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Judging Judges

Judging Judges

One of the greatest Judges under the Old Covenant was Gideon. For a terrific story, read Judges 6-8. Gideon was not an ambitious man, but he is a picture of godly leadership. God chose Gideon to lead and deliver Israel from Midian that had an army of 135,000. Gideon rallied a large army to go into battle against Midian, but God told Gideon to whittle down his army to just 300 dedicated fighters. By following God’s instructions, the Midianites were destroyed. That story shows us, among other things, that Gideon did not depend upon the trappings of power. His idea of political leadership was to stay under the authority of God’s Word and trust Him. In fact, some of the people wanted to make Gideon king, but he refused it.

Judges 8:22-23 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the LORD will rule over you.”

Gideon was a man of impeccable character and integrity. He stood out among his brethren because most of the people had little or no character. Those are the people God told Gideon to cut out of his army. Likewise today, people of integrity stand out in our society, even in Congress and other leadership positions, because they are so rare. Their opponents, the media, and the immoral call them oddballs, radicals, and out of the ’mainstream’.

We need more statesmen of integrity. A statesman makes decisions based on what’s best for the next generation...a politician makes decisions based on what’s best for the next election. Where are the people of principle, with core values that cannot be blown about by the winds of the polls and popular opinion? Sadly, when they come on the scene, we don’t elect them.

Just after 9/11, Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne, was interviewed by CBS. The interviewer asked, "How could God let something like this happen?" She answered, "I believe God is deeply saddened by this just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, our government, and our lives, and being the gentleman that He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and protection if we demand that He leave us alone?"

Isn’t it strange how the world trashes God and then wonders where He is when trouble comes? If we want God to be our Protector, He must also be our Sovereign, our Lord, our King, and our Ruler! 

After Gideon’s death, another kind of judge takes his place, Abimelech. Now technically Abimelech wasn't really a judge. A true judge was one who was appointed by God to protect Israel from her enemies. But God had NOT appointed Abimelech to do anything. And Abimelech wasn't into protecting anybody’s interests but his own. All Abimelech wanted was power and prestige for himself. He felt ENTITLED to it.

Judges 8:30-31 Now Gideon had seventy sons, his own offspring, for he had many wives. And his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he called his name Abimelech.

Although no one selected Abimelech as ruler, he did whatever was necessary to fulfill his self-proclaimed destiny.

First, he enlisted people to his cause. Judges 9:1-3 Now Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal (Gideon) went to Shechem to his mother’s relatives and said to them and to the whole clan of his mother’s family, “Say in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you, that all seventy of the sons of Jerubbaal rule over you, or that one rule over you?’ Remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.” And his mother’s relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our brother.”

Secondly, he lined up with whoever he could get to join him. He essentially bought votes. Judges 9:4 And they gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him.

And then, to get rid of any competition he might have to being king, he executed every one of his 70 half-brothers except Jotham, who escaped.

Lastly, Abimelech engaged in a series of power struggles that ended up in his being killed. He wasn't a hero, he wasn't a man of faith. He was a loser. A thug. A tyrant. A murderer. So why are we looking at him this morning?

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

So, what does God want to teach us here?

First, God wants to teach us that there are evil people who seek power. Many of us grew up in America when leaders were Christian patriots. They served in the military and they went to church. But another generation grew up, one that spurned military service and the Church. Now they want to change America by forgetting God and limiting our freedoms. To ensure their own power, they are creating a permanent class of people dependent upon government for everything in life. That is how the Abimelechs of our times buy votes. And often, when these wicked people rise to the top, they get there because an immoral, godless culture chooses them. 

Notice what the Bible tells us just a few verses before it introduces this evil man: Judges 8:33-35 As soon as Gideon died, the people of Israel turned again and whored after the Baals and made Baal-berith their god. And the people of Israel did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hand of all their enemies on every side, and they did not show steadfast love to the family of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in return for all the good that he had done to Israel.

Israel was a nation established by God. The people forgot about their godly leaders and all about God, too. They went back to worshiping the pagan gods that got them into trouble in the first place.

Baal was a particularly evil god that required human sacrifice. And since he was also the god of fertility, there was a lot of sexual stuff going on in his worship. So as Israel worshipped this pagan god, they deliberately forgot the LORD and His Word, and chose immorality.

Every other punishment God brought on Israel during the days of the judges involved an outside nation or people who would come in and make their lives miserable. But Abimelech was the first and only Israelite that God used to punish His people when they went astray.

And they even voted for him! They followed him, and they subsidized his evil with their evil. They used the money from the Temple of Baal-Berith to pay him to lead them. And those 70 shekels of silver were what he used to pay evil men who helped to kill his 70 half-brothers.

Now, we are going to be voting soon. We live in a great nation where we've been permitted the privilege of electing our officials. But, something has always puzzled me. And that is the tendency of Christians, of regular church goers, to vote for some of the most wicked people down through our history. And they often vote for such folks because those people share their particular party affiliation.

Down through the years Christians have voted for crooks, and liars, and sexually immoral leaders. They've voted for politicians who've embraced abortion, homosexuality, and all forms of sexual impurity. And they've voted for men and women who were enemies of God. And the reason they voted for them was because they were part of the party they've ALWAYS voted for.

That ought NEVER to be done. That is why there is a voter’s guide in the foyer to inform you about candidates’ positions.  If you’re not voting for the principles of God, you might as well be voting for Abimelech, because that’s who you’ll ultimately end up with. A nation gets the leaders it deserves. And a nation who leaves God out of their politics will end up choosing the wrong side of God’s wrath.

As William Penn said “If we are not willing to be governed by God, we shall be ruled by tyrants”.

Have you ever heard someone say: “Let’s just vote all the bums out and that will fix the problem?”

