Chapter 57 - The Lion of God of the Tribe of Judah
And so the preacher began the story, saying, "He was the very first of the strongmen ordained by God to be judges over the tribes of Israel.
“The Hebrews needed these strong leaders because the people had been quick to be unfaithful to the Lord God. They repeatedly disobeyed the Lord, and instead of worshiping Almighty God, they worshipped other gods. They were stubborn, and simply would not stop worshiping the gods of the nations that surrounded them. The Hebrews followed the teachings of their neighbors’ dead religions. So the Lord allowed their enemies, many times, to gain the upper hand and make life miserable for the Hebrews.
“But then, they would cry out to the Lord for mercy and deliverance. At such times, the Lord chose these special leaders known as judges. The judges were men and women of God who led Israel back to a right attitude toward God, putting away idolatry. And God would help each judge to rescue Israel from its foes. The judge would lead the Hebrews into battle, defeating their enemies.
“The first of these judges was Othniel. He was among the generation of Hebrews who lived in the Promised Land just after they had entered Canaan, and just after they had taken possession of the Promised Land. In the early years of this generation, the Hebrews had been faithful to the Lord. But their faithfulness was short lived.
“Now Othniel was the nephew of Caleb, a man of God. Caleb had stood with the Lord and his anointed servant Joshua through difficult times, before the Hebrews entered the Promised Land. Joshua had given Caleb some good land among the tribe of Judah, as God had told him to do. Caleb's share was the city of Hebron.
“This great city had previously been called Arabia, and it had been founded by the giant Araba. He was the forefather of the Anakim, a family of giants. Araba and his son Anak had been the largest warriors of them all. But Caleb attacked Hebron and forced the three Anakim clans of Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai to leave.
“After that, Caleb went to war with the town of Kiriath-Sepher. And he had said to all of his men, 'The man who captures Kiriath-Sepher can marry my daughter.'
“Now Caleb would not have said this if the conquest of Kiriath-Sepher had been a small task! The invasion was a very dangerous undertaking! But the brave nephew of Caleb, Othniel, captured the whole city! And so, Othniel married Caleb’s daughter.
“The name Othniel means 'Lion of God.' And Othniel was of the tribe of Judah. The Hebrew scriptures say that Shiloh, our coming King and Savior, will also be born of the tribe of Judah. So Othniel was a forerunner of the coming Lion of God of Judah!
"Now about the time that Othniel married Caleb's daughter, the Hebrews were turning away from the Lord and beginning to worship the idols of Baal and Astarte! These were the gods of the people the Hebrews had defeated in entering the land!
“This idolatry made the Lord very angry, so he let Israel be defeated by King Cushan Rishathaim, a powerful desert king. His name means 'the man of double wickedness.' He was a cruel ruler of the region in the midst of the two mighty rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris. Cushan Rishathaim forced Israel to pay tribute to him for eight years. And the Hebrews, who had been calling on Baal and Astarte, began to call on the Lord God!
"They begged the Lord for help, and God chose Othniel to rescue them!
“It was in answer to the cry of the Hebrews that God raised up Othniel to be their deliverer. The Spirit of the Lord took control of the godly man of Judah. God's Spirit of wisdom and courage and power, the Spirit of God, came upon Othniel’s human spirit - enabling him to accomplish what his natural strength could not.
“Othniel judged the Hebrews. He led them - and he brought them back in line with the Lord God. He abolished all the idolatry in Israel! Othniel commanded the people to wipe the land clean of all the idols and false gods!
"Then Othniel went out to war! He led the Hebrews in a war against Cushan Rishathaim! The courageous exploits of his past had gained him the confidence of his countrymen. And the Lord God gave Othniel a great victory as he overpowered the king of double wickedness! The desert tents of the enemy were ripped apart!
"And so it happened hundreds of years ago! Othniel was appointed to be the courageous man who would succeed Joshua as the leader of Israel! He brought peace to Israel for forty years after defeating all of their mighty enemies!
“Let us learn the lessons of Othniel’s story! We must turn to the Lord God with our whole heart, and bow down to him! And when we have given him our whole heart, he becomes our Lord and Savior and Deliverer! Trust in Him!"