Lord, why am I different

April 26, 2016

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Lord, why am I different (part one)

 

Have you ever wondered, “How could God use someone like me?” Perhaps you are consumed with guilt over sin and failure. You may suffer with the scars of your family history or personal background. Perhaps you have physical problems and limitations. Maybe you have difficulty accepting yourself and bear the burden of a poor self-image. Maybe you feel inadequate due to a lack of education, skills, or spiritual gifts. I don’t know about you but when I think of myself I’m not impressed. There are many physical features I dislike about myself. There are many personality quirks, I wish I could change. When I think of myself from the world’s perspective, underwhelmed comes to mind. Yet, over the course of my life, the Lord has taught me that He loves to use weak and foolish people like me.

 

 

The introduction to Judges (1:1–3:6) revealed what devastating consequences occur when God’s people rebel against Him. Now the author is going to focus on three judges whom God uses in a powerful way. In Judges 3:7–31 we will see, “Our responsibility is response to God’s ability.” In these twenty–five verses, the term “Lord” (Yahweh) occurs thirteen times. That’s every other verse! Even though God dominates this passage, these three stories remind us that He uses people like you and me to accomplish His purposes in the world.

 

 

Our first story in 3:7–11 begins on an ominous note. “The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgot [abandoned] the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth [female Canaanite deities…Baal’s girlfriends]” (3:7). The opening phrase “the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” is repeated throughout Judges (3:7, 12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1). Each time the phrase is used, it marks a period of oppression by Israel’s enemies. In spite of the amazing grace that God showed His people in Judges 1–2, Israel walked away from God. These people weren’t just having a bad spiritual day. They didn’t skip their devotions or forget to pray, they actively rebelled against the one true God whom they were in covenant with!

 

 

In 3:8, God gets ticked!“Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, so that He sold them into the hands of Cushan-rishathaim [“Doubly-Wicked”] king of Mesopotamia; and the sons of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years.” The phrase “the anger of the Lord was kindled” literally reads “the Lord’s nose became hot.” This is a figurative way of describing God’s wrath. We tend to get angry to benefit ourselves; God gets angry because His holiness elicits a response. In His anger, the Lord sells His people to the enemy. Israel acts like slaves, so God sells them like slaves. God will not allow His people to sin successfully. God will use whatever form of discipline is necessary to restore His children to fellowship.

 

 

Although God is angry, 3:9–11 demonstrates His grace. “When the sons of Israel cried to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer [a savior] for the sons of Israel to deliver them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel. When he went out to war, the LORD gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand, so that he prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. Then the land had rest [no war] forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died.” Despite Israel’s rebellion, God listens to their cries and delivers them. What’s interesting is the word translated “cried” (za‘aq) does not refer to repentance. Rather, the word denotes crying for help out of distress. This is an important conclusion, for it shows that when the Lord raises up a judge for Israel He is not reacting to any repentance on Israel’s part. If anything, He is responding to their misery rather than to their sorrow, to their pain rather than their penitence. Who then can ever plumb the depths of the Lord’s compassion for His people, even His sinful people who are more moved by their distress than by their depravity? Truly, God delivers out of sheer grace. Today, will you express your great love and appreciation to God for His tremendous mercy and grace?

 

 

 

In our story, the judge God raises up is Othniel—the man who captured Kiriath Sepher and married Caleb’s daughter, Achsah (1:12–13). Othniel, the first judge, is exemplary in every way. Samson, the twelfth and final judge, is deplorable in almost every possible way. The progression downward, even in Israel’s leaders, is clear. Yet, God uses each of His judges in unique and powerful ways. Please note in 3:10 that God’s Spirit empowers Othniel. This is true of all the judges, though the writer does not always mention it. No one can accomplish anything significant spiritually without the Holy Spirit’s enablement (cf. John 15:5). However, with God’s assistance His people can be the agents of supernatural change and can carry out His will. Never underestimate the good that one person can do who is filled with the Spirit of God and obedient to the will of God. It is so easy to accomplish ministry in the flesh—through our own abilities, knowledge, or personality. You can pull this off and even fool a lot of people. But if you want your work for the Lord to stand the test of time (1 Cor 3:10–15), you need to rely upon Him. Our responsibility is response to God’s ability. God wants you and me to know that we can’t do anything apart from Him.

 

 

After reading this first story, you should be struck by the colorless nature of Othniel. There is no flash and dash about Othniel. In fact, this entire story just reveals the bare essentials, which consist of what the Lord has done. It is likely that this first story about a judge is stripped down so that we will see clearly what is most essential—the activity of the Lord. God’s victories are, to a greater degree, stories about God than stories about human heroes. In other words, God wants us to learn about Himself more than about Othniel. Sometimes interesting people can obscure that, and we end up watching these fascinating folks but never see what our God is doing.

Othniel is a man of anonymity. People didn’t know much about him. But what is clear is that Othniel was a Kenizzite—a foreigner. This serves as an example that background should not limit your service to Christ. Regardless of your family of origin, ethnicity, or nationality, God wants to use you powerfully. Your responsibility is response to God’s ability.

 

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

Part two tomorrow. Blessings.

 

Pray Art, his wife of 55 years passed today.

Betty, going to doctor tomorrow for tests

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