Judges 03: The true Deliverer

If you are new to RSI, we just started a new series from the book of Judges. As Ps Yosia said, this book is quite disturbing yet it’s also hopeful. It is disturbing because this book tells a story of how God’s people repeatedly fall into sin, but not only that, their sins are getting worse every time. It seems that they have no boundaries to how God’s people can mess up. But at the same time, this book also gives us hope that no matter how badly we mess up, God never gives up on us. That’s one important thing we should remember when we read this book: God is the real hero in this book.


For some of you who may not listen to the previous sermon, let me give a quick overview. From Judges chapter 1 verse 1 to Chapter 3 verse 6, you have a book introduction. You got an overview of the book. Israel has given itself to idolatry after the time of Joshua. Lord will raise up the Judges as their deliverer.  At the end of chapter 2, it gives us the cycle or the pattern that we will see again and again in this book. Israel’s people will rebel against God. They fall into sin and idolatry. Then, God handed over them to their enemy. They were enslaved by their enemy. Then they will cry for God’s mercy. Because of His Grace and mercy, God raises up the Judges for Israel’s people. Israel is delivered. Israel serves the Lord. It would be a good ending if we stop at this step, right? But unfortunately, this is an unending cycle in this book of Judges. After Israel serves the Lord for many years, they will come back to their idolatry and fall into sin. You will see that pattern again and again in this book. You may think it would be boring to learn the same thing. Not really. Trust me, we will learn a lot from this book.


Today we will learn together from the first three judges out of 12 judges in this book. The first judge is Othniel. The second one is Ehud and the third one is Shamgar.


1.   Israel’s Forgetfulness

7 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.


We forget things. It might be small or big things. We have one peeler at home that must be stored on the second shelf of our kitchen cabinet. For most other kitchen items such as a knife, bowl, or plate, I can remember where I should put them on the cabinet but just this one special green peeler, I always either on the first or third instead of the second shelf. Ellis hates this so much because when she needs to use it, she could not find it and she needs to waste an extra 5 seconds to finally find it.


I believe that I am not the only one who always forgets a thing. My example is just a simple example that may not cause a big issue or any danger. But there are some cases that our forgetfulness can cause a bigger issue. One example is what happened a few weeks ago. It still makes my heart so heavy when I remember this incident. Do you remember that a few weeks ago there was a father who forgot that his son was still in the car and left him inside the car? His son was dead. Forgetfulness can be dangerous. Today, we want to look at the most dangerous form of forgetfulness which is forgetting God.


As we progress through this book, we will become more familiar with these opening words in verse 7. Judges 3:7 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. This phrase is repeated at least 6 times in this book (chapters 4, 6, 10, and 13). We will see this phrase repeated in verse 12. The author tried to highlight the sin of the Israel people and it is not a different sin every time. It is the same sin that is repeated over and over. There was nothing new or fresh or innovative. Their sin is the same, and they just keep doing it over and over.


The Bible says that what they did was evil in the sight of the LORD. It is such a big statement. What they did was not just evil but also evil in the sight of the LORD. What did they do? 7 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.


Baals and Asheroth are Fertility gods. They served these gods. They were enslaved to the gods of the people around them. It is sin and it is evil in the sight of the LORD. Why did they do that? Has God been good to them? God has delivered them from slavery in the past. God has been good to them even in the present time. Why did they turn their back on God and serve other gods? Why? The answer is the phrase before that – “They forgot the LORD”.  They experienced spiritual amnesia.


The word “amnesia” reminded me of an old movie called “50 First Dates”. It is such an old movie but really good. In the movie, there is a woman called Lucy who experienced amnesia. She forgets any experiences when she goes to sleep. It reminds me of one of the scenes at the end. She marries Adam Sandler the husband and she has kids. Thus, what did he do? Because she will forget every time she wakes up in the morning. She will forget who she is; as a wife and as a mother. The husband prepared one video that plays every morning. The first thing Lucy does after waking up in the morning is watch this video. The video reminds her of everything. It reminds her who she is. She is married and has children. It seems this story can only happen in the movie. But she is all of us. We forget God all the time. We need to remind ourselves over and over. We need to preach the Gospel to ourselves every day. Therefore, reading the Bible is very critical. If we don’t watch out for our spiritual walk with God and keep remembering Him, we will remember other things. What are the other things? Our sinful heart. Have you heard a motto – follow your heart? When we follow our heart, we will obey our heart’s desire instead of God’s desire. That’s why we sin. We sin because we love sin.


