Thursday, July 5, 2012

7.1.12 Wait For The Gift The Father Has Promised and Live As Jesus’ Witnesses. Acts 1:1-11

Wait For The Gift The Father Has Promised and Live As Jesus’ Witnesses. Acts 1:1-11 Closing Message DuPage/NIU UBF Bible School Key verse 1:8 Kevin Jesmer NIU UBF 7/1/12 “8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Part l: Jesus Is Alive (1-2) Today we want to look at the last commands Jesus gave to his followers just before he was taken up into heaven. In them we can find direction for ourselves, who have had a personal encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ. First, we learn about the author of the book. Look at verse 1a, “In my former book, Theophilus..,” This book was written by Luke the Apostle. He was also a doctor and an historian. His former book was the book of Luke, out of which we have studied several passages. Theophilis means, “Lover of God.” He could be writing to a specific person, or to all lovers of God throughout history. If that is the case he is writing to you also. In his former book he wrote about Jesus. Look at verse 1b, “…I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.” At this conference we learned about what Jesus was doing and teaching. Jesus was a spiritual doctor when he healed a paralytic physically and spiritually, forgiving his sins and saying, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” He healed Levi of his selfishness and his loneliness when he said, “Follow me.” He saved people from condemnation freeing them and telling them, “Go now and leave you life of sin.” He searched and found people who have wandered away from the Lord. He searched and found people who have fallen on their backs in dark places like lost coins. He forgave and restored countless prodigal sons and daughters. He also reached out to those like the Pharisees, helping them to know the grace and truth of God. Jesus did a lot of wonderful things during his earthly ministry. Jesus also taught his disciples many things. Look at verse 1b again. “…after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.” Jesus spent a lot of time instructing the Twelve because he knew that through them to Gospel would be preached throughout the world. Jesus taught them through the Holy Spirit. Jesus used all kinds of methods to teach the apostles, verbally, through group and 1:1 discussions, through showing the example, and allowing the disciples to have hands on experience. But the ultimate teaching came when he gave instructions through the Holy Spirit. When we try to reveal Jesus through Bible study or serving we are essentially environment makers. It is God who will do the ultimate teaching through his Holy Spirit. We saw this in the testimony of my daughter Sarah. She had a life time of Bible teaching and living in Christian family, but it was not through her father’s gospel messages that she had a revelation about Jesus. It was during one praise and worship session and being surrounded by people whom she loved and who loved her, that her heart was strangely moved to confess, “This is what I want.” She meant life with Jesus among other Christians. Julie first accepted Jesus, not through a powerful message at a conference, but while talking in the kitchen with the mother of a former boyfriend. The Holy Spirit moved her heart and taught her the truth about Jesus. Maybe, through this Bible School, God is making and environment so that the Holy Spirit can teach you about Jesus in a life changing way. Jesus tried hard to show people that he was alive. Look at verse 3. “After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” Jesus suffered much during his 3 ½ years of ministry serving others. He suffered much during his passion being falsely accused and nailed to the cross so that we can be forgiven of our sins. After his death and resurrection he appeared to his followers convincing them that he was alive. He ate with them, gave them his peace, he even told doubting Thomas to touch the wounds in his hands and his side. There are many convincing proofs that Jesus is alive. He was alive during those 40 days he was with the Apostles. He is alive right now, ministering to our hearts through his word and his Holy Spirit. Part ll: Do Not Loose The Point (3-7) Jesus is very wise about things that may sidetrack and deceive his followers over the millennia. First, they need to stick to the main point of Jesus’ teachings. Look at verse 3 again, “After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” Jesus’ point is always the resurrection and the Kingdom of God. Jesus rose from the dead and is alive right now. He wants us to place our hope in the Kingdom of God. He will come again to gather the Elect, all those who have been forgiven, those who have placed all of their hope and trust in him. This was main point of Jesus’ teaching and ministry. So often we are tempted to deviate from the message of the Kingdom of God for more practical issues. But think about it…there were more than enough social issues of the day in Jesus’ time. What about Roman occupation and taxation? Government corruption? What about woman’s rights? But Jesus spoke about the Gospel and the kingdom of God. It seems that people want to hold onto something practical and tangible instead. But the Gospel and the Kingdom of God are the most important. Why? It is because knowledge of the gospel and the Kingdom of God gives us a living hope. We suffer a lot because of lack of hope. Students despair. Will I ever get a job? Will my degree be worth something? Will I get out of debt? Will I ever marry? Will I never be free from depression? Will I always be wrestling with this or that issue? But a living hope in the Kingdom of God is what our hearts long for. In the Kingdom of God there is love, joy, peace, kindness and goodness. There a whole universe of opportunities. There is hope because the Kingdom of God is ruled by the Prince of Peace, our Lord, Savior and God, Jesus Christ. It is the best kingdom to dwell in. Matthew 6:33 reads, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” When we seek Jesus’ kingdom as of top priority in our lives, letting nothing get between us and Jesus, then we will taste life with the Risen Jesus in the Kingdom of God. Don’t get me wrong…I am not ignoring the social issues of the day. God will raise up people to tackle these important social issues. Some of these people will be Christians, maybe even some of you, but we, who know the main gist of Jesus message, and who have been called to preach it, need to stick to message of the Gospel and the kingdom of God. I liken it to a canoe. The bow of the canoe cuts through the water. Radiating from the bow are ripples in the water. The bow is the Gospel message going out into the world. The ripples of water are the many good affects of Gospel preaching. The ripples are good things, but they are not the Gospel. The ripples would not even be there if it were not for the bow cutting through the water. There must be pure Gospel preaching for this world to be filled with many good things. But we who know Jesus and the Gospel must stick to the message. Second, we can not be discouraged by hardships or our weaknesses. These disciples needed to live in God’s strength. Look at verses 4 & 5, “On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Jerusalem was the hardest place for them to remain. It was the place where their savior, Jesus was crucified. It was the place where Peter denied Jesus three times. Now it was a hostile and dangerous place. Every fiber of their being was telling them to flee Jerusalem and never come back. But Jesus told them to stay and wait for the gift the Father wanted to send them, the Holy Spirit. Practically speaking there is something difficult that God has called us to embrace. It is unique for every person. It is something that our human nature is telling us to avoid, but God is telling us to embrace. It is there that we must remain and pray and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will dwell in us and inspire us and teach us and grow us and guide us. The Holy Spirit will help us to hold onto faith in the Risen Jesus and our living hope in the Kingdom of God. . Third, we should not be led away by false hopes. Verse 6 reveals what was on the disciples’ minds. “ So when they met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus was talking about the Kingdom of God and the disciples were concerned about the re-establishment of the kingdom of Israel. They wanted Israel, independent and glorious, like in the time of King David. They were full of nationalistic hopes. We often say that all of our hope is in the Kingdom of God. But we may actually be nurturing selfish or nationalistic hopes. In light of Jesus’ resurrection and grace, our hopes must be for the establishment of the Kingdom of God, which has already begun to grow in many of your hearts. Many great Christians have died with the their last words being, “Your Kingdom Come!” Fourth, we should not be sidetracked by false prophets. Look at verse 7. “He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” Recently a ministry claimed to know the time and date that Jesus was returning. It was not true. Many lost their life savings paying for billboards and the leader has disappeared into a coma. But Jesus says that it is not for us to know the times and dates the Father has set. Jesus, the Son, did not know the hour of his returning. We shouldn’t be side tracked by guessing the time of Jesus’ return. We must stick to the Gospel and the message of the Kingdom of God. Part lll: You Will Be My Witnesses (8-11) There are so many things that we should not be doing, but what should we be applying our energies to? Look at verse 8. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Disciples of Jesus should be witnesses of Jesus. A witness is someone who has seen and experienced something personally. The disciples had seen the Risen Jesus and experienced his love and grace. They are more than qualified to be witnesses. To be a witness means many things. For some it could mean being a martyr. Many of the apostles did die a martyr’s death. I don’t think you will be such a witness in America. For us, being a witness could also mean living the Christian lifestyle, emulating Jesus life of love and sacrifice. Such lives can reveal the love of God to a world lost in darkness. Another way is to have a high degree of integrity at school or on the job, being faithful, serving your fellow students and employees. Be a friend to others. Serving your boss or learning from your teachers and peers as though you are serving Jesus and learning from Jesus. If you are a witness then people should know that you are a Christ follower. How you bear up under stressful situations can make you a good witness. What do you do when things get a little hairy? What about when deadlines are looming? What about when your finances are running low or your patience is failing? Can you come to God in prayer and forgive and love unconditionally and trust God in all things? If you can then you can be a good witness of Jesus. Another way of witnessing is actually making a focused effort to share the gospel with other people. We could invite our friends to study the Bible with us. Many do this among us. The best way of being a witness is by loving one another. Jesus once said in John 13:33-35 reads, “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. 