Shabbat Shalom family,
After having just enjoyed a great Feast of Sukkot – the Feast of Rejoicing – and enjoyed a great time of ‘boothing’ in temporary dwellings together; we are quickly thrust back into our daily routines and very busy schedules. What was a rejoicing and memorable time together, quickly becomes another wonderful memory we can look back upon, as we are reminded to continue to look forward and face the daily battles of life with great joy. The heart of rejoicing that is experienced during Sukkot is the heart of rejoicing we are to do our best to maintain in all areas of our life, on a daily basis – and not just at Sukkot time, where rejoicing is a command! In fact I firmly believe that the Word of Elohim instructs us to be a rejoicing people continually, day after day, even as we face our toughest battles and tests. Tests that are simply there to ‘TEST’ us and see whether we will hold fast to the Truth and obey the clear instruction of our Great Redeemer and King!
Pilipiyim/Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in יהוה always, again I say, rejoice!”
How many of you, after having come back from Sukkot, found that the battles you were facing before were still there and there were or are even more daunting battles staring you right in the face? The challenge for us all is clear – hold on to the ability to REJOICE in יהוה, and stand firm in being an obedient HEARING, GUARDING AND DOING people of Elohim!
In a message tonight called, ‘FERVENTLY FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT AND PASSING THE TESTS WITH JOY!’, I would like us to go through a chapter that we read together at Sukkot, as we began reading from the Book of Shophetim/Judges. Often in the toughest situations and tests we face, we can be in danger of feeling inadequate and of no use, yet from this chapter that I want to look at tonight, may we be reminded that יהוה can and will use each and every one of us – if we are willing to stand firm on His Truth and do so with a joyful heart, aměn!
Please turn with me to Shophetim/Judges 3, as we look at this chapter in a little more detail and see from the lives of 3 great and mighty fervent fighters of the Good fight of faith, how we too can recognize the very real tests that we face and are able to overcome in Messiah! (Read)
When faith is weakened through trials, stress and overbearing circumstances then people often fall prey to low self-esteem. And so the feeling of inadequacy often cripples a Believer into being unwilling to allow the favour of יהוה to work out its sufficiency in their daily lives, and so quickly resort to making excuses for failing to serve. Now making excuses in failing to serve יהוה does not please Him, as He calls all Believers to grow up in all areas of their lives, and fight the Good fight of the belief and lay hold of the everlasting life to which we are called and have confessed before many witnesses.
When the trials of life and the daunting tests that surround us seem far too overwhelming to bear, it is so easy to fall into the trap of not believing that יהוה can use you. As we consider the events contained in this chapter and the circumstances that Yisra’ĕl were living in, we can quickly identify how much of what was happening back then is happening today, as many are doing evil in the eyes of יהוה. Having said that, our challenge is clear – will we stand up and fervently fight the Good Fight and pass the tests with joy, and by our obedient faith, are able to bring the message of shalom to many who are in turmoil, under the pressures of false traditions and lies of the enemy!
You may feel at times that you are a nobody and why would יהוה want to use you. You may tell yourself that there is surely someone who is better qualified and up for the task, someone who looks better and speaks better – surely not me you may think – have you ever had thoughts like that? Well today I want to encourage you that יהוה can and will use you for His purposes. In this chapter there are 3 key characters, who for many are seemingly unknown, yet Othni’ĕl, Ĕhud and Shamgar, who may be unknown to many, were clearly not unused!!!
This chapter gives us a brief overview of a period of over 150 years and the clear men of faith that were raised up and made a difference. Yisra’ĕl had entered the promised land and had not completely finished what was instructed, as they had not driven out all the 7 nations they were required to. Yehoshua had died, and the generation that followed Yehoshua had all died too; and so a new generation had risen up, a generation of people who did not know יהוה, nor the work that He had done for Yisra’ĕl. This new generation had been greatly influenced by the nations that were supposed to be driven out, and as a result of being influenced by false pagan practices of the nations, they began to worship the false mighty ones of the nations, as they forsook יהוה and began to serve Ba’al and the Ashtoreths. The Book of Judges certainly reflects a dark period for Yisra’ĕl where, each one did what was right in his own eyes and proper rulership and judgement was at large neglected. יהוה would raise up rulers who would save them. We see from this book that it did not take too long before the people would neglect to listen to their rulers, and would turn away from walking in obedience to the commands of Elohim and turn to following the abominable practices of the nations that should have been driven out.