Unfortunately, that won’t fix the problem, because the real problem has been our nation’s endorsement of immorality. And we, the people, keep voting for politicians that embrace immorality.

So, what is the solution? 2 Chronicles 7:14 IF my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Notice the solution starts with us. We must pray, seek God’s face, turn from our wicked ways, then God will forgive and heal our land. We err if we believe we can solve our political issues at the ballot box. It’s not in the ballot box, but in our prayer closets where we have the most influence. This nation will change one heart at a time as we obey this verse and become salt and light to everyone we meet.
As people believe and follow Jesus Christ, their minds and lives are changed—and the nation, too.

Secondly, we learn from Judges that wherever there’s power to be had, there will be people who will want to have that power. It doesn't matter if the power is in politics, or business, or marriage, or in the church. There will always be people who will seek to dominate and control.

And the thirst for power makes people behave in some really egotistical ways. But that’s the kind of thing I’d expect from pagans. They don’t love God. They don’t have God in charge of their lives. It’s logical for folks, who are pagans, to seek to be god. Somebody has to be in charge, so they believe it may as well be them. Thus, pagans will lie and manipulate by whatever means is necessary to rule over others. A Christian should not do that. A Christian leader is called to be a servant.

Matthew 20:25-28 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Now, my point is this: The spirit of Abimelech can happen anywhere. It can happen in politics, the business world, in marriages, and it can even happen in the church. Wherever there’s power to be had, people struggle to gain that power for themselves. They do this because they believe that power is important. And they even have a proverb they use to justify their mindset. They believe that “God helps those who help themselves.” Now where is that found in Scripture? It isn't. It’s not in the Bible. It’s a pagan proverb. God doesn't help those who help themselves! God helps those who listen to Him and obey Him and trust Him!

Jesus is saying: You want to be GREAT? Then you need to learn to be the best servant you can be. And the only way you can do that is if you learn to TRUST God. You cannot be a good servant if you don’t believe God will have your back. If you don’t believe God will be there for you, you will always think you need to be in control in order to protect yourself. 

That’s what made Gideon such a good judge. He trusted God and obeyed Him. He didn't want power. He just wanted to be a good servant of Israel. Remember what he said when Israel offered him a throne? “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the LORD will rule over you.”

And because Gideon trusted God, he learned to give God the glory. And because Gideon gave God the glory, he became one of the greatest heroes of the Old Testament. 

Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

Only when we learn that the power and glory and the honor belong solely to the LORD will we enjoy the blessings that come from being His children. But you can’t truly know those blessings until you belong to Him. Only those who believe and follow Jesus Christ are His people.

I will conclude with this: Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.

Righteousness, not a great economy exalts a nation. Being in right relationship with God is always issue #1. We certainly have a problem with THAT in America.

Even if we fix the economy, Social Security, unemployment, education, and everything else we worry about – if we don’t begin to live lives of obedience to God, with kindness, mercy, and gentleness towards one another, the president will not have much of an America over which to preside! We can get the money thing figured out and lose our souls! THAT’s what’s really at stake in November! America is in danger of losing her soul—the faith that made her great.

If you want to support America from God’s perspective, please remember what is at stake when you go to the polls. Your vote must not be about money…make it about righteousness. 

Listen carefully to this quotation that is sometimes attributed to an 18th century professor at the University of Edinburgh, “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves benefits from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy. Then it is always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years. Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.”

If that summation is true, America is on the path of self-destruction because we choose benefactors to represent us, who promise us doles from the public treasury. They tax the working people to line their own pockets and to pay for votes from those who do not work.

Our choice for President this year is a difficult one. It reminds me of a scene I saw in the movie “Master and Commander”. It takes place on an English battleship in 1805. The ship’s captain was having a meal with the ship’s officers. The ship’s doctor, who was also a naturalist, desired to collect plant and animal species from around the world. At that moment, there were two insects crawling on the bread plate.

“You see those insects, doctor?' the captain solemnly asked.  'I do,’ replied the doctor.  'Which would you choose for your collection?' asked the captain. Inspecting them closer, the doctor answered, 'There is not a scrap of difference. They are the same species of weevil, and there is nothing to choose between them.'  'But suppose you had to choose, which one would you take?’ asked the captain. 'Then I should choose the weevil on the right; it has a perceptible advantage in both length and breadth,' replied the doctor. 'There is where you are wrong,' declared the captain. ‘In the King’s service, you must always choose the lesser of two weevils?’”

In the service of King Jesus, we will have to do the same thing. The one key ingredient we must all search for in a leader is integrity. Will that person do what he says he will do? That is a sign of righteousness, or at least the kind of humility that recognizes one will have to answer to God. Beware, some candidates are not telling you what they are going to do. They speak against their opponent and they speak with platitudes, because if they were honest about what they plan to do, we wouldn’t vote for them.

We must elect people of integrity because our form of government is not a strict democracy. It is a republic. We elect representatives to do our voting for us. We choose them and then they go off to Washington or the state capitol to run things. Hopefully, they will act like they promised to act; but they are bound only to their conscience, not legally to any promises they have made. We have to hope they HAVE a conscience! When they do wrong, will they admit it and repent? A person of integrity keeps his promises. Keep integrity in mind as you go into the voting booth.

How about you? How high is your integrity? We may not be running for an elected office, but we will have to answer to God. Would our righteousness get us into Heaven? No, it wouldn’t. We all fall short of the glory of God. But there is hope in Jesus Christ.

Romans 3:21-26 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation (i.e. a peace offering between God and man) by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

If you have not received this gift of righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, we urge you today to believe in Jesus as your Savior, who died on the cross as an atonement for your sin. If you believe, then follow Him by repenting of your sin and your lordship of your life. Begin following Jesus by being baptized. You will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will give you the righteousness of Christ and empower you to live for Him.