1/30/12 Further Conquest Of The Promised Land.

Further Conquest Of The Land.

Kevin Jesmer NIU UBF                           Judges 1:1-26                      Lesson 1
Key verse 1: 1

“After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, ‘Who of us is to go up first and fight against Canaanites?”

Part l: Introduction To The Book of Judges

The book of Judges covers the period of history between the death of Joshua and the establishment of the monarchy. (1375 B.C. to 1055 B.C.) It spans a period of about 325 years recording six successive periods of oppression and deliverance. It is an account of a lengthy and gradual conquest of the Promised Land. Generally speaking, Judges is a book about sin and its consequences and about God who raises up his leaders to deliver his people during times of crisis.

First, Judges is a book about sin and its consequences. After the death of Joshua there was a leadership void. Under Joshua, the Israelites began strong, but soon they were sidetracked by fear, weariness, lack of discipline, and a pursuit of their own interests. As a result their faith began to wane and they were unable to completely defeat the powerful Canaanites.

The Canaanites lived in city states where each city state had its own government, army and laws. One reason that Canaan was so difficult to conquer was that each city had to be defeated individually. There was no single king who could surrender the entire country into the hands of the Israelites. They fought hard and met many political and military challenges, but facing spiritual challenges proved much more difficult for Canaan’s biggest threat to Israel was not its army, but its religion. The unholy but attractive lifestyle of the Canaanite proved more dangerous that their military might. Canaanite religion idealized evil; cruelty in war; sexual immortality; selfish greed; and materialism. The Israelites fell into idolatry and cultural pressures and compromised their faith. This happened time after time, one generation after another. Each time, God removed his hand of protection from his people, and allowed hostile neighbors to harass them. The Lord withdrew his promise to help drive the people out and bless the Israelites in battle.

What was the result of the Israelites abandonment of following God and worshipping idols? Judges 21:25 reads, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” After Joshua’s death, there was no central government; there was no one who stood up as shepherd for the people of Israel. Each person became a law unto themselves. God could not bless them and they suffered endlessly. But there is a bright side to this story.

Second, Judges is a book about God who raises up leaders in times of crisis to deliver his people. When the people turned to God in repentance and cried out for help, he raised up a judge, a leader, who would deliver them. Then, for the rest of the judge’s lifetime, the land would have peace. And so Judges is a book about these “heroes”…twelve men and women whom God worked through to deliver Israel from its oppressors. There were a variety of deliverers from Othniel to Samson. They were used to deliver God’s to freedom and bring about true worship of God. The major judges are listed among the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11. Listen to what verses 30-32 says about four of them, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, “…I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.” These judges were people. They were not perfect, but sinners in need of God’s salvation. They too, did what was right in their own eyes. But they were people of faith and who stood up for the Lord at the critical moment. They were submissive to God and God used them. As a result they stood out like bright stars in a night sky.

Nowadays it is hard for anyone to rise to greatness. It is easy for us to think that we are simply a cog in the wheel among other cogs. Who can be our heroes? Sports stars? Movie stars? Big business CEO’s? If we do want to rise to the occasion, what do we rise up to? The judges and their courageous lives of faith are great encouragements to us today. As we study the book of Judges, take a good look at these Biblical heroes. Learn their dependence on God and their obedience to his commands. Be amazed at God’s unlimited grace and mercy as he delivers his people again and again. Let’s see God who strengthens the weak and makes them strong and uses them to bring about wonderful deeds of salvation. Most of all let’s discover Jesus and the Gospel nestled in these exciting Bible accounts.

Part ll: Israel Fights The Remaining Canaanites (1-2)

And now let’s think about Judges chapter 1. The book of Joshua ends with the tribes taking a stand for God. They were ready to experience all the blessings of the Promised Land. The Lord had given Canaan to the Israelites, but they needed faith to go in and take it. Each tribe was responsible to take hold of their own particular region. But the problem is that their, leader, Joshua had died. Joshua was a great commander, for he had kept the people focused on God and his purposes. He faithfully obeyed the Lord and led the Israelites to one military victory after another until the people occupied the land. Joshua had been the obvious successor to Moses, but, now after his death, there was no obvious successor to Joshua. Soon, Israel began to loose its firm grip on the land.

