PENTECOST SUNDAY 2014, Originally preached June 8, 2014
Rev. Jeremy Stopford, Retired Pastor
TODAY’S “SPECIAL”: “Next in Line”
While waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicle Services for his new license plate, a gentleman heard the clerk call the next customer by shouting, “E-I-E-I-O.”
“Here!” answered the woman standing next to him in line. Curious, the man asked her if she was married to a farmer, or maybe taught preschool.
“Neither,” she replied. “My name is McDonald.”
Today is “Pentecost Sunday” – 50 days after Easter. This is the commemoration of the day, according to Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit came down to indwell believers. That marked the beginning of the church as we know it.
But the Holy Spirit is mentioned throughout the Bible. Even in Genesis 1, He “moved”, literally “brooded” (like a mother hen) upon the waters of the newly created earth.
Our text in Judges is the first time in Scripture that the phrase the “Spirit of the Lord” is mentioned. And He is mentioned 7 times in Judges – we’re going to look at just 3 of them today.
“Why?” you ask. Because 1 Corinthians 10:11 says, “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”
That tells us that the OT Scriptures were written for our benefit, our learning, warnings to us as to how to live.
Let’s pray for what God has for us today.
I. THE ROUGH GEM TEST (Judges 3:1-11)
Note verse 1: “Now these are the nations which the Lord left, that He might test Israel by them, that is, all who had not known any of the wars in Canaan.”
Israel was supposed to wipe out the inhabitants of the land – but they didn’t. Instead, the Israelites intermarried and ultimately worshipped the false gods of the land. God then used these nations as a “test”. Like a jeweler with a rough gem who works the gem to create a more valuable stone, God worked/used these nations to draw Israel back to Himself.
Note the vicious cycle repeated in Judges as first seen in this chapter: first sin (idolatry), then punishment, followed by repentance (crying out to God), then finally God’s deliverance.
Let’s see this pattern in action in Judges 3: Sin (vs. 5-6); followed closely by Punishment (v. 8); followed by Repentance (v. 9a); then followed by God’s gracious Deliverance (v. 9b).
The judge – in this case Othniel (v. 9) – was the deliver. He was Caleb’s nephew.
NOW HERE’S THE IMPORTANT PART! What set Othniel apart from his compatriot Israelites? Note verse 10: The “Spirit of the Lord” came upon Othniel for a purpose, a specific task. Then the land had peace until the judge died.
The Spirit of the Lord, while He indwells believers today, also comes upon us to enable us to perform specific tasks – with God’s wisdom, strength, enablement. For what purpose? That the Lord Jesus may be glorified Who otherwise might not receive any attention!
What tasks might He be calling YOU for?
II. THE FAITH TEST (Judges 6:33-40)
Note verse 1: “Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years,”
The cycle begins again!
Note that in verses 11-15, God calls Gideon to be the nation’s new judge. Some scholars believe that the “Angel of the Lord” who spoke to Gideon here is none other than a pre-incarnate Lord Jesus! How can that be? Note that He is referred to as God, not an angel!
WHAT DOES GIDEON HAVE TO DO WITH US AND PENTECOST? See vs. 33-34: the “Spirit of the Lord” came upon Gideon to do what – blow a trumpet! And in turn, Gideon thus caused the union of many of the smaller tribes to come out against the union against Israel!
Our text has a most interesting story about “placing a fleece out before the Lord” (v. 36, 39). God used this to encourage our judge Gideon that God really was going to use him!
ILLUSTRATION: Back in 1971 in my early days as a Christian, I, too, put a “fleece” out before the Lord. And the Lord amazingly honored that fleece with a very specific answer. As a result, I stayed where I was for the rest of the school year. But don’t you think God wants us to trust Him alone?
Is this the way to go today? God calls us to faith, and in Hebrews 11:32 Gideon is listed in the great Hall of Faith. So you decide!
III. THE VOW TEST (Judges 11:28-37)
In Judges 11:1,2, we learn something interesting about a man named Jephthah:
“Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, but he was the son of a harlot; and Gilead begot Jephthah. Gilead’s wife bore sons; and when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out, and said to him, ‘You shall have no inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.’”
Jephthah was considered rejected, put down because of his heritage. Have any of you experienced rejection by your own family? You are not alone!
In verse 4, the Ammonites – an enemy people group to Israel – came against Israel. For the feeble people of Israel, this was an huge situation! They had not really sought the Lord, but they knew that Jephthah had proved himself on his own as an excellent soldier and leader. In trouble with seemingly no place to turn, the people of Israel ask Jephthah to be Israel’s helper.
THIS IS WHERE GOD DOES THE IMPOSSIBLE! Note verse 29: “Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah…”. What does the Spirit do – the same “Spirit of the Lord” who helped both Othniel and Gideon, and Who helps His church in the New Testament?
He comes upon Jephthah to equip him to fight a nation, a battle bigger than himself!
BUT THIS STORY ALSO HAS A “SIDEBAR”. In verses 30-31, Jephthah makes a vow before the Lord. He prays, “If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.”
Jephthah fully expected that when he returned home from God’s victory, one of the animals living in his house would come first out of the house!
In verse 32 we read about Jephthah’s victory by the power of the Spirit of the Lord upon Him! This is the victory he prayed for, but soon would come his opportunity to fulfill his promise to the Lord.
In verses 34-35 we learn that, of all possibilities, his daughter is the first to come out of the house! What does Jephthah do? What becomes of his promise, and of his daughter?
Verse 37 in the KJV reads that she would “bewail her virginity” – by this some old scholars assumed he sacrificed her. But the NIV has it right. His daughter said, “I will never marry.” The law calls for us to keep our vows. Even a promise to a bank is a vow. We are to be people of character.
As with Gideon, Jephthah is listed in Hebrews 11:32 as a member of God’s Faith Hall of Fame!
#1 God shows through these 3 characters that the “Spirit of the Lord” can come upon His children to perform specific tasks, to cause the unity of people, and to equip His children to go to battle against impossible odds.
#2 But God is also showing that the USA is in such moral disrepair that He needs people of faith – full of the Holy Spirit – to make a difference for eternity even against impossible odds.
WILL YOU BE THAT PERSON OF FAITH?
Close in prayer