Summation of Judges: What we have learned
By Bob Mendelsohn
Given in Moscow, Russia
12 June 2014
For the last 11 days we have been learning from the book of Judges and today in our final chapel talk, (although I will have some final words tonight as well), we are going to draw some serious conclusions for our lives long after Campaign is over.
The topics all alliterate in English: Pattern, people, provision, persistence, and prayer. Stay with me.
We saw it too many times to miss it. And we must know that if all Israel lives like we did in the Book of Judges we are in real trouble.
1) Israel does evil in the sight of the Lord
2) God gives us over to the enemy
3) We cry for help (usually)
4) God sends a deliverer to save us
5) We fall again into sin
That pattern could be frustrating and make us want to give up, but it should actually inspire you in the exact opposite way. If God is interested enough in saving us, in delivering us from our sins and from our enemies, then we also ought to let Him do so. We will not necessarily be the ones who fail; we may be those who ‘live securely’ in the land God wants to give us.
The reality of the book is that we CAN start over, and no matter how many times we fail, He is cheering us on, to help us get to the finish line. Remember what the Bible says, “For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of calamity.” (Prov. 24.16)
The real thing many of us learn on campaign and in reading Judges is that we are not alone, we don’t work alone, although many times on campaign we feel completely alone. We are part of a team. And if we work in a team, in Kharkov or Los Angeles or here in Moscow, we are stronger for it. Each of us brings certain good things to the table, each of us has gifts and talents. And when we bring those to the team itself, the whole team is greater than the parts. The Talmud says, “Two can do three times the work of one.”
The judges who served well, even oddly with daggers in fat men or in sword fights with Midianites or any other enemy, were those who rallied at least some of the tribes and cooperated. In fact the Ephraimites lost 42,000 men because they wanted the benefits of ‘team’ but refused to live it out together with the rest of the tribes of Israel.
One more thing on people, and that’s that God is looking for people. Ordinary people. He doesn’t need the superstar. He’s not keen on celebrities. He’s interested in real people who really love Him and really want everyone to know Him also. Like Gideon, the valiant warrior who was in the wine press or other somewhat reluctant heroes of the faith. Yesterday I met Nadia who was one of Avi Snyder’s first fruits in Odessa. Last week I met Volodia who also was one of Avi’s first fruits there, who is now serving in a ministry among drug addicts. Both got saved 20 years ago. Both are still around. Avi is an ordinary guy, my age, from an ordinary Jewish home in New York, who gave himself to God in 1977 and hasn’t looked back since. Avi taught Nadia. Nadia had a student named Maxim Ammosov and he learned well from her. Ordinary people who are available to God make a difference for God in extra-ordinary ways.
When you leave from Campaign, be available to God in Tashkent or Minsk, in Omaha or Odessa, and God will use you. You may not be on staff with Jews for Jesus, or you might be on staff, but no matter what your career, you can be useful to the Lord in your world, in your way, if you are available to Him.
If I’ve seen anything over my 43 years as a believer that keeps me going and growing in Messiah, it’s that He will always provide for us. He did that with sinful and needy Israel in the book of Judges. He did that for hungry Israel in the wilderness. He did that for Elijah with a raven and for at least 5,000 with a little basket of fish and loaves and the prayer of Yeshua. God provides for us, over and over again. Last Friday we learned the company that was bringing us food went out of business and with some extra work by our leadership, none of us went hungry. God provided others to feed us and we didn’t miss a meal.
We see this provision of the Almighty in the Book of Judges as well. He provided judges, military strategies, heroes, everything we needed, even songs to sing. He wants us to have a full life, and He will provide it for us, if we are near Him, if we trust Him, if we let Him.
What does the Bible say, “I have been young, and now I am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, or his descendants begging bread.” (Psalm 37.25)
Each morning your alarm clock went off and woke you. You looked at the others in your room. You looked at the clock. You looked at your own tiredness and made a choice. You got up. And that persistence in carrying on, in keeping going for the Lord during this Campaign is essential to keep with you when you go home. What is persistence? It’s the ability to continue doing something, no matter what is against you. It’s ‘one more sortie’ when you are weary that afternoon, or this afternoon. It’s another lap around the track when you are exhausted. It’s praying when you think you have no more energy to stay awake.
