Thoughts on Judges (Part 3)
Paul Young, Maesteg, Wales [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
The Fifth Deliverer of Israel from oppression was Jephthah, and we read of him in Judges 10. 6-18; 11 and 12. The Ammonites had ruled the land eighteen years. In their distress the children of Israel cried to the Lord for deliverance, but they were told to "Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation", 10. 14. Yet still they cried and started to demonstrate true repentance by putting away the strange gods, and the Lord was grieved for the misery of Israel, 10. 16. Then the Gileadites gathered together against Ammon, yet they could not go out and fight as they were leaderless. This was their sad plight and led them to call upon Jephthah.
Jephthah was a mighty man of valour, 11.1, certainly a suitable man to lead the army, but he had been the son of a harlot, cast out by his brethren, who wanted him to have no part or inheritance in Gilead. So he had fled, and vain men had joined themselves to him in the land of Tob. In contrast, the Lord Jesus (who was mighty indeed, for without Him was not anything made that was made, John 1. 3) was born of a virgin and conceived of the Holy Ghost, Matt. 1. 18. Yet He too was rejected by His brethren and those who had dwelt in His home town, for "they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief", Matt. 13. 57-58. His final rejection was on the cross, where He died for the sins of the world.
Previously, only vain fellows had followed Jephthah; now the Gileadites in their hour of need sought him to lead them into battle. Many today only come to Jesus in prayer during their hour of need or as a last resort. The Saviour is still neglected by men. Sadly this is sometimes true of believers who think of many things before they turn to the Lord.
Jephthah took on the role of leader and before going into battle made a vow: "If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering", Jud. 11. 30-31. Jephthah won the battles. He smote twenty cities and subdued the Ammonites. On his return home, the hastily-said vow caused him grief and heartache, for his only daughter came first from the house to rejoice at the great victory. She had to be offered on the altar for Jephthah had opened his mouth unto the Lord! Jephthah had made his vow little realizing its consequences. Jesus knew the terrible consequences of His purpose to go and redeem mankind from sin. He knew the consequences would be agony, suffering, shame and death on Calvary's cross, but He willingly went in obedience to His Father. Believers must never hastily open their mouths before God. We need to approach God's presence always with a holy, reverent and serious attitude.
Jepthah judged Israel six years; he died and was buried in one of the cities of Gilead.
The Sixth Deliverer of Israel was Samson and we read about him in Judges 13, 14, 15 and 16. This time Israel was delivered into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.
Like the Lord Jesus, Samson's birth was foretold to his parents. Manoah and his wife of the tribe of Dan had been childless, and the angel of the Lord appeared to them and promised a son. "For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head; for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines", 13. 5. Samson was born as foretold and the Lord blessed him. He had great strength and was able to do great physical feats by the Spirit of the Lord. The Spirit of the Lord first began to move him at times in the camp of Dan, 13. 25. The Spirit enabled him to slay a young lion in the way, 14. 6, to kill thirty men of Ashkelon, 14. 19, and to slay a thousand men with a jawbone of an ass, 15. 16.
Samson's downfall came when Delilah enticed him to tell her the secret of his strength. Her motive, like Judas Iscariot's, was money. She betrayed Samson for a vast sum of money, 16. 5. Jesus was betrayed for a mere 30 pieces of silver, Matt. 26. 15. So Samson was taken by the Philistines, his eyes were put out and he was mocked. Yet the Lord returned to give him strength to destroy the house and a large number of Philistines; Samson himself died with them. Samson had gained important victories over the Philistines in his twenty years as judge, but the final subjugation of the Philistines came in the time of David.
Samson had been blessed by the moving power of the Spirit of God, yet he was susceptible to sin. Twice he betrayed secrets to alluring women; his second betrayal cost him his Nazarite vow and ultimately his life. Samson was a victim of his own sin and folly. The Lord Jesus was in no way susceptible to sin, for He was perfect, upright and pure in all things. He did not die like Samson the victim of his own foolishness, but in love He died for the sins of the world. He "loved me, and gave himself for me", Gal. 2. 20.
"And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae . . . Who through faith", Heb. 11. 32,33.