Let’s be clear on one thing. Everyone in here serves or worships someone or something, the only question is; who or what? If we are not vigilant in remembering God, do not be shocked if you will slowly turn your back on God and, without realizing, will end up serving other gods; the god of pleasure or god of wealth, or the god of education. Church, we are living in a world that demands tolerance and celebration that God hates. That’s what happened to Israel. Israel’s neighbors, Canaanites, were desperate to get all Israel people to stop worshiping the LORD and worship their gods, Baals and Asheroth. How can they end up worshiping false gods? They may first tolerate a little bit of the culture of Canaanites. Then they got more comfortable. After that, they start integrating worldly culture into Israelite culture. The worship of Baal started in a few houses and eventually became nationwide idol worship. For Christians, living according to God’s standards means being deliberate and proactive in our efforts. We must be familiar with God’s standards and live by them, not wait for things to happen. Therefore, it is important to intentionally take time to read your Bible and ponder the beauty of the Gospel. Yes, we are like Israelites who always forget. It leads me to the second point.


  1. The Lord’s Response


What is God’s response to Israel’s unfaithfulness? In verse 8 – 8 Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia. And the people of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years. God responded to Israel’s unfaithfulness with anger and He sold them to the King of Mesopotamia. Israel has to serve him for 8 years. Israel was wrong and they did evil in the sight of the LORD so that they deserve the anger from God. You may say that “But, our God should be loving and kind – He is our Father”. Yes, He is indeed our Heavenly Father but at the same time, He is also the judge who just. He has to punish the sins. Israel had to serve the King of Mesopotamia for 8 years. It seems very dark for Israel but our God is faithful God. There is one interesting phrase in here – “God sold them”. God is the author of this story. God is the One who made the King of Mesopotamia more powerful than Israel and God is the One who handed Israel to Him. All of these are arranged and put together by God for a specific reason. What was that reason? To make His people despair and hopeless so that they would come to God. Israel had to come to the end of themselves before they would cry to God for help. Same as us, so often God needs to bring us to the end of ourselves when we feel hopeless before we run to God for help.


That’s what happened to Israel. In verses 9a – 9 the people of Israel cried out to the LORD.  There are many times we rely too much on our strength and our independence. Amid our affliction, our tendency is either to rely on our strength or run to our temporary comforters such as movies or shopping. When we try to find rest in our strength/ in our self-sufficiency, we will not cry out to God. We don’t need to know exactly what God is doing. We can completely trust in Him. Instead of running to other things, we can cry out to Heavenly Father. As a response to Israel cry out, God raised the judges. Let’s have a look at our first judge.




When the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them, his name was Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. Here we go our first judge out of 12 judges. His name was Othniel. He was chosen by God to save Israel from the results of their sins. But why did God pick him? Why pick Othniel? What was special about him? We first encounter Othniel in chapter 1. Othniel is Caleb’s nephew who in chapter 1 married his daughter. In chapter 1, Caleb offers his daughter to anyone who can capture Kiriath-Sepher. At that time, Othniel accepted the challenge and captured Kiriath-Sepher.  He came from a good family. Yes, it could benefit him to become a good leader but the key to his success is found in verse 10.  10 The Spirit of the LORD was upon him, and he judged Israel.  Despite being from a good family, he was still a pretty average person. It is not because he comes from a good family that he was chosen as the first judge but, because the spirit of the LORD was upon him. God can use the ordinary to do the extraordinary. It means that if the spirit of God departed on him, he is no one and Israel would be still enslaved. Without the spirit of God, Othniel is like other ordinary people. Charles Spurgeon once said that “Without the Holy Spirit, we are like ships without wind. We can do nothing”. We can have a good resume in our Christian life; such as being ministers for 20 years or being a preacher or Worship leader for 15 years but without the Holy Spirit we are no one. After Israel was freed, they lived in peace. Forever? No, for 40 years. What happened next? 12 And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel because they had done what was evil in the sight of the LORD. Familiar with this verse. Israel did exactly the same as what they did before in verse 7. Try to get used to it with this. We will see this pattern over and over again in this book.