34 ‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’” Loving one another, as Jesus has loved us, is the best way to be witnesses to the Gospel. This love is more than just good friends hanging out together. Is more than being friends on Facebook. It about forgiving each other and loving each other in a Christian sense. It includes washing one another’s feet, bearing with one another’s weaknesses and serving each other as we mature in our Gospel faith. Then all of the world will know that we are disciples of Jesus. There are many ways to be witnesses of the Jesus, but all of them is never easy. Sometimes forgiving and loving others unconditionally is like pulling teeth. Jesus knows how hard it is and so he gave us a promise in verse 8, ““8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” He promised to send the Holy Spirit, to strengthen us, so that we can be witnesses of Jesus. Jesus wanted his disciples to be witnesses to the Gospel to the ends of the earth. We saw how an American missionary China helped Peter L. to be changed from an atheist to a believer. We have been touched by the prayers and service of Korean missionaries who have come here. These missionaries went to the end of the earth. We need to keep the end of the earth in mind as we live as Jesus’ witnesses. Some may be called to be missionaries. Some may stay and witness locally. We can think globally and act locally. The disciples needed to get to the task at hand. Look at verse 9, “After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.” Jesus had to go in order to send the promised Holy Spirit. Jesus could have stayed and set up an office in Jerusalem and wrote many books and had huge conferences in which he would be the guest speaker. Millions and millions of people could have come to visit him in Jerusalem. Jerusalem could have become a type of Christian Mecca. Not only that, the disciples, and all future disciples would have depended on the human Jesus….the Jesus in Jerusalem. But Jesus wanted them to be his witnesses. He wanted them to go to the ends the earth. Jesus once said to the Samaritan woman, in John 4:23-24, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” Jesus freed us from location based faith. He also freed us from “person” based faith. We can worship Jesus anywhere in this universe and he can help each of personally to be his witnesses. Jesus gave his disciples the world mission command in Matthew 28:18b-20 which reads, “…All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” How can Jesus be with each one of his disciples, world wide, 24/7? It is possible if he was taken into heaven and he could send the Holy Spirit of God. The disciples became sidetracked once again by focusing on the fantastic things too much. Look at verse 10 and 11, “They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” They were standing there and looking up into the sky. Who could blame them? What they had just witnessed was fantastic! Jesus is alive and levitated into the sky and there were angels also. If this happened on the 88 toll way this would be called a gaper’s delay. As disciples we shouldn’t gaze off into the sky, or remain flabbergasted by amazing things too long. We need to kick into gear and get to the task at hand. What is that task? It is verse 8, let’s read that again. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judah and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” In conclusion we who have met the Risen Jesus, who have tastes his love and his grace, must hear his call to be his witnesses. We need to remain in Jesus, embracing whatever God has in store for us and depend on the Holy Spirit of God. Keep your focus on Jesus, the Gospel and the message of the Kingdom of God. Do not be discouraged by hardships or our weaknesses. Do not be led away by false hopes, or sidetracked by false prophets. Remain in Jesus. Focus on Jesus, Place your hope in the Kingdom of God as you decide to live as Jesus’ witness.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

3/4/12 deborah: god raised up a mother in isreal

3/4/12 Deborah : God Raised Up A Mother In Israel Judge 4:1-5:31 Lesson 6 Key verse 4:4 Kevin Jesmer NIU UBF “ Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time.” This passage is for all those people who think that women are discriminated against in the Bible. This study will reveal character sketches of three people, Deborah, Barak and Jael. The story of Deborah describes the unlikely victory of the Israelites, led by the Judge Deborah, over superior Canaanite forces. The story of Barak describes the humble general who overcame fear and prejudice to lead his army to victory. There is also the story of a woman called Jael. Her’s is a “David and Goliath” story where a small, weak person, triumphs over a terrifying warrior, Sisera. The entire story celebrates the power of the God of Israel and the victory given to those who live by faith and long to please God. We will discover the kind of people that God uses; those who are decisive, bold, courageous and full of faith to bring glory to God in “impossible situations.” Let’s see. Part l: God Draws His People To Himself (1-3) After the death of Ehud the people fell away from the Lord. Look at verse 1. “Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, now that Ehud was dead.” This tells us the importance of two things, first, having a personal relationship with the Lord and second, about having qualified leaders. The people were having “a rollercoaster ride” in regards to their life of faith. The solution to their problem is that they needed to have a daily walk with the living God who was walking at their side. Second, we can not ignore the fact that human leaders are necessary in the work of God. Othniel and Ehud were qualified leaders whom God used to lead their people to peace for decades. Without the proper spiritual leadership, the church is like a ship without a rudder. Maybe God wants you to be that qualified leader for your generation. God did not abandon his people in their time of need. But he helped him in an unusual way. Look at verses 2-3a, “So the LORD sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Sisera, the commander of his army, was based in Harosheth Haggoyim. 3 Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years ...” God came to their aid, but not in the way that they may have wanted, for it was through much suffering. He lifted his hedge of protection from his people and they were oppressed by their enemies for twenty years. Thankfully, the people responded in verse 3b, “…they cried to the LORD for help.” After 20 years they cried out to the Lord. I suppose it was better late than never. But the question we must ask ourselves is, “Why did the people wait so long?” And, “Why all the unnecessary suffering?” Wouldn’t it be better to just quickly turn their hearts to the Lord? The answer lies with our human nature. So often, because of our pride, we insist on doing things our own way, even if our own way is unfruitful, painful and includes much suffering. We suffer needlessly for twenty years or more. God’s heart weeps. There is a better way. It is a wiser choice to quickly come to the Lord and cry out to him. The most blessed people are those who are spiritually sensitive and repent early. We read in 2 Corinthians 1b-2, Paul spoke of God plea to his people. “’In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” Today is the day of salvation for all of us. Part ll: The Judge, Deborah (4-9; 14) Deborah was an exceptional woman who held a national leadership position. I know what some of you are saying, “What! There is woman leader in the Bible?” Yes there is. The people of her time had no difficulty in accepting her as a judge. God raised up women into leadership positions. Paul said that in Christ, “There is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ.” (Gal 3:28) also, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” (Acts 2:17-18) Don’t let your prejudices get in the way of seeing those whom God has chosen to lead his people. I first met Jesus in a church led by a woman and my Bible teacher was a woman. Deborah was a prophetess who sat as judge under a palm tree near Bethel. Her namesake, Rebekah’s nurse, was buried there 400 years beforehand. This palm tree was the ancient equivalent of a judge's courthouse, a place where people went when they needed a dispute settled. She was a great leader, because of her human and spiritual qualities. Let’s see… a. Deborah was a judge. A judge was a tribal leader who, in times of peace, had authority to settle disputes and problems. In times of war they acted as a rallying point to gather the tribes and organize resistance. b. Deborah was a wise leader. Wise leaders are rare. Such leaders are team builders and team players. They see the big picture. They make good mediators, advisors and planners. Deborah was such a person. c. She was a good and powerful wife. She didn’t deny or resist her position as a wife. But she answered the call of God and served her position as Judge well. She was like Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip of England. d. She was "a mother in Israel." (5:7) This means she cared about her people as her own children, counseling them and praying for them and even settling disputes. e. Deborah was brave. She did not tremble before Sisera and his 900 iron chariots. She was brave enough to summon great generals…brave enough to minister to the people. Brave enough to go into battle along with Barak. f. She was effectual. Her name means “Bee” in Hebrew. It may also mean “spirited” or “fiery woman”. This implies that when attacked, Deborah could sting like a bee. ( In this life it is so hard to make any difference. But when we are in Christ, our lives can be effectual. g. She was a high quality person. She was held court, officiating over a governing body where “the princes of Israel” and “The remnant of the nobles” came down to get expert advice from a servant of God. Deborah was a woman of high quality and integrity and the elite of Israelite society responded. h. She commanded respect. Her personality drew people together. Leaders from all the tribes would come to her get advice and direction. People respected her governance. i. She inspired others to take action. The force of her personality and her complete faith in God gave Barak, and the people, the courage to face odds that were overwhelming. (4:14) And now