Judges 1:1-18 (Part 1 of 3)
Judah and Simeon Conquer the Land

When you think back on American history, who are the leaders that you think of? George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan just to name a few. These are men who either guided us through times of crisis and/or who dared us to reclaim the greatness that once was our nation. Where have all the good men gone? There are men that are born for special times who have galvanized the American psyche and led it to do great things. Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to these great leaders of our country. Without them, our country either may have not survived or would be less influential in the world than it is now. All of them were not perfect for sure but without them where would our country be?

George Washington was the general who was more lucky than good on the battlefield but he was a great motivator of men and a country. He guided our country through the pains of its birth. He was respected throughout the colonies and if it were not for his consensus of respect where would our country be? It might not even exist. We may have been a short-lived revolt that was reconquered at a later date by Britain. He galvanized the country’s spirit. He was a war veteran. People trusted him and followed his leadership. Without him, there was no one else who commanded the respect of the entire nation. Without him there would have been no leadership.

Franklin Roosevelt was the man for the time. Who else could have led us through the crisis that was World War II. It was through his leadership that Americans were willing to sacrifice to support the war effort. His leadership converted the war effort from nation-state against nation-state into the noble effort to win freedom from tyranny. He made the war into the battle for freedom for mankind. He made it a morally righteous war. He made decisions that were necessary for the war effort that were not popular at home. He made the tough decisions that required him to think of what was the best end game for our country and not what was polling as the best course of action. Sometimes men are born and come along at the right time. FDR was certainly that.

John Kennedy awoke a nation in a rut into dreaming greater dreams that what wars we could get into. He dared us to dream that life was more than home in the suburbs. He dared us to pull back the covers of our nation and see the wrongs of centuries and correct them. In so doing, he dared us to dream the impossible dreams. In the land of Kennedy, if we can do the hard work of sending people to outer space and to the moon by the end of the decade then we can solve any problem that we have. He ignited a generation to do great things just as Roosevelt had done for their parents. He dared us to dream the dreams that had never been dreamed before. In his short presidency, that was his legacy – to dream the dreams that need dreaming, to fight the fights that need fighting, to right the wrongs that need righting. Sure, he may have not been the most effective President ever but that is not what we measure Kennedy by. We measure him by how he inspired our country to do great things.

Ronald Reagan was another President who came along at the right time. Between Kennedy and Reagan, our nation suffered through so much turmoil, economic crises, presidential scandals that threatened the very fabric of our constitution, bumbling presidents, a general malaise had crept into our country, our military was no longer seen as indefeatable, we had military blunders galore, economically stagnant, and along comes Ronald Reagan. He was the man for his time. He galvanized the country into believing that we were still the greatest nation on earth. He won victories on the battlefield that gave us confidence again. He instituted controversial economic policies that took some time to work but that re-energized our economy and made being a businessman cool again. For the drift of complacency brought on by the hipster generation, Reagan made us feel good again about making money and our economy took off. He also did not accept that we should fear the Soviet Union. He kept the pressure on the Soviets and people of the West, after a generation of fearing the unknown behemoth, were shocked that he would challenge them. We had accepted for a generation that we could not defeat the Soviets and that we just had to coexist in this uneasy détente. Reagan knew better that the Soviets were a bloated system that was propping itself up with smoke and mirrors. It was under Reagan’s pressure that the Soviet Union feel not from Reagan causing a nuclear war but from forcing them to match us. He brilliantly made the military pressure and weapons development strategy into an issue of freedom for the people of eastern Europe. Reagan picked us up, dusted us off, and said to us like a prize fighter, you’ve still got it in you, now get back in there and make your destiny!

These were all great Presidents of our country. For all their flaws that they may have had personally and politically, these are the Presidents that we remember. These are the presidents that led the nation well. History has been kind to these Presidents for when you look back at the whole of their time in office and have wiped away the emotions of the moment in which they served, you must stand amazed at the greatness of these men for the moments that they served. They came along just when our country needed visionary and passionate leadership.

