies, there is no central leader anymore-- now there are just the tribes of Israel settling into their land allotments, making decisions to go to war. So it is tribal government rather than central government.
It's a 350-year period that this book marks out, but think of it as 350 years from the centralized government under Joshua as their central leader to the first king of Israel, King Saul. Between Joshua and King Saul is the period of the Book of Judges. Now it says the Book of Judges, and immediately you think in your mind-- most people do-- a courtroom, a guy in a black robe with a gavel, litigating, pronouncing guilty or innocent.
You need to push that out of your mind and think in terms of tribal warriors. A judge in the Old Testament was a regional political military leader-- think of it as a tribal chieftain. The Book of Judges highlights 13 of them-- some count 14, I'm going to say 13-- 12 men and one woman, that we're going to get to. But I want to give you a warning-- the book is rated R. It's a very bloody book, it's a very violent book, it is a disturbing book. It is filled with, and tells the truth of, Israel's moral corruption.
But I got to tell you something-- this is why I like the Bible. The Bible doesn't hide the truth about its own history, the history of God's people. Not only are they imperfect, but in some cases, they utterly blow it and become so morally depraved, not even reflecting the God they said they would serve. But to me, that actually highlights the veracity of the scripture, because a lot of biographies will just tell you all the good points about the heroes that they write about. The Bible tells you the dark underside of biblical heroes, and we find biblical heroes in this book.
Now the theme of the Book of Judges is from conquest to compromise. Joshua was all about conquest-- the first part of this book is all about conquest. But quickly, it goes from conquest to compromise, and we find God's people, the children of Israel, walking in circles-- or more appropriately, cycles-- of sin. I'm going to explain that in a moment, the sin cycle. Chapters 1 and 2 speak about conquest. Chapters 3 through 16 highlight their compromise, and chapter 17 through 21, chaos-- the chaos that fills the nation of Israel.
So conquest, compromise, and chaos. Now I'm going to read something to you that I found, and I want you to keep this in mind, not only as you think of judges in 1300s BC, but think of this in terms of modern United States of America. One historian writes this-- the average age of the world's great civilizations is about 200 years. They all travel through the same sequence-- from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from great courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to leisure.
Now listen carefully-- from leisure to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence to weakness, and from weakness back to bondage. That's a very astute observation at the history of ancient civilizations, and we'd do well to heed that. That basically is the Book of Judges. Now, if there was one book of the Bible that I was allowed to erase with a giant eraser, it would be this book, because it doesn't highlight the great moments of God's people, but the lowest moments of their history.
It is a dark book, it is a depressing book, it's not the book you turn to when you're desperately needing hope. It's like, man, I feel so depressed-- what book do I turn to? Stay away from Judges. Find just about any other book, but stay away from this one. It'll drive you deeper into depression. Now the book opens up with success-- it opens up with the tribes of Israel settling in their various tribal allotments in the new land, in the promised land. But the job isn't done-- there are still enemies to be conquered.
So initial success starts in Chapter 1 Verse 1, where it says, "Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass that the children of Israel asked the Lord, saying--" oh, this is good. It's good because there's no Joshua, but there's always God. So if there is no Joshua, then let's talk to God-- that's good. Problem is, that's it-- they don't keep doing this. They start having success because they're looking to the Lord initially, but not eventually.
But they ask the Lord, saying, "who shall be first to go up against the Canaanites to fight against them?" Now the term Canaanites, by the way, is a broad term for a whole bunch of different ethnic groups that lived in the land west of the Jordan River that we call today modern-day Israel. In those days it was Canaan, and there were all sorts of groups that were eventually put under the heading of Canaanites, even though Canaanite was a specific group. The Canaanites was a broad term for Girgashites, Perizzites, termites-- no not termites.
But just all these different people groups were in the land of Canaan, which became the Promised Land later on. And the Lord said, Verse 2-- "Judah shall go up. Indeed, I have delivered the land into his hand." Notice the past tense that God uses-- he's so sure it will happen. Verse 4-- "then Judah went up, and the Lord delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand, and they killed 10,000 men at Bezek."
