The story of Gideon’s defeat of the Midianite army in Judges 7 is one of the most absurd stories in the entire Bible. The narrator intends for the story to be absurd, to illustrate the fact that it was God, not Gideon, who was responsible for defeating the Midianites. Gideon has an absurdly small army which is absurdly ill-equipped. Even the means by which the battle is fought and the victory won are absurd. Left on their own, the paltry Israelite army would have had no chance against the Midianites. But with the Lord, all things are possible. No foe is too great, no obstacle is too large, for the Lord!
The story of Gideon is one of the most memorable stories in the Old Testament. His call is recorded in Judges 6. An angel of the Lord appears and tells Gideon he is God’s chosen instrument to go to battle against the forces of the Midianites. Gideon, however, is unconvinced and fearful. He needs reassurance, which the Lord graciously provides time and again. In this way, the call of Gideon reminds us that even though we are sometimes slow to believe, God is always prepared to condescend and provide us the reassurance we need to carry out whatever he has called us to do.
Judges 4 tells the story of another unlikely deliverer of Israel. This time, the deliverer is a woman, Deborah, who was a judge and prophet in Israel. Deborah leads the Israelite army into battle against Sisera, the commander-in-chief of the army of Jabin, King of Hazor. Deborah is accompanied by the Israelite general, Barak. In the end, however, Barak does not get the glory for defeating Sisera’s army. Another woman, Jael, kills Sisera by driving a tent peg through his temple while he slept, thereby bringing about a great victory over the enemies of Israel. The story of Deborah (and Jael) is another demonstration of the principle that God sometimes uses unexpected people and unexpected means to fulfill his divine purposes.
The story of Judge Ehud is one of the most violent episodes in the Book of Judges. It's the account of a political assassination and Israel's subsequent victory over the nation of Moab. Some commentators have wondered why the inspired writer would include such a violent story in the pages of sacred scripture. But this story, and others like it in the Book of Judges, demonstrates that salvation history is sometimes messy, and that God is able to use even events like this to advance His kingdom and bring glory to Himself.
This week, we begin a 9-week study of some of the key judges in the Book of Judges. The period of the judges is a low point in the history of God’s people. Israel has entered the land of Canaan. But instead of faithfully serving the Lord in their new homeland, the Israelites repeatedly turn from Him to serve the pagan gods of their neighbors. God hands Israel over to its enemies again and again. Each time, Israel cries out to God, and God sends a deliverer to rescue them from their foes. The story of the first judge, Othniel, which is told in Judges 3:7-11, exemplifies this pattern. His story, like the stories of all the judges, demonstrates that no matter how faithless God’s people are, God is always faithful, and he never leaves or forsakes the people whom he has called to Himself.