concerning her relationship with God… a. She had prophetic power. Deborah is introduced as a ‘prophetess’. She ‘heard’ a message from God (in some way) and passed it on the people of her generation. b. She gave glory and honor to God. In her song, she said things like, “the Lord commands you”, “the Lord will deliver your enemies into your hand.” and “praise the Lord.” A servant of God always deflects praise and honor back to Jesus Christ. c. She was in tune with God. She could discern the will of God. d. Deborah had boldness and confidence to declare the word of God. She often declared, “The Lord commands you…” She was like a spiritual general. e. She spoke the truth of God. Her words were not just her fanciful ideals. They actually happened. She told Barak that a woman would take the glory of defeating Sisera. And it came to pass in Jael. f. She planted faith in God in others. We see this in verse 4:14 where she told Barak, “Go! This is the day the LORD has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the LORD gone ahead of you?” She encouraged faith. May God raise up mothers in our land who encourage faith. Part lll: Jabin and his General Sisera: Formidable Enemies. The Lord was drawing his people back to himself through oppression by their enemies. Look at verses 2-3 again. There were enemies of God’s people still living among the northern tribes. Instead of driving them out, both parties settled on harassing each other. The root of the problem was that the previous generations had failed to drive out all the Canaanites and now these nations had regrouped and were attempting to restore their lost power. But God was working through all the warfare to draw his people unto himself. Let’s think about how the oppression took place. The Canaanites were led by King Jabin who ruled a large, fortified city-state in upper Canaan, and may have been the leader of a confederation of Canaanite city-states. His aim was to restore Canaan’s power by exterminating the Israelite invaders. The tyranny of Jabin was peculiarly felt in the northern tribes, who were near his capital and under her jurisdiction. His general was Sisera. Village life was very hard for the Israelites. 5:6-7 reads, “In the days of Shamgar son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned; travelers took to winding paths. 7 Villagers in Israel would not fight; they held back…” The Israelites couldn’t even walk on their own highways because of raids. They were helpless, for the Canaanites possessed vastly superior military technology. General Sisera led a disciplined, professional army, armed with iron weapons and chariots which were the tanks of the ancient world. They were made of iron or wood and were drown by one or two horses. Some even hade razor sharp knives attached to the hubs designed to mutilate foot soldiers. They were the most feared weapons of the day. Sisera’s army was a terrifying force that could do fearsome damage. The Israelites had inferior weapons. 5:8 reads, “God chose new leaders when war came to the city gates, but not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel.” The oppression that the Israelites were feeling was intense, but very effective in breaking their false pride and humbling them to cry out to God for deliverance on a national level. And God heard their cries. Are there some things that are oppressing us and causing us to cry out to God on a national and on a personal level? What about our war on terrorism? the bad economy? the increased gas prices? and the break down of the family? What about sickness? What about national epidemic of loneliness, depression and anxiety ? What about the inner oppression caused by our own sins, fears and our broken relations with others around us, especially those close to us? What about the limitations of ministry? Are these enough to make us cry out to God? They should be more than enough to cause us to cry out to the Lord today from the bottom of our hearts. Part lV: Barak…A General Who Was Humble To Trust And Obey Deborah Threatened with the might of King Jabin's army, the Israelites turned to Deborah. God began to work through his servant. Let’s read verses 6-7, “She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. 7 I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’” She summoned Barak, an able military leader. Barak was a good man. Barak means (lightning). He was great in several ways. He was a very respected and competent general who could lead 10,000 warriors into battle and lead from the front and not from the rear and yet he was humble. When Deborah summoned him, he came. He accepted the word of prophecy from a woman. He also depended on God. He was obedient. He took the first courageous step in battle. He pursued fleeing chariots, never giving up. God granted him a victory. Let’s see how the battle proceeded to see faith in action. Deborah told Barak to go Mount Tabor with as many fighting men as he could, and so drawing King Jabin out. She in turn would draw out Jabin's fearsome general, Sisera, and taunt him into fighting at the Wadi Kishon, a valley with a river. At first, Barak was reluctant to enter into battle. His hesitation is understandable. Barak was human and we humans first see the impossibilities rather than the possibilities. He turned to Deborah for support in verse 8. “Barak said to her, ‘If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.’” Deborah did not seem too happy about Barak’s request, but I think it is O.K. to lean on others for support, especially on servants of God. But the ultimate goal is to always lean on Jesus for he is our strong tower and he is with us 24/7. If we depend on Jesus then we will always move forward in faith and victory. God could sense Barak’s hesitation and set out to strengthen his heart through his servant Deborah. Look at verses 9, “’Certainly I will go with you,’ said Deborah. ‘But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.’ So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh.” Deborah was a good shepherd to Barak. She was willing to put all things on hold if only she could lend support to Barak during his hour of need. She was willing to lay down her life for Barak. Barak drew courage from her spiritual encouragement. Look at verse 10. “There Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali, and ten thousand men went up under his command. Deborah also went up with him.” The people were also inspired. Listen to 5:2, “When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves— praise the LORD!” And 5:9, “My heart is with Israel’s princes, with the willing volunteers among the people. Praise the LORD!” There are times when we must walk along side people. Our presence can make all the difference. Others will be inspired and become willing volunteers in the Lord’s army. We must also thank God for Jesus who is walking by our side, planting encouragement in us by his words and his spirit, enabling us to accomplish things we can never do on our own. Thank you Jesus for guiding my heart and helping me to be a willing volunteer in your kingdom. Their military maneuvers caught the attention of Sisera just as Deborah had planned. Look at verse 12-13. The sight of Sisera’s advancing forces must have been very foreboding. Barak’s army must have been shaking in their sandals. They did not know what to do, but God knew and he began to work through his servant, Deborah, once again. Look at verse 14. “Then Deborah said to Barak, ‘Go! This is the day the LORD has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the LORD gone ahead of you?’ So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him.” Sometimes God’s people need a shove to get moving. God was with them and intervened in a supernatural way. Listen to what happened in 5:4-5; “When you, LORD, went out from Seir, when you marched from the land of Edom, the earth shook, the heavens poured, the clouds poured down water. 5 The mountains quaked before the LORD, the One of Sinai, before the LORD, the God of Israel.” And also look at 5:19-21, “Kings came, they fought, the kings of Canaan fought. At Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo, they took no plunder of silver. 20 From the heavens the stars fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera. 21 The river Kishon swept them away, the age-old river, the river Kishon. March on, my soul; be strong!” The fearsome iron wheels of the chariots were stopped by a sudden downpour that brought about the swelling of the Kishon River. They were stuck in the mud and were easy prey. The Israelite foot soldiers had the advantage. Barak and his forces utterly routed the Canaanites. There was a wonderful irony in this. Baal, the main god of the Canaanites, was god of storms and weather. He was worshipped by the Canaanites. Yet the Canaanites lost the battle because of a storm! Yahweh, the God of Israel, was clearly superior to the god of the Canaanites. Their faith in their God was strengthened. Our God is awesome and powerful. More powerful than our sins, more powerful than the devil, more powerful than any situation we may find ourselves in today. Part V: Jael: A Women Who Decided To Side With The People Of God. Sisera fled towards the encampment of another great woman in the Bible, Jael. Jael means “wild gazelle” or “wild goat”. She was a tent-dweller. Her family were tinsmiths who made farming utensils, domestic items, and weapons. They traveled whenever they could find work. Her campsite was close to the battlefield because her family was supplying weapons for the army. The Kenites were descendants of Moses' father-in-law Jethro. They lived among Israel, but kept their separate identity. Heber, her husband, was from the Kenite tribe, a longtime ally of Israel. But for some reason, Heber decided to side with Jabin, maybe because Jabin’s army appeared to have the military advantage. Heber, was on good terms with the Canaanites. Sisera thought he could get help from Heber, and so he fled to his tent on foot. Jael, however, did not throw in her lot with the Canaanites. (4:21) Through her husband Heber, she was bound to the Israelites by kinship obligations. Jael knew that in times of war there can be no neutrality. So she made a decision to stand with God's people. She was like Rahab and Ruth. When Sisera arrived, exhausted and terrified, Jael called him into her tent, hid him and fed him. Jael’s tent was separate from her husband’s tent. Sisera was relieved. First, because Jael was the wife of Heber, he thought she surely could be trusted. Second, because a man was never allowed to enter a woman’s tent, he thought that no one would think of looking for him in there. After entering into the tent, she covered him with a rug to help him hide. He asked for water. She gave him goat’s milk. Exhausted from the battle, he fell asleep. Sisera felt that he was on control. But he was never more out of control. He was about to meet his Maker, the God of the Hebrews. We may think that we are totally in control in our lives. But we will come to the time when we are not in control any longer. At that time we must come to Jesus and surrender our lives to him. After he fell asleep Jael revealed her resourcefulness. Sisera was fierce, yet Jael used her wits and courage. She took the wooden hammer used to put up her tent and one of the pegs that held the tent ropes and then, with one blow, she drove the peg deep into the side of Sisera’s head. Deborah sang about Jael in 5:24-27, “Most blessed of women be Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, most blessed of tent-dwelling women. 