"The Israelites cried out to the Lord. So the Lord raised up Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's youngest brother as a deliverer to save the Israelites. ...Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord, and He raised up Ehud son of Gera, a left-handed Benjaminite, as a deliverer for them. The Israelites sent him to Eglon king of Moab with tribute [money]. ...After Ehud, Shamgar son of Anath [became judge]. He delivered Israel by striking down 600 Philistines with an oxgoad. ... Deborah, a woman who was a prophetess and the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. ...She summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, 'Hasn't the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded [you]: 'Go, deploy [the troops] on Mount Tabor, and take with you 10,000 men from the Naphtalites and Zebulunites? ...Barak said to her, 'If you will go with me, I will go. But if you will not go with me, I will not go.' 'I will go with you,' she said, 'but you will receive no honor on the road you are about to take, because the Lord will sell Sisera into a woman's hand.' So Deborah got up and went with Barak to Kedesh. ...While he was sleeping from exhaustion, Heber's wife Jael took a tent peg, grabbed a hammer, and went silently to Sisera. She hammered the peg into his temple and drove it into the ground, and he died.' " (Judges 3:9, 15, 31; 4:4, 6, 8, 9, 21 HCSB)
The British philosopher Edmund Burke, astutely observed, "Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it." It is obvious that Israel did not learn their history lessons during the era of the Judges. Departure, discipline, desperation, and deliverance--this is the cycle we find repeated in the Sacred History. Almost as soon as Israel was delivered by God the nation turned back to sin, and God sent suffering to turn them back to Him. The suffering did its work and the people came seeking rescue, and God sent a judge to do the saving--but then the downward spiral would resume, each time deeper and more painful.
After the death of Joshua, the great hero of faith, the people plunged into the mire of sin and this brought the misery of suffering. When the people cried out for mercy, God was so good to forgive them and raised up the first judge to aid them. He was AN IN-LAW. His name was Othniel. We are first introduced to him as Caleb's son-in-law, in Joshua 15:16-17. He was a man who was up to a fight, and the reward for his victory was Caleb's daughter's hand in marriage. When we find him years later, we find him with courage still to lead Israel to victory. Someone asked, "Do you know the difference between out-laws and in-laws?" The answer, "Out-laws are wanted!" Well, I guess we have know some in-laws like that. It wasn't true of this in-law, however. He was wanted. He was not just wanted, Othniel was desperately needed. God is still looking for courageous warriors today. Will you be one?
But when a period of rest concluded and Othniel died, Israel rejected the Lord. God brought retribution and suddenly the nation remembered Him! They cried out to God for relief. God sent another judge, A SOUTH-PAW, named Ehud. He was a left-hander, which was out of the ordinary. Because the oppressive King of Moab was not expecting it, Ehud was able to conceal a small sword, under his robe, strapped to his right thigh, and catch King Eglon off-guard. Eglon was a fat fellow and the sword was plunged with such force, all the way into his big belly, that Ehud couldn't extract his weapon. Ehud lost his sword, but Eglon lost his life. Because Ehud had "guts" the obese ruler lost his! God can use those with the cunning of a serpent and the courage of a lion--even if you are different from most. Will you make excuses because you are different or will you make a difference?
Not much is said about the next judge, Shamgar--just one verse where we are introduced to him as A HIT-MAN. He walked softly and carried a big stick! Shamgar's weapon of choice was an ox-goad with which he could club his foes and stab them. He had a lot of "hits"--six hundred during his career--and so made the hall of fame in the Biblical narrative. The Lord will take whatever is in our hand and use it--if surrendered to Him--a staff in Moses' hand or a slingshot in David's. Have you yielded what you have to God's purposes?
Then, there are two WORKING WOMEN the Lord works through. Deborah was the next judge in Israel. She led the people of God and fed them the Word of God. When she summons Barak to do what men ought to do, and direct the army in battle, his reluctance causes her to accompany him on the military campaign, with the consequence of his loss of backbone being a loss of blessing. Another working woman, by the name of Jael would defeat the opposing general. She did that by taking him into her tent and "taking him in!" She killed Sisera with kindness! He was worn out, and so Jael gave him some warm milk and tucked him into bed. Then she took a tent peg, placed it at his temple, and with a hammer drove the spike through his skull! She was not someone to mess with! Thank God for working women who are willing to serve the Lord and standing for Him. Perhaps you are one--or know one. We should commend their efforts--Scripture does. As a woman, will you roll up your sleeves and get to work?
We can learn the lessons of this divinely inspired history or we will be destined to repeat it. If we as a nation embrace sin and exclude God, He will send suffering to scourge us--even a foreign power to subjugate us. May God give us a few brave men and women like those we read about in Judges. More than ability, God desires availability. Are you available to be used by Him?