Howard Mooney - Thoughts from the Book of Judges - Inchow, Korea - 1982

My thoughts this afternoon are found in the book of Judges, Chapter 21, verse 25.  "They did that which was right in their own eyes."  

This book of Judges is a contrast between those who were controlled by the Spirit of God, and those who did right in their own eyes.  Over and over again it says "They did that which was right in their own eyes."  We have known people who have rejected the Lord as their King because they wanted to do that which was wrong; they knew it was wrong, and they did not want the Lord or anyone else to interfere with their plans.  But these people were wanting to do what was right.  At first sight you might say that these people had found a paradise. There was no King to set the standard for them.  In one place we read there was no magistrate to put them to shame.  They were at liberty to live up to their own opinion and do that which was right in their own eyes, but instead of those people finding a paradise, they found just the opposite.  There is no book in the Bible that registers more disappointment and heartache and sorrow than this book of Judges.

Solomon said, "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man but the end thereof are the ways of death." These people proved that, to their sorrow, over and over again.  Jesus said that which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God; he said that to religious people who wanted to do what was right.  These people in the book of Judges also proved that to their sorrow.  Over and over again it says, "They did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord."  But according to their own reasoning they were doing that which was right, and the Lord had to deliver them into captivity until they awakened to the fact.  I hope we can all rejoice this afternoon over the fact that we do have a King in our fellowship, and that we have the privilege of putting the government of our lives upon His shoulders, and that we have the privilege of His Spirit being with us to guide us.  That is the bright part of the picture in this Book of Judges.

There were four men in particular upon whom the Spirit of the Lord came, and the Spirit of the Lord had a control over their lives and made them a blessing to each other and a joy to the heart of God.  If you turn back to chapter 3, you will find the first man mentioned along this line.  At this time the children of Israel were captives in the land of Mesopotamia.  How did they get into that captivity?  By doing that which was right in their own eyes.  Mesopotamia was next to Babylon, and Babylon was a place of confusion, and the reason why there has always been confusion in Babylon is because people there are worshipping in a way that is right in their own eyes.  Maybe from their place in Mesopotamia, they could see what might happen to them if the Lord did not come to their rescue; so in their distress they cried unto the Lord, and the Lord raised up a man by the name of Othniel.  

In verse 10 it says "The Spirit of the Lord came upon Othniel" and he led those people forth to battle and delivered the people from the King of Mesopotamia and brought them back to their own land, and verse 11 tells us that the land then had rest.  That is the order of God's working with His people.  The Spirit of the Lord led to victory, and victory led to liberty and liberty led to rest, and for the first time they could sing "How sweet is the rest of God."  I wonder if you appreciate the fact this afternoon that you are in fellowship with the only people in the world who possess the rest that God gives.  The Scripture tells us that.  The Lord said, "The wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest."  There is no rest to the wicked, He said.  And to the religious people in His day He said, "You come unto me and I will give you rest."  That was because the rest is found in no other place except in His fellowship.  So the order here is the Spirit of the Lord led to victory, and victory led to liberty, and liberty led to rest, and the next time you sing that hymn "How sweet is the rest of God" may you appreciate the fact that you are among the only people in the world who know what it is to enjoy that rest.  The reason why we possess that rest is because of the Spirit of God.  

In chapter 6 of the book of Judges we read of another man upon whom the Spirit of the Lord came.  It was the man Gideon.  At this time the people were in the captivity of the Midianites and Midian means strife.  How did they get there?  By doing that which was right in their own eyes.  There is nothing that can cause strife quicker than that.  Well these people, again in their distress, cried unto the Lord and God raised up this man Gideon, and in verse 34 of chapter 6 it says "The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and this led those people forth to victory."  Again the Spirit of the Lord led them to victory, and victory led them to liberty, and in this case, liberty led them to peace. Verse 23 of this 6th chapter the Angel said to Gideon. "Peace be unto thee, fear not, thou shalt not die."  To begin with, if you do what we ask you to do, you will end up in peace, and the promise of God was fulfilled on his behalf.  The Spirit of the Lord led to victory and victory led to liberty and liberty led to the sweetest peace they had ever known in their day.

There are three things we would like you to notice about this man Gideon upon whom the Spirit of the Lord came.  In verse 15, he spoke of his inability.  He said, "I am the least in my father's house and my father is poor in Manasseh, and Manasseh was the smallest tribe.He said to the Angel, "Surely you would not expect a person like me to bring deliverance to Israel."  You might say he was just about as far down on the list as a person could be.  The tribe of Manasseh to which he belonged was the smallest tribe, and his father was among the poor in Manasseh, and he was the least in his father's house.  So it is only normal that he would think that the Lord could not use a person like him.  