Where are they now? Where are the great leaders of our country? The Bushes? Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump? These are the leaders we have chosen. And it is often because the one who won was a galvanizing leader that was needed for the times, it is because of a lack of options. In this past election, we had to choose between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. These were our choices. Between two people who have at best situational ethics. Two people to whom the truth is a moving target based on what the latest polls have to say. Two people to who the truth is momentary depending on what makes me look the best. Between a cool, calculating career politician and a street corner bully that has made his fortune off of the loopholes of the tax law and not necessarily because he was good businessman. Between a champion of the new age of I am my own god and a man who thinks he is god. Between a pathological liar and a man who was so in love with himself that he has to put his name on every property he develops. These were our choices. Where have all the good men gone? Where is our leader who will lead us like Reagan, like Kennedy, like FDR, like Lincoln, like Washington. Where is the man who right for our times and needed for our times. We are awash in the lack of true leadership in our country.

Is it because we as a nation no longer honor greatness and sacrifice for the greater good. Is it because we are now a self-seeking people. We are like the Roman Empire in the days when Rome’s excesses caught up with it. We are like the Romans in Rome eating grapes and being fanned while the world that we conquered is being eaten away by invaders until the day that they are at the doorsteps of Rome. Are we so self-absorbed that we no longer can produce great men much less a great generation? Are we so concerned about entertaining ourselves that we cannot produce men of sacrifice? Are we so concerned about making ourselves feel good that there are no moral absolutes upon which to base a lifetime of service and to sacrifice for that which is morally right? Are we so wrapped up in how we feel and what gender we identify with and glorifying behaviors that historically and eternally have been immoral? Are we so wrapped up in seeking self and defining ourselves as our own personal gods, that this is what we get (H. Clinton vs. D. Trump)? Where have all the great leaders gone? We need you. If you are out there, heed God’s calling on your heart to begin working now to be that leader of a generation that comes along just when America needs it!

The past and present of America is what I thought of this morning as I begin reading Judges and its first passage, Judges 1:1-18, and how it is similar to the nation of Israel. There is this great gulf between the leadership of Moses and Joshua and the ascension of David to the throne of a united Israel. When we read through Judges, we must ask of Israel, where have all the great leaders gone?

1 After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, “Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Canaanites?”

2 The Lord answered, “Judah shall go up; I have given the land into their hands.”

3 The men of Judah then said to the Simeonites their fellow Israelites, “Come up with us into the territory allotted to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours.” So the Simeonites went with them.

4 When Judah attacked, the Lord gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands, and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek. 5 It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaanites and Perizzites. 6 Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes.

7 Then Adoni-Bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.” They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.

8 The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem also and took it. They put the city to the sword and set it on fire.

9 After that, Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev and the western foothills. 10 They advanced against the Canaanites living in Hebron (formerly called Kiriath Arba) and defeated Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai. 11 From there they advanced against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher).

12 And Caleb said, “I will give my daughter Aksah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher.” 13 Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Aksah to him in marriage.

14 One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him[a] to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, “What can I do for you?”

15 She replied, “Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.” So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.

16 The descendants of Moses’ father-in-law, the Kenite, went up from the City of Palms[b] with the people of Judah to live among the inhabitants of the Desert of Judah in the Negev near Arad.

17 Then the men of Judah went with the Simeonites their fellow Israelites and attacked the Canaanites living in Zephath, and they totally destroyed[c] the city. Therefore it was called Hormah.[d] 18 Judah also took[e] Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron—each city with its territory.

In this passage, we see that soon after Joshua died, Israel began to lose its grip on the land and it can be directly attributed to a lack of galvanizing leadership. The people missed the spiritual leadership of Joshua. Joshua was the obvious successor to Moses but here we see that there was no obvious and no named successor to Joshua. During this crisis of leadership, Israel began to fragment and go on off their own tribal ways and to protect their own tribes interests. There was no spiritual leader that brought the whole nation together. And it would continue until David arrives on the scene. Israel with the book of Judges begins this descent into a fragmented, self serving, idol worshiping, morally bankrupt nation upon which God allows the judgement that results from sin come upon them.

Sound familiar? This is where America finds itself. No true leadership. Even our choice in leaders in this past Presidential election was about selfishness of the two candidates. They ran because it is the ultimate prize and not because they have some galvanizing vision for our country or no great moral center to which people are drawn. Where are the great leaders for America?

The takeaway this morning is for us to pray. We need to pray hard. We need to ask God to change our nation from the inside out. We need to pray that He will bring us that generational leader, that generational President that will truly lead us and be a President with a sense of moral rightness that comes from God so that they will make decisions based on what is best for our country in the long-run and not based on polling numbers. We need great leaders now. We must pray that God will raise them up!

 

Amen and Amen.

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