It leads me to the second judge; Ehud.




Our first judge, Othniel was a very good example of the ideal judge. He was a man of faith and also has very good character. As a first judge, he set the standard for other judges. We as the reader may expect the rest of the judges to be like him but Ehud’s story is different. Some people may find his story to be controversial. When I read this story, it reminds me of one movie; Kill Bill. The movie is about a trained assassin. Yes, this story is like the story about the trained assassin. This is a bit of a summary of the story – Ehud made himself a special sword with a two-edged sword specially made to kill the king; King Eglon who was described as a very fat man. It is a bit fat-shaming here. In another translation, it says that King Eglon is grossly fat. At that time, this description is a good thing because it shows that the King is prospering. Then, He made a plan to kill the king. He offered the gift to the king so that he could come close to the king. As he came close to the king, he secretly said to the king “King, I have a secret message from God for you”. The king believes him and sends all the servants out of the room. Then when the king came close to Ehud, Ehud plunged his sword into the king’s belly and not only the blade, but the handle went in as well. The sword went to the king’s belly so far that even the handle went inside the belly and the point of the blade came out his back. And, Ehud left the sword inside Eglon. If you love watching a movie with a lot of blood, you may love this story.


However, If we focus too much on these disturbing scenes of the story, we will miss the main point of this story of Ehud. Even if there are a few disturbing factors in this story, it is ultimately the story of salvation. It is the story of God’s gracious deliverance. That’s how we need to read this story through that lens.


Every time we read the judge, the additional information about the judge is very important to understand the narrative. For example, in Othniel, Othniel was the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. It means that Othniel is Caleb’s nephew. It looks like a proper introduction and cool. Let’s have a look at Ehud’s introduction. 15 Then the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, and the LORD raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. Wait a minute! Is that it? What is interesting about Ehud? The answer is his hand. He was introduced as a left-handed man. What’s interesting is he was introduced as Benjaminite which in Hebrew means “son of the right hand”. His status as left-handed is not just a description of his physical condition. During that time, being left-handed was not a good thing. The right hand represents a hand of friendship but the left hand represents disrespect. In ancient times, left-handed people were even considered to be of the devil. At that time, people expected a strong warrior to have a strong right arm. Thus, Ehud was not the clear choice for a deliverer, because he had a weak arm. But hold on, there is more. Ehud was also from the tribe of Benjamin which was considered the smallest and weakest tribe. Even with all his weaknesses, Ehud was chosen by God, and he delivered Israel from King Eglon. God can use ordinary people. Like Ps Yosia said few weeks ago; “Christians are not extraordinary people; Christians are ordinary people with an extraordinary God.”


God can use ordinary people. I want to talk a little bit about doing ministry. If you are Christians, we are all meant to serve God in some capacity. Every Christian is gifted with spiritual gifts without any exception. It is possible to have the spiritual gift, but we do not use it. By doing this, however, it means that you disobey God and sinning against God. Therefore, it is important that we don’t ignore our spiritual gift. God does not want us to wait until we feel ready. You may say that I do not know my spiritual gift. How do I find out my spiritual gift? One of the best ways to find out is to start serving in your church. Instead of waiting, we could start serving in areas where the church needs help as a starting point. It leads me to the last judge for today; the third judge –Shamgar.