So at first, success. Why? Because initially, they were wise, they asked the Lord what to do, and the Lord answered. Go down to Verse 21. "But the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who inhabited Jerusalem." Verse 27-- "However, Menassah did not drive out the inhabitants of Bethshean and its villages." You who have toured with us to Israel, we always spend a half a day at Bethshean. Verse 29-- "nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites who dwelt in Gezer." Verse 30-- "nor did Zebulon out the inhabitants of Kitron."
Verse 31-- "nor did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Accho." So think of where we've come from-- Joshua, as the military general, led attacks and defeats of many Canaanite towns-- but not all of them. Not all of them have been driven out-- there's still much to be taken, and there are still Canaanites who live in the land. Chapter 1 gives a long, detailed list of those towns. We're not going to bother to read them. But as you look at chapter 2, we are given a preview into their failure.
Chapter 2, verse 7-- it says, "so the people serve the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord which he had done for Israel." Now implied in that statement is that, as long as good spiritual leadership was intact and in place, everybody did what was right. When that was removed, they quickly degenerated. Verse 8-- "now Joshua, the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord--" actually, I said that wrong, didn't I?
He's the son of?
Noon. You guys are so good, you get an A on that test. "Joshua, the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died when he was 110 years old." This marks the end of a strong centralized leadership in that nation. Remember where we've come from? We looked at the Book of Genesis-- we saw four important men who were leaders-- Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph. Joseph died, Exodus begins, there arose a pharaoh who did not know Joseph. They were absent of leadership.
Who arose? Moses. God used Moses to deliver the children of Israel out of Egypt. Moses at the end of his life was told to select Joshua. Joshua became the leader. Now Joshua is dead-- there's a vacancy in leadership. There's no leader to lead the driving out of the Canaanites. Now let me give you a note. The whole point of driving out the Canaanites from the land that they once inhabited is to avoid moral corruption of the Canaanite religion into the lives of the children of Israel-- that really is the whole point, and I have detailed what that is like before.
I will just say they were so corrupt, they worshiped false gods by sacrificing their babies. Human sacrifices were very common among the practice of the Canaanite religion, and so they were told to eradicate them. What Israel does, instead of eradicating them-- because they think they are morally superior to God, who told them to get rid of them all-- they go, no, we shouldn't do that. They can be changed. Well, so what they did is they just moved in next to them, and became exactly like them.
That's what happened-- the Canaanite didn't get influenced by the Israelites, the Israelites got influenced by the Canaanites, and drug them down to their level. In Chapter 2-- I'm going to point something out-- the narrator stops the flow of the story, and he gives a-- I like this-- 30,000-foot view of the rest of the Book of Judges. It's all summed up in Chapter 2. Now the narrator-- we don't know who it is-- some think it's Samuel who wrote this book. Truth is, we don't know who wrote the Book of Judges.
Whoever did stops the narration, the flow of the story, and he gives a view of the rest of the book, and he shows us this cycle that I was talking about. Think of spirals that just go further down, and further down, and further down each time they cycle. There is a series that is called the sin cycle. Let me give you the four phases of the sin cycle. Number one, the first phase, is rebellion.
Chapter 2 Verse 10. "When all the generation that had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord, nor the work which he had done for Israel. Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals, and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them, and they provoked the Lord to anger."
"They forsook the Lord and served the Baals--" or served Baal-- "and the Ashtoreths." That's rebellion-- that's the first phase, the rebellion phase. Now in that text, two different gods are mentioned-- bale. A better pronunciation is ba-all. That's how they would say it, ba-all, but you can say bale, because we're Americans. We can sort of say whatever we want when it comes to pronouncing words, I've discovered. So, Ba'al or Baal, and Ashtarte, also called Ashtoreth, these two are the two principal Canaanite deities, both of them the god and goddess of fertility.
Baal, the chief god, and Ashtoreth, his counterpart. Now the worship of Baal and Ashtoreth was very attractive-- let me tell you why. Baal was the storm god. They believed he rode on the clouds, he controlled rain, he controlled sunshine, so he controlled the production of the crops. By the way, Baal was at his strongest, they believed, midday when the sun was shining directly-- the heat of the day. This helped you understand 1 Kings Chapter 18, when Elijah has a contest with the prophets of Ba'al or Baal on Mount Carmel.
