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baseball player at bat April 3 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Judges 3:7-31; 4:1-24; 5:1-31

Step Up to the Plate

To a casual observer, playing baseball seems simple enough; just hit the ball and run around the bases. But the players know different. Those who stand up in the batter's box must face fast balls, curves, and sliders, and must sometimes avoid getting hit by the baseball. Still, the players must step up to the plate to help their team win. Life is like that; someone must step up to the plate so their team, family, church, business, or other organization can win. It is true that we may be hurt, and no one likes that, but still God wants us to have courage and step up to the plate. The same was true of Israel. Today we look at the first four judges who step up to the plate to end the oppression of their enemies.

The first judge of Israel is Othniel (judges are moral and military leaders). We heard of him in our March 28 study in Joshua 15:16-19. The story of Othniel is probably recorded again because the book of Judges is written thematically and not chronologically (more…). He steps up to the plate after Israel has been oppressed by neighboring Aram (northwest of the Sea of Galilee) for eight years. Then Israel cries out to the LORD, and God sends a deliverer, a judge or military leader, to go to war against her enemies and give her victory and peace. Othniel acted with courage in helping his future father-in-law, Caleb, drive out the people in the hill country of Debir in Judah, and now this courageous man is called upon to deliver the Israelites. This peace lasts until the judge dies (Othniel in this case; there is forty years of peace with him as the judge). Then Israel returns to her evil ways and is once again subjugated by a neighboring nation. Like Othniel, we must act with courage and step up to the plate to stop oppression; but we must act within the law and in cooperation with our government and civil authorities, which are ordained by God.

After Othniel's death, Eglon the king of Moab oppresses Israel for eighteen years (Moab is south of the tribe of Reuben and east of Judah and the Dead Sea). Ehud, the son of a Benjamite, is appointed to carry tribute money to Eglon. After giving his tribute, he tells the king that God has a special message for him. In private, Ehud, who is left-handed, takes a long dagger from his right thigh and stabs the very fat king once so that he dies. Ehud then escapes and leads Israel into war against the Moabites and defeats them. The land of Israel then has peace for eighty years. Ehud acts with righteous zeal. Although we are not called upon to assassinate anyone, we must lawfully act with righteous zeal when there is injustice. “After Ehud comes Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox goad. He, too saved Israel,” (Judges 3:31, NIV).

There is not much written about the first three judges, but a lot is written about Deborah the fourth judge of Israel. She governs Israel during the time the Canaanites north of Galilee rule their land (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T., by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p.388). Their oppression lasts twenty years. Deborah is a prophetess; she has a special relationship with the LORD. Her wisdom and judgment are respected, and she helps settle disputes between Israelites. Deborah is noble; she seeks to give honor to her male commanding officer, Barak. However, he is reticent to fight the Canaanites without her present (perhaps because he perceives God is with her). Because he refuses to go without her, she tells Barak the credit for the win will be given to a woman. Deborah is brave because she goes with Barak to the battle line. Deborah has faith and encourages her commanding officer to engage the battle because the LORD is with his troops. Deborah is a woman of faith. She is worthy of respect, and her faith is shown by her actions. Do people know we are people of faith by our words and our deeds?

The LORD lures Jabin's Canaanite army into battle and then routs them with only 10,000 Israelite men. The Canaanites are defeated despite having 900 iron chariots. God aids the Israelites in the victory by providing an unseasonable rain, which causes the chariots of Jabin's army to be bogged down in mud, and then they are swept away in the flooding Kishon River, (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T., by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, p.390, Judges 5:20-21). Only Sisera, Jabin's commander, escapes, but he is killed by a woman when he hides in her tent for protection. Thus Deborah's prophecy is fulfilled; victory over Israel's enemies is given by a woman.

Deborah stepped up to the plate and led the nation. She and Barak then compose a song, praising the volunteers who help God by acting with courage to fight their enemies, while most of their brother tribes are reticent to help. Blessed are the volunteers!

Lessons to live by:

•  Like Othniel, we must act with courage and step up to the plate to stop oppression, but do it lawfully.
•  We must act with righteous zeal when there is injustice. Again, work with civil and government authorities, which are ordained by God.
•  Our faith is shown by our deeds.
• Follow God's leadership and step up to the plate. Blessed are the volunteers!
• Do you know God? He is the Almighty one who loves justice and righteousness. He offers you forgiveness of sin, peace, and spiritual life (more...). Pray to Him; He can give you courage and help for the battles in your life, no matter the odds against you.

Today's Bible memory verse: [Christian leaders and parents can substitute their names for the princes of Israel]

Judges 5:2 “When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves-- praise the LORD!” (NIV)

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