We are told in Chapter 2 that יהוה decided to no longer drive out the nations which Yehoshua had left when he died, in order to try Yisra’ĕl – to see if Yisra’ĕl would guard the way of יהוה, and walk in His Torah or not! This is stated again at the beginning of this chapter that we have read.
Yisra’ĕl’s failure to drive out the nations of Kenaʽan left them with a very big thorn in their side, so to speak. By their inability to guard the commands, יהוה allowed these nations to remain, in order to not only test Yisra’ĕl, but also to teach them about war!
Their failures He used to His advantage, and theirs – if they would listen that is! This generation, and the ones thereafter, needed to learn the history of their father’s journey’s and battles, in order to equip them to face the daily battles of life and overcome through obedience to the clear commands of Elohim!
There is a saying which holds very true, and that is that ‘those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it’! Most people are not easily motivated to study and learn from the past, and will only do so if they have to write a test. This is still a major problem for professing believers today, as many do not see the need to study and learn the history of the called out and set-apart people of Elohim, and as a result are falling for the same mistakes and being caught in the same traps as many of our forefathers were! Yisra’ĕl was now left with a people in their midst who would test them and try them; and the only way to pass and overcome these tests would be to seek out and know יהוה, the Elohim whom their fathers had served! Yisra’ĕl needed to once again learn how to do battle, and this generation had not known how to fight, as they had not fought for the land and never had to struggle as their fathers had done, but had rather grown to accept all the nations among whom they dwelt. There was no king in Yisra’ĕl and no organised army; as tribes were simply called upon to do battle if the need ever arose; and those who would assemble to fight would bring whatever farming implements they would have (as the Philistines had made sure that no weapons were made by the Yisra’ĕlites).
With no proper rulership, and no true submission to the Torah of יהוה, there was no true accountability, which also caused any unity to be very splintered at best, leaving each to his own devices. Parents had now become settled in their own ways, and neglected to teach their children the ways of יהוה; and as a result they neglected to teach their children the clear and present dangers and threats that the surrounding nations had on their lives. This neglect for the Truth led to Yisra’ĕl becoming unequally yoked, and as a result they were led astray into falling for false pagan worship practices, unable nor equipped in the Truth to fight and pass the tests.
This historical fact has certainly been repeated in many ways today, as there are so many who have forgotten the Elohim of Aḇraham, Yitsḥaq and Ya’aqoḇ, and have through ignorance and neglect bowed down to falsehood and vain traditions of man, as a result of the influence of the world and its selfish corrupt teachings of each one being able to live for himself and do as he pleases!
Those that were left to teach Yisra’ĕl how to battle were the 5 princes of the Philistines, the Kenaʽanites, the Tsiḏonians and the Ḥiwwites. What is very interesting for us to learn here is that when we see the meaning of these names we are able to understand the same battles we are to overcome, as we walk in and remain in Messiah. The 5 princes of the Philistines were Azzah, Ashqelon, Ashdod, Gath and Eqron:
1 – עַזָּה Azzah –Strong’s H5804 which is modern day ‘Gaza’ means, ‘the strong’
2 – אַשְׁקְלוֹן Ashqelon – Strong’s H831 means, ‘the fire of infamy, I shall be weighed’
3 – אַשְׁדּוֹד Ashdod – Strong’s H795 means, ‘powerful’,
4 – גַּת Gath – Strong’s H1661 means, ‘winepress’
5 – עֶקְרוֹן Eqron – Strong’s H6138 means, ‘emigration, torn up by the roots’
What we can see here in the meaning of these 5 princes is just how tough a test it would be for Yisra’ĕl, and how by these they would learn to do battle; and the same still applies metaphorically for us today as we see that:
The strong, through their fire of infamy (evil reputation), are a powerful winepress that can cause one to be torn up by the roots!
