Othniel (Judges 3: 5‑11)
It is most important to understand, as we have seen, that the church having been unfaithful to the call of God, restoration collectively is no longer possible. Christians are sometimes misled, as their thoughts by these very revivals effected by God, especially if they are themselves identified with one of these partial restorations wrought by the Spirit of God. Limited views, perhaps a narrow heart accustomed only to think of and love that portion of the church which more immediately concerns ourselves - a sectarian spirit which leads us to designate as church, the systems which man has substituted for the building of God - such are some of the causes which hinder us from forming a correct estimate of the true state of the assembly in this world. Now it is an indisputable fact for every Christian, in the habit of depending on the Word of God, that the present days are evil, that the mystery of iniquity already works, for there are already many antichrists, and everything ripening for the final apostasy. But another fact quite as positive is, that God is faithful and will never leave Himself without testimony.
He can even make use of the evil as in Judges 2 to dispense fresh blessings to His people.
In the same way in Judges the deserved oppression of the enemy is used by God to bring about revivals in Israel. "They cried unto the Lord" is invariably the word that ushers them in. Christendom in the present day discusses what means should be used to inaugurate revivals. "There is but one;" such a sense of the low condition of the world, of the sinner or of the church, as shall lead the exercised soul to turn to God. "They cried unto the Lord." Then He sent deliverers to them. We shall see these revivals in their various phases from Judges 3 to Judges 16 of this book.
Let us begin by a general observation. When things are morally in a low state, God uses instruments which in themselves are imperfect and bear the stamp of weakness, -
- Othniel sprang from a younger branch of the family; he was "the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother."
- Ehud was weak through his infirmity,
- Shamgar through his weapon,
- Deborah from her sex,
- Barak by his natural character,
- Gideon on account of his relations,
- Jephthah by his birth.
Other judges are mentioned who are rich, influential, or prosperous (Judges 10: 1‑4; Judges 12: 8‑15), and God uses them no doubt, but more to maintain results already obtained than as deliverers. We are no longer in the days of Joshua, or of the Apostles, when a power was developed in man, which hindered the weakness of the vessel from appearing, and yet the very infirmity of these witnesses (characteristic of the period we are in) glorified the power of Him who could use them.
We have already spoken of Othniel in his private, domestic life (Judges 1). God had thus fitted him to be the first judge in Israel. Having fought to win a wife, he became the possessor of his own personal inheritance and of springs to water it. God now uses him to fight for others, and it is ever thus. Before the Christian can be publicly used of God, he must individually have made progress in the knowledge of the Lord, and in the power of his privileges. Before taking up public service, the Christian should have made progress in his own soul in the knowledge of the Lord and of the character of the calling; the absence of these generally accounts for our service being so contracted, our hearts are so little occupied with heavenly things. The moral wealth which Othniel had acquired for himself was soon evident in his walk. In the short compass of verses 10 and 11, six things are mentioned of him:
- first, "the Spirit of the Lord," the power of God to deliver Israel "came upon him;"
- secondly, "he judged Israel," he was entrusted with government;
- thirdly, he "went out to war," here we have conflict;
- fourthly, "the Lord delivered Chushan‑rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia, into his hand," this is victory;
- fifthly, "his hand prevailed against Chushan‑rishathaim," the enemy is finally subjugated;
- sixthly, "the land had rest forty years."
Israel quietly enjoys the fruits of Othniel's victory, - God's end is achieved; this man who belonged only indirectly to the lineage of the noble Caleb, was fitted beforehand for this service, and when put to the proof; showed himself to be suitable material in the hands of the divine workman.
Let us ask God to raise up Othniels in the present day; yea, rather let us be Othniels ourselves by true consecration of heart to the Lord,by an increasing desire to appropriate and realize these heavenly things, and we shall be instruments well‑fitted for the Master and prepared unto every good work.