And on that contest, he waits till it's the heat of the day, and the sun is at its strength, to choose off the prophets of Baal. And Yahweh, the God of Israel, wins that battle. You know that story. So that's Baal-- he's the storm god, the principal deity of fertility. Ashtarte, or Ashtoreth, was also the goddess of fertility, love, and war. Now when I say that the worship of these gods was attractive, this is what I mean. The Canaanites believed that it was the sexual union of Baal and Ashtarte in heaven that brought an abundant harvest.
So the way to worship Baal and Ashtoreth was to mimic what they did in the heavens. So they would have prostitutes who would bring people to have sexual intercourse, and there were incantations that would say, just as fertility is taking place right now right here, may my crops, may my animals, may my family also be prolific and fertile. That was part of their worship system. That is why the children of Israel-- one of the reasons why-- it was so attractive, and they fell, because of the sexual license that it gave in worship.
So that's the first phase-- rebellion. Second phase, retribution. Verse 14-- "and the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel." He's telling the story of the whole book. "So he delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so they could no longer stand before their enemies." Now he just summed up the 350 years of history between Joshua and Saul. That's the period of Judges summed up. Verse 15-- "wherever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for calamity, as the Lord had said and the Lord had sworn to them, and they were greatly distressed."
So phase one-- rebellion, phase two, retribution. Phase three and four is repentance and restoration. Verse 16-- "nevertheless," how I love this phrase. "The Lord raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the Lord. They did not do so.
"And when the Lord raised up judges for them--" verse 18-- "the Lord was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them." That's the sin cycle, and this cycle gets repeated in this book over and over, and over and over again. 350 wasted years of people not learning the lesson that God was trying to teach them.
"It came to pass--" verse 19-- "when the judge was dead, they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way." But here's what I love-- God's love is an unrelenting, pursuing love. Even though they keep blowing it over and over again, God says, I'm not giving up. I'm going to chase you down and make life miserable for you so that, in your misery, you'll say, "I'm sorry," and then I'll bring you back.
Even if you blow it again, I'll chase you down, and you'll cry out, and I'll bring you back. God's love is an unrelenting, pursuing, chasing love, and the Book of Judges, even though it's tragic, shows me this lesson. In fact, it could be summed up by that great hymn called The Love Of God, that says the love of God is greater far than ink or pen could ever tell. It stretches to the farthest star, it reaches to the lowest hell.
Could we with ink the oceans fill, and were the skies of parchment made, were every stalk on earth a quill and every man a scribe by trade, to write the love of God would drain the oceans dry, nor could that scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky. The love of God, unrelenting, pursuing. In fact, there's a word for it in the Old Testament-- it's sometimes translated, loving kindness. It's the Hebrew word hesed. Hesed means covenant love, or loving kindness.
Two years ago I sat in Benjamin Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem, and we were talking about Jesus. And he said, well, I have to admit Jesus Christ brought a whole different level of-- and he said, he was trying to think of the word, and he said it in Hebrew to his aide. He said hesed, and I recognized the word, so I interrupted-- I said, loving kindness. He goes, that's it. Loving kindness. Jesus brought a whole new level of loving kindness. And he did-- that is a word that describes God's love.
That's a Hebrew word, even from the Old Testament. Well, the first four judges, shown in chapters 3, 4, and 5, are as follows-- Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, and Deborah. These chapters record what they did in delivering Israel, but I gotta warn you, they're violent. I already gave you the warning at the beginning of the book-- it's details of their violence against their enemies. Now when we get to the story of Deborah, chapter 5, I've always seen Deborah-- and I like she's the only female judge in this book, but she's there-- she's a leader.
Deborah reminds me of Golda Meir. Anybody heard of Golda Meir? She was the fourth prime minister of the nation of Israel. She was called the Iron Lady of Israeli politics. A very apt leader, she was the prime minister during the late '60s. In Chapter 4, verse 4, Deborah is called a prophetess-- please mark that. It indicates there were prophets, but also there were women who were given the title prophetess, and she is one. Also, in that verse, she is called a wife, a prophetess who was the wife of Lapiddoth-- that's her husband's name. Weird name, but that's her husband's name.
And that's an important designation. It doesn't say Lapiddoth was the husband of Deborah, even though that would seem to be appropriate, because she's the one that does the leadership, not him, but she knew her place within the family. And they knew what her place within the family, and her place within the family was different than her place within the nation. And so she is called a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth. So they understood each other-- he knew that she was a leader, and he gave her the freedom to do that.