In Tsephanyah/Zephaniah 2 we are told how 4 of these would be destroyed, uprooted and laid waste, as this judgement upon these 4 areas, which occupy modern day west coast of Yisra’ĕl, would come swiftly upon them in the latter days.
Gath is the one that is not mentioned, as it is believed to have been destroyed by the time of Amos, as it is not mentioned any further in Scripture, after this time, except as a proverb in Miḵah/Micah 1:10a “Do not declare it in Gath…”
This land was Yisra’ĕl’s land and here we see how influential these nations who, by rights, were illegal immigrants and the power they had on a backsliding Yisra’ĕl, who did not know how to fight; and how powerful they would be in causing a called out and chosen people to forsake their Elohim and be joined to false worship! The word Philistines – פְּלִשְׁתִּים Pelishtim – from Strong’s H6430 means, ‘immigrants’; Kenaʽanites – כְּנַעֲנִי Kena’ani – Strong’s H3669 – and from its roots can mean, ‘zealous, lowlands people, brought down, defeated or made low’. צִידֹנִי Tsidoni – Strong’s H6722 means, ‘hunting’; and the Ḥiwwites – חִוִּי Ḥivvi – Strong’s H2340 – meaning “villagers” and were known as “the dwellers of the high place” whose capital was on Mt. Ba’al Hermon (Strong’s H1179, meaning “lord of destruction”).
What will keep us standing firm and one our toes, so to speak, is our recognition that we have an adversary, and we will face intense battles that we must learn to fight; as we realise that the immigrants/ foreigners to the covenants of promise will indeed be zealous in hunting us and bringing us down, causing us to conform to their ways of false worship that will lead to destruction!
These battles for our faith we will face every day, and we face them in order to equip us to battle and fight the Good Fight of the belief and pass the test with joy, as we grow in maturity in serving our Mighty Elohim with our all, without compromise!
Will you obey יהוה or not – this is always the question that we face in very situation and circumstance in our daily walk! Will you join yourself unequally with those who do not follow יהוה and be conformed to their ways under their strong and powerful influence that will seek only to uproot you from your true Hebraic Roots, or will you hold frim to guarding the truth with your all!!! To overcome we need to be meditating on the Torah day and night, allowing the Truth of the word of Elohim to transform and renew our minds, guarding us against the influence of the world and its lustful attractions:
Romiyim/Romans 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you prove what is that good and well-pleasing and perfect desire of Elohim.”
Verse 5 mentions those that dwelt in the midst of Yisra’ĕl – the very nations that they should have driven out, but were now left in order to try them in their obedience to יהוה
For more on these nations and the battles we are called to endure on a daily basis please see the Torah portion notes in Deḇarim/Deuteronomy 17. The purpose for tonight is to simply highlight to you that we walk daily on a very active battlefield and there are many things that we are to overcome as we submit to walking wholeheartedly in the Torah! Battles that include overcoming things such as pride, lusts of the flesh, lust of the eyes, depression, hopelessness, anxiety, low self-esteem, disobedience, compromise and rebellion, to name a few!
The inability to overcome these battles will result in falling away from walking in the Truth and following a false pattern of worship that is rooted in lies and false traditions – traditions and lies that many fall prey to because of a lack of knowledge in the truth and clear History we have been given through the Scriptures!
Ok so you have the picture, Yisra’ĕl had forsaken יהוה and were worshipping the Ba’als and Ashtoreths. Their lifestyles were evil in the eyes of יהוה; and their vain attempts at man-made worship was dysfunctional and abominable in the eyes of יהוה. יהוה then handed Yisra’ĕl over to the king of Aram Naharayim, Kushan-Rish‘athayim, and Yisra’ĕl served him for 8 years! כּוּשַׁן רִשְׁעָתַיִם Kushan Rish’athayim – Strong’s H3573 means, ‘twice wicked Kushan’ and כּוּשָׁן Kushan – Strong’s H3572 means, ‘their blackness, wickedness’. The land אֲרַם נַהֲרַיִם Aram Naharayim – Strong’s H763 means, ‘Aram of the two rivers’ and אֲרָם Aram – Strong’s H758 means, ‘exalted’. This area is better known as Mesopotamia and speaks of the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which is the modern day Iraq.