The Lord said on another occasion, "It is not by might, or by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord." God was proving to Gideon and to the whole world, in this case, it is not a matter of being a powerful person in a high commanding position, but it is a matter of possessing the Spirit of God.  There is a real message of hope in that for you and me.  If it was a matter of power or might, or attaining to some great standard, it would be impossible for us to fill a place of usefulness, but the place of usefulness in God's family has always been determined by whether or not we have the Spirit of God.  God proved on this occasion that He could take a person who was the least in the land, and by the aid of His Spirit make one of the greatest generals he ever had.  

There is another thing I want you to notice about this man Gideon, verse 36 he said, "Lord if thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou has said, will it be all right if I put a fleece of wool on the floor, and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said."  And the Lord granted that and when he went out in the morning the ground was dry, and he wrung a whole bowl full of moisture out of that fleece.  The next night he asked if he could prove God the other way, and he said, "Tonight if I put a fleece on the floor, and it be dry only upon the fleece and all the ground be wet with dew."  And the Lord granted it. You can understand the assurance that Gideon needed here, can't you? What He wanted the Lord to prove to him was – the surrounding conditions don't make any difference to God's promise to me!  He was out to fight against one of the greatest armies in the country and all he had was three hundred men with him, without a single weapon.  They had a pitcher, and a lamp and a trumpet.  You would say the surrounding conditions were not very good for victory.  The Lord was just proving to Gideon – Gideon, when I make a promise to you, the surrounding conditions don't interfere with that promise whatever.

Maybe we could pause long enough this afternoon to remind ourselves that God's promises to you and me do not depend on surrounding conditions. There are no hidden clauses in God's promises.  He means exactly what He says.  Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians that when the Gospel was preached to them, the promise God made to them through Christ was "Yea," and "Amen."  He said it was not "Yes" and "No:"  in other words, the Lord was not saying to them through the Gospel, "I can help this person, but no, I cannot help that person, he is too far gone."  He didn't say, "Yes, I can help you when everything is going good, but I can't help you if some foreign power took over.Paul said, "The promise God made to you through Christ when we preached the Gospel was Yes, and Amen.  Yes, I can help you when everything is going good, Yes I can help you just as readily when everything around you is going bad."  I like the little thought that is given to us in Isaiah 40, in this connection, verse 15, the Lord said that all the nations were just like a drop of water in the bucket.  Now a drop of water into the bucket does not change the picture whatever.  You take a drop of water out of a bucket and it doesn't make any difference, and the Lord was saying to these people if all the nations of the world were united against you, it wouldn't make one bit of difference. He said, "It is just a drop in the bucket, and every promise I have made to you, I am able to fulfil, regardless what the surrounding conditions are like."  God not only gave Gideon this assurance, but He took him forth to battle and proved he was able to do what He had promised.  In chapter 7, verse 17, there is one more statement concerning Gideon I would like to mention.  He said to the three hundred men with him, "You look on me and do likewise."  Gideon knew these three hundred men with him had not had the relationship with God that he had.  He knew that the counsel which God gave to Gideon himself, the men had never heard it, and he knew that trying to counsel them by what he had heard would only be found as they were going into battle. This is the part we want you to notice.  He said to these three hundred men "You look on me, and what ever I do you do likewise." He said, it shall be as I do, you shall do also, and the Lord will give us victory.  Do you know why Gideon could uphold himself like that before those men?  Because he was living a Spirit controlled life. Maybe this will contain a little message for you parents in the meeting this afternoon.  We know you are anxious to help your children in a God-ward direction.  We know you cannot be lecturing them all the time, but you can do like Gideon did.  You can be so controlled by the Spirit of God that you can tell your children "You just look on me, and you do what I do."  You are safe to do whatever I say, and you are safe to go wherever I go, and if you do, you will get the victory.  We feel that way also when God entrusts us with a young companion. I have a young companion just starting out by my side,  I knew that young man had not learned to know the Lord like I do, and he didn't know the mind of the Lord as I had learned to know it.  I didn't want to do any lecturing because that can sometimes crush a young worker, so I just prayed the Spirit of God would control my life to the point he could look upon me and do as I do and be safe.  This was one of the things that led to one of the greatest victories that Israel ever knew. The Spirit controlled mind that others could follow and do what he did, and go where he went and share in great victory.  