Last Saturday we were in Gorky Park and there was a race that happened there that day. I don’t know how long the race was, but there were people crossing the finish line when we arrived AND when we left after our bicycle visibility sortie. So I’m guessing it was a long race. And if you have even been in a race like a 10 km or a marathon like my wife has run many times, you know that there are ‘walls’ along the way, hindrances to your finishing the race. On an ordinary three-week campaign, we would hit those walls after a week or so, and maybe in the middle of the 2nd week. Our campaign was a bit short to have experienced those walls, but each of us had to break through barriers of weariness or boredom or hunger or distractions in order to finish this race, which we will finish tonight.
That same thing is true of life. If we persist, if we endure to the end, we will be all right.
Rachmiel Frydland was from Poland, a Holocaust survivor, and lived in the US until he died in 1984. I was privileged to work with him at Jews for Jesus in New York City for many years. He well knew the difficulty of surviving. He escaped Hitler and camps and found eternity in salvation in Jesus. He was a dynamic evangelist and Bible teacher. One of his favorite expressions was that quote of Yeshua, “He that endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24.13) He did just that. And we can do that as well.
Every day people around the world have been praying for us. And I saw that many times on our Campaign that all of a sudden we had wisdom to say something, or to leave somewhere, or to turn in a new direction. What prompted that? It was God answering the prayers of His people in England or in South Africa, in Poland and Berlin, in Australia and the US. When God’s people pray, God listens and God answers. So your encounters with people were more often a result of the prayers of the saints worldwide than it was your cleverness or strategy. I’ve been on campaigns since 1980 in Argentina and in New York in Sydney and Melbourne and have this experience to be sure. God organizes our lives.
That’s what we learned in Judges. God rules in history! He gives us leaders and He gives us judgment and all kinds of things to make us His people. He gives strength to Samson to kill 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. He gives 300 Gideonites strength to chase and kill 135,000 Midianites. He is the ruler of history. He also gives us free will to choose to follow Him, and that’s shocking if you understand sovereignty. But it’s true. And without that freedom to choose, we cannot really love Him. Without that freedom to choose, we cannot understand evil in the world. Without that freedom to choose, we would not be born again ourselves.
What made our events good? What made the singing and the dancing and the art show explanation good? Sometimes people talk about ‘feeling the Spirit.’ I get that, although everyone might have different meanings associated with that expression. What’s clear is that when someone is praying, from anywhere, for an event or for our wisdom, for our spirits to be united with His Spirit, for love to be manifest in our hearts… God listens and answers.
No wonder we encountered people on park benches and in subways like Marina did yesterday on our way to the Kremlin armory. No wonder Paula kept encountering English-speakers. No wonder Scheffee got to lead a man from Nigeria to the Lord. We were moved to stand, to be, to smile, to participate, because God was answering someone’s prayers. How awesome is that!
Finally, let me end with this. Live a life of faith; trusting, leaning on God. Proverbs 3.5-6 says,
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
All your heart. Tonight I’m going to show you a Bible verse about joy and whole heartedness, which you may not know, but you need to know. For now, when we say trust in God with all your heart, we then ponder our own failings and think, wait, I didn’t trust Him last week. Or last year on that weekend. Look, the Bible is saying, trust in God completely and don’t even lean a little bit to figuring it all out. Don’t even make the slightest bit of a lean towards personal intellectualism OVER AGAINST the Lord and the Scripture.
God’s Word is Truth. God is Truth. Yeshua is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is all we need. No wonder we can say we trust Him. No wonder we can put full confidence on Him.
In the subway cars, you see people who hold on to the railings when the train is crowded. And then there are times you cannot find a rail to hold. When the train comes to a stop, you see people leaning one way and then the other. Tossed by the velocity of the train, they are not stable. God says, if you want to make a difference in the world, don’t lean on what you know. Don’t lean on human wisdom. Don’t lean on the way it ‘has always been.’ Trust completely in the Lord, in your marriage, in your workplace, in your office, in your neighborhood, in your church, in your relationships, with your children and your parents. Don’t lean on your own life. Trust Him completely.Let’s go out today, our last scheduled sorties, crossing the 200,000 mark on broadsides, getting another 20 or 50 UJs to join the 430 so far, and let’s persist and endure to the end. In the power of God, who knows and oversees all things, and who is answering the prayers of the many, even our prayers, amen?!