The Good, the Bad & the Ugly
Life and Death in Israel’s “Wild East”
I have always equated the book of Judges with the American portrayal, in film and television, of the Old West. Laws were few, wars and violence were constant, new settlers struggled against established natives, and heroes would rise from the ranks of the common people. In this period of Israel’s history, there was little unity; no king or central government. The twelve tribes existed as a confederacy, each tending to its own territory, enemies, and issues. The stories that emerge from this period of time are full of lessons on leadership, perseverance, faith, and charisma. But they are also full of lessons on greed, vengeance, selfishness, and failure. The careful reader can learn just as much from the bad examples as the good.
July 14–The New Sheriff in Town (Judges 7:1-25)—An outworking of Gideon’s lack of faith was his penchant for control. He had seen God deliver him from his family and respond to his requests for miraculous signs, but Gideon still wanted to retain a measure of control over his military campaign. And God gradually chipped away at that illusion of control until Gideon had no option but to fully trust God. Responsibility, hard work, and obedience are all important practices, but we must be cautious that we don’t allow self-sufficiency to replace our trust in God.
July 7–Better Together (1 Cor. 12:12-27)–UBC welcomes guest speaker Josh Ellis, Executive Director of Union Baptist Association. Josh has a dual BA from Houston Baptist University, an MS in Future Studies from the University of Houston, Clear Lake (2006), and a PhD in Leadership Studies from Dallas Baptist University (2015). Josh was ordained to ministry by Baybrook Baptist Church in 2000. Josh and Valerie have two sons and are active members of Ecclesia Clear Lake.
June 30–The Man With Two Names (Judges 6:1-24; 36-40)—The Judge narratives start to increase in length significantly with Gideon’s narrative. He is chosen as God’s deliverer, even though he is not a person of great faith. And thus the opening chapter of his story is characterized by doubting God and placing a variety of tests in his path. God was patient with Gideon, and walked with him to a point of obedience. But would Gideon become a man of faith? Or would he simply obey when it was convenient for him to do so?
June 23–Annie Get Your Gun (Judges 4-5)—In our minds, most westerns have a broad shouldered, strong man at the center of their action. Yet when we look closer at so many of these movies, courageous woman are standing right next to them. Without the leading ladies of the western movies, we would have weaker stories. So too in Scripture, when we encounter women like Deborah and Jael, we see strong leaders who are courageous in their actions. Through their leadership, Israel is moved from oppression and marginalization to freedom and hope. Through faithful courage, God moves us beyond marginalization and into his magnificent work.
June 16–The Left-Handed Kid (Judges 3:12-30)—The second major Judge, Ehud, is a great case study in courage and craftiness. Like the others, he was anointed by the Spirit of God, and he was willing to take a significant risk and not to let a perceived weakness hinder his obedience. How many times do we let perceived weaknesses or insecurities keep us from stepping out in faith and following in something that God may be calling us to do? Maybe, like Ehud, we can learn to see what the world identifies as weaknesses as possible strengths. Especially when we go in the Spirit of the Lord.
June 9–There Ain’t Enough Room In This Town for the Both of Us! (Judges 2:6-3:11)—Like a number of television shows, Judges can feel like a series of stories that all follow the same template. And in fact, they do. The cycle of the typical Judges story is introduced in ch. 2, and then a short example follows with the first major Judge, Othniel. In every account, the drama is precipitated by the people of God acclimating to the cultures of pagan worship and other gods. The challenge for the church today to live in the world, along with its cultures, but to maintain a unique faithfulness to God and identity in him is a moving target. And yet it is imperative that we continue striving to be culturally relevant and biblically faithful at the same time.
June 2–The Wild, Wild East (Judg 1:1-2:5)—The period of the Judges was very much like the colonial, settler days of the U.S. There wasn’t a central government, each tribe governed itself, and the various tribes worked together only when necessary. The opening chapters introduce the world of the Judges. They paint a picture of selective victories and losses as each of the tribes existed in isolation from one another. Striving together in Joshua, Israel was successful. Struggling apart in Judges, the 12 tribes would ride a roller coaster of defeat and victory. The chapters speak to the importance of obedience, leadership, and unity.