June at Zion always brings up thoughts of Camp Minneboji. Many of our members have great memories of camp! For the last 5 years, I have had the opportunity of being one of the Bible Study teachers at Camp. This year, we are working with the book of Judges under the Camp theme “Delivered.”
I admit it’s been awhile since I spent much time in the wonderful book of Judges. My prayer is that this short article will be an invitation for you to crack open this book of God’s deliverance and take a look. For camp this year, we’ll be focusing on 5 of the Judges. Ehud, Deborah/Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, and of course, Samson. It’s interesting that each of the narratives fit an ABCD pattern, and this pattern is so descriptive of our own lives as well.
A – Apostasy. First, God’s people do evil in the sight of the Lord, forgetting the God who gave them the Promised Land, and even worshiping false Gods. Sound familiar? So much of our own sin is just the same. Unless it is convenient for us, we also tend to forget the God who made us and saved us. We get ourselves distracted by the so-called “gods” of this world, whether it is money, entertainment, work, pleasure, or whatever.
B – Battered. For Israel in Judges, and really for all of us, such behavior leaves us in either Pride or Despair. Pride comes when we think everything is going great, and maybe we don’t need the true God anymore! Maybe we can just consider the God of the Bible to be yet another childish fairy-tale. But then real life comes crashing down on us again, and we despair of ourselves and our way of life. We start asking questions like: Why doesn’t anything go right for us? Why is life so hard? Doesn’t God care? Doesn’t He love me? Or worse yet, we turn away from both God and life entirely. I think this is part of the story that has caused the dramatic increase in addiction and suicide rates in our culture.
C – Confession. In Judges, we see God’s people again and again give up on themselves after being battered by real life, and confess their false beliefs and their sin to God. Although the book is called “Judges,” the thing they cry out for is not a “judge” but a “deliverer.” Someone to rescue them from the mess they have made of their lives.
D – Deliverer. Again and again in Judges, God sends them a deliverer, but it is seldom who they might want. Ehud is “left handed,” maybe because his right hand is disabled and so wouldn’t make a good soldier. Deborah is a woman. Gideon is the poorest member of the weakest clan of a lower Israelite tribe. Jephthah is a son of a prostitute who was cast out of his home by his half-brothers who then formed a band of outlaws and became something like a crime boss, or maybe more like a pirate. And Samson, maybe the most famous judge, was impulsive and driven by his hormones, a bit of a gambler, and a womanizer who insists on bringing a foreign (and much more importantly) a pagan woman into the household to be his wife.
Even though, to be clear, we’ll use PG versions of these Champions of God at camp, none of these are who we might expect to deliver God’s people! And yet, every one of them is an answer to prayer. And every one of them points to Jesus.
Because God delivers His people from sin death and the devil not through shows of strength, nor through displays of force, nor with wisdom that would stop the arguments from modern science, nor with miracles that would convert the most devout Jew. God delivers through weakness. In suffering, He takes our suffering. In death He destroys our death. In the mouths of sinful pastors, He speaks His Word to you. In the water of Baptism, He gives us new birth. In bread and wine, He gives us His own life.
The methods of God’s deliverance of His Church are almost as surprising as the deliverers He used in the Israel’s history so long ago.