Lesson Four: Courageously Act for Justice - Judges 3:7-31
Light for Today
“Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
Amos 5:24 (NASB)
If you watch the news very often, you may feel that there is little justice in our court system. There are the reports of all those whose innocence has been proven by DNA samples after they have spent dozens of years or more in prison for crimes of which they are innocent. On the other side of injustice are those who get off on technicalities and seemingly naïve juries.
Our God is just; his character demands justice. We can know that a day will eventually come when the wrongs of our all too human systems will be made right because God doesn’t make mistakes and cannot be fooled.
The book of Judges can be divided into three parts: the introduction (Judges 1:1-3:6), stories of the judges (Judges 3:7-16:31), and stories of moral decay (Judges 17:1-21: 25). We have studied the overall cycle of sin that continued throughout the period of the Judges. This week we begin reading about the judges themselves. As we continue looking at this second section in the coming weeks, notice that overall the cycles get worse and worse; the people grow more ungodly and sinful, and so do the judges. The darkness grows as the people fail to see clearly through it.
Day One Study
Read Judges 3:7-11.
Here we learn about the first judge, Othniel, considered to be the ideal judge.7
1. What was Israel’s sin and how did God react to it (Jud. 3:7-8)?
2. What precipitated God’s deliverance (Jud. 3:9)?
3. What do you learn about Othniel from Judges 1:10-15, a review?
There is some debate about the exact relationship between Othniel and Caleb. Many scholars believe that Othniel is Caleb’s nephew.
More Light: Read about Caleb in Numbers 13-14. Consider his character and what you can learn from him.
4. Describe Othniel’s character from what you read in Jud. 1 and here in Jud. 3. Why do you think Othniel is called “the ideal judge” by some scholars?
5. Responding to God: Focus on one characteristic of Othniel that you would like to exhibit. Ask God for the grace and power to be that kind of person. What is one thing you can do this week to exhibit that quality? Write down your thoughts.
Day Two Study
Read Judges 3:12-30.
6. Here the cycle began again. Pick out each part of the cycle from these verses and write down what happened at that part of the cycle and fill in the verse number. (Feel free to refer back to Day 3 on p.37 of last week’s lesson.)
7. Who was Eglon, and how long did the Israelites live under his rule?
8. What do you learn about Ehud from Judges 3:15-30?
9. Summarize the story of Ehud’s deliverance of Israel from the oppression of Eglon. You might want to tell it as a news story, complete with a headline!
More Light: Read more about this story in a Bible encyclopedia or commentary to gain more background to it.
10. Sharing question: From what oppressor has God delivered you? Perhaps it was a person, a circumstance, an injustice, or a sin. Share a short summary of how he delivered you.
11. Responding to God: Write a prayer or poem celebrating God’s deliverance in your life.
Day Three Study
In Judges 3:12-30 we saw that there was a period of oppression for the Israelites as a result of their idolatry. We also learned that the people of Israel lived under tyranny over and over in this period. Although it was of their own making, God still sent someone to deliver them. Sometimes innocent people deal with cruelty; it is not always a consequence of the person’s own sin or disobedience.
12. Name some situations in which innocent people are oppressed today.
13. Sharing question: Have you ever lived in a situation where you felt oppressed? If so, describe your feelings. (This may or may not be the same situation of deliverance that you described yesterday.) If you have not been in that situation, write down how you imagine someone might feel in such circumstances.
14. What three things does God require of us according to Micah 6:8?
More Light: Use a concordance to find other verses about justice.
15. Sharing question: Where in your life do you have an opportunity to act justly or to bring justice to a bad situation? Perhaps in your work situation, in your family, or in your neighborhood.
16. Sharing question: Describe a time in your own life when someone stood up for you when you faced injustice, or when you stood for justice against the crowd or those in power. If you cannot think of such a time, can you think of a situation where you could have done this but didn’t because of fear? Relate the story.
Although God hasn’t called us as believers to bring justice by assassination as Ehud did, he does expect us to courageously act to right wrongs as we can.
17. Responding to God: Ask God for the grace and courage to stand up when someone is being mistreated or dealt an injustice.
Day Four Study
Earlier this week we saw Ehud bring justice to a tyrannical ruler. We have since discussed the need to act courageously to bring fairness to situations where we have opportunity. The more difficult the situation the more courage is needed to stand against injustice. The church has not always led the way in these areas. As evangelicals we should speak out against inequality and injustice wherever we find it—on the job, in the church, in the nation, or in homes. We need to be careful that we show no bias as we deal with others.
Read James 2:1-9, where James deals with injustice right in the church! Can you imagine such a thing?
18. In what way did James see injustice in the early church? What were his arguments that such actions were wrong?
More Light: What other Bible stories involving injustice come to mind? Look up at least one other story, reading it from that perspective.
19. Sharing question: Have you seen instances of injustice in your own circles? Even in the church? Share any past situations without naming names. If there is any injustice happening now around you, do not give specifics but ask your group to pray for the courage and wisdom to speak to the person responsible.
Seeing clearly through the darkness means standing for justice and acting justly ourselves. Just as the judges delivered God’s people from the oppression of foreign kings when the people cried out to God, so we also can be part of God’s work in the lives of others.