Chapter 11 of this book we read of another man upon whom the Spirit of the Lord came. This man's name was Jephthah and in verse 29, it says, "The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah."  At this time the children of Ammon were coming down to attack Israel.  The people turned to Jephthah as the one to lead them to victory.  Verse 29 says, the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah and the same results took place. The Spirit of the Lord led to victory, and victory led to liberty and liberty led to fruitfulness.  We often have heard people speak of the vow that Jephthah made.  He said, "If you give me victory and deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, then it shall be that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering."  At the top of my Bible somebody wrote Jephthah's rash vow.  But I would like to tell you why I don't think that was a rash vow.  It tells us this man had a daughter, she was the only child he had.  There were no other brothers or sisters in the family and when he would have come home from his other journeys the first one to run out of his house to meet him would have been that daughter.  It would not have been a dog because the Jews did not allow the dogs in the house.  It would not have been one of the servants because the servants kept themselves in the background until they were told what to do.  It would not have been his wife because the women in those countries keep themselves behind the doors and greet their husbands there.  No doubt when this man had come home from time to time this little daughter had been running out of the house to meet him, and I feel satisfied in my mind when he made this vow to the Lord he knew what it was going to cost him.  He knew it would mean giving his only daughter to the Lord, and the thought of that brought him very low.  I appreciate parents who are giving their children to the Lord even though it does hurt inside.  I don't say that he gave this daughter to the work. But I say that this is a picture of a father giving his child to the work.  This would have cost this man double, because this was the only child that could have perpetuated his name on the earth.  The Lord told the people in the law that if a man had no sons then his daughter could have the inheritance and carry on his name.  That meant a great deal to the Jews.  When this man gave his daughter to the Lord, he knew that that meant his name would die out in the history of the Jews, and when this man gave that only daughter to the Lord, he did something that he could not afford to do, but he did it because his love for the Lord was so great.  I might mention in passing that this fellowship is made possible because of people who do what they cannot afford to do.  When Abraham took that son Isaac up to give him to the Lord, he did something he could not afford to do. Abraham was at the age when he needed that boy, and the boy was old enough now to be a real help to his father and when Abraham offered that only son of his to the Lord, he did something that he could not afford to do, but he did so because of his love for the Lord.  We had a young girl in our field who is now in the work. When she was only fourteen years of age, her mother went through a physical experience that made her wholly dependent on that girl.  Not only was she an emotional support to her mother, but a natural support to her mother, and this went on for years and the girl was now 22 years old. They had come home from the convention and the girl was very silent that night. The mother asked her, "Why are you so quiet?"  She said, she was just thinking about when workers leave convention and how wonderful it must be to go to a field with a companion.  The mother said to her, "Would you like to go into the Work?"  She said "I would love to more than anything in all the world, but I cannot leave you, mother."  The mother said to her, “If you want to go in the work, you go; I will be able to take care of myself now."  When that mother gave her only daughter to the work she did something she could not afford to do, but she did it because she loved the Lord.  

There is something else in the background of this story of Jephthath.  The children of Ammon had come down to battle against them, and you may remember, that Ammon, the father of this family was born in the most disgraceful, degrading conditions that a man could be born.  He was born to a young woman who had sacrificed every respect and common decency in order to preserve the name of her family.  After this meeting, if you read Genesis 19, verse 38, you will know what I am talking about. This son Ammon was born under those conditions.   He was the product of a woman that had sacrificed every common decency to keep the family name going, but Jephthah, on the other hand, was willing to make any sacrifice necessary to keep the Lord's name alive on the earth, and as far as I have been able to find, his name just dropped out of the picture as far as Jewish history is concerned.  When he gave his daughter to the Lord, it meant he would be a nameless nobody in the eyes of the Jews from that time on, but he didn't lose anything.  If you turn to Hebrews 11, verse 32, you will find Jephthah listed in the honour roll of God.  If you put the Lord first in your life and give Him the proper control of your life, it may be you will be a nameless nobody in the world, but no one has ever done that but what they have ended up in the honour roll of God, just like Jephthah did. In one sense, this battle between Jephthah and Ammon is the battle that still goes on among people today.  There is a tendency in the human race to want to make a name for yourself and sometimes, even among the Lord's people, we have to decide whether I want to live to make a name for myself, or live to extend God's name in the world.  We just pray the Spirit of the Lord will come upon every one of us in this meeting this afternoon like it did Jephthah. You might lose your esteem in the eyes of your fellow men, but you will go down in the annals of the record of God.