Somebody said marriage is like a long trip in a tiny rowboat. If one passenger starts to rock the boat, the other has to steady it, or they'll both go to the bottom together. So they learned the balance in their relationship. In Chapter 5 verse 7, she sings a song after the victory God gives her, and it says, village life ceased-- that is, in Israel-- it ceased in Israel until I, Deborah, arose, arose a mother in Israel. So she is a prophetess, she is a wife, and she is a mama.
There's an old hymn of the church-- Faith Of Our Fathers. Anybody heard that song? Faith of our fathers living still? Really? That's all-- only four of you know that, or have heard that song? Great song. Faith Of Our Fathers. We need to add a verse-- faith of our mothers. She was a prophetess, a wife, she was a mother in Israel, and she was a leader that God raised up. The next few judges are Gideon-- you've heard of him. Tola-- you may not be too familiar with him.
Jair, or ya-ear, and Jephthah. Now a couple of these have longer narratives-- that is, the story is told with more words-- and the story focuses on the character flaws of these leaders. So Gideon-- Gideon begins as a coward. He was a coward. He was scared, he was fearful of the enemy. But he learns to trust the Lord through a process that God puts him through, and he defeats the Midianite army with 300 of the children of Israel.
By the way, on our trips to Israel, we don't always do it, but I like to-- if we have the time-- take people to the well of Harod, and the spring that runs out of there. It's where he took the 300 men and had them bring the water to their mouth, and lap. It's recorded in this book, and we reenact that scene there. And even drink if you trust the water enough. If you trust the Lord enough to drink the water, we let you try it there. So let's meet our hero Gideon in Chapter 6 verse 11.
"Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree--" which I just kind of like. Here's an angel, just like [YAWNS]. Just sitting down under the tree, under the shade-- it's what angels do. "Which is in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abizerite, while his son Gideon--" now watch this. "Gideon threshed wheat in the wine press in order to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, the Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor."
A wine press is located at the bottom of the hill. Wheat is not threshed at the bottom of a hill-- wheat was threshed at the top of the hill. The threshing floor was on the top of the hill, so that the afternoon breezes that blow through, you can throw the wheat in the air with your pitchfork. The chaff gets separated from the wheat and blows away, the wheat falls to the ground-- but you need a breeze for that to happen. The best breeze is on the top of the hill-- that's why threshing floors were always on top of a hill.
Wine presses were on the bottom-- he's not on the top, he's down below at the bottom, because he's scared. He didn't want to be in plain sight, so he hides and he throws his wheat up in the air, and there may be a little bit of a breeze blowing through, but it would take four times as long to separate that stuff. But that's why he's down there. So it's funny when the angel of the Lord says, hey, mighty man of valor! He's probably looking around like, is there somebody else up here? Or down here?
Now why does the angel of the Lord call this coward a mighty man of valor? Here's why, I believe. God doesn't see you just as you are-- he sees what you will become by his strength. He is not a mighty man of valor, but he will become one through this process God is putting him through. Now he should be at the top of the hill, but fear always brings you down. So he is not a mighty man of valor, but the Lord calls him that through his angel, because that's what the Lord wants to do with him.
Just like Peter was called a rock. He was given the title-- Cephas was called a rock. Jesus knew what Peter could become. Now that's Gideon, but the story goes on to show the dark side of Gideon. Let me sum it up for you-- Gideon murders a bunch of Israelites, his own people, for not helping him defeat the Midianites. Then, to make matters worse, he takes gold that he got from the battles-- he makes an idol out of it. And when he dies, the children of Israel worship the idol, and the sin cycle begins all over again.
So-- good guy, had a bad, bad side. When we come to the ninth judge, called Jephthah, in chapters 10 through 12, we come to another great warrior, but immoral in many ways. Jephthah was adept in battle, a real warrior. But you have to think of Jephthah sort of like a gang thug. He was the guy giving all the signals, he was the mafia boss, he fights against the Ammonites because they asked him to. Chapter 11, verse 1-- "now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, but he was the son of a harlot, and Gilead begot Jephthah."