Yisra’ĕl had become dysfunctional and wicked in the eyes of Elohim, and so He handed then over to that which they deserved – the twice wicked darkness of Iraq!!
8 years of this oppressive rulership over Yisra’ĕl caused them to cry out for deliverance; and יהוה raised up a saviour for Yisra’ĕl – עָתְנִיאֵל Othni’ĕl – Strong’s H6274 which means, ‘lion of Ĕl, force of Ĕl’. Othni’ĕl was the nephew of Kalěḇ, and was the one who attacked and captured Qiryath Sĕpher and married Kalěḇ’s daughter. So here is a guy who grew up under a great uncle, a faithful uncle. Othni’ĕl was faithful in battle and now here he is raised up by יהוה to deliver Yisra’ĕl from the Arameans.
We know that Scripture tells us that if we are trustworthy in the little Elohim will make you ruler over much (Mattithyahu/Matthew 25:21), and here we see a trustworthy soldier who became the first judge of Yisra’ĕl. He came from a good family, and we can note that nothing negative is said about him – there was no immorality – he did not doubt – he lived a very straight and upright life – today that can seem like a very boring person to the world – but let me tell you יהוה can use the seemingly boring people!!!
Othni’ĕl simply did what he had to do, what he was asked to do and the key lesson we can learn from him is that he didn’t seek recognition or make a fanfare about what he had to do – he just went about his business and accomplished what יהוה wanted him to. When יהוה called Othni’ĕl was available and the Spirit of יהוה empowered him for battle.
You too have been called by יהוה and His Spirit has come upon you – this means that you can face any battle in the mighty strength of His Spirit as you walk in Messiah, Aměn!
As יהוה told Zerubbaḇel, so too does He tells us… Zeḵaryah/Zechariah 4:6 “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ said יהוה of hosts”.
It was true for Othni’ĕl, true for Giḏ’on, Yiphtaḥ and Shimshon; and it must be true for us today, as we are called to walk in the Spirit and worship our Father in Spirit and Truth, as we guard to do the Torah, which Sha’ul clearly reminds us is Spiritual!
Othni’ĕl prevailed over Kushan Rish’athayim, and the land of Yisra’ĕl had rest for 40 years – there was true peace and stability – brought in under the rulership of Othni’ĕl who was filled with the Spirit of יהוה. Here this first judge of Yisra’ĕl shadow pictures for us the powerful work of יהושע Messiah – as we see Othni’ĕl – this ‘lion/force of El’ being a prophetic shadow picture of the true Saviour of Yisra’ĕl – the Lion of the Tribe of Yehuḏah who had prevailed against darkness, for He is the Light that has come, and in Him we can find our rest!
Just as Othni’ĕl had all he needed to do what he was called to do, by the Mighty power of the Spirit of יהוה, so too do we have all we need in Messiah, to walk in uprightness, reverence and the ability to fight the good fight and overcome:
Kěpha Bět/2 Peter 1:2-3 “Favour and peace be increased to you in the knowledge of Elohim and of יהושע our Master, 3 as His Mighty-like power has given to us all we need for life and reverence, through the knowledge of Him who called us to esteem and uprightness.”
With the Spirit of יהוה on Othni’ĕl, the land had undisturbed rest for 40 years – that means that there was a proper order, as Torah observance would have been keep diligently under the rulership of Othni’ĕl – and then he died and Yisra’ĕl fell back to being a lawless people. יהוה then made the hand of Eḡlon, king of Mo’aḇ, strong against Yisra’ĕl and they served Eḡlon for 18 years! עֶגְלוֹן Eḡlon – Strong’s H5700 means, ‘calf-like’, and so Yisra’ĕl were once again given over to that which they desired, and in a metaphoric sense they fell back to a system of ‘calf-worship’ under the rulership of Eḡlon.
After 18 years Yisra’ĕl cried out for deliverance and יהוה raised up a saviour for Yisra’ĕl – and his name was אֵהוּד Ěhuḏ – Strong’s H164 which means, ‘I will give thanks, I will be praised, undivided, union’, and comes from the root word אֹהַד Ohaḏ – Strong’s H161 which means, ‘united’.
