Judges chapter 3 we're turning to, under the title 'The Paraclete's Prototype' - and 'Paraclete' is another word, in fact it's a Greek transliteration, which means you take the Greek letters and correspond them to English letters rather than translating the word from Greek to English. You just take the letters and spell it out as it is in English letters, and it's the name given at times in the New Testament to the Holy Spirit. 'One who comes alongside', that's what it means, 'para-clete', 'and helps, strengthens, comforts, and gives us God's divine aid'.
What is a prototype? Well, when a new technology comes along and is invented, usually the idea precedes the object. Someone has an idea of an invention, and then they actually get to work on it and make the thing. I've been thinking about this, and this is why I've used this word 'prototype', because usually there is a uniform pattern from the development of an idea until the object is materialised. The idea, the principles of how the invention works, is then put into practice and engineered by a machine or by men's hands to create an object. More often than not the pattern goes like this: first of all there is the blueprint, the plans are drawn up based upon proven principles. In other words, if you want to take an aeroplane, an aeroplane's plans are drawn up on the principle of aerodynamics. When you get that blueprint, the second step is that a prototype is engineered - in other words, a model, a working model based upon those plans and those principles. Then the third step in the uniform pattern, as far as I understand it, is that copies are then made of the prototype.
So follow with me: there is the blueprint, the plan, based upon the principles and the laws - the idea that you have. Then you make one unique model, a prototype, the first type like the plans - putting in practice, engineering upon those principles. Then thirdly, if the prototype works, you make copies and those are the things that are sold. Now, if you will, I want to use that as a type of illustration of chapter 2 and verses 11-19 that we read together; because that, if you like, is the blueprint for God's deliverance of His people. Those are the principles laid down there by the Holy Spirit. God's people were sinning and rebelling, then eventually they would cry out in some kind of pseudo-repentance we saw in our last study in introduction, it wasn't repentance at all - but yet they cried out, they groaned to God under their task masters, just like those in Exodus. God had mercy upon them, sent them a deliverer, a Judge. They seemed to turn back to God, no matter how superficial it was at the time; God blessed them, then the Judge died, then they went back to their old evil ways again.
Now we see there, if you like, the blueprint, the principles of why God sent them a deliverer. They were in rebellion, they needed to be delivered from their taskmasters, and God raised up a saviour. Those are the principles. But what we have in chapter 3 and verses 7-11, I believe, is the prototype, the Holy Spirit's prototype, the first example in the book of Judges of one of God's deliverers that He sends to His people. All the following Judges that we have, Samson and the rest of them, Gideon and so on and so forth, they are copies made of the Spirit's initial model.
Othniel then, I believe, is the Spirit's prototype. I think often people miss this as they look at this character, and some have actually found fault with the first account of a Judge - they think it's a little bit empty, uninteresting, there's a lack of colour in the account of his life. It's not very dramatic, as the other Judges seem to be - and that is true. The reason I believe it is true is because it's almost identical with the blueprint. The verses of 7-11 in chapter 3 are almost a mirror image of the same principles you find in the plans, chapter 2 verse 11-19, with just a few personal details of Othniel added in to spice it up a little, but not much. We ask the question, as we ought to always do of God's word: why is that? The Holy Spirit does not ever in a haphazard way inspire His word, so why is it that He just seems to repeat, as it were, the principles in chapter 2 adding the name of Othniel and very little else? It's not very exciting. The reason is: God's Spirit desires this first account of the first Judge to be His prototype, and for us to understand the ideal model of what He sees as His deliverer, what His Judge ought to be.
The reasons for the absence of drama and embellishment is in order that we don't miss His point, in order that we don't get taken up with the characteristic personal aspects of this man's life and miss what God wants us to see. What is that? The essential features of God's man for the hour. So the reason why Othniel seems to be a bit of a dull story that is not much different than chapter 2 verses 11-19, what God has already said, is that God wants to highlight in this first Judge to distinguish clearly, without any personal distractions, God in the life of this man. Can you see that? God wants you to see that He is instrumental in bringing Israel's salvation.
So, whilst some have concluded that Othniel's an awfully boring, uninteresting character; I think he's probably the most exciting of all the Judges, because you can see God clearer in the account of Othniel's life because the personal, biographical details - whether they account his successes or failures like the rest of the Judges - they are withheld because the Spirit desires us to see that God was the deliverer of His people in bondage. I think he's a bit like John the Baptist. Remember what he said when he introduced the Lord Jesus Christ? 'He must increase, I must decrease'. The Holy Spirit has desired a paradigm, a pattern to show us, right at the beginning, after outlining the principles of how He was going to save his people; in this first example, this prototype, He wants us to see a paradigm of salvation. 'This is my plan, I will save my own people' - salvation, He wants them to realise, is always of the Lord. Whatever instrument He chooses to use, He wants us to see that God's gracious deliverance of His people comes always from Him.
