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THE JUDGES OF THE BIBLE


“You’re the average of the five people spend the most time with.”

“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future” derivative.”


Those are two popular quotes that probably don’t even touch the surface of how impactful the people around us are in our thoughts and actions.


Studies show that friends and teammates can shape our decisions, behaviors, and even emotions. Surrounding yourself with positive, supportive, and motivated people can lead to better habits, improved mental health, and increased happiness.


You can’t always pick your teammates, but you can pick who you connect with and spend the most time with. I once heard a story that Michael Jordan would shoot with the best shooters and run with the fastest runners because they would push him and make him better.


In a speech to his team, New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh says on each team, you have four different types of competitors: survivors, contenders, competitors, and commanders.


Survivors are at the bottom, they coast through the day and do just enough to get by, and they love taking the easy way out. The worst part about survivors is they try to bring as many people down with them. Stay away from survivors. Contenders are motivated by external factors like playing time, money, fame, or the person they are going against, and they will only reach their potential if their external motivators are threatened. Competitors are people who are internally motivated to be their best regardless of their situation. Money and fame don’t matter, they have a championship mindset, and they want to do and be their best every single day. The final one is the commander. The commander has all the traits of a competitor, with one exception - they bring people with them. 


Be a competitor and commander, and be careful around survivors and contenders.


Throughout the Bible, you can see examples of all 4 types of people.


Just before his death, Joshua told the Israelites the story about how our ancestors were worshipping other gods when God took Abraham, a commander, from the sin that was taking place, promised to bless him so he could be a blessing to others, and gave him many descendants so that they would know that God is real and the only God we should worship.


When the Israelites were taken as slaves by the Egyptians, God chose two more commanders, Moses and Aaron, to free them and lead them to the Promised Land. Because of their faith in God, God helped the Israelites defeat the Egyptian military, cross over the Red Sea, travel through the wilderness, and into the Promised Land.


When they got to the Promised Land, God told them to drive out the Canaanites who lived there because they worshipped demonic gods and even sacrificed children to their Canaanite gods. God needed the Israelites to cleanse the land of evil practices and push back the dark, spiritual practices and powers that had overtaken the Canaanite people.


If they didn’t do so and just chose to live among the Canaanites, they might take on some of those same bad practices; something that eventually happened.


The Israelites did drive out most of the Canaanites, but not all of them. Judges 1 talks about how the Israelites took over the land but how the different Israel tribes lived with different Canaanite tribes, and this made God mad. Joshua didn’t live much longer, but the people he led and the next generation of Israelites did what he taught them to do - to serve the Lord our God by being faithful and obedient to him.


Eventually, the Israelites forgot about God, stopped serving him, and started worshipping the gods of the Canaanites, and that is when the wrath of God’s anger came over them, and God allowed the Canaanites to overtake them and enslave them. 


When we don’t obey God and make good, wise choices, bad things are bound to happen. 


Each time the Israelites got into trouble, God would hear their cries and choose a judge, a military leader, to save them, but when the judge died, they fell back under the peer pressure around them, started worshipping other gods, and again felt the anger of our one, true God.


This cycle and the overall story of the era of the Judges taught me 4 things:


1 - Peer pressure can cause the downfall of an entire nation. We have to be careful who we spend our time with.

2 - God puts people in our lives for a reason. If we can surround ourselves with the right people, we can make choices that our future selves will thank us for, but if we align ourselves with the wrong people, they can corrupt our thoughts and lead us down a path we don’t want to go.

3 - If we are chosen or called by God to help people, we might be afraid, but He will give us the strength, courage, and ability to do what He is asking us to do.

4 - If we stop listening to God and obeying Him, He might take away that blessing.


There were 12 Judges in all, but here I am going to briefly talk about 3 of them and my biggest takeaway from each one.


