SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 2 May 2021
Sermon Text: Judges 10:1-5
Sermon Series: “Judges” (#14)
I. A peaceful day in Israel
II. Faith in a quiet day before a stormy night
III. Would a storm find Christians prepared?
Tola and Jair are not well-known judges because the Bible doesn’t tell us much about these men. We don’t have much information about them, so it makes us less interested in them. But, I reminded you of the fact that when God recorded something in His holy Book, He included it because it was necessary for our salvation, and for sanctification. Therefore, the Lord’s message for us through these men, Tola and Jair, is important for us to hear and take to our hearts, then, live it out in our daily life.
The message this rather a brief introduction to two less-known judges of Israel conveys is on ‘faith.’ I mean, this story urges us to seek and have a faith that is solid and unshakable. Especially when everything in our life seems quiet and peaceful, we ought to seek the Lord more and cling to His grace more. This is God’s message for us to hear from these five- verse-long story of two judges.
In this sense, I title today’s message as ‘faith in a quiet day before a stormy night.’ And let’s follow the Holy Spirit as He discloses this story and teaches us His lesson on faith.
I. A PEACEFUL DAY IN ISRAEL
When these judges ruled Israel, it was a time of peace. This is emphasised with the first two words in v. 1, that is, “After Abimelech.” It gives us a clear contrast to the chaotic and troubled time caused by Abimelech, a wicked son of Gideon, which was over with the death of Abimelech and Israel has now entered a new era of peace.
If you remember Abimelech and what he did in chs. 8 and 9, from last week’s message, you’d be able to grasp how significant this expression would’ve been to the Jews of Jdg. 10. While Abimelech was self-promoted king of Israel, it was a chaos, a dark stormy night of strife and hatred among brothers. But, now the first verse of ch. 10 declares that, that era is gone and a new one has arrived.
And this new era is a time of peace and tranquillity, a time described as ‘God raised a judge to rule over Israel and they enjoyed peace.’ There’s no mentioning of internal strife nor any invasion by any of Israel’s enemies. All we hear from this section is the people of Israel continued in their daily business over a period of forty-five years – 23 under Tola and 22 with Jair.
This is an unusual period in Israel’s history, especially in the time of the judges. Never had any judge of Israel been raised without facing a war against an Israel’s fierce enemy but peacefully succeeded his predecessor. Having no sign of any internal power struggle or rivalry, we read about 30 sons of a judge rode on 30 donkeys. This picture of sons of a judge riding on donkeys points to us that it was definitely a time of trouble-free all around. Before and after Tola and Jair, there have always been troubles and challenges and agonies and wars in Israel. So, this five-verse-long section seems like the eye of a cyclone where there’s no wind, no destruction, but a clear and peaceful sky. Tola and Jair led Israel and the people of the land looked on their leader’s sons coming and going peacefully.
II. FAITH IN A QUIET DAY BEFORE A STORMY NIGHT
Having said, I have a question to ask: ‘Why did God grant Israel such a peaceful time?’ There must be a reason for granting them a long, peaceful years, in the midst of the age of the judges which was a time of confusion, chaos and great distress and, overall, a time that was far from such quality as peace or tranquillity. More importantly, why does God tell us about this time of peace Israel enjoyed?
The reason I see is this, that God wants us to think about peace that is with us and we enjoy. More specifically, to think about our faith when all seem peaceful and tranquil and trouble-free in our life as well as in the life of the church we belong to. God’s message with this peaceful time in Israel’s history is that you and I should have a spiritual eye through which we may discern the relationship of our faith and a time of peace.
What I mean is that, in case Israel, in another word, the OT church, in the time of Tola and Jair had been serious about their faith in the Lord God Almighty; and deepened their trust in Him, the following chapters of Judges could’ve been much different from what we read.
I mean, the chapters after Tola and Jair could’ve been filled with blessings of God upon Israel, rather than a repetition of Israel’s distresses and despairs and cries to God for help. If Tola and Jair had led Israel to believe in God wholly, and to follow the Lord through renewing their faith and covenant with Him, and deepening their relationship with their Heavenly Father, God’s peace might’ve remained over Israel much longer.
What it means to us, to you and to me, is that when all is well and peaceful for us, that is the time we examine our faith and deepen our trust in the Lord, committing our life to Him alone. Enjoying our God-given peaceful time is great – our gracious God wants us to enjoy it. But that’s not the main focus of our hearts; there’s more important matter – that is, we ought to come closer to the Lord.
This is because being too satisfied with the sweetness of peaceful life more often than not mislead us to forget God and His grace. Forgetting God, we turn our eyes away from God onto all sundries of the world; forgetting God, our thanks to God for His grace gradually disappears from our heart and lips and we increasingly grab hold of the things of this world.
