Epic: Judges and Kings by Rick Shurtz

We began a new series at Gateway Church in Austin called Epic!

To get the most out of this series, read through the daily Scripture readings and the Next Steps with your family, with running partners, or in a life group.

Rick Shurtz spoke at Gateway McNeil, and I spoke at Gateway South.

Here are some notes from the message:

Let’s start today with a question asked thousands of years ago by a man named Gideon.

“If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” – Judges 6:13

Remember the context. The people of Israel were blessed to be a blessing to all nations.

The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. – Deuteronomy 7:6

Gideon seems frustrated: “If we’re God’s people, why has all this happened to us?”

Why?

I wonder if that question has ever been asked by anyone here today?

Why is all of this happening in the world?

  • Why the wars?
  • Why the famine?
  • Why the disease?
  • Why evil dictators?

Why is all of this happening to me?

  • Why’d I lose my job?
  • Why’s marriage so hard?
  • Why am I lonely?
  • Why am I sick?
  • Why can’t I make progress in life?

I want to show you a fascinating commentary on stories like the story of the Israelites and the story of Gideon. Listen to what Paul says about these stories when he wrote a letter about them thousands of years later to the church in Corinth:

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. – 1 Corinthians 10:11

These things happened—to Abraham, to Moses, to Gideon—as warnings and examples to us.

As we do our best to put on display the epic story of scripture, we’re going to experience something that may not be immediately welcomed. We’re going to hear a warning which may explain a bit of our mixed responses to scripture.

If one of the purposes of Scripture is to give us warnings, then we’ll enter in a little guarded. We’re not sure we want some ancient writing to tell us what to do.

We want it to come close, yet we want it to go away, to leave us alone, to let us do our own thing.

Judges & Kings

It’s in this place that a section of scripture we’re calling “Judges & Kings” comes into play.

In between Moses and Daniel, the thousand years from 1500 BC to 500 BC is this time of Judges and Kings, with David as the most celebrated king. It’s a massive portion of Scripture, about 25% of the entire Bible.

SIMPLIFIED BIBLE TIMELINE

2000 BC         1500 BC             1000 BC             500 BC                       30AD

Abraham        Moses                 David                  Daniel                        Jesus

Genesis          Exodus                 Judges
                          Leviticus             Ruth
                          Numbers             1 & 2 Samuel
                          Deuteronomy    1 & 2 Kings
                                                          1 & 2 Chronicles     

 The message is quite simple. Trust keeps us on God’s path.

Survey of the Scriptures

Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt and towards the Promised Land. Moses was succeeded by Joshua who led the Israelites to take the Promised Land.

Notice what happened after Joshua died.

After [Joshua] and that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel…. They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshipped various gods of the peoples around them.  – Judges 2:10-12

God’s people, His chosen people that he had led out of slavery, they turned from Him and began following the gods who had led the nations to do the very things God so abhorred.

So here this carefully…

  • God didn’t leave his people.
  • His people left him.
  • And when they left God, they lost his protection.
  • When they lost his protection, they were raided and plundered by surrounding nations.
  • But God is a loving and forgiving, so rescued the people after they cried out for help.

The Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. – Judges 2:16

God let them go their own way, and God let them experience the consequences of their own way.

Even still, God didn’t leave them there. He raised up leaders, men and women referred to as Judges, who led his people back to their God and back to God’s goodness.

The people of Israel fell into a pattern which they seemed to repeat over and over under the judges and under the kings – a pattern you and I have probably experienced as well.

Judges Circle of Repentance

 

  • God’s way requires trust.
  • We go our own way.
  • We experience the consequences.
  • We cry out for help.
  • We ask for forgiveness.
  • God restores us back to His way.

This happened again and again and again and again.

And yet, hear what happens…

God keeps taking them back again and again and again and again.

It is in this context that Gideon was chosen – set apart for a purpose.

The angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” – Judges 6:12

Which brings us to the line we read at the start…

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” – Judges 6:13

We are only 6 chapters into this era of Judges and Kings, and we know how ridiculous Gideon is sounding.

He said: But now the Lord has abandoned us…. – Judges 6:13

To which you and I would ask Gideon: Who abandoned who?

 

The period of the judges turns into the period of the kings.

A prophet named Samuel is leading Israel. He’s getting old, and the Israelites come to him and say…

“You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” – 1 Samuel 8:6

  • Enough of these judges!
  • Enough of these prophets!
  • Enough of God being our king!
  • We want to be like the other nations!
  • We want a real king!

First up, a man named Saul. Saul is made king, and is initially greatly celebrated as king. Saul is given instructions. A certain people, the Amalekites, have been evil, and God wants Saul and his army to come against the Amalekites.

Old Testament Battles

There’s a great deal of this in the Old Testament, so much so that many have criticized it for the degree of bloodshed.

When you look at the detail, though, you realize God’s call for Saul to take on people like the Amalekites, it’s not unlike our countries call to take on Hitler.

There was tremendous evil going on in these countries, and God wanted them to rid the world of this evil.

In this particular battle, though, God gave very specific instructions. They are told to not keep any of the plunder for themselves.

“I don’t want you to benefit personally from this battle. I want you to trust me for your provision.” God tells them. 

Faith

To do this, it will be a tremendous test of their faith. They’re going to be nose to nose with what is effectively money, and they’re asked to not keep any of it. This proved too much for Saul…

But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. – Judges 15:9

What does this say about Saul’s heart?

What does it say about Saul’s trust?

He hears God’s instruction, he’s been taught that God will provide for him, but when the money is on the table, and when God says to walk away from that money, that he would provide for Saul other ways, Saul picks it up and keeps it for himself.

Samuel, the prophet who appointed Saul, hears about this, and goes to Saul. Saul sees Samuel coming. Hear carefully what he says:

“The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.” – 1 Samuel 15:13

To which Samuel says:

“What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” …You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel.” – 1 Samuel 15:14, 26

It’s at this place that we get a critical insight into what it takes to be part of God’s team. Hear carefully this later description of the people God was calling together through Abraham:

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. – Galatians 3:7

The children of Abraham, they are not those who just happen to be in the physical lineage of Abraham. They are those that are in his spiritual lineage. They are those whose lives display a trust in God.

Trust keeps us on God’s path. 

 

Fear vs. Faith

How you take this into your own life, will differ from person to person, but the theme is unified.

There are two paths in life.

There is the way of fear.

And there is the way of faith.

Time and again in our lives, we reach this point of decision.

In the time of the Judges and the Kings, they faced the same decision each of us faces.

Will we fear the people around us, the nations around us, and do what they do? 

Or will we have faith and follow our God?

 

 

 

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