25 He asked for water, and she gave him milk; in a bowl fit for nobles she brought him curdled milk. 26 Her hand reached for the tent peg, her right hand for the workman’s hammer. She struck Sisera, she crushed his head, she shattered and pierced his temple. 27 At her feet he sank, he fell; there he lay. At her feet he sank, he fell; where he sank, there he fell—dead.” She was hailed as a national heroine who, together with Deborah, had saved the Israelites from their mortal enemies. Deborah’s prediction was fulfilled: the honor of conquering Sisera went to a brave and resourceful woman, Jael. Jael’s story is a real David and Goliath story that shows that a seemingly invincible enemy could be defeated, if God’s people put their complete faith in Yahweh. God blessed the term of office of Deborah. 5:31 reads, “So may all your enemies perish, LORD! But may all who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength.” Then the land had peace forty years” When we have the faith and Deborah, Barak and Jael and serve our calling with faith, courage and integrity of heart, then we will no longer be oppressed by our spiritual enemies of sin, Satan and self. Others will rally around the cross of Jesus with us and win one victory after another as we obey Jesus with faith and courage that comes from him. We and others around us will experience the peace of God that surpasses all human understanding. May God raise up many spiritual woman, like Deborah across our land. Amen! Part l: God Draws His People To Himself (1-3) 1. What happened to the Israelites after the death of Ehud? What was the root cause of their falling away? 2. How long was their oppression? What was God’s purpose in it? What was their response to the oppression? What is the best response? (Heb 3:7-8; 2 Cor 1b-2) How is God drawing you to himself today? Part ll: The Judge, Deborah (4-9; 14) 3. Who did God raise up to lead his people? (4) What does this tell us about women’s roles in the Bible? (Acts 2:17-18; Gal 3:28) Think about some of Deborah’s qualities both humanly and spiritually. What was the source of her greatness? Part lll: Jabin and his General Sisera: Formidable Enemies. 4. Who was Jabin and Sisera? What were their roles in the region? How did they strike terror in the hearts of God’s people? How do they represent the oppression caused by in spiritual forces at work in our own hearts? Part lV: Barak…A General Who Was Humble To Trust And Obey Deborah 5. Who was Barak? (6-7) What was his position in Israelite society? How did he show his humility? (7) How did he ask for support? (8) What does this teach us about leadership? What did Barak forfeit? (9) 6. How did Deborah encourage the army? (14) How did they respond? (5:2; 5:9) How did God intervene miraculously? (5:4-5; 5:19-21) What do we learn about faith? Part V: Jael: A Women Who Decided To Side With The People Of God. 7. Who was Jael and how was she different from her husband? Why was her tent near the battlefield? Why did Sisera seek refuge there? 8. How did Jael demonstrate her faith? What was the result of her actions? How was she a blessing? What was the result when everyone joined in the battle and fought as one? (5:31)

2/26/12 got delivers from dark times

God Delivers From Dark Times (Ehud & Shamgar) Judges 3:12-31 Lesson 5 Key Verse: 3:30 Kevin Jesmer NIU UBF 2-26-12 “That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years.” Once again the ancient Israelites did evil in God's sight. And so God allowed King Eglon of Moab to have power over them. Eglon joined with two other kings and captured Jericho and ruled Israel for 18 years, exacting tribute from God’s people. The times were hopeless. But though it all, God led them to cried out in prayer, and he gave them a deliverer, Ehud, a young man with a passion to set his country free. Using his perceived weakness, he led Israel to victory. Through him, God ushered in a time of peace for 80 years. Later on came Shamgar, who saved ancient Israel from the Philistines using what he had. In this passage we discover God, who hears his peoples’ cries and sends his servants to deliver them. We will learn about God who turns peoples’ weaknesses into strengths. We will also learn about God with who works through people who utilize what they have, by faith. God bless. Part l: Moab’s Power Over Ancient Israel (12-14) The Israelites did it again. They fell away from the Lord. Look at verses 12, “Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD,…” It took forty years to undo the good that God brought about through Othniel. But but it happened. In falling away from the Lord, they began to worship the Canaanite gods and serve their idols. When Joshua and the Israelites entered the Promised Land they fought hard and obeyed God absolutely without any excuses. As a result God gave them the Promised Land. They experienced one victory after another, but most of all they experienced the living God who was at their side, guiding them and helping them. But their descendants did not experience the Lord’s deliverance, as Joshua’s generation had. Verse 2:17 reads, “Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the LORD’s commands.” They did not obey the Lord fully in driving out the nations. They intermarried with the pagan peoples’, adopted their religions, and worshiped and served their idols. It is very disturbing. God raised up his children like a good father and then they blew it. That is precisely why humanity needs the grace of Jesus. There were consequences for allowing their hearts to fall way from the Lord. Verses 12b-14 read, “…and because they did this evil the LORD gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel. 13 Getting the Ammonites and Amalekites to join him, Eglon came and attacked Israel, and they took possession of the City of Palms 14 The Israelites were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years.” Eglon was the king of Moabites. Their forefather, Moab was the son of the Lot’s eldest daughter and so the Moabites were a people descended from Lot. After the conquest of Canaan the relations of Moab with Israel were sometimes warlike and sometimes peaceful. This time was warlike. Moabites had formed an alliance with two other nations, the Ammonites and the Amelekites, and conquered Israel. Eglon set up headquarters in City of Palms, (Jericho), in 1359 B.C. According to Josephus (the historian), he built himself a palace, and oppressed the children of Israel, who paid him tribute for eighteen years. They were subjected to him for many years. Because of their sins, the people suffered a lot. Their enemies invaded and took over. They lost control of their very lives and were oppressed by their enemies, made subject to them for eighteen years. It is no different for those who give their hearts over to idols today. The enemies that take over are spiritual in nature. The alliances that Eglon built, and the subjugation of the people of God are akin to the spiritual alliances that Satan builds to besiege our souls. The power of sin takes over because they have turned away from the Lord. As a result they experience completely unnecessary oppression. When you put down your spiritual defenses, then other spiritual forces of darkness come in. It is like the parable of the house that was cleaned. When the evil spirit returned, it brought with it seven other demons, more wicked than itself, to take residence in that house. (Matt 12:44-46) Such is the same with a person who was once cleansed, but due to their lack of vigilance, they revert back to their old ways. These forces attack our hearts and subjugate us to slavery. Sometimes people are subjected to this slavery for decades. Our nation is suffering greatly. How much more shall we suffer before we cry out to the Lord? But, we must never forget the fact that God works through all of our suffering. When the Israelites cried out to God, he heard their prayers. He cared about what was happening to his people and he raised up deliverers each time. When we cry out in prayer, our Deliverer, Jesus, will come to our aide and deliver us bringing about a victory in our lives. Part ll: God Raises Up A Deliverer, Ehud (15-30) God responded to their cry of distress. Look at verses 15b, “…and he gave them a deliverer- Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite. The Israelites sent him with tribute to Eglon king of Moab.” Let’s think about Ehud. He was the son of Gera, of the tribe of Benjamin, (3:15). He was the second judge who judged around 1370 B.C. In the Bible he is not called a judge, but a deliverer. As a Benjamite he was specially chosen to defeat Eglon, who had established himself in Jericho, which was within the boundaries of the tribe of Benjamin. The Spirit of God was working mightily in him for he wasted no time in figuring out a battle plan and implementing it. Let’s look at what this passage has to say about his assault on King Eglon. Look at verses 16-23, ““Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a cubit long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing. 17 He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man. 18 After Ehud had presented the tribute, he sent on their way those who had carried it. 19 But on reaching the stone images near Gilgal he himself went back to Eglon and said, ‘Your Majesty, I have a secret message for you.’ The king said to his attendants, ‘Leave us!’ And they all left. 20 Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his palace and said, ‘I have a message from God for you.’ As the king rose from his seat, 21 Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. 