So he's an illegitimate son, he is scorned by people-- that's how he grew up. Invariably, in that culture, maybe that helps us understand a little bit of his "rough around the edges" character. Verse 3-- "then Jephthah fled from his brothers and dwelt in the land of Tob, and worthless men banded together with Jephthah and went out raiding with him." These are idle men-- they're bored, they want action. Now here's what you need to know about Jephthah. Jephthah, used by God-- I grant that, but he is so unfamiliar with God's character that he treats God-- the true God, Yahweh-- as if he were a pagan deity, a Canaanite deity.
What do I mean by that? He is willing to take his own daughter and sacrifice her, kill her, as a thanksgiving for winning a battle. Chapter 11, verse 29, it says "the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead, he advanced toward the people of Ammon."
"And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, if you will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the people of Ammon will surely be the Lord's. I will offer it up as a burnt offering." Whatever comes out. If my cat comes out, it's a dead cat-- it gets sacrificed. If my mother-in-law comes out-- I made a vow. Sadly, verse 34-- his daughter came out.
After he had won the battle, after he had brought the victory, his daughter comes out with timbrels, and she's singing and she's dancing, and in verse 39, he keeps his grisly vow. Why is this story even in here? It's in here to help highlight how bad a shape Israel was in at the time that they no longer even knew the character, the nature, of their own God. Chapter 12, there are three more judges. There is Ibzan, Elon the Zebulonite-- meaning he is from the tribe of Zebulon-- and Abdon, who is the Pirathonite-- simply means he is from Pirathon.
I have no idea where that is-- just says he's from there. I could find it, but I didn't. Samson-- chapters 13 through 16. Samson is by far the worst of all the judges. You go, worst? Come on, he was my Sunday school hero. I remember this story. He's the Superman of the Old Testament. He's the Terminator of the Old Testament. He's the Transformer. That's Samson. Actually, Samson was promiscuous, violent, arrogant. Yes, he won great victories, but at the expense of his own integrity.
Joseph Parker, a contemporary of Charles Spurgeon, said, Samson was an elephant in strength, but a babe in weakness. You know the Sunday school stories-- you know he could rip lions in half, you know he could take 300 foxes, tie their tails together, light it on fire, and burn the fields of the Philistines. You know that he could take the jaw bone of a donkey and kill the enemy. In fact, in this story, he even runs 38 miles with doors on his back. You know some guys go to the gym, work out with weights? He worked out with doors.
Incredibly strong. At the end of his life, he brings a house down-- literally. He stands in the temple of Dagon between two pillars, pushes them aside, God answers his final prayer, destroys himself and his enemies in that temple. Now, it would be great to have Samson as your big brother. I had a big brother who was six foot eight. Six foot eight-- I loved when he was around. I loved when I got bullied-- I'd go, [SNAPS FINGERS] Bob. Be great to have Samson to do that. He'd be a great big brother.
He was a horrible spiritual leader. In fact, you read his story, it seems like he has no spiritual values at all. In chapter 13 verse 1, "again the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for 40 years." Now that's the longest period of their oppression in the Book of Judges. In this 350 years, this 40-year length is the longest period, and it's because of the Philistines. Let me tell you a little bit about the Philistines.
The Philistines originated in the area of Greece and the Aegean Sea, the islands around the Aegean Sea. They had been forced out of their homeland and, in 1200 BC, they sailed from that area, went to Egypt, and attacked the Egyptians and won. Egypt was a superpower-- Philistines beat the Egyptians, then started moving up the coast from Egypt into the land of Israel, and settled along the coast lands of ancient Israel in five principal cities mentioned frequently in your Old Testament.
They are Gaza-- it's still a city today, and the territory's called the Gaza Strip. Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron-- those are the five Philistine cities. Typically, on a tour of Israel, we'll take a half day, and we'll go down to the Philistines country into the valley of Elah, where David slew Goliath, and see where Samson was born in that area called the Philistine country. The Philistines, once they settled in the land, they had an advantage over Israel, because they were advanced in metallurgy.
They had a lot of metal smiths, blacksmiths-- they knew how to mine iron and smelt it, and form weapons, and so they had that advantage over Israel. So as the Philistines are oppressing, God gets hold of the parents of Samson. Verse 5-- we'll jump to this story. "For behold you shall conceive," God says to them, "and bear a son, and no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hands of the Philistines."
