Monday, 5 May 2008

Lessons from Judges, Part 3

Been doing some more work on Judges as I prepare the small group leaders' notes for Lancaster University Christian Union.

Most recently, I've been doing work on Judges 3:5-31 which gives an account of the first three judges Othniel, Ehud and Shamgar. Tim Chester's recent post very helpfully shows the cyclical nature of proceedings in Judges: a downward spiral of idolatry and disobedience that is punctuated by God's gracious actions on behalf of his people through the judges he raises.

However, what struck me today is the nature of the judges themselves. Othniel is often help up as the 'typical' judge; he embodies all of the things that we'd want a judge to have: of good stock, inspired by the Spirit, and so on. Yet the truth is that Othniel must have been pretty old by the time he led Israel to victory in war. Chapter 1 speaks of how Othniel was Caleb's nephew. He was probably a pensioner by the time he became judge and defeated the Cushanites.

Ehud is more better known as being a less than orthodox judge. He couldn't use his right hand. It may well have been withered. Yet it is that very disability and a bizarre set of circumstances that God uses to deliver his people.

Shamgar is perhaps the most elusive of all of the judges. Compared to the chapters that other judges receive in recording their exploits, Shamgar receives just one sentence. Yet the commentaries tell me that even Shamgar was a surprising judge. His name is Canaanite. It seems that God used a very recent convert to deliver him. And that he did with what he had: an ox-goad.

And so there we have it: a pensioner, someone that is disabled and a recent convert from paganism are those that God uses. I think Paul would have called them 'jars of clay' - ordinary people, nothing special to look at. But this, of course, is how the God of grace chooses to work; he uses ordinary and weak people and resources them to do his work, showing that his all-surpassing power is from himself and not from us.

What a relief! I may be an Othniel or an Ehud or a Shamgar: I may be physically weak, I may be the butt of jokes, I may not be as wise as others. But I can be confident that the God of grace will use me nonetheless.

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