Now, in saying that, here is my first point: it is not that Othniel had nothing of himself that was commendable. In fact, to the contrary, there are few Judges like him - let alone men around among the people of God today. In fact, the Rabbis applied to him Song of Songs chapter 4 and verse 7: 'Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee'. This was a remarkable Judge. Here are some of his commendable features that I want you to note. First of all: he was born into a distinguished family. If you look at his lineage, the clan that he came from had close connections with the tribe of Judah, which of course was the leading tribe in Israel - and this was through Caleb. If you look at chapter 1 for a moment and verse 13, we read: 'And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother' - so he was connected to Caleb, 'Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother'. Now that could mean that Kenaz or Othniel was Caleb's younger brother, but without going into the details, it's more likely that Othniel was Caleb's younger brother, probably his half-brother - we know that from other portions of historic Scripture.
The fact of the matter is, this is the point: he had a solid family background. Whether he was Caleb's brother or Caleb's nephew, Othniel had the privilege of belonging to a family that was led by an outstanding believer, Caleb. You remember from Old Testament history that Caleb, along with Joshua, were two of the greatest men of their generation. So what I want you to note is, we should never underestimate the impact that a godly family background can have upon the development of an individual character. He had witnessed, whether it was his older brother, or his cousin, or someone else, the example of Caleb, and how Caleb took a mountain even in his old age. Never forget that we are examples to others - the question is: what kind of example are you?
That was a commendable feature in Othniel's life. The second is perhaps greater, because we can have a great family background, but it means very little in the long-term - but this man had a great past victory to his life. He had made a name for himself among Israel in battle. He actually, if you look at chapter 1 again and verse 13, through it won Caleb's daughter as his wife: 'Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife'. Really the story of Joshua 15, if you want to read it at home, is repeated in verses 11-15 of chapter 1 of Judges. All it is is that Caleb, this man of faith, though he was 85 years old, attacked the heart of Canaanite power in Kirjatharba, or Hebron, and God had given him a great victory. But the fact of the matter was, Judah had one other main centre of Canaanite power to conquer: Kirjathsepher or Debir. Caleb, after conquering one of them, issued a challenge to the people: 'The one who attacks Kirjathsepher and conquers it, I will even give my daughter Achsah for a wife'. In response, I wonder was it the example of his older brother or cousin, Othniel rose, he attacked the city, he captured it, he won Caleb's daughter - and now, years later, God chooses Othniel to lead His people against this godless leader, Chushan.
He was given a godly example from a godly family, and therefore we ought never to underestimate a godly example upon character. But added to that, we ought never to underestimate that each victory, as the hymn writer says, will help us. What do I mean? Well, simply the principle that this victory in Othniel's past set him up to be in a position where God could approach him to make a victory among the people in the present. Those little victories in his past made him a man who was ready for future battles.
Now that's a principle right throughout God's word, in fact right up to we get to heaven and we stand before the Lord Jesus Christ, and He says unto us 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful in a very little have thou authority over ten cities'. Faithful in little, little victories, God will give us the big challenges. Two commendable features: born into a distinguished family, a great past victory to his name. Thirdly, he has no weaknesses recorded about him as the other Judges have. We will explore their weaknesses individually as we proceed through this series, but the point is simply this: they had many weaknesses and infirmities, and varied ones, but there is none mentioned of Othniel.
Now I'm quite sure that he had them, for we all do, and it's commendable that he hadn't got any, and we see here a holy life - but here's the point that I want you to find in these three sub-points: none of these commendable features in Othniel's life are actually mentioned in this text as a reason for why God used him. They are commendable attributes, but here is the warning that we find in the book of Judges: whether we have strengths or whether we have weaknesses to our name, if God uses us it is of God! Lest you miss my point: his very strengths could have been his weaknesses if he thought that those strengths could commend him to the work of God.
Let me explain what I mean a little further: whilst these were commendable features, the victory that Othniel wrought in the nation is attributed to something else. What does the Holy Spirit attribute his success to? Not that he had nothing that was commendable, on the contrary, rather he had nothing to commend himself to the service of God - that's very important. What are the distinctive features as you look down at these verses, verses 7-11, that point out how the battle was won for Israel and God? The only unique thing that is said about Othniel different than the blueprint that we find in chapter 2 verses 11-19, is that the Holy Spirit of God is mentioned in verse 10. Look at it: 'The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war'. That's the only difference, and whilst Othniel was far more commendable than any of the other Judges - he was from a distinguished family, he had great past victories to his name, there are no weaknesses recorded of his character - with all those commendable features, the fact of the matter is: the only thing that is mentioned here is what he had in common with the other Judges, the Spirit of God came upon him.