So-- God had great plans for him. And the plans God made for him was to be a man of God, but he becomes a man of the flesh-- he really wants nothing to do with God ruling over his life. Very strong, but very weak morally. Now, he is to take a vow of a Nazirite. It's unusual, because God says, he's going to be a Nazirite from his birth. A Nazirite vow was usually for a certain period of time-- had a beginning, had an ending. You don't cut your hair. You cut it at the end of the vow and you burn it.
You don't touch wine, you don't touch any of the dead to be defiled-- there were certain restrictions for Nazirite. He was to be a lifelong Nazirite, along the lines of later on John the Baptist in the New Testament. That's how he had set up. Go down to verse 24. "So the woman--" that is Samson's mom-- "bore a son and called him--" sheem-shon.
No, I didn't say it right. It's Samson in English, but in Hebrew, shimshon, which is a word that means of the sun, or Sunny Boy. So Sunny Boy's name probably comes from the sun worship, Baal worship, so that his parents were already influenced by the paganism of the Philistines that were around him. He is called Sunny Boy, or of the son-- Samson, Shimshon.
Says "the child grew, and the Lord blessed him, and the Spirit of the Lord--" watch this-- "the Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him at Mahaneh Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol." The Spirit of the Lord began to move upon Samson. This is the secret of Samson's strength-- it's not his hair, it's not his arms, it's the spirit of God moving upon him. Jesus in the New Testament will say, "without me, you can do--" how much?
Nothing. So the strength of this man was not his hair, was not his arms, was not the fact that he worked out with doors and ran 38 miles, got really in shape. It was the spirit of God that was on him. That's the secret of this man's strength. Now I want to stop right here and make a note of this. At key times in Israel's history, both with judges and with kings, the spirit of God will come upon a person to empower that person to accomplish God's work, and in this case, to accomplish deliverance.
The fact that God uses him does not mean that God endorses him. You need to know that, because you go, what, this guy's wicked. It says, the spirit of God came upon him. He's not in him-- he does come upon him for a specific season to accomplish a specific task. The fact that God uses a person doesn't mean that God endorses a person. Now you should know that from your reading of the Bible-- God raises up a guy by the name of King Cyrus, a Persian.
A pagan, hates Israel, oppresses Israel at first, helps them later-- but he's called the servant of God. Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, hated the Jews, burned their temple, took them captive. But it says God used him, and he was a servant of the Lord. Caesar, in the New Testament, God uses Caesar to make all the world get registered, which is why Joseph and Mary leave Nazareth to go to Bethlehem, so that Jesus can be born in Bethlehem.
So all the Kings of the world can be used by God at specific times, and the fact that God uses them does not mean the God endorses them. So that's a very, very important concept to get. Now God wants to save his people, and God wants to rule over his people. The truth is, this is all he's got to work with-- these knuckleheads called judges, so flawed, so imperfect. That's how bad Israel had become-- that's really the point. God really wants to do a work, but all he's got to work with is numbskulls like this-- so he does.
Well, here's the story. Shimshon, Sammy-boy, sees-- two Philistine girls. One is unnamed, the other is named-- you know her name-- it's Samson and?
Delilah. Well, when he meets them-- it's lust at first sight. He's just says, she's so beautiful, I have to have her, and he has both of them. He's a man that has potential, but he is weak. Why? He didn't have the power inside to counteract the pressure outside. He didn't have the power inside to counteract the pressure outside. In the 1960s, there was a submarine that America had called the Thresher submarine. It was going through its paces up by Cape Cod and the Atlantic Ocean.
And when it was doing its depth test-- it's a very thick skinned hull, but it went down to a depth, and it never came up. The hull imploded. Even though it was stout-- it was built well, it seemed like it could withstand the pressure. But the water pressure on the outside was too much that it just crumpled that submarine, and all the crew died in that horrible disaster. What's odd is, at the same depth where the submarine crumpled, there's little fish that swim around with very thin skin, almost-- well it is, it's translucent-- it's almost like you can see through it.
But they're just swimming by the submarine like, see you. No problem-- this is easy. They're not imploding. You know why? The pressure on the inside equals the pressure on the outside, and they can manage. We have a power, God promises us, a person, the holy spirit of God, that is equal and-- stronger than the pressure on the outside.
Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. You have a power on the inside that can withstand the pressure on the outside. Samson didn't live that way. So this whole section is simply to show how bad things had gotten in Israel, and this is only with the leaders. The last section, chapters 17 through 21, shows Israel as a whole-- and how depraved, not just the leaders, the judges, were-- even though God used them, he didn't endorse them-- but just how corrupt and how bad the nation had gotten, how depraved the whole bunch of them had become.
And we have two tragic stories that sound and read like soap operas, really. Now the last section, chapters 17 to 21, is punctuated by a sentence that is mentioned four times. Four times in these chapters, this sentence is mentioned-- in chapter 17, chapter 18, chapter 19, chapter 21, this phrase-- "and there was no king in Israel, and every one did what was right in his own eyes." So the author, the narrator, begins the book by telling the successes, moves to telling the whole story of the Book of Judges in a nutshell with the sin cycle, then he goes through the judges.
Said, yeah, God used them, but they were pretty corrupt. Now he ends the book by showing us two horrible soap opera stories. Chapters 17 and 18 is the story of a guy by the name of Micah-- not Micah the prophet, a different Micah. Micah, in this story, builds a private temple to an idol. Private temple, private worship. Even found a corrupt Levite to become his own private priest. That private priesthood and private temple is plundered by a private army from the tribe of Dan-- 600 men from the tribe of Dan.
They plunder the temple, they take the idol with them, they go north. These Danites go north to a little peaceful town called Laish. And as you read the story, they plunder the city, they burn it to the ground, and they murder all the inhabitants in Laish-- that's how bad it's gotten. When Israel rejects Yahweh as its God, might makes right. They just start killing and plundering and murdering, they're bullying people in the territory. Chapter 18, verse 27-- "they took the things Micah had made, and the priest who had belonged to him, and went to Laish, to a people quiet and secure."
This is up north, by Mount Hermon, beautiful area-- "and struck them with the edge of the sword, and burned the city with fire. There was no deliverer because it was far from Sidon. They had no ties with anyone. It was in the valley that belongs to Beth Rehob. And so they built the city, and dwelt there, and they called the name of the city Dan after the name of their father." Now again, when you go on a tour to Israel with us, we will take you to this town called Laish, which is now called Tel, which is a little archaeological hill-- Tel Dan, or the city of Dan.
The remains are still there. In fact, the very ancient Canaanite gate, through which we believe Abraham entered into this city mentioned in Genesis, is still intact. So we invite you to come and see it. Now the final story, and we'll close. The final story is the worst. They saved the worst for last. This final story is the most disturbing story in the book. It's a story about sexual abuse and violence that leads to Israel's first civil war.
Now this is the whole point. The whole point is, here is a nation that said, we're going to serve the Lord, Josh! We're going to do it with you and your house. And they failed-- they got an F on the test, they turned away from the God who loves them. The God who once delivered them from Egypt now has to be delivered-- they have to be delivered from themselves, they'd become so corrupt.
Chapter 19-- I'll sum it up-- is about a hillbilly Levite who takes a concubine. By the way, Levites aren't supposed to have one, so that gives you insight into his morality. The concubine belongs to him, in those days. She leaves the corrupt Levite, has an affair with another man, leaves the other man, goes back home to her father's house. The Levite finds her, fetches her, takes her back home. But on the way, as they're going toward Jerusalem, they stop at a town called Gibeah, because they needed to stay the night.
Nobody would let them in. One guy lets them in. As they're inside the house of the host, the men of the city gather around the house demanding that the man come out, that they can have relations with him. It's very much to another chapter 19 in the Bible-- Genesis chapter 19, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. So they say bring out the man. Instead the host, to satisfy the sexual appetite of these men, gives his daughter to them, and the Levite's concubine. They abuse these women all night till they're dead.
So the Levite has a concubine, concubine has an affair, the host gives the girls to the perverted strangers in this city. See how depraved this story is? Chapter 19 verse 27. Now if you think that was bad, sorry, but I'm going to read this part. "When her master arose in the morning and opened the door--" this is the Levite-- "the doors of the house and went out to go his way, there was his concubine, fallen at the door of the house with her hands on the threshold." She's dead.