He was the son of גֵּרָא Gĕra– Strong’s H1617 which means, ‘a grain’, and comes from the root that can mean, ‘chew the cud’. What is interesting to take note of here is that the man raised up to save Yisra’ĕl, was from the tribe which means, ‘son of my right hand’; yet he was impeded in his right hand! He was a left handed man from the tribe of Binyamin, the least of all the tribes, and although the Binyamites were known for their ability to be ambidextrous, the Hebrew term here can also literally mean ‘handicapped in the right hand’; and so we can have a picture of a man who possibly did not have the use of his right arm, and this made one often an outcast. This is a great encouragement to all of us who may feel that we have some form of handicap or weakness, and therefore cannot be used by יהוה. Listen handicaps do not limit יהוה, aměn! It is in our weaknesses that His power is perfected:
Qorintiyim Bet/2 Corinthians 12:9 “And He said to me, “My favour is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, then, I shall rather boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Messiah rests on me.”
Ěhuḏ, is a picture of one who came from a good upbringing, and being the son of ‘a grain’, also shows us how יהוה can take the ‘least’ and use it for His esteem. With his father’s name coming from the root meaning to ‘chew the cud’ we also see a picture of one who was brought up meditating on the Truth, and despite his physical weaknesses, he was perfectly used by יהוה! When one enjoys the meaning of names in Scripture, we can see wonderful pictures and lessons that teach us to faithfully trust our loving Redeemer and Saviour! With Ěhuḏwe are able to see how through meditation of the Word that brings forth a grain/seed that results in praise, we are able to see how we too can gain victory over the battles we face each day as we meditate on His Word and allow the seed of His Word to stir us to be a praising people, and destroy the enemy through our rejoicing faith. When thinking of this picture of praise, we are easily reminded of how Mosheh lifted up his hands to יהוה, bringing forth victory on the battlefield for Yehoshua over Amalĕq.
Sha’ul told Titos that he resolved that men everywhere should pray, lifting up their set-apart hands, without wrath and disputing.
In the weakness of the ‘right hand’ of man, יהוה could show His power of His Right Hand through the life of Ěhuḏ, showing us that when we worship the Father in Spirit and Truth, we can defeat all forms of man-made calf-worship!
So here Ěhuḏ goes and with great strategy and confidence in יהוה is used by Elohim to take out Eḡlon the king of Moaḇ. He straps a double edged sword to his right thigh and eventually gets an audience alone with the king and stabs possibly the fattest guy in Scripture – right through, and the fat folds over the sword!!!
Here is a picture of seizing the opportunities that יהוה gives. The king probably would never have suspected that Ěhuḏ, who was handicapped, would kill him. This is also a clear picture of how we should always carry our weapon – the Sword of the Spirit – the very Word of יהוה, and always be ready to answer that call to deliver someone from enslavement to sin. So יהוה used Ěhuḏ, despite his appearance and handicap and Yisra’ĕl had peace for 80 years – this was the longest time of peace that the land of Yisra’ĕl had under any judge! יהוה can use you! We are His peacemakers, aměn!!!
80 years of peace and Yisra’ĕl backslide again!!! This time another saviour is raised up by יהוה, and while only one verse is given to this man in the records of Scripture – we see that one verse was all that is needed to display the power of יהוה through a faithful servant who saved an entire nation! He is mentioned in one other verse, and that is in Shophetim/Judges 5:6 when he is sung about in the song of deliverance that Deḇorah and Baraq sang.
שַׁמְגַּר Shamgar – Strong’s H8044 means, ‘sword’, and he was the son of עֲנָת Anath – Strong’s H6067 which means, ‘answer’; which in itself carries great insight for us as we consider this saviour of Yisra’ĕl! It is in the Sword of the Word that we shall be armed with the answers! He may only be mentioned twice in Scripture but his name is well worth being mentioned because he was used by יהוה and is another great example for us that יהוה uses the so called nobody’s, aměn!
