2/19/12 “He Raised Up For Them a Deliverer, Othniel”

2/19/12 “He Raised Up For Them a Deliverer, Othniel”


Judges 3:1-11 Lesson 4
Key verse 3: 9 Kevin Jesmer NIU UBF 2/19/12

“But when they cried out to the LORD, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them.”

Today we are going to learn about the first of the Judges. Othniel. I did not know very much about this man, but through this passage I have grow to admire him very much. He was a great man and a great leader. But most impressive is the God who called and established this man as a deliverer for his people. Thus far in our studies, we have learned that God decided to leave the Canaanites in the land (i) to train the new generation of Israelites to fight and (ii) to test them to see if they would obey the Lord’s commands. But the Israelites “melted” among the Canaanites. They forgot the Lord and served Baal. They intermarried with the Canaanites. God removed his protecting hand and they were overrun by their enemies. When, after eight years of suffering, they cried out to the Lord, God raised up Othniel, to deliver them. The land had peace for forty years, until Othniel died. Through a study of this passage we will learn to be fully devoted to the Lord. We will learn what it means to pass the tests of God and grow through them. We will learn of God who hears our cries and raises up a deliverer for us, the greatest of which is Jesus Christ our Lord. I pray the God may raise up faithful spiritual leaders for the people like Othniel in the land.

Part l: God Tests His People (1-4)

The being of this passage begins with the Lord’s testing of his people. Look at verses 1-4. They read, “These are the nations the LORD left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan 2 (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience): 3 the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath. 4 They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the LORD’s commands, which he had given their ancestors through Moses.” We have learned from chapter one, that these enemy nations were still in the land because the ancient Israelites failed to obey God and drive them out. It was their job to complete the conquest, but there were many obstacles yet to overcome in their new homeland. Instead of removing these obstacles, God would allow the enemies to remain in order to test his people.

A period of rest followed Joshua’s conquests during which the new generation of Israelites did not experience war. They had not witnessed the many miracles of the recent past. They were not thrust into situations that would push them beyond their human limitations. If they were to keep their hold on Canaan they would have to understand war and the victory that comes when they put all of their faith and hope and trust in God. They would need to be proven, as to whether or not they would follow the Lord or their neighbor’s idols. How they handled these “obstacles” would be a test of their faith.

Testing does not that God wanted to find something out about them. No. It means that God was giving them an opportunity to demonstrate and experience faith and obedience. Jesus himself tested his disciples when he asked them to feed the five thousand in John 6. Verses 5-6 read. “When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.’” (Jn 6:5-6, NIV ’84) Jesus already knew what he was going to do. And so this test was not for Jesus to discover something new that he didn’t already know. It was for his disciples. He wanted to thrust them into a situation where they would have to pray and come to God and trust God. That situation is to step up and take spiritual responsibility to feed 5,000 men plus women and children. In such a situation, the disciples would discover the power of God through faith and prayer.

Every believer is in one way or the other, tested. Every generation of believers must be proven. Will they lean on the arm of flesh, or will they look to Christ and the cross and depend on God? God does this so that we may know ourselves, God and the power of faith and prayer. What situation is God allowing you to remain in so that you may experience testing? Perhaps God had left obstacles in your life- difficult people, unsolvable problems, difficult situations, and persistent sin problems – to allow you to experience the power of faith and obedience. For students, situations born out of their experience in school is a prime testing ground. There are tests, relationships, crosses to bear as we live as servants of God while in school. I thank God for my university years. When I met Jesus I was already finished studying three years in Chemical Technology. I did not know the Lord and as a result could not submit to the Lord’s testing. But after meeting Jesus I went back to school. I started studying Soviet and Eastern European Studies. I studied the Russian language. Then I switched to study two semesters in Chemistry. After that was five years of studying to get my degree in nursing. All these years, after meeting Jesus I also tried to live as a servant of God’s word. I tried to seek God’s kingdom as of first importance. (Matt 6:33) When I had this mission in my life, I was subject to so many opportunities to be tested by God. There were times of great difficulty. But when I submitted to God’s testing, I discovered so many things about faith, Jesus, myself and my limitations and about the Kingdom of God. It was a wonderful experience that made me the man I am today. The testings provided me with the “faith tools” that I apply throughout my adult years. The Christian forfeits many opportunities to learn faith when they stay within the comfort zone of Christian living, when they ignore and avoid the “testings” of the Lord. They may learn that they can overcome some things using their own strength. But this breeds pride. They never experience, the Lord who brings them through the impossible. Let’s decide, in this year to submit to the Lord’s test.