She has been abused all night. "And he said to her, get up and let's be going. But there was no answer. So the man lifted her on the donkey, the man got up and went to his place. When he entered his house he took a knife, laid hold of his concubine, divided her into 12 pieces limb by limb, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel." So he dismembered his dead concubine's body in 12 care packages to the tribes of Israel, to shock them and to summons them into a fight against the Tribe of Benjamin, who perpetrated the crime.
Chapter 20 shows the attack of the nation of Israel against the tribe of Benjamin. They lost the first few attempts. In this civil war, the Israelites lost 22,000 men-- that's the first day. Benjamin lost 26,100 men, and they almost-- the children of Israel-- almost totally annihilated the entire tribe of Benjamin. There were only 600 men left after the civil war ended-- 600 men left, and that had to be remedied so it could grow the tribe back up.
Chapter 21, verse 24. We come to the end of the book. "So the children of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and family." This is after the civil war. "They went out from there, every man to his inheritance. In those days, there was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes." That verse sums up the book. It does in one verse what that chapter, Chapter 2, did in a whole chapter-- giving you the four phases of the sin cycle.
This sums it up-- every man did what was right in his own eyes. But this verse sets up the stage for the next book. The next book is what?
Ruth. Ruth tells the ancestry of King David. So every man doing what's right in his own eyes sets up for the ancestry of David and the yearning of the people in the next book after that, 1 Samuel, for a king. So it ends setting it up for a new beginning. Let me give you three takeaway lessons. Number one, God often uses the most unlikely people to accomplish his work. I hope you say, oh, good. Because the Book of Judges proves, in very graphic ways, the truth that Paul will articulate in the New Testament Book of 1 Corinthians 1.
"God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise." I am confounded at the Book of Judges. It's a confounding narrative. He did what? They did what? I'm confounded. The Lord reserves the right to use the worst people to accomplish his ends. Number two-- God is holy, and because God is holy, he cannot stand the presence of sin. That's why every time they turned away, God judged them till they cried out. God soft heart of love rescued them, and they did it all over again. But God is holy and judges sin.
Third lesson. Now I'm going to ask you at this third lesson, since we're almost done-- and I'm going to even take a seat. As we close the book, I'm going to give you something that is-- I'm going to wax a little philosophical for a moment. Can I? Abandoning absolutism leads to moral relativism. You know what absolutism is? You and I are absolutist-- we believe in an absolute morality expressed in God's holy word.
God doesn't change from that. There's only one way to heaven. There's right, there's wrong, there's truth, there's error-- we believe that. That's absolutism. If you don't believe that, if you push that away, then you become a moral relativist. Well, your truth isn't my truth, and everybody has their own truth and their own way of doing things, their own way of thinking. Hey, that's the last verse of the book-- every man did what was right in his own eyes. So abandoning absolutism leads to moral relativism, which leads to moral anarchy.
It leads to moral anarchy. Think of the 200 years the nations survive, and the steps that they took-- what I read at the beginning. Nietzsche said God was dead, right? But he said this-- if God is dead, then everything is permitted. If God is dead, then do anything you want, because you're never going to face the bar of judgment. There is no God. You can do anything you want, have any pleasure you want, as long as you want. If God is dead, everything is permitted.
So abandoning absolutism leads to moral relativism, which leads to moral anarchy-- you do whatever you want. We know better. There may not be a king in Israel, but there was a God in Israel. And God was watching, and God is going to send a deliverer. Saul will be the first king. He'll blow it. David will be the man after God's own heart, but in David is the greater promise of the greater son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ, and every time they long for a king, they're longing for Jesus the Messiah to come and deliver from sin and punishment and abandonment.
So it sets it up for the hope of the gospel. That's the Book of Judges. Let's pray. Father, we want to thank you for these very, very dark lessons that show what happens, the consequence of nations or individuals turning from you. And Father, I pray this would serve as a warning to any of us who are trying to play fast and loose with values and morality and truth, that we would deal with these hard questions that we all struggle with, and come to a place where we trust you.
And we know Lord that the wages of sin is death, and every aberrant behavior comes with a consequence. I pray, Lord, that this would serve in turning our hearts back to you and being generous with our love and admiration, and abandonment and surrender to you, and we would reap the benefits of those blessings. In Jesus' name, Amen.
We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. For more resources, visit calvarynm.church. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from The Bible From 30,000 Feet.