[August 6]--The Spirit At Work: The Judges

Judges 3:7-11

We talked about the Judges last year, so I apologize if some of this is repetitive for you. I grew up in the church, and was taught the Bible as far back as I can remember. I also remember reading and thoroughly enjoying a children’s illustrated Bible. It basically displayed drawings which told the stories of the Bible like in a comic book. If you’re read my spiel on the Judges before, you might recall that my favorite judge, in fact one of my favorite characters in the entire Bible was none other than Samson. I read comic books as a child (well, actually I still do), and thrilled to the stories of Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Spider-man , etc. And this was a real-life superhero! He really lived, not just in the imagination of some guy, but in the real world! He had super strength, partial invulnerability (or so it seemed), and superhuman stamina.

And how did he get these abilities? The same source which gave abilities and performed miracles through the rest of the judges, the Spirit of God. This was the usual pattern: The people of Israel rebelled against the Lord's authority and laws, and he punished them by giving them over to some of their enemies (there was never a shortage of those). The people eventually would wise up and call upon him, and he empowered someone (mostly guys, but there was one lady) to step up. Actually the word “judge” is a bit of a misnomer, since the word can also mean “deliverer” or “savior,” and those terms apply better, since the “judges” rarely sat and judged anyone like in a court of law. The Holy Spirit is usually mentioned as coming upon the newly appointed deliverer, and he (the Spirit) gives our hero whatever he needs in order to complete his task.

What was the problem with this? First, you can see it in the last verse from today’s reading. The people stayed at least somewhat faithful and the land had peace until the judge died. You could get the impression from Scripture that at the hero’s funeral they were planning their next idol-worshiping party, judging by how quickly they fell after he left the scene. They sinned egregiously against the Lord, he punished them again by handing them over to their enemies, and the downward spiral started anew.

Another problem was the way in which the Spirit came upon his chosen ones during this period. When he entered them, he equipped them for the task at hand: He might give them military skill or diplomatic abilities or wisdom in leadership decisions. Regrettably this often didn’t include moral reformation of the person’s character. My old hero—Samson—is the worst example of this. One of my favorite stories as a kid was about how his enemies trapped him in a city at nighttime and watched the city gate, planning to kill him the next morning once he could be found. Samson went up to the city gate (weighing several tons) and picked it up, carried it several feet outside the city, and dropped it there! That showed them who was da man!!! But the children’s Bible I read didn’t mention why he was there in that city in the first place. Let me give you a hint: He wasn’t there to start a new chapter of Promise Keepers. He was visiting one of his. . .ladies of the evening. So just because the Spirit came upon a man to equip him to do some things, that didn’t necessarily translate into changing his moral character.

And finally we come up on the age-old problem regarding the Spirit in the O.T. He came upon certain people in certain times under certain circumstances. Most of God’s people had little to no experience of a direct one-on-one encounter with the Spirit within them. And even when the Spirit anointed someone, that wasn’t necessarily permanent: Saul is one case in particular.

So why am I bringing all this up? What’s my point here? There’s only one reason I’ve gone through all this: To compare favorably what the O.T. saints had versus what we have. I’m going to hammer this as many times as needed—This is for every believer in Christ. If you’re a believer, the Spirit has come to live inside of you, and he’s not going anywhere, ever. He’s going to equip you to do what he wants you to do, but he’s also going to conform you to the likeness of Christ. And you don’t have to be some “superhero” to get into this action. If it’s not happening, it’s not because of him.

Father God, thank you so much for the incredible heritage I have as your child. Please use your Spirit to break me and change me, by your grace.

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