In other words, what made him the man for the hour, and every man for the hour, is the power of God in their lives by the Holy Spirit - and not what we were, or what we are, or what we are not as human beings. I haven't got time to show you it, but if you look at the life of Gideon you find the same thing - the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and the Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson. Now here are some vital lessons that I want us to see in the remainder of our meeting this morning from this. He had many things commendable, but nothing to commend him to the service of God, and the thing that made the difference was God's Spirit. Here's the lesson: one, God's desire in His servants, what is it? This is what we're learning here, this is what the Spirit wants us to see in His prototype. God desires for men and women, whether they have great strengths or great weaknesses, those in whom He and His power can be seen. That's what God desires. He doesn't need your strength, whatever it is: intellectually, emotionally, physically - and isn't it encouraging, whilst we don't want to encourage sin or weakness, God is not hindered, necessarily, by our weaknesses. But the ingredient that made this man different here is always what made all the Judges different, and any man of God in any era: the power of God which is not of us.
Isn't that what Zechariah said? 'Not by might, not by power', human power, 'but by my Spirit, saith the Lord'. In 1 Corinthians chapter 1 did Paul not say this, in verse 25: 'The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence'.
I heard a humourous story told by Howard Hendricks, who was involved in Moody Bible School in the States, I think he's still preaching around. He was at a Pastor's Conference, and a very pious looking brother came up to him after his message and said: 'Brother Hendricks, pray that I shall be nothing'. Hendricks replied: 'Ah man, just take that by faith'. Just take that by faith! We are nothing, and the sooner we see we are nothing, and we have nothing to commend ourselves to God - whilst we might have commendable features that have encouraged us in some way to God's service - the source of Othniel's power and every Judge's power must be the source of our power today. In Acts chapter 1 and verse 8 they were told: 'Ye shall be witnesses unto me when ye receive the Holy Spirit'. They couldn't do it without God's Spirit. That's why in Ephesians 5 and 18 we are commanded: 'Be ye filled', be continually controlled, 'by the Holy Spirit'.
Now I ask you the question today: what does our lawless generation need to see more than anything? Is it our skills? Is it our activities? It's certainly not our weaknesses and our splits and so on, but what they do need to see more than anything is God in Christ in our lives. We need to lie low and exalt Christ. If Christ is seen in our character and our lives, it will have nothing to do with our abilities, will it? It was Henry Drummond who said: 'To become like Christ is the only thing in the world worth caring for, the thing before which every ambition of man is folly, and all lower achievement vain'. Isaac Watts wrote those immortal words:
'When I survey the wondrous Cross', originally it said
'on which the young Prince of glory died,
My richest gain, I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride'.
You see Christ-likeness is better than any gift of preaching or whatever, and without Christ-likeness any gift that you have, Paul says, is as a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal, it's empty! This is the difference with every hero that God has used in the Bible and in Christian history: Christ-likeness was seen in them! In the biography of Murray M'Cheyne, by James A Stewart, he wrote these words: 'Mr M'Cheyne's holiness was notable even before he spoke a word. His appearance spoke for him. There was a minister in the north of Scotland with whom he spent the night one evening, and he was so marvellously struck by this man that when M'Cheyne left the room he burst into tears and said, 'Oh, that is the most Jesus-like man I ever met''. 'Oh, that is the most Jesus-like man I ever met' - in another place Stewart adds: 'M'Cheyne spent hours in holy communion inside the veil, in rapturous praise and adoration, being bathed in Calvary's love. He would come forth from God's presence to leave the fragrance of Christ as he went from house-to-house in visitation. As he walked the streets of his parish, and even anywhere in Britain, the people were startled to see the look of Jesus upon his face'. Now that's New Testament Christianity! In fact in Acts 4 we read that 'they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus'.
This is a blessing that God does not give to the strong, or those who think that they're strong, but whether you have commendable features or less commendable features, either of them or nothing! As Elwood McQuaid put it: 'With God there are no extraordinary people, only ordinary ones through whom He chooses to do extraordinary things'. Othniel not only rescued the nation from bondage, but he also served his people, the record says, for 40 years. He brought rest to the land of God - here's another lesson: never underestimate the good that one person can do filled with the Holy Spirit, and living an obedient life in the will of God. Forty years rest in the nation because of one man.
