And I thought Deborah was going to be the hero of the story! In our last reading, you’ll recall a conversation between our current judge, Deborah, and her military leader recruit, Barak. When she said that God’s victory would be at the hands of a woman, didn’t you imagine she was talking about herself? Or was it just me?
Actually, I had been waiting for the story of Jael. I had forgotten where it fell in the timeline of God’s story. There is a lot we can learn from Jael. She turned fear into triumph! But she didn’t do it on her own. God had already planned it, and whether or not Deborah knew “who” the woman would be, God had shared with her ahead of time that victory would involve a woman.
Twenty years was enough this time as they were tired of being controlled by King Jabin of Hazor. They cried out and God sent Deborah, a woman. Did that surprise you that God would enlist a woman to help him?
We’ve heard that the judges are really warriors, but in Deborah’s case it sounds like she also listened to the people’s situation and made rulings. We read, “Israelites would go to her for judgment.” But was we keep reading we see that she was also a warrior.
It seems a little like a scene from a spy novel or motion picture just unfolded! Where did this Ehud come from? What we do see is that the “pattern” repeated itself in Moab this time. The Lord delivered his beloved Israelites to the Moabites. When the people had had enough and cried out, God sent Ehud. Like a spy, Ehud found his way into the Moabite king’s inner sanctum and killed him.
We’ve all watched a drama or two filled with corruption and seen how the spy character is able to manipulate their way into the right place to make their move. The tricky part then is always the stealth escape with lots of suspense. That was what I was imagining when I pictured Ehud doing what God called him to do.
In the first chapter of Judges, we read about Othniel. He had won the privilege of marrying Caleb’s daughter by conquering some land. Othniel was now both a nephew and son-in-law to Caleb. Had God been preparing Othniel for such a time as this? We hear “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him.” With the Lord’s help, Othniel was able to have victory over the King of Aram followed by 40 years of peace.
There doesn’t appear to be much to the story of Othniel reported beyond this. We do see the first instance of the 4-part pattern playing out here. God was listening for the cries of his people despite being angry with them. I think of a parent being on the alert to rescue their children at any age if there is a cry for help.
We see an angry God, very disappointed in his people. What was happening in this time and place was not good. The world was corrupt with sin. The people had not passed God’s “test.” “I did this to test Israel—to see whether or not they would follow the ways of the Lord as their ancestors did.” Interesting that God admits he was testing his people to see if they would stay true.
How would we do on this test? Would we pass with flying colors or would we need God to save us with a rinse and repeat kind of rescue? I’m looking forward to the chapters to come as God continues to reveal his great love for his people in sending these judges. We’ll meet some interesting folks. We might want to consider that what life throws at us is our test to see if we give in to temptations or turn to God.