Here we are clearly given a picture of how one can accomplish great victories with that which is in your hand. Shamgar killed 600 men with an ox goad, which is not a very big implement, and so would require great skill to attain such a victory over so many! It was literally a pointed stick that could be up to 8 feet long that often had a metal point that was used to prod the oxen to make them move. While it was not sharp enough to cut or harm an ox when prodding, it could easily pierce the human flesh, and had to be done so with precision!
The ox goad was a farmers tool that became a great weapon in the hand of a courageous man with conviction. Shamgar killed 600 Philistines with this ox goad, we are not sure if at one time or a number of times, but that doesn’t matter- the fact is he took what he had and was available to be used by יהוה to bring about deliverance for Yisra’ĕl.
Shamgar used what was in his hand, and that is what is asked of us still today! Our hand speaks of what we do, and we are to do all, whether in Word or deed, in the Name of יהושע Messiah; meaning that our hands must be equipped in the Word of Elohim, the Sword of the Spirit, always ready to give an answer for the belief we have:
Kěpha Aleph/1 Peter 3:15-16 “But set apart יהוה Elohim in your hearts, and always be ready to give an answer to everyone asking you a reason concerning the expectation that is in you, with meekness and fear, 16 having a good conscience, so that when they speak against you as doers of evil, those who falsely accuse your good behaviour in Messiah, shall be ashamed.”
Darkness has been defeated, calf worship has been destroyed, will you continue to take your stand in Messiah as you lift up the shield of faith with the Sword of the Spirit in your hand, ready to serve as a royal, set-apart and chosen priesthood?
How often we see so many who fail to make an effort because they mistakenly think that their contribution won’t matter!!! In Marqos/Mark 9:41 יהושע tells us that even a cup of cold water given in His name is significant – do you hear me this morning – even a cup of cold water – the very water that יהושע has given us!!! Too many times people want what seems to be the ‘best jobs’ and if they cannot do that well then they will just be a spectator, instead of asking where am I needed the most. Now assuming that the greatest single need is making disciples of all nations then we should be asking ourselves – where am I needed most – I will serve!!!
Othni’ĕl, Ěhuḏ and Shamgar had no special qualifications that we know about, except that יהוה looked to use someone and they were willing and available for יהוה to use. Many times when יהוה raises a person for a job, natural talents are the least important qualification. It is a matter of faith – is the person willing to be used, and is the person truly available or is he or she tied down by too many ‘lesser’ things?
Othni’ĕl served without seeking recognition, Ěhuḏ served in spite of real or perceived weaknesses and Shamgar served in spite of limitations. יהוה can use you. יהוה knows what you are doing and it doesn’t really matter if a lot is known about you or a little. יהוה knows all about you and He is the One who will reward you – your labour is not in vain!
Qorintiyim Aleph/1 Corinthians 15:58 “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Master, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Master.”
What we can learn from these 3 judges is that challenges change and enemies may go by different names – Othni’ĕl manhandled the Ashshurians, Ěhuḏ exterminated the Mo’aḇites and Shamgar slaughtered the Philistines. You and I face many battles, and the challenges we face may go by different names, but יהוה can and will bring us the victory and will use us if we are willing and available.
We need to learn to do what we can with what we have and let יהוה do the rest – we may be a small assembly, growing very slowly and not many tools to work with but we can do great things if we just all stand up in unity and allow יהוה to use us to reach many who are in some pretty deep battles, aměn – יהוה can use us!!! יהוה can use you – each and every one of you – and we together are His Hěḵal, amen – living stones – each one has a place and part for יהוה to use.
Where are you at today in serving יהוה wholeheartedly? Has your ‘limitation’s’ stopped you from serving, has your lack of ‘tools’ caused you to be ineffective in winning the lost from the battles for their souls?
Do you often think and wonder why would יהוה want to use you when there are so many other more talented and gifted people out there? Let me tell you today that יהוה can use you – and all it takes is a faithful, willing and available heart – for that in יהוה’s hands is a mighty weapon!!!
Be encouraged that we have One Judge and Ruler over all – יהושע Messiah, now in Him let us be:
FERVENTLY FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT AND PASSING THE TESTS WITH JOY!
יהוה bless you and guard you; יהוה make His face shine upon you and show you favour; יהוה lift up His face to you and give you Shalom!