Consider the pattern we find from this Book of Judges. The people of Israel enjoy God’s peace over a period, like 40 years with Othniel, the first judge, then, 80 years with Ehud, the second, and so on. Then, they forget God and sin against Him. Then, God’s punishment comes upon Israel and Israel’s enemies overpower them and suppress them. Then, the people cry to God for help. And sadly, when God restores peace over them, they repeat the pattern again and each generation does it until the very last chapter and verse of this book of Judges.
The message they should’ve learned is the message we ought to learn. We all should discern the relationship of our faith and our time of peace. Then, we must look to God alone when all seem quiet and peaceful; we must deepen our commitment to the Lord Jesus alone in a time of tranquillity.
In a time of war and great trouble, there’s no need to emphasise faith in God because all people, even unbelievers, would seek Him. When peace covers the land and people indulge in it, a very few seek the Lord, not many vows to Jesus, bringing their contrite heart as their living sacrifice to Him in worship. Yet, a time of peace is the very moment every Christian should examine one’s own faith and dependence on the Lord and His grace, and turn away from each one’s spiritual idleness and indifference to God and His Church.
III. WOULD A STROM FIND CHRISTIANS PREPARED?
When I say a peaceful time, I mean not just an individual’s smooth and nonviolent life in social and economic terms, but also a time of no internal or external troubles for Christ’s church, such as doctrinal controversy or heresy or persecution. That is a peaceful time Israel had under their judges, Tola and Jair.
And such is exactly the time we as a congregation are in. Our church experiences a relatively peaceful time compared to the time of liberal Christianity in the 19th and the 20th centuries. That great heresy of liberalism or liberal theology which darkened the last century has faded away quite significantly by now, and we’ve moved into a time similar to that of Tola and Jair.
In addition, a great persecution of churches and Christians carried out by Communism of the last century has almost gone. Wars are still taking place in the world, but they’re rather sporadic and local than global. Although we experience economic downturns from time to time, people’s lifestyle has been improved greatly compared to those of the past centuries. Although people suffer from the present virus pandemic, we’re, with vaccines and advanced medical technology, in a far better position than the previous generations of the time of past pandemics, for example, the flu pandemic in 1968 and the Spanish Flu in 1918-19. In a word, everything seems to be much better, much peaceful now than before.
But, everyone knows that a stormy night could come, like the day of the arrival of the COVID-19 virus in our city. A storm that might be worse than all storms passed before could be here. A time of dark spiritual night could meet us all. Everyone – Christians and non-Christians – knows this.
This means that we Christians have a common question in our hearts. That is, ‘Would that storm find us, Christians, and our church prepared?’ Would our church, our sister churches in this city and nation be ready for such a stormy day? When a persecution or banning of proclaiming the name of Christ or altering Christian faith into a different religion arrives, would this church find herself ready and prepared? Would you and I be prepared for such a storm?
The only answer to this question is that, unless a church is trained and equipped with the very Word of God, upholding and practising God’s Word as her supreme standard of faith and life, a storm would surely empty that church and there would be no more peace in her.
The same is true for individual believers – unless he/she is equipped and trained with the very Word of God and unless they uphold and live by God’s Word, regarding it as their supreme standard of faith and life, such a storm would surely drag individual Christians into a painful trial and suffering, although God will never forsake His own children but train them through troubles.
Let me remind you of a perfect example of Christians who faced a great storm but unharmed by it – in fact, that storm could not shake them or move them an inch! – and they are Peter and John and other apostles recorded in Acts 4. Jesus trained them with His word and the Holy Spirit equipped them with the very word of the Lord. When a severe storm of Jewish authority’s persecution fell upon them, they stood firm and they continued in proclaiming Jesus’ lordship and kingship, declaring that through Him alone is the salvation of sinners.
Do you think you and this church you belong to would be able to stand firm in a stormy day? A stormy day is not just a day of great persecution, but also a difficult and unbearable situation in one’s life – like, for example, an illness or accident or any other difficulty one may face. Do you think your faith would be strong enough to face a stormy day? Would a storm, whatever that might be, find you and Christ’s church here at the Scot’s prepared?
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us consider our growth in faith serious and vital for our life. Learning to trust God is so urgent especially when you think your life is quiet and peaceful. Training with God’s word and living in the commands of the Lord Jesus is vital when our church faces no heresy, no doctrinal controversy from within, no persecution from without. The term the Apostle Paul uses in 2 Tim. 4:5 to describe this readiness in faith is being ‘sober- minded,’ instead of being drunken with the world’s wine of a peaceful time.
And our training in faith to stand firm in a stormy night begins from reading God’s word and meditating on and studying it, then, gathering together to worship our Lord according to His very word, and encouraging each other to do more, seeking the Lord’s face and grace. ***