22 Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it. 23 Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them. There are several good qualities that we can discover in Ehud. First, he was courageous. He went straight to the heart of Moab’s occupation, the palace of Eglon, in Jericho. He was not afraid of loosing his life. It required great faith to do what he did. He was decisive. He took radical action without hesitation. His war on Moab was swift and deadly. He was like many heroes in the Bible who did not hesitate to answer God’s call. Even in our own lives, there are some conditions that call for radical action. For example when God shows us something wrong in our life there are times when we must take painful action to correct it. There are times when God calls us to obey him in some specific way. We need to heed the call and follow through with it. In these cases, Ehud’s example should inspire us. He used his “left handedness” for the glory of God. In ancient times, being left handed was seen as a sign of the devil, and is still abhorred in many cultures. In Hebrew, as well as in other ancient Semitic and Mesopotamian languages, the term "left" was a symbol of power or custody. The left hand symbolized the power to shame society, and was used as a metaphor for misfortune, natural evil, or punishment from the gods. ( ) And so Ehud was left handed. But God used this to bring about a great victory. He was able to approach Eglon and get close to him and draw his knife in an unsuspecting way, taking Eglon by surprise. God is ready to use our unique qualities to accomplish his work, even if we think they are weaknesses. All of them can be utilized for the glory of God. In fact, God delights in working through our weaknesses. God even prefers to work through our weaknesses rather than our strengths, for when he does he is glorified and not us. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 read, “8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” For Paul, they say his weakness could have been epilepsy (his thorn in the flesh). What are some of your weaknesses that God can work through? For me it was my stammering, my lack of self confidence, my thinking that I had nothing important to share with the world, my lack of resources as a small house church. Asked God to show you how he could use something unique about you that he could work through just as he used Ehud’s left handedness. Ehud was a man that locked the door to evil behind him. Verse 23, “Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.” When Ehud left, he locked the door. This is symbolic gesture. Elgon represented evil oppression. Ehud defeated him and locked the door. When evil is defeated we must lock the door, leaving no chance of ever being enslaved again. Ehud’s frontal attack took even Eglon’s personal servants by surprise. Look at verses 24-25, “After he had gone, the servants came and found the doors of the upper room locked. They said, ‘He must be relieving himself in the inner room of the palace.’ 25 They waited to the point of embarrassment, but when he did not open the doors of the room, they took a key and unlocked them. There they saw their lord fallen to the floor, dead.’” Look at the affect of Ehud’s actions. The head of the “monster” lie dead. The servants were surprised and did not know what to do. The Moabite forces were in disarray. When we are decisive and follow through with the task God has led us to, and we follow through with it, with decisive faith, then even the devil will be left scratching his head, not knowing what to do next. Ehud was just as decisive on the battle field as he was in Eglon’s palace. Look at verses 29-30, “At that time they struck down about ten thousand Moabites, all vigorous and strong; not one escaped. 30 That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years.” He led the revolt against Moabite domination with determination. He inspired his fighting men and together they brought about a great victory. Through his faith and obedience to the will of God, God gave his people, Israel 80 years of peace. The enemies we face are as real as Ehud’s, but they are often within ourselves, in our hearts and minds. The battles we fight are not against other people but against the power of sin. We need God’s help in fighting this battle against sin. But we also need to remember that Jesus has already won the war for us. He has defeated sin at the cross. No matter how heated our individual skirmishes may be, Jesus has gone on before. The risen Lord, is alive and by our side. He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. Part lll: Shamgar-He Used What He Had For The Glory Of God (31) In another national crisis, God raised up another deliverer. Look at verse 31. “After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.” Shamgar means “sword”. He was a judge who lived about 1290 BC. When Israel was in dire straights, Shamgar was raised up to be a deliverer. Shamgar used what was available do the work of God. Verse 31a reads, ““After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. …The weapon with which Shamgar slew six hundred Philistines was an oxgoad. You may be asking yourself, what in the world is that? It is a farm implement. One end of an oxgoad was an iron spear, for poking a farm animal such as an ox to prod them on. The other end was flattened and used to scrape mud off of things. It could measure up to ten feet long. Plowmen would still use an oxgoad. Shamgar, living in an agrarian society, maybe have even been a plowman himself. He would have ready access to an oxgoad. Shamgar rose to the occasion. Look at verse 31a again, “…Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad….” In this time of national crisis, this peaceful agrarian answered the call of God to be one of the judges of ancient Israel. This oxgoad became a weapon apparently more fitted for the hands of the warrior than the peaceful plowman. With his oxgoad, he made a passionate assault on the Philistine forces. With God’s help, he slew six hundred of them. There is an important point to be garnered from this passage. We can do the work of God with what God has made available. Jesus tried to teach his disciples this important principle. Once, Jesus and his disciples met a man who was born blind. Jesus set out to heal him in a very unorthodox way. John 9:6-7 says, “After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.” Jesus not only wanted to teach this man, faith, but he wanted to teach his disciples that they can do the work of God using what they have available to them. Everyone who is alive on this planet has at least three things available to them…spit (saliva), mud and faith. Mix all these together and apply them as Jesus directs, then you have a great work of God. Miracles can happen. Jesus also teaches the same thing when he feeds the 5,000. John 6: 5-11 reads, “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?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” 8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.” Phillip thought that there was no way to feed all those people. But Andrew found five loaves and two fish and offered them to Jesus, by faith, believing God can take these and multiply them to fill the need. And that is what happened. Jesus accepted it and fed the thousands. Again, here is an instance where taking what you have and offering it up to Jesus with faith brought about a great work of God. None of us have an excuse. We are alive. We have spit and mud and a small amount of food. We all have a measure of faith. And it doesn’t take much…only faith the size of a mustard seed. We can use what we have to bring glory to Jesus. As a house church leader, I need to put this into practice and believe that the few resource we have been given is enough to be used by Jesus to bring about a fantastic work of God. In this study we have learned so many new and wonderful things. First, we learn the character of one who can be used by God. Ehud shows these. He was decisive. He was direct and courageous. He was obedient to the mission God had called him to. Second, we learn to glorify God though our weaknesses thereby rendering glory to God. Third, use what you have for the glory of God. Fourth, we learn that once we have been delivered from evil we must “close the door behind us.” Fifth and lastly we learn to seek and find the resources that God has already given us and utilize them with faith to render glory to God. Part l: Moab’s Power Over Ancient Israel (12-14) 1. What was the evil the Israelites did? (2:17-20) Why did they keep on doing this? What happened to them? What can we learn here about our own spiritual life? 2. Review the Eglon’s conquest of Israel? (13-14) How does Eglon’s conquest reflect Satan’s attack on our own soul? Part ll: God Raises Up A Deliverer, Ehud (15-30) 3. What did God do when his people cried out to him? (15a) Who was Ehud? Why was he chosen to bring tribute? What is tribute? What affect would this have on the national psyche? 4. What was Ehud’s strategy for defeating Eglon? (16-25) What are some spiritual principles we can learn from his strategy? What does it mean that he closed the door and locked it? 5. How was left handedness viewed in Ehud’s time? How can our perceived weaknesses be used for the glory of God? Why does God work through our weaknesses? What weaknesses can you offer up to God for God to work through? 6. How did Ehud rally his people for a great victory? What does it take to stand up in the place of leadership and “blow the trumpet”? What victory did God give? (29-30) Part lll: Shamgar-He Used What He Had For The Glory Of God (31) 7. Who was Shamgar? What did he use as a weapon? What is an ox-goad? What do we learn from him on how to be a servant of God? How did Jesus teach his disciples a similar principle? (John 9:6-7)

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 beginning 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 mean 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. The people seemed successful. They were religious. They worked hard. What was the problem? Many of the Israelites 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 to 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 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 had a supportive wife. He did not marry any woman from the surrounding nations. 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 he 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.) Part l: God Tests His People (1-4) 1. What does it mean that Lord tested the Israelites? (1) Why did they need testing? (1b,2) What was God looking for? (4) Part ll: Come Out And Be Separate (5-8) 2. What was there relationship with the surrounding nations? (5) How far did they adopt the ways of the Canaanites? (6) How did God feel about that? (Ex 34:15-17; Deut 7:1-4). How could the Israelites become like this? How could it happen to us? 3. How did their compromises affect their relationship with God? (7-8) What was the result? (8) Think about the nature of slavery? Part lll: Othniel And The Source Of His Power (9-11) 4. Who was Othniel? (Numbers 13:30; 14:23; Judges 1:13) What was his character like? Who was his wife? What were her character like? Think about their house church. 5. What was the source of Othniel’s power? (10) What does this mean? How doe believers receive the Holy Spirit today? What is the purpose of the Holy Spirit? (John 14:17-20) How does this give us hope? 6. What good did God produce through Othniel’s life? (11) Think about what influence your life can make during your time on earth?