During this crisis of leadership, Israel had to a make very important decision to turn to God. And so they did in verse 1, “After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, “Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Canaanites?” Joshua died but God did not die and the Israelites asked the Lord for direction. The peoples’ real leader is always God himself. In times of difficulty and transition, we should always ask the Lord what we should do. And when he answers, it is best to obey. Don’t get me wrong. God uses leaders. He works through leaders. But we must always ask the Lord as we acknowledge God as our commander-in-chief. He will come through with is his wisdom and clear direction every time, as we depend on him in prayer.
God called and inspired one tribe to stand up in the gap and take leadership. Let’s read verse 2. “The LORD answered, ‘Judah shall go up; I have given the land into their hands.’” Is it any mistake that Judah was asked to go first? I think not? The leadership of the tribe of Judah is alluded to in Genesis. Five hundred years previous, the man, Judah, was a great sinner. He even sold his brother Joseph into slavery. He lied to his father about Joseph’s condition. He slept with prostitutes. But when God worked through Joseph to help his brothers to repent, Judah was the first to repent. Later on, Jacob blessed his sons and their descents in Genesis 49. In regards to Judah, Genesis 49:8-12 reads, “Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. 9 You are a lion’s cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? 10 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his. 11 He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. 12 His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk” The tribe of Judah would be totally blessed. His tribe would be strong and take the lead in battle against its enemies. His tribe would be first among the others. King’s and prophets came from Judah. King David was from the Judah. Jesus is the Lion of Judah. Judah was one the last of the tribes of Israel to exist. Most Jewish people today, I believe, are from the tribe of Judah. God clearly blessed Judah’s repentance and faith, by blessing his descendants. God still blesses the live and the descendants of those who embrace repentance and faith today.

The tribe of Judah accepted the challenge and took the lead. Let’s read verse 3, “The men of Judah then said to the Simeonites their fellow Israelites, ‘Come up with us into the territory allotted to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours.’ So the Simeonites went with them.” It is noteworthy that the men of Judah took the lead in battle. To take the lead meant sacrifice and suffering. It meant the possibility of failure and even death. But they had faith, courage and a deep sense of calling. There are times when we must hear the voice of the Lord and stand up and take leadership. It is never a time to shrink back, but a time to embrace faith and manifest courage.

Part lll; The Tribe Of Judah Is Like Christ (3)

Judah’s standing in the forefront and taking the lead is alluding to Jesus. Jesus Christ is from the house and the line of Judah. He is the Lion of Judah. So in essence, by showing that Judah is taking the lead in the conquest of the Promised Land shows us that Jesus has taken the lead and conquered the way for us to enter the Kingdom of God. If we follow our heavenly Judah, the Lion of Judah, Jesus, we will victoriously pass through this world and navigate the narrow way that leads to eternal life.

Simeon has been cursed because of the slaughter of the Schecemites. (Gen 34:1-31) Simeon and Levi did not like what Prince of Schecum did to their sister Dinah and so they put all the men of Schecem to the sword. They were men of violence. Jacob’s blessing to Simeon in Genesis was not good. Genesis 49:5-7 reads, “Simeon and Levi are brothers— their swords are weapons of violence. 6 Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased. 7 Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel.” The curse meant that they would have no inheritance in Israel to their own. Their people would be scattered among the other tribes. This is a serious matter for any Israelite tribe for they really wanted their own identity and inheritance in the Promised Land. Not to have it constantly reminded them that they somehow being cursed.

But Judah stepped up and revealed the grace of God towards the Simeonites. Look at verse 3 again, “The men of Judah then said to the Simeonites their fellow Israelites, ‘Come up with us into the territory allotted to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours.’ So the Simeonites went with them.” First, Judah referred to them as brothers. Judah embraced them and gave them hope and a future in the land. They were to fight side by side in the battle as brothers. Second, Judah, who had the largest inheritance in the land, gave some of their inheritance to Simenon. It lay within their inheritance. (Gen 49:5-7; Josh 19:1) This is verified in Joshua 19:1, which reads, “The second lot came out for the tribe of Simeon, clan by clan. Their inheritance lay within the territory of Judah.”