After Ehud led Israel to victory against King Eglon; the Moabites, Israel lived in peace for 80 years. But Israel had more than one enemy. There was another enemy which was the Philistines. God raised another King; King Shamgar. Verse 31 – 31 After him was Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed 600 of the Philistines with an oxgoad, and he also saved Israel. What is interesting about Shamgar? For me, one interesting point is he only got one verse. If I was him, I would ask God – why did He only give me one verse? I mean Othniel got 5 verses and Ehud got 19 verses. Even, Shamgar only has one verse, it does not mean that he was not important. In the book of Judges, there will be 12 judges in total which consist of 6 major Judges; two of them are Othniel and Ehud; and 6 minor judges. Yes, Shamgar is our first minor judge. The difference is not about their achievement like minor judges achieve less than major judges. But the differences are defined by the proportion of wording and details that need to be explained. Thus, it is important for us not to neglect these minor judges.


Going back to the Shamgar. What is interesting about this judge? He was described as the son of Anath. From this information, scholars agreed that Shamghar was not Israelite. Is it something big? Yes, it is. God chose an outsider to be Judge for Israel people. God chose an outsider to be a judge for Israel. In both Ehud and Shamghar stories, we can learn that God can use anyone. God can use complete mess-up people, completely unqualified people and people who are supposed to be unusable and do not deserve anything, which is a sinner like us.


Looking from these 3 stories – we learned in our first point, how bad things can get for God’s people. They sin continually and get themselves into all sorts of trouble. It is getting worse and worse. But despite this, we see that God never gives up on them. God had every reason to give up on Israel yet He never did. God has no reason to keep saving and delivering Israel but, in His mercy, and grace he delivered His people from the hands of the enemies.


He is the real hero of this book, and He always protects His people. We read some disturbing stories from the first three kings but at the same time we can see there is hope knowing that God is the real author behind all these things. He is still in control. He is the real hero in these stories. It leads me to my last point.


  1. The True Deliverer

I want everyone to use a little bit of our imagination. Imagine we are part of Israel. We are under oppression   of the enemy. Every day is like a nightmare. It is hard to do anything. Then Judge Othniel came and rescued us. I just imagine the first day after we are free from oppression. I think we have parties everywhere.  We live in peace because we know we have the right leader. He is the ideal judge. He came from an ideal tribe. He was from a family of very strong leadership. He delivered us from the enemy. We will feel that our country is in the right hands. We feel peace for 1 year, then 10 years, then 20 years and then 40 years.


This word “rest” plays an important role in the book of Judges. There was peace in Israel during those times. As long as the judge lived, there was peace in Israel. But even though the judges gave Israel a rest, this rest never lasted. Why? In verse 11, it says that So the land had rest forty years. Then He died. The judges who brought peace and rest always died. He saved and then He died. The rest doesn’t last. It is only temporary. All judges die. At that time, the death of the judge was a big problem in Israel. Every time a judge dies, Israel becomes worse and worse. They fall deeper and deeper.


Israel was longing for a leader who can give them unending rest and peace. The true rest and eternal rest. Spoiler alert. Every judge fails. If I must go further a little bit, after judges, Israel asks for the King and every King fails. Then they asked for a prophet, but every prophet failed. They can only save for a short time.


God’s people need a better deliverer. God’s people need a deliverer who does not die in order to have permanent restoration and unending peace. All these “temporary” leaders points to the only One who says to his people – (I am) “and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” Revelation 1:18. His name is Jesus. He is much better than all judges. He does not deliver us from the physical bondage of the enemy, but He delivers from the spiritual bondage of our sin. His deliverance is much better than the judges. It is the deliverance from death to life. All judges’ deliverance did not require a cross. It is merely temporary deliverance. Jesus’ deliverance requires Him to take up a cross so that He would deliver His people from eternal death to eternal life. Jesus is our true deliverer. This is a great reminder for some of us who have not put our trust in Jesus as personal saviour. This Is what we all really need – deliverance of our sins.



Discussion questions:


  1. What struck you the most from this sermon?
  2. How big of a problem is “spiritual amnesia” in your life? What can you do to deal with it?
  3. Why do you think God needs to bring us to the end of ourselves?
  4. Out of the three judges (Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar), which one do you relate the most with and why?
  5. Explain why all the judges in the book of Judges were insufficient to deal with the main problem and we need a better judge.
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