OTHNIEL | GOD HEARS OUR CRIES

The first judge was Othniel. Othniel was the nephew of Caleb, a strong, brave leader who helped Moses, Aaron, and Joshua lead the Israelites to the Promised Land. My biggest takeaway from Othniel’s leadership was that God hears our cries and puts people in our lives for a reason and when we need them the most. In Judges 3:10, it says the Spirit of the Lord came on Othniel so that he became Israel’s judge and he went to war. Under his leadership and by the guidance, grace, and power of the Spirit of the Lord, the Israelites defeated their enemies and lived in peace for 40 years.


GIDEON | GOD GIVES US STRENGTH


Gideon is one of the most popular Judges from this era. He was the youngest of a poor family from the tribe of Manasseh. When God first approached Gideon and told him, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior,” Gideon said back, “But if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”


These are common thoughts that many of us have when bad things happen to us. If God has all the power in the world, why would He let bad things happen? None of us know why bad things happen in our lives, but blaming God is never the answer.


When God said back to Gideon, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand,” Gideon replied, “But how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the weakest in my family.” God answered him by saying, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”


How many of us feel like we aren’t enough like Gideon did? Imposter syndrome is when you believe you don’t deserve the success, achievements, or positions you have earned. If not checked, imposter syndrome can keep us from doing the things we are capable of doing and living the lives we want to live.


Gideon and God showed us we don’t have to be the biggest, strongest, or smartest in the room. If we have faith in God and obey Him, God will always take care of us and give us the strength and vision we need to be successful, and that is what God did for Gideon.


SAMSON | THE POWER OF THE STRENGTH OF GOD


Samson is arguably the most popular Israelite judge. He was a legendary warrior and inspired leader who was known for his great strength. Before he was born, an angel visited Samson’s mother and told her that he was going to be a lifelong Nazirite, a person who was dedicated to the special service of God, usually through a vow of abstinence from alcohol, from shaving or cutting his hair, and from contact with a dead body.


Judges 13:25 says the Spirit of the Lord came to Samson early in his life, giving him superhuman powers by God to use against his enemies and allowing him to perform superhuman feats like slaying a lion with his bare hands and massacring a Philistine army with a donkey’s jawbone (Judges 15). Samson’s downfall was the people he surrounded himself with. Samson’s power came from his hair. Samson showed his obedience to God in part by not ever cutting his hair, and when he told his lover Delilah the cutting of his hair would violate his Nazirite vow and he would lose his strength and ability, she used this against him, causing his downfall.


Delilah was sent by Philistine officials to entice him and ordered a servant to cut his hair while he was sleeping, allowing the Philistines to capture him, gouge out his eyes, and put him in prison. Samsung’s hair eventually grew back, and when he prayed to God and miraculously got his strength back, he was able to bring down the columns of the temple he was tied to, collapsing and destroying the temple and killing himself, the Philistine rulers, and all the people in it. In Judges 16:30, it says, “He killed many more when he died than while he lived.”


My takeaway from Samson is that through God, we have more strength than we could ever imagine, but we are supposed to trust and obey Him. Some people help us trust and obey God, and others keep us from doing so.


God wants us to live a happy, hopeful, blessed life, but we have to listen to Him, obey Him, and do the right things over and over again. Much of that comes down to making sure we have the right people around us.


A major theme of the Bible is the rise, fall, and rise again of God’s people. They rise when they are connected to God, when they pray and listen to Him, and when they obey Him and make good choices. One of the most important choices we can make is the people we keep in our lives.


SOMETHING(s) TO THINK ABOUT


1 - Who are the most impactful people in your life? Do they help you come closer to God? Do they help you make good choices?


2 - What would people say about you? Would people say you are a positive influence or a negative influence?


3 - What is something you can do today or this week to show that you are a positive influence on the people around you?


4 - How can you protect yourself against negative influences? Sometimes, negative influences are our closest friends and families, so cutting them off might not be a realistic option. How can you manage those relationships so that you find and stay on the right path?


For a printable PDF of this devotional, click here: The Judges of the Bible

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