20. Review your week’s memory verse, Amos 5:24 (hope you’re memorizing it!), and paraphrase it in your own words.
21. Responding to God: Ask God to show you if you have been unjust to others in any way. If he shows you anything, confess it to God and to the other person. Know that God expects you to confess your sins to the person you have wronged as well as to him.
Day Five Study
We have one last judge to study this week.
Read Judges 3:31.
22. Write down everything you learn about Shamgar. Not much, is it?
“An oxgoad was a long stick with a small flat piece of iron on one side and a sharp point on the other. The sharp side was used to drive the oxen during times of plowing, and the flat end was used to clean the mud off the plow.”8
23. Contrast Shamgar’s deliverance with that brought by Othniel and Ehud. (Don’t discuss their character qualities but their methods.)
24. As you personally consider these three judges, would you consider Othniel the most ideal of the group? Why or why not?
I had a friend at seminary whose huge Labrador dog was named Shamgar. He was a great dog and used to sit outside the cafeteria waiting for her return. Somehow his disposition didn’t quite match the biblical Shamgar, in my mind, but the judge Shamgar must have been a large, strong man.
25. What elements of the cycle of sin do you see in this account of Shamgar? Who was the enemy?
This week we have seen three judges who courageously stepped up to deliver their people from the oppression of others.
More Light: Read about Jesus’ courageously taking abuse and injustice so that we could be delivered from the penalty of our own sins of injustice.
26. Sharing question: How does it give you hope and reassurance that God is a God of justice, especially as you look around at a world of darkness where there are injustices, where terrorists go free and innocent people are wronged?
27. Responding to God: Write a prayer or poem about God’s justice.
In the early 90’s I was a brand new Christian and so excited and passionate about my new found faith in Jesus Christ. I was employed as a supervisor to six customer service representatives for a manufacturer. I wore my faith on my sleeve but was never pushy about it to anyone. A few of my employees loved me to bring in a “Daily Bread” devotional for them. I always offered one to everyone, and they always accepted it. It was also common for them to share personal struggles with me, and I always shared how I got through my own: by going to church and having a relationship with Christ.
One woman and her family accepted an invitation to come to church with us one Sunday. She and her husband expressed how much it meant, and they both even cried during the service. Not long after this, she started to lie to me and call in sick, and sometimes just not show up for work. She had been turned down for a promotion, and then she and her family decided to move. She would not tell me when her last day was. After I had left one day, she cleared out her desk and never returned. She also wrote a letter to our Human Resource Director and told her I had religiously harassed her. The management came to me with this information, and I was devastated. I explained to them the events prior to all of this and they stood behind me 100%.
Soon after all of this, a second employee, who was a friend of the first person, quit and accused me of the same thing. I saw the Human Resource Director calling all of my staff into her office one by one, and the next thing I knew, I was confronted for passing out unsolicited religious material. I have to tell you that before I got the supervisor position I worked alongside these women, on the same level. The management still wanted to support me, but they needed to protect themselves from any major lawsuits. They offered both women their jobs back. They demoted me from my position but never allowed the employees to know.
God protected me in an incredible way. I was ready to quit after the second go-round. God had a great plan in mind. I was offered a part-time position in the department. This had never happened before. It was just what I was looking for because I wanted to be home with my daughter more. So when I took the part-time position no one ever knew that I had been demoted. My manager came to me and said she was really impressed by my strength and grace through this whole thing, that my God must be some God. I gave every bit of credit to the Lord.
On top of everything else one of the women accepted her job back, and I had to train her in a new area. It was only by God’s grace that I could work with her and not have any feelings of animosity. The feelings of compassion were greater. Once she was trained she failed miserably at the position and was let go.
I learned just how personal our God is and how he truly cares about me. I know that my faith was increased through these events and other lives were touched in the process. The next person I interviewed leaned across the desk during the interview and said; “I heard that you are a Christian, I am too!”
Isn’t God so good? He is so faithful to carry us through when we profess him as our Lord.
A Mother’s Application
When children go to school they are often confronted with situations of injustice, some accidental and some deliberate. They may involve unfair or mean treatment between other children. Expecting such behavior, encourage and pray for your children to develop hearts of justice and the courage to speak up for the mistreated when appropriate.
Injustice may come from the school or the teacher. In such cases you may need to be the one to speak up for what is right. Always choose your situations wisely, after lots of prayer. Investigate the truth before you act because your children, just like all of us, have biased perspectives on these things. Don’t go in angry, but pray for wisdom and guidance in all that you say and do. Only speak up if God leads you to do so; sometimes it takes living with injustice for our children to appreciate justice. If they can love those who mistreat them, they become witnesses of the grace of God.
Some of the difficult situations of justice may be those between your children. Whatever judgment you made, one of them will find it unjust. Pray that God will give you wisdom and discernment, and do your best to be fair and impartial. Remember that children are sinners, just like we are, and we must act for what is right in order to teach them justice.
Once my son came home from a fifth-grade camp and told me the story of terrible mistreatment he had received from some other boys. I went to the principal who investigated his story. Sure enough there was a problem, and she discussed it with the other boys. However, she also learned that my son was partially responsible, which, of course, he had denied. I am so glad that I didn’t go in with a chip on my shoulder determined to rectify and punish the wrongdoers. Instead, I went with an open mind trying to learn what had actually happened.
Ask God for wisdom and discernment in dealing with justice in regard to your children.
7 Terry Muck, 36.
8 Note in Life Application Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2000), 387.