2/12/12 the lord raised up judges for his people

2/12/12 The Lord Raised Up Judges For The People Judges 2:6-23 Lesson 3 Key Verse 2:16 Kevin Jesmer NIU UBF 2-12-12 “Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders.” As long as Joshua and his generation lived, the people served the Lord. But then Joshua died. They suddenly had no national shepherd who could lead them in faith and in the word of God. The seed of the Canaanite culture and religion was planted in the life of the people. A whole generation grew up who did not know the Lord or what he had done. As a nation, they suffered. Idolatry and moral corruption grew and a pattern of punishment and oppression became a fact of life. Eventually they cried out to the Lord. When they did, God raised up a judge to deliver them. For a time, they had peace, but this lasted only for the lifetime of the judge. Then, the people again begin worshiping Canaanite gods and following their evil practices. All this happened because ancient Israel violated their covenant with God and did not listen. God left the Canaanites in the land to test and train his people and this worked to bring his people back to their senses. Through this passage, may we decide to give our whole hearts to the Lord and may God grant us “steady” and unwavering faith. May we recognize God’s helping us and also recognize the servants of God he has placed in our lives. Most of all, may our Gospel faith be passed onto the next generation of young people. Part l: Failure To Pass The Faith On To The Next Generation (2:6-10) Ancient Israel’s great leader, Joshua died. Look at verses 2:6-9, “After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to their own inheritance. 7 The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel. 8 Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten. 9 And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.” This is a summary of Joshua’s death. (Refer to the end of the book of Joshua for more details (24:29)) Joshua was a great leader, in every way, spiritually, administratively and militarily. He led his people in faith and guided them with great courage and the word of God. Through Joshua, God led his people into many victories and into the Promised Land. But there is one thing that Joshua could not do. He could not help the next generation follow God. Look at verse 10, “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.” One generation died, and the next did not follow God. Each generation failed to teach the next generation to love and follow God. This is a serious matter. Passing on the faith to the next generation is of utmost importance to every community of faith. It was part of God’s law. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 reads, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Joshua tried his best. He even set the example in his own family. Joshua 24:14 reads, “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Passing on the faith the next generation is never easy. In our family, we try to do it by setting the example. We have 1:1 Bible study with our kids. We have family daily devotions and involve the kids in all aspects of ministry. But whether or not the faith is being passed onto the next generation is God’s doing. I can not move my kids’ knowledge of Jesus from their heads to their hearts. I can not make them decide to share in this mission with Julie and myself on the campus mission field. This is beyond me. All I can do is make an environment, pray and depend on God. I also can not reveal to them the grace of God deeply on my own. Look at verse 7, “7 The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel.” These leaders saw all the great things that the Lord has done personally, with their own eyes. Julie and I have experienced the grace of Jesus personally. But have my kids? Yes they have, but do they recognize it? Can I make them experience the grace of God? That is beyond me. I pray for God to reveal his grace to them and they may be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. At this month’s UBF staff conference we are reading and discussing the book, “We’re In This Boat Together.” Written by Camille F. Bishop, it is a book concerning leadership succession between the generations. I pray that God may grant us all wisdom in passing on the faith to the next generation. Part ll: They Forsook The Lord (2:11-15) Despite the best efforts of Joshua and the elders of his generation, the ancient Israelites forsook the Lord. Verses 11-13 read, “Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the LORD’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.” “Forsook” means to give up something that was formerly held dear. God was so full of grace to his people by entering into covenant relationship with them. He was with them through their wanderings in the desert. But they turned their backs on him. The new generation of Israelites abandoned the faith of their parents and began to worship the gods of their neighbors. One of the popular idols was Baal. Baal was the god of the storm and rains who was thought to control vegetation and agriculture. Ashtoreth was the mother goddess of love and war and fertility. She was also called Astarte or Ishtar. Temple prostitution and child sacrifice were a part of these Canaanite idols. They forsook the Lord for these idols. They not only turned their hearts to the idols, but they served other idols. God consistently sets himself up against idol worship. Why were idols so bad in God’s sight? To worship an idol violated the first of the two of the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 20:3-6) which read, “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 ‘You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” The Canaanite idols represented sensual, carnal aspects of human nature. To them, the Lord was just another god to add to their collection of gods. Ancient Israel, by contrast, was to worship only the Lord. One could not possibly believe that God was the one true God and at the same time bow down to an idol. God’s nature is spiritual and moral. Adding the worship of idols to the worship of God could not be tolerated by God or any of his followers. But the reasons go much deeper than that. It has to do with our relationship with the Lord. God really wants the best for his people. But the best comes when we give our whole hearts to God. We only have one heart to give. If we had two or more hearts, like earthworms, then maybe we could justify giving one heart to God and the others to an idol. But we have one heart to give and we must place it in the right place. God is really upset with idol worship because it creates a rift… a wall between him and the people whom he loves. He knows how much his people suffer when they do not have the right relationship with him and so he loves us with a jealous love. That is why verses 12b-13 reads, “…They aroused the LORD’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.” We don’t have these idols today, in our popular culture, but there are many things that can tempt us to forsake the Lord and abandon things that we know are right. For example, the desire to be accepted by our others and enjoy the things of this world can lead us to behavior that is unacceptable to God, breaking our relationship with him and sap us of the full life and eternal life that Jesus gives. Part lll: The Lord Continued To Help His People (16-19) God could have abandoned his people and left them to their own devices, but he did not. Look at verse 16 and 18, “ Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders…18Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them.” God remained faithful to his people and helped them by raising up servants of God called judges who proved to be very effective servants to God. Hebrews 11: 30-32 talks about the exploits of four of these judges, 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.” God showed great mercy by raising up these judge to save his people from their oppressors. God shows us the same mercy in our generation. Our oppressors are not other people. The Bible teaches us that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph 6:12) Our oppressors are threefold, sin, self and the devil. But God has shown us his mercy by providing an escape from sin’s penalty through Jesus Christ, who alone saves us from the oppression of our sins. He is our Savior. He is our mighty King who fights for us and along side of us. When we take a step of faith and trust in Christ’s saving work on our behalf, we can experie But there is a fact that can not be ignored, God does raise up people who can inspire and encourage the people of their generation with the faith and the word of God. The peoples’ walk with the Lord is linked to the spiritual maturity of their leaders. That is why a pastor’s life influences the life of the congregation. Nationally, in many ways, Billy Graham was such a spiritual man in the last half of the 20th century. I am not sure whom God is raising up for this generation of believers. It is not very clear. Could he be Rick Warren? What do you think? I am sure that God is working in someone’s heart to stand up as a “modern day judge” who can give the gospel to a lost generation of young people. Maybe you are that next person. Pray about it. But despite of God’s abundant grace, the people turned from God. Look at verses 17 and 19, “Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the LORD’s commands…19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.” With these judges, God gave gracious revivals, but after each revival, the nation fell into greater sin and bondage. Actually, throughout this period of history, ancient Israel went through seven cycles of (1) rebelling against God (2) being overrun by enemy nations (3) being delivered under the leadership of a judge (4) remaining loyal to God under the leadership of the judge and (5) again forgetting God once that judge died. How foolish they were to let go of the wonderful grace of God! How foolish they were to not enter into a stable, committed relationship with God that went beyond the presence of the judge! nce God’s deliverance and his mercy. What can explain this constant oscillation of their faith? The Canaanite religion appeared more attractive to the sensual nature and offered more short range benefits to the people. Attractive features of these religions dragged the people away for they could remain selfish and yet fulfill the requirements of some sort of religious life. They could do almost anything they wished and still be obeying at least one of the Canaanite gods. But faith in the God of the Bible, however, does not offer short term benefits that appeal to our sinful nature. The essence of God’s way of life is selflessness. Jesus tells his people to deny themselves and pick up their crosses and follow him daily. The constant tugging at their hearts proved to be too much for the nation to bear. We tend to follow the same cycle in our walk with the Lord. We remain loyal to Jesus as long as we are near those who are devoted to him, as long as there is an inspiring leader. But when we are on our own, the pressure from the world, to be drawn away from God and worship and serve its idols increases. The integrity of our spiritual life rises and wanes in successive cycles. Basically, we are incorrigible sinners. But God is merciful and with each cycle God is right there to bring us back to himself. If we are faithless, he is faithful for he can not disown himself. (2 Timothy 2:13) We must recognize our tendency and seek Christ’s help to live God’s way, especially in times when we are separated from other believers. That is why going to university is such and tough time for many young people. They say that 50% of Christian young people, who go to university, graduate from university as non-believers. Pray for our youth! Part lV: The Lord Did Not Give Up (20-23) God still did not give up on his people. But he would employ some tough love. Verses 20-23 read, “Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and said, ‘Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. 