Part ll: Come Out And Be Separate (5-8)

When the Israelites were left among the Canaanite nations, instead of passing the Lord’s test, they compromised their faith and their identity as a people of God. Look at verses 5-6, “The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 6 They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods.” Their relationships with the surrounding nations affected their faith. The men and women of the surrounding nations were attractive. They intermarried with them and accepted their pagan gods. This was clearly prohibited by God for Exodus 34:15-17 reads, “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. 16 And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same. 17 “Do not make any idols.” Deuteronomy 7:1-4 says a similar thing. The New Testament carries on with the same principle. (1 Cor ) They probably never saw a problem. They people seemed successful. They were religious. They worked hard. What was the problem? Many of the Isralites never saw a problem. But the God of the Israelites, our God, saw a severe problem.

The problem with their compromises can be found in verse 7, “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs.” Archeologists have uncovered many Baal idols in Israel. Baal was the most worshipped god of the Canaanites. They were often cast in the form of a bull, or a man. He symbolized strength and fertility and was considered the god of agriculture. Asherah was Baal’s girlfriend, mother goddess of the sea who was worshipped by means of wooden pillars that represented sacred trees. In times of famine, the Canaanites believed Baal was angry with them and was withholding rain as punishment. You can image the types of sacrifices and worship that went on to court Baal’s favor. By accepting these gods into their homes, the Israelites gradually accepted the immoral practices associated with them.

It also led to a broken relationship with God and to slavery. Look at verse 8,9, “The anger of the LORD burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years.” God removed his protecting hand and they were overrun and enslaved by the Arameans for eight long years. Idolatry always leads to slavery in some way. For the Israelites, it was to a worldly power. For us it is Satan himself and to our own sinful nature.

It is difficult to image the people of Israel trading worship of the Lord for worship of idols made of wood, stone and iron. How could they possibly do this after their many personal encounters with the Lord? But so often we do the same. As followers of Jesus we have experienced the love of God and the power of God again and again. We have tasted the goodness of knowing the Lord. But yet in this world we get enticed by the idols of our culture. We forsake worshipping God for other competing things and priorities. Our idols are not made of wood or stone, but they are still harmful to our souls and our relationship with God. Friendship with the world does not make the Christian more godly, but rather the Christian becomes more worldly.

Most Israelites did not start out determined to be idolaters. They just “innocently” married into the Canaanite culture and then added the worship of idols to their worship of God. But before long they found themselves absorbed in pagan worship. A similar danger faces us. If we don’t hold onto Jesus’ words and have a clear identity as a servant of God, then a slow fade can occur. Think about the lyrics of the Casting Crowns song, Slow Fade. Some verses read, …

“The journey from your mind to your hands is shorter than you’re thinking. Be careful if you think you stand you just might be sinking. It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away. It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray. Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid when you give yourself away. People never crumble in a day. Daddies never crumble in a day. Families never crumble in a day.” – Slow Fade by Casting Crowns.

We must remember any worship of God that’s not anchored in the cross of Jesus is unscriptural, and idolatry. It will lead to a broken relationship with God and slavery to sin and the devil. Let’s be in the world but not of it. Let’s be God’s holy people revealing Jesus to the world. But if we do find ourselves slaved it is always good to know that God has raised up a deliverer for us. His name is Jesus. Let’s learn about the God who raised a human deliverer.

Part lll: Othniel And The Source Of His Power (10-11)

God worked through his peoples’ suffering and their slavery. Look at verse 9, “But when they cried out to the LORD, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them.” After eight years of suffering, the Israelites cried out to the Lord. Any time they cried out, the Lord always heard their cry and answered their cries with deliverance. This is a life giving truth. No matter what the problem, situation or condition of heart, if you will sincerely cry out to the Lord, he will hear and answer, irrespective to what you may have done in the past that is wrong. I experienced this just before I came to Jesus. I was spiritually lost. I felt so lonely and meaningless. One day I cried in my pillow “Oh God!” God heard this crying out prayer and he sent Christians to teach me the word and pray for me. I discovered that Jesus is the one who completely delivers me. I repented of my sins and accepted Jesus as my Savior. When I did, I was set free from my slavery. God has heard my crying out prayers on one occasion after another over the last 27 years of being in Christ. He will do the same for you.