That is God's desire in His servants, but here secondly is the final lesson for us: our dependence in the worst of times needs to be upon the grace and the Spirit of God - there is a lesson. Every man did that which was right in his own eyes, what is the answer? What is the answer to our age? You listen to the news, you hear about 15-year-olds being stabbed and raped, and abuse mentally, physically, sexually that can't even be imagined - and it's in our land, and that's only what we hear about. There is worse going on that we never hear about! What is the answer? Well, Othniel as the Spirit's prototype was to show these people that the answer comes from God, deliverance will be from God, it is all of grace - and amazing grace it is!
God came and brought a deliverer - was it in response to their repentance? I don't believe it was, because their repentance was shallow as we saw in our introduction in the first week, it was superficial. The reason God raised up a saviour seems to be in response to their misery. Look at verse 9 in chapter 3. 'When the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them' - when they cried. In other words, He responded to their pain and not their penitence. Now that causes some intellectual difficulties for us perhaps, but not when we see that here is one of the attributes of our God - 'What is it?', you say. Our God is a jealous God!
We have such a negative take on that word 'jealous' that we don't really attribute it to God at times - but what it means is that even God's wrath is the hope of His people. He is the covenant keeping God: 'Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth', so to be under the discipline of God means to be immeasurably loved by God. It shows that the God who has bound Himself to His people by covenant will not allow them to be cosy in their infidelity and their sin. Let me illustrate it to you like this: suppose a husband has the sad but true evidence that his wife is having an affair with another man. The gossip is not just gossip or innuendo, it is truth, and it has been established and it has been proven. For the sake of argument, the husband, let's say - whilst it's hard to say that everybody, or anyone at times, is innocent - but let's say that the husband is squeaky clean, he hasn't been offending at all. When the husband hears that the wife has been unfaithful, he says: 'Well, you win some, you lose some, that's the way the cookie crumbles, there are plenty more fish in the sea' - what would your conclusion be? He doesn't love her! He doesn't love her, if he did, he would be upset, he would be jealous, he would be angry.
So this jealous love that God has toward us, it is showing us His immeasurable love, and at all costs He is an intolerant God towards our sin. This love divine, all loves excelling is not some soft laxity, it is a blazing intolerance, it is an absolute claim of His own children. That's why Jesus said in Matthew 10: 'Unless you love me more than your father, more than your mother, more than your children, more than your husband and your wife, you cannot be my disciples'. You see, this is the trouble having the God of Israel as your God, because He is a God who will not suffer infidelity - and if you forsake Him, He will pursue you in anger.
This is the kindness of God that ought to lead us to repentance, does it lead you and I to repentance I wonder? God wants to waken us with His goodness, but if we won't do that will we awaken with His severity? What ought to happen? You'd think these people would come and meet God's consistency and God faithfulness toward them in true repentance and faithfulness, but they don't! Whilst the ideal saviour, the Paraclete's prototype, whilst he delivered them from the King named Chushanrishathaim, which means 'double wickedness', a cruel and a powerful man - it's even enshrined within his name - Othniel was not a perfect or a complete saviour, for Othniel died after 40 years and then the people went back to their wickedness. They regressed into oppression.
But as I left with you my final point, as we enter into this study that I believe we'll glean a great deal from in the days that lie ahead, what Israel needed and what we need is a Saviour, a Deliverer who will never die! Is there one? Oh, yes there is: 'This man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them'. Christ is the answer to the age of the Judges, Christ is the answer to our age, but we've got to let Christ live from us that others will see our good works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven.
Well, how will we apply God's word to our hearts today? Do we think that we have something that makes us commendable as a servant of God? We do at times: 'God picked a good one when He got me, you know', that's the way we think, 'I've a quare gift for this, or that, or the other'. Or do we realise that unless we can lower ourselves, and be converted to become a little child, and realise that if God's going to do anything through us it'll be all of Him and you'll not see us in it at all? That's hard.
Oh Father, help us, help us to become like that camel that goes through the eye of a needle in humility, to be poor of spirit, to abase ourselves, to submit ourselves under the mighty hand of God, that we might be exalted in due season. Lord, we are nothing, we are nothing, You don't need us, but You have chosen us in grace to be a people unto Yourself. Help us to realise that we have nothing to commend ourselves to Thee for salvation, nor for service. Even gifts that we have been given, that we may engage with are gifts of the Spirit, they're not of us. Help us in these days, the worst of days, to lie low and exalt Christ; that people would say of us: 'I see Jesus', Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the second recording in his 'Men For The Hour' series, entitled "The Paraclete's Prototype" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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