22 I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their ancestors did.” 23 The LORD had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.” God no longer drove out their enemies. He used the Canaanites aggression to test ancient Israel and help to come back to him and walk in the ancient faith of their ancestors. This is God’s tough love and his fatherly love on his people. Jesus works in much the same way in our own lives. When we forsake the Lord and decide to walk in the ways of the world, we incur a lot of unnecessary suffering all by ourselves. These sufferings are not from God, but are a result of turning our backs on him and walking in the darkness. When we persistently do this God takes the hedge of protection from us and patiently waits for us to turn our hearts to him. (Romans 1:24) There are other times when God uses the hardships that we incur as training opportunities. They may be interpreted as God’s divine discipline. God is treating us as sons and daughters, so that we may share in God’s holiness. (Heb 12:7-11) Never doubt the love of God. Always respond with repentance and faith and draw near to God and he will raise you up. In today’s lesson we learn that we must find a way to pass on the faith to the next generation of our young people. But in order to do this we must protect our hearts for the lure of this nation’s idols. We have only one heart to give. We must give it to the Lord…all of it…and never to any idol. We must open our eyes and recognize God’s grace in helping us, through his word, through his Spirit and also through other servants of God. God never gives up on us, but his helping at times my be his tough love. Accept it and grow through it. Experience God’s love and grace in your life. Pray that God may raise up a “judge”…an inspiring servant of the Lord, who can inspire and lead this generation of young people. 1. What did the Israelites do? (11-13) What did Joshua do and what did he fail to do? Why was their rejection of God unreasonable? (12) 2. What is significant of referring to the Lord, as, “the God of our ancestors”? (12) What Why is it important to embrace an ancient/future faith? Why is it important to pass the faith onto the next generation? (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) How is it possible? 3. What does the Bible have to day about idol worship? (Ex 20:3-6) Think about why idol worship is a tragedy to our spiritual lives? 4. How did God continue to show his mercy on his people? (16) Who are the judges and what was their role in Israel? (Hebrews 11: 30-32) What does this teach us about God’s mercy? 5. What happened when the appointed judge died? (19) What does this tell us about the peoples’ personal relationship with God? (17) What does this teach us about having a personal relationship with Jesus? (19) 6. What was the Lord’s reaction? What was his decision? How did his people respond? Did it work? How is God working in your life? (Heb 12:7-11)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

2/5/12 come before the lord

2/5/12 Come Before The Lord Judges 1:27- 2:5 (See also 1:4-7; 19-21; 34) Lesson 2 Key verses 2:4; Kevin Jesmer NIU UBF 2/5/12 “When the angel of the LORD had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, 5 and they called that place Bokim. There they offered sacrifices to the LORD.” When the various tribes occupied their inheritances they tried hard to drive out the people, but were unable to do so completely. The original inhabitants were determined to live in the land. They were very tenacious and fought back and would not leave. The best the Israelites could do was subject them to forced labor. This fell short of what God wanted them to do. They tried, but in the end their lives were filled with trouble. But, by the grace of God, they were delivered time and time again by God. In this passage we will learn the importance of obeying the Lord wholeheartedly. We will also learn that we must not compromising with, and try to manage the sin in our hearts, but we must get rid of it totally through repentance and faith in Jesus. We will also learn of God’s graceful covenant and how he helps us to keep our relationship with him despite of our unfaithfulness. Let’s see. Part l: They Disobeyed The Lord The Israelites failed to closely obey God as they took the land. We see this in their dealing with the captured Canaanite king, Adonu-Bezek. Listen to how they dealt with him in verses 1:4-7. It reads, “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. 6 Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes. 7 Then Adoni-Bezek said, ‘Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.’ They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.” It sounds like they gave the king what he deserved. After all he did the same thing to seventy other kings. But their treatment of this king was not what God wanted. They were to devote all things, even the kings of the conquered cities over to the Lord. (Deut 7:1-2; Joshua 6:20-21; 8:1-20; 9:24) This meant that Adoni-Bezek should have been killed. It seems very harsh to us today in the New Testament era. We would never do such a thing today, nor should anyone. But God had his purpose back then, and the Israelites disobeyed God in not putting Adoni-Bezek to the sword. They also failed to drive the people out of the land. Look at verses 19-36. Especially look at verses 19-21, which reads, “The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron. As Moses had promised, Hebron was given to Caleb, who drove from it the three sons of Anak, the Benjamites, however, did not drive out the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites.” There were many victories here in these verses but also many failures. Their failure to drive the inhabitants out doesn’t mean that the Israelites did not have the power to drive out them out, but rather they simply did apply their efforts and engage their faith as God want them to do for God had promised to be with them. Was it their fault? They had many good excuses. It all seemed reasonable. After all, the inhabitants were very strong and tenacious. They had the latest war technology, like giant walled cities and iron chariots. Who could blame the Israelites for not being able to completely conquer the land? We may tend to sympathize with them. But we see that God called them on it. God promised to be with them in Deuteronomy 7:17-24 in accomplishing the task. These verses read, “You may say to yourselves, ‘These nations are stronger than we are. How can we drive them out?’ 18 But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt. 19 You saw with your own eyes the great trials, the signs and wonders, the mighty hand and outstretched arm, with which the LORD your God brought you out. The LORD your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear. 20 Moreover, the LORD your God will send the hornet among them until even the survivors who hide from you have perished. 21 Do not be terrified by them, for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God. 22 The LORD your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you. 23 But the LORD your God will deliver them over to you, throwing them into great confusion until they are destroyed. 24 He will give their kings into your hand, and you will wipe out their names from under heaven. No one will be able to stand up against you; you will destroy them.” God promised to be with them and fight for them. He would drive the inhabitants out little by little, but they needed to pray and obey God with their whole hearts and fight the spiritual battle. Jesus promises to be with us as we serve his purpose in our lives. We think that living by faith in this world is just too hard. We think that it is impossible to pass a class, or an exam, to go into work even one more day, to share the gospel, to raise disciples, or conquer our own sinful nature even with the grace and truth of God. But Jesus says, “…surely I am with you to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:20b) We may think we have tried our best. But did we pray? Did we get rid of fruitless things in our lives? Did we apply ourselves out of obedience to God? We are in disobedience if we neglect the things that God has brought within our grasp, like believing, repenting and taking hold of simple faith and obedience. These things are not dependent on others’ acceptance and rejection of Jesus. You can not change anyone else’s heart, but you have some influence over your own heart. This is a tough pill to swallow. We feel insulted that anyone, even God, should think I did not apply myself enough. But we can repent and accept the word of God and the grace of God. We can engage our faith and come before Jesus to be cleansed of our sin. We can stand up and take ownership of “the land” God has brought into our lives. When we “try again” we will discover that even if we do seem to fail, the act of trying again, by faith, is actually winning the victory because we have done it all through faith in Jesus Christ. The Israelites tried to make the best out of a bad situation. Look at verse 28, “When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely.” They knew that it was not right for the idol worshipping nations to freely dwell among them. Since they could not drive them out, they tried their best to manage them by placing them into forced labor. But these people, whom they allowed to remain, would hinder the spiritual health of the nation. Ancient Israel did not win them over to their God, Jehovah. Rather, the people won the Israelites over to their idols. God warned them of this in Deuteronomy 7:2b-4, which reads, “…Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. 