God answered the Israelites cries by sending Othniel as the first Judge. Let’s learn more about Othniel. He lived about 1460 B.C. His name means “Lion of God”. And was the son of Kenaz, the younger brother of Caleb. (Joshua 15:17; Judges 1:13; 3:9; 1 Chronicles 4:13) The great Caleb was Othniel’s uncle. The first mention of Othniel is on the conquering or the city of Debir. Caleb promised to give his daughter Achsah to whosoever should assault and take the city. Othniel took up the challenge, volunteering to lead and attack against a fortified city and won the prize. And now we see him as the one God raised up as the deliverer of his countrymen from the oppression of a Canaanite nation. He brought the people back to God and freed them from the oppression of the king of Aram, Naharaim. In every generation God raises up national shepherds to lead and inspire the people. God raises up shepherds in our own lives to lead and inspire us. Maybe God is raising you up to lead and inspire others.

What was the source of Othniel’s power and influence? I will say that there are three reasons. First, he had good mentors. Second, he has a spiritual wife who was on supportive of his life of faith. And third, the spirit of the Lord came upon him. First, he has a good mentor. As we studied his uncle was the great Caleb. Caleb was one of the spied out the Promised Land and encouraged his people with a good report. He was a man of faith and courage. I am sure that Caleb’s faith influenced the faith of his nephew, Othniel.

Second, he has a supportive wife. He did not marry any woman from the surrounding nation. He married a woman of faith who worshipped the God of the Israelites. His wife, Aksah, was given to him as a prize for leading the charge against, and defeating a fortified city. She was Caleb’s daughter. 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. (1:12-15) They were a perfect match for each other and supported the work of God in each other’s life. There is lot of strength to be generated in a family where both the husband and the wife are on the “same page” when it comes to serving the Lord.

Third, the most important reason that Othniel could rise to the occasion, is that the Spirit of God came upon him. Look at verses 10-11 read, “The Spirit of the LORD came on him, so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war. The LORD gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him.” The phrase, “The Spirit of the LORD came on him, …” expressed a temporary and spontaneous increase of physical, spiritual and mental strength. This was an extraordinary and supernatural occurrence to prepare a person for a special task and so it is a little different than having the Holy Spirit today. (However similar occurrences can happen.)

Even in this age we need the Holy Spirit of God to come upon us. There are all kinds of things that are greater than we are. But, do you know, there is nothing greater than the Sprit of the God? He is God in us. John 14:17-20 reads, “the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” When you feel overwhelmed by all that is in your path, depend on the Holy Spirit, who is already with you. The Holy Spirit can make you as courageous as Othniel and strengthen you to accomplish the task to which you have been called. Jennifer is facing a daunting challenge, going to college. Depend on the Holy Spirit who is with you. Augi and Sarah are facing the challenge of leading FCA next year. Pray to depend on the Holy Spirit who is with you. James is facing a tough internship and master’s degree studies in Accounting. Jason is facing online MBA studies. Both must depend on the Holy Spirit who is with them.

Human leaders have a great influence over the people they lead. Look at verse 11, “So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died.” He was a good leader. He administered justice and promoted the worship of the Lord. We need to pray that the right leaders may be raised up in our nation, community and in our churches. Then relative peace may come.

But there are limitations to human leadership. After all human leaders are only …human. Right? After Othniel’s death, it did not take the Israelites long to fall back into their neighbor’s comfortable but sinful ways. They would once again become oppressed. How can we overcome this trend? We must make Jesus our deliverer and, at the same time enjoy the leadership of those whom he raises up. Jesus is the best deliverer. He can bring peace amongst us. Isaiah 9:6-7 reads, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” Under Jesus’ leadership the peace of God never ends. For his is alive forever more and leading his people. He is the prince of peace. He is the eternal “Deliverer” raised up by God for our deliverance.

In conclusion, we learn to be fully devoted to the Lord. We learn what it means to pass the tests of God and grow through them by personally experiencing God by applying our faith and obedience in all of life’s challenges. Let’s depend on the Spirit of God, who is with you, to strengthen and lead you. May our young people learn to cry out to God and submit themselves to Jesus our eternal Deliverer. And may God raise up Othniel’s throughout our land. (You may be one of them.)


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