We enter the phase in Judges where we get to hear the names and some of the stories of the men and women God raised up. Today Othniel is within our sights.
As we begin tracing the time of the judges we start with shortly after the death of Joshua and all the elders who were with him. Israel has begun worshiping other gods. We saw that in our overview introduction in the first two chapters of this book.
God was NOT going to sit idly by as the people He loved did this. He sent them ‘reminders’ of who He was and the power He wielded. Instead of helping them conquer their enemies He let their enemies conquer them. God gave them over in more than just battles. He let the enemies rule over them and oppress them. I don’t know if this was widespread or localized but it lasted eight years. “The people of Israel served the Cushan-rishathaim eight years” (verse 8b).
It was NOT a pleasant eight years. We are not told the specifics of what they endured but it was enough to get them to cry out to the Lord. That was EXACTLY what God was waiting for. He didn’t hesitate once they turned back to Him. He sent them another deliverer.
“The Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. The Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he judged Israel” (verses9b-10a). God used him to free Israel from their bondage and kill the king of Mesopotamia. In other words, he got rid of their oppressor.
We are not told how long Othniel lived after this deliverance but the people had rest from war for forty years. Being God calls him a judge I would assume that he served in that capacity during those years. The people listened to and followed the Lord during those years too. I’m not naïve enough to think that they turned completely away from the other gods but I suspect it faded into the background.
I find it interesting that the time they followed the Lord was the same length of time that they had wandered in the desert. This seems to be the length of a generation. Their children did as they did to their parents; they left the Lord. Would each generation have to go through a “wake-up” call? Why does it seem that following the false gods continued so easily while trusting in and living for the True Living God didn’t pass from generation to generation as seamlessly?
We were told earlier that at the end of each judge’s life Israel went right back to idol worship and were worse than they were the last time. I wonder what drove this. I also wonder if when they returned if that was stronger each time.
I’m reminded of “crack down time” with my kids. I was a single parent most of my children’s lives. Between military deployments, job location issues and abandonment I functioned as my children’s only parent. I have four children with the top three having 20 months in between them and the last one arriving one day less than three years later. My third child also had an anger management issue.
As with any group of children they had their conflicts with each other as well as regular discipline issues. Don’t get me wrong, my children were good children and fairly well behaved but they had times where their behavior reached a point of serious intervention. We called those times “crack down time.” We always talked about it BEFORE it was implemented and discussed why it was needed. During those times they lost second chances. I would tell them once to do something or stop doing something. If they didn’t they were disciplined. Crack down time never failed to bring about the desired result of acceptable behavior again. After maintaining acceptable behavior for a time I would once again loosen the ‘reins’ for them. As they aged it became longer and longer between the need for “crack down time” as they kept the lessons they had learned.
All my children have grown into very responsible adults. They have also instilled discipline into their children in appropriate measures. My only desire is for their relationship with the Lord to grow. They all grew up knowing God but have wandered away. Maybe God will bring a “crack down time” for them. He certainly did with Israel.
Father God, thank You that You don’t leave me to fend for myself and figure it out on my own. You correct me when I need it. You call sweetly to me when I’m contemplating doing something I shouldn’t. You only discipline me because You love me. Also because I’m YOUR child. As hard as it can be to walk through, I appreciate it. I know it is for my good and strengthens me.