Bible Society of South Africa

Othniel, the model judge – 30 August 2021

By Xanthe Hancox

Bible text(s)

10The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he became Israel's leader. Othniel went to war, and the LORD gave him victory over the king of Mesopotamia. 11There was peace in the land for forty years, and then Othniel died.

Judges 3:10-11GNBOpen in Bible reader

The book of Judges relates one disheartening story of failure after another. Over and over, we see a vicious cycle in which Israel, settling into the promised land, slides back and forth from faith and obedience to lack of trust and disobedience, followed by oppression from the surrounding nations.

That’s the scene in our passage. After Joshua, who had led the people of Israel into the promised land, died, the writer tells us, “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs.” Those were the gods of their neighbours.

Othniel, who God raised up, was from the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:13-17), and must surely be seen as the model judge. The author says nothing negative about him, and he appears to have been wholly dedicated to the glory of the Lord. We know that because the text does not give us many details about Othniel’s actions. It says only that “the Spirit of the LORD was upon him” to give him great victory (Judges 3:10-11).

Most of the other judges sought their own fame, so we read about their deeds in great detail. But Othniel was so committed to the Lord that seemingly there was no need to go into excessive detail about his deeds. It is enough for us to know that God gave him the victory. He was apparently so faithful that all we need to know is that the Spirit of the Lord empowered him. Sadly, after Othniel, the judges were less exemplary.

At Pentecost, God poured out his Spirit on all his people, including you and me. We too fight battles, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding. Take courage today in the Spirit’s power, asking for God’s help in all you think, say, and do.

Prayer: We dare not trust ourselves in the spiritual battles we face. Give us courage to trust your power in us to face the challenges of each day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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