3 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4 for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.” It was all happening according to God’s prediction. There are times when we allow sin to remain in our hearts. What do we do? Mostly, we try to manage and control our sin, without actual repenting of them and getting rid of them. When we do, then no matter what we do, we are spiritually harassed, robbed of the full life that Jesus wants to give to us. We need to root out all sin from within us and dedicate our hearts to the Lord by engaging faith and obedience in a life-giving struggle. This can be done by the power of God. When we repent and accept Jesus as our Savior, we are changed. We become new creations. 2 Corinthians 5:17 reads, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come." (NIV 1984) Stop trying to manage your sins. Let’s come to Jesus and let him completely obliterate the sin from with us and let him make us into new creations! As we know, conquering our land never means to drive other people from our midst and communities. No! People should have a place to be among us and still not believe, a place where they can even dissent. The Bible does not teach isolation from the world, but it definitely does teach separation from the world. We Christians are “in” the world, but never “of” it. Think of our lives as being like a ship. The ship is on the water, but trouble comes when the water gets into the ship. In light of this, to clear the land means to conquer our own hearts with the Gospel and with the love of God. It means not giving into cultural pressures and letting the idols of our land take root in our hearts. It means driving out sins and evil spirits from every crook and cranny of our hearts and lives though repentance and faith. There is also and outward expression of “conquering the land.” We have the ”land” of our families, relationships, our jobs and the mission field that God has called us to, which for us, are the people of DeKalb and the students of our schools and of NIU. Conquering these lands does not mean that the vast majority of the people will believe in Jesus and grow as humble shepherds and Bible teachers of campus students. It does not mean that 10,000 Dekalbers will be meeting weekly for praise and worship. It means that the gospel is being faithfully and prayerfully preached. It means that one person’s heart is being changed and controlled by the power of God and the love of God. It means that at least one person has hope and stands up a servant of God with a heart full of faith. (And that one person could be our very own self.) With this definition of “conquering the land”, we can see that it is definitely within our grasp to conquer our land when the Lord is by our side. Part ll: God Has So Much In Store For Us…But We Must Clear The Land The Israelites disobedience hindered them from enjoying all the fruit of the Promised Land. Look at verse 34. “The Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain.” The plain is where the fertile soil was. The plain had the best farmland and access to the trade routes. There was prosperity in the plains. But the Danites had to dwell in the hill country. Their failure to drive out the Amorites cost them dearly. They also failed to take control of Jerusalem. Look at 1:21, which reads, “The Benjamites, however, did not drive out the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites.” If you look on the map, you will see that Jerusalem was the perfect location for a capital for their new nation for it was right in the middle. They could have utilized it as a very effective center of power. But they failed to drive out the Jebusites. Actually it would be 500 years later that the Israelites, under King David, would take Jerusalem and make it their capital. The fact remains that if we don’t completely dedicate our hearts to the Lord and let the light of the gospel drive out every shadow from within, we forfeit a lot to of the joy and blessings that the Lord has for us. We are forever struggling with one sin after another. Some people spend a life time of struggling with things that are totally unnecessary. Why do we do this to ourselves? Most of the time, we are our worst enemy. God has so much in store for us, but we must devote our hearts to him. Part lll: God Never Breaks His Covenant With Us (2:1-5) God calls his people to account for their sin. Look at verses 2:1-3, “The angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? 3 And I have also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.’” What did God remind them of? He reminded them of the grace of God. Look at verse 1, ““The angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you” God always begins with his grace, even if he is about the rebuke his people. It is always good to be reminded of the grace of God frequently. It is Jesus who brought us out of the land of slavery to sin, self and the devil and freed us to enter eternal life as children of God. He made us citizens of his kingdom, by his grace. We now have power to live by faith. During our time on earth we serve God’s holy purpose in our lives enjoying our life in him. This is the grace of God. Next, God reminded them of the covenant. A covenant is a two sided agreement. God promises one thing and he promises to come through if we keep our side of the covenant. At Mount Sinai, God made a sacred and binding agreement with the Israelites called a covenant (Exodus 19:5-8). God’s part of the covenant was to make Israel a special nation, to protect them and to given them a unique blessings for following him. Israel’s part was to love God and obey his laws. But because they rejected and disobeyed God, the agreement to protect them was to no longer in effect, but the promise to make Israel a nation through which the whole world would be blessed (fulfilled in the Messiah’s coming.) remained valid. God still wanted the Israelites it be a holy people, but now, instead of one-sidedly protecting them, he would use oppression to bring his people back to him, just as he warned he would (Lev 26, Deut 28). What is the covenant that God has made with us? Jeremiah 31:31 says, “’The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD. 33 ‘This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the LORD. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’” The days that Jeremiah is talking about are the days of the new covenant in Jesus Christ. The “days” are the days when Jesus suffered and died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead giving us a living hope in the Kingdom of God. It is the days of the New Testament church which we are now living in. It is the Age of Grace, God’s grace poured out on sinners who stand at the foot of the cross in faith. The main gist of this covenant is found in verse 34b, “…For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” When we come to Jesus, confessing and repenting of our sins and accepting his sacrifice on the cross, he forgives us of our wickedness and remembers our sins no more. He gives us a clean slate and we can move forward in our lives of faith. When we are forgiven of our sins, God considers us his holy children and the Holy Spirit can come into our hearts like a flood and dwell with us. In this way the words in Jer 31:33b are fulfilled, “…“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” The Holy Spirit teaches us directly. He reminds us all that Jesus has taught us. He convicts our hearts with regards to sin, righteousness and judgment. He guides our feet on the paths of peace for his names’ sake. (This does not negate the necessity of Bible teachers however.) God promises to work in all peoples’ hearts, from the least of them to the greatest. God does not discriminate. He will dwell in any believer, from the most down and out homeless believer, to the CEO believer. Thank you Jesus. And so what is our part of this covenant? I believe it is nestled in the words of verse 34b, “…“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Our side of the covenant is to believe the gospel with faith. We must recognize our wickedness and come to God with humble contrite hearts confessing that it against God whom we have sinned. Then the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, whose sinless sacrifice satisfies God’s justice will cover our hearts. We are forgiven. We are God’s children with eternal life. The Holy Spirit dwells in us. The only thing keeping us from entering into this graceful covenant is our stubborn refusal to believe, which is born out of our pride. But even in these cases God is ceaselessly coming to our aid looking for any crack in the walls we have put up. Yes, we will fail again and again. But Jesus never fails. The Gospel never fails. By his grace, we can be held in a covenant relationship with Jesus. Praise God for that fact. Due to their own forsaking of the covenant, the people would have to deal with many snares. Look at verse 3; “And I have also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.’” God still loved his people. But the inhabitants of the land, would become snares that God would work through, to draw his people to himself, time and time again. And so there is no need to despair about anything in your life. God will work through it all to draw you to himself. It is amazing to see their response. Let’s see in 2:4-5, “When the angel of the LORD had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, 5 and they called that place Bokim. There they offered sacrifices to the LORD.” The people repented of their sins. They cared about their broken relationship with God. The people of Israel knew they had sinned, and they wept aloud, responding with deep sorrow. Repentance is the true measure of spiritual sensitivity. Let us pray that God may give is a sprit of repentance for when we repent, we can renew our covenant relationship with Jesus. Then new beginnings and times of refreshing will come from the Lord. Today we learned the importance of obeying the Lord with faith and life giving struggle. We learned to not compromise with sin our hearts but come to Jesus and become new creations. We need to realize how much the Lord wants to bless us if only we will surrender the entirety of our hearts to him. Most of all lets us enter into the beautiful covenant with God, full of grace and full of forgiveness, by repenting and believing in Jesus.