The tribe of Judah is revealing the wonderful grace of God. Actually, we all, because of our sin, had no inheritance in the kingdom of God. We were like spiritual orphans, alone and destitute in this world. We were no part of God’s family and had no part in God spiritual blessings. We were destined to spend an eternity separated from God. Actually the whole humanity was cursed because of the fall; consequently, we all had no inheritance. But Jesus took pity on us. He saved us from our poor spiritual condition. He heard the cry of our hearts. He reached down to us and forgave us. He cleansed us of our sins and made us holy by his grace poured out on us on the cross. He made each of his us precious children. God is our Father. We are now part of his family with a rich inheritance in the Kingdom of God. And as we live in this world we fight the spiritual battle side by side with our Savior Jesus Christ.

The inheritance also reveals the origin of our salvation. Look at Joshua 19:1 again, which reads, “The second lot came out for the tribe of Simeon, clan by clan. Their inheritance lay within the territory of Judah.” Our salvation lies within Jesus. When we are in Christ we are saved and have a rich inheritance in the Kingdom of God. Nothing can take this away from us.

Part lV: The Battle Is Not Over (8-26)

Entering the Promised Land did not mean that the fighting was over. Look at verses 4-6 and 8-11. “When Judah attacked, the LORD gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands, and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek. 5 It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaanites and Perizzites. …. 8 The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem also and took it. They put the city to the sword and set it on fire. 9 After that, Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev and the western foothills.10 They advanced against the Canaanites living in Hebron (formerly called Kiriath Arba) and defeated Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai. 11 From there they advanced against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher).” There are more accounts of battles and victories in verses 16-26.

There is also some beautiful co-working going on in these accounts. Can we see some examples? In verse 17, The men of Judah and Simeon fought together. We can see that the individual men or each tribe, coming together to fight hard under one unit. The work of God is always done through co-working together. It is never a “one man” show.

Just because we have been saved and are part of God’s family does not mean that our struggles are over? We still have a spiritual struggle to grow and mature as Christians. We need to battle temptations and idol worship in our hearts, fighting the idols of our cultures around us, which are? I think you know what the idols of our land are. The Bible says, in our struggle against sin, we have not resisted to the point of shedding our blood. What about Paul’s exhortation to run like an athlete who wants to win the prize? This sounds harsh to some. But we need to struggle and grow and not be self confident in ourselves but rather confident in Jesus who goes along with us in the spiritual battle. If we think we are so confident we will fall.

There was one women who knew how the fight inwardly. Look at 1:12-15, “And Caleb said, ‘I will give my daughter Aksah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher.” 13Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Aksah to him in marriage. 14 One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him[a] to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, ‘What can I do for you?’ 15 She replied, ‘Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.’ So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.” She was given some land. If the field was to be given to her family, then she felt she also had the right to ask for the springs of water to make the field fertile, which she did and which she received. She had great faith. She asked and received God’s blessing and favor. She had a spirit of conquest in her heart. God blesses those who ask. The Bible says that we can ask for the Holy Spirit. There is the parable of the persistent widow. Those who ask and dedicate what they ask for, to be used for God’s purpose and glory, receive from God. We need bold, claiming faith, not just for blessings and money for our own need, but for spiritual blessings that God wants bless us with. But be careful what you ask for, because those who are given much, much more will be asked.

In today’s study, we learn the importance of coming to God in prayer in times of crisis and transition. We learn the importance of standing up as leaders and taking the lead in the spiritual battles we face in this life. We also learn the importance of co-working and possessing a fighting spirit within us. Most of all we learn about the grace of Jesus, who calls us brothers and fights along side with us. We learn of his grace that conquered the way for us to enter into our eternal inheritance, the kingdom of God. All of this comes when we are found in Christ. Let us praise God for his “including” grace. May we be more inclusive to others.

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