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.
When we think of what a “judge” does, we don’t necessarily picture going to war. Having been a paralegal for years, I’ve been in my share of courtrooms. For purposes of the Biblical judges, we’ll need to set aside the picture of a person in a black robe holding a gavel in one hand. A courtroom judge plays a very different role than what we’ll encounter in the pages of Judges.
We might want to think of the Biblical judges as smart warriors or conquerors. They were assigned to a particular region or area. God’s judges needed to set the record straight and free the Israelites from their foes, the very ones God had allowed to overtake them as part of the pattern. (In this case, the region of Aram.)
It seems like an interesting game to play, doesn’t it? What I like about it is seeing God’s hand at work and his love and concern for his people. I wonder what the people living through these years were thinking. In just a few short verses, we have covered 48 years! That’s a couple generations of families living peacefully and without war or fear of war.
I’m curious what you think. How do you think the people miraculously left their idol worship behind them during the judge-led years? I can’t imagine it was like a light switch? It had to be God at work in their hearts, blocking their devotion to the idols and drawing them to him instead. The pattern would support that so long as there was a judge in place, God’s people were worshiping God alone.
Our passage ends today with the death of the first judge, Othniel. How soon will things fall apart? The story continues. Take some time today to imagine the devotion to God the judges had and the difficulties they would have likely faced trying to redirect the people they were called to serve.
Let’s pray …
Lord, your grace and mercy amazes me so much. The same love you extended to the wayward Israelites is available for me! I pray for strength to keep me from being sucked into the hands of my enemies. Those foes try to confuse me and create doubt in me of your power. I stand firm and look for your wisdom and leadership to keep me safe. In Jesus’ name. Amen.