Maybe we have time to speak about Samson, upon whom the Spirit of the Lord came several times.  Chapter 13, verse 25, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him the first time.  It tells us that he was living between two places.  If you turn back to chapter 9, verse 41 you will read these two places where the borders God had placed for the tribe of Dan which he was among.  The reason why it was easy for the Spirit of the Lord to rest upon him was because he was living in the centre of God's will. He was living within the borders the Lord Himself had set for him.  I would just like to talk for a few minutes to you young people in this meeting this afternoon.  We would certainly encourage you to live in the centre of God's will and in the centre of God's people, and live within the borders the Lord Himself has set for your young lives, that will give the Spirit of God a chance to rest on you and to direct you into what is best for you. Whether you will have the glorious privilege of going out into the Work or whether it will be your lot to stay home and raise up a family, it will be easy for the Lord to direct you if you just stay in the centre of His will.

A year ago we had two young people offer for the work in our state. The one was a young sister and the other a young brother.  They offered at different times, so the one did not know what the other was doing, but each of them came to me with the same statement.   They said, "You might be surprised if I tell you I want to go into the Work." I said to them, "I am not the least bit surprised."  I had been watching those young lives for several years, well the girl for several years, and the young man since he professed, and every time you saw them they were right in the centre of God's Will.  They were not border line dwellers.  There was no doubt when you looked upon their lives that they were living right in the centre of the borders God had set for them, so it was no wonder God could put His Spirit upon them and give them the greatest privilege He ever gave to man or woman, and both of those young people are enjoying a place in the harvest field today. We would say again to our wonderful young people at this convention, you just keep yourself in the centre of God's will.  Remember it is God that sets the borders around your life, not the workers, just as it was God who set the borders around the tribe of Dan to which this man Samson belonged.  You keep yourself in the centre of God's will and put yourself in the position where the Spirit of God can rest upon you, then God can direct you into whatever place God feels is best for you.

Chapter 14, we read of the next time the Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson.  Samson was going along this day and a lion came out of the vineyards and roared against him, and the Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson, and he took that lion and he rent him in two just like he would a newborn lamb.  God proved to him that day that the Spirit of God is also a Spirit of power.  Later on, when he came back to that place, he thought he would turn aside to see if that thing had really happened.  Did I really do that?  Did I really take that young lion in the fullness of his strength and tear him like that?  He turned aside and there was the carcase of the lion, and the bees had made a nest there, and he took some of the honey and ate it himself and brought some of the honey and gave it to his father and mother, but he never told them how he got that honey.  That is because he was controlled by the Spirit of God.  He could have told his parents of the way he endangered his life to get that victory, he could have told them how ferocious that lion was that he killed, but he didn't tell them anything about that, but all he did was bring them the sweetness of the victory.  Maybe there is a little lesson in that for all of us in this meeting this afternoon.  When you come to the meeting and you give your testimony, you just bring the sweetness of the victory. Sometimes there is a little blanket thrown over the meeting when people talk about their battles and struggles and disappointments when they are giving their testimony. I have always been glad that Psalm 102 and 103 have been put side by side in the Bible.  In Psalm 102 the Psalmist was speaking of how much it cost him to be a child of God, but in the 103rd Psalm he spoke of the wonderful benefits.  You will notice that Psalm 102 was a prayer and Psalm 103 is a testimony.  This man felt his loneliness.  He said, "I am like a pelican of the wilderness, I am like an owl in the desert, I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top.He felt so isolated from the rest of the world, and he gave other expressions in this Psalm as to what this was costing him, but the wonderful part of it was he took that into the place of prayer, and poured it out before the One who could do something about it, but when he went into the meeting, he took the 103rd Psalm "Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me, bless His Holy Name.  Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits."  If any time you feel discouraged, and you feel the battle is pretty hard and you feel the foe is pressing in on you, don't take that into the meeting.  You do like the Psalmist – you take that in before the Lord, pour it out to Him, the One who can do something about it, and then you will find it will be easy to bring the 103rd Psalm into the meeting.  In other words, like Samson, you will leave the story of the battle out of the picture; you will bring the sweetness of the victory you can share with others.

May God help us to perceive this afternoon that we do have a King in this fellowship, and we do have the privilege of putting the government of our lives upon His shoulders, and we have His Spirit within us that guides us into the enjoyment of everything we have been speaking about this afternoon.  May this help us to realize we are the most fortunate people on the face of the earth, and we are the only people on the face of the earth that can sing, "How sweet is the rest of God."  May we appreciate this as we should for His sake, him the One who can do something about it, and then you will find it will be easy to bring the 103rd Psalm into the meeting.