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baseball player at bat April 3 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Judges 3:7-31; 4; 5

Step Up to the Plate

To the 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 stepped up to the plate (so to speak) to end the oppression of their enemies.

The first judge of Israel was Othniel (judges were moral and military leaders). We heard of him in our March 28 study in Joshua 15:16-19. The story of Othniel was probably written again here since the book of Judges was written thematically and not chronologically (more…). Israel was oppressed by neighboring Aram (northwest of the Sea of Galilee) for eight years. Then (as would become the pattern) Israel cried out to the LORD, and God sent a deliverer, a military leader, to go to war against her enemies and give her victory and peace. Othniel had 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 was called upon to deliver the Israelites. This peace lasted until the judge died (Othniel in this case; there was forty years of peace with him as the judge). Then Israel returned to her evil ways and was 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 that are ordained by God.

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

There is not much written about the first three judges, but there is a lot written about Deborah the fourth judge of Israel. She governed Israel during the time the Canaanites north of Galilee ruled their land (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T., by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p.388). Their oppression lasted twenty years. Deborah was a prophetess, and so had a special relationship with the LORD. Her wisdom and judgment were respected, and she helped settle the disputes of the Israelites. Deborah was noble; she sought to give honor to her male commanding officer, Barak. However, he was reticent to fight the Canaanites without her present (perhaps because he perceived God was with her). Because he refused to go without her, she said the credit for the win would be given to a woman. Deborah was brave because she went with Barak to the battle line. Deborah had faith and encouraged her commanding officer to engage the battle because the LORD was with his troops. Deborah was a woman of faith. She was worthy of respect and her faith was shown by her actions. Do people know we are people of faith by our words and our deeds?

The LORD lured Jabin's Canaanite army into battle and then routed them with only 10,000 Israelite men. The Canaanites were defeated despite having 900 iron chariots. Apparently, God aided the Israelites in the victory by providing an unseasonable rain, which likely caused the chariots of Jabin's army to be bogged down in mud, and then they were 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, escaped, but he was killed by a woman when he hid in her tent for protection. Thus Deborah's prophecy was fulfilled; victory over Israel's enemies was given by a woman.

Deborah stepped up to the plate and led the nation. She and Barak wrote a song, praising the volunteers who helped God by acting with courage to fight their enemies, while most of their brother tribes were 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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