This week, we’re kicking off Broken Heroes, our new series through the book of Judges. After the Israelites fled Egypt and settled in Canaan, they existed as a group of tribes without any central leadership. Whenever outside forces would threaten to attack—or when the Israelites would be tempted to compromise their faithfulness to God—God would raise up a judge to lead and deliver them. Over the course of Broken Heroes, we’ll look at six of these judges; this week, we’re starting with Othniel.

Read Judges 3.5–11.

What we see in this passage is that, as Israel has begun to live among other tribes and cultures, they’ve begun to compromise their own values and adopt these other groups’ religious values. Even if we tell ourselves we’re only making minor compromises, being unfaithful to God is always a big deal. We can learn several things about God’s character through how He responds to Israel in this circumstance.

1. God is corrective.

In verse 8, we learn that God has given Israel over to King Aram. Many times, when God sees us living outside of the purpose He created us for, He’ll allow a certain amount of discomfort to encourage us to seek Him out. When we experience these corrective actions, we experience a wake up call to draw back to God.

2. God is merciful.

When the Israelites cried out to God in verse 9, it wasn’t a cry of repentance. Nevertheless, God still heard their cry and intervened, because He is a merciful God.

3. God is powerful.

Throughout the story, God is the main driver of the action. It was God who gave Israel over to King Aram, God who heard their cry, and God who raised Othniel up. We need to remember that our lives aren’t about getting God to bless what we’re doing, it’s about joining in what God is doing and being part of His plan. God drove the action in this story, God drives the actions in our lives, and God drives the course of history.

4. God is a peace provider.

In verse 11, we see that after Othniel led Israel out of the hands of Aram, they experienced peace for 40 years. The Hebrew word used here translates to rest and quietness. In our culture, we’re so focused on striving for productivity, for a promotion, for better relationships. God, however, wants to take us out of a spirit of striving and deliver us into a time of peace and rest.

We can also learn three things about Othniel through this passage.

1. Very little is said about him.

Throughout the book of Judges, it’s a trend that the more wicked a judge is, the more is written about him or her. The fact that there’s not much written about Othniel is a clue to his godly character.

2. No character flaws are mentioned.

Once again, what’s not said is just as important as what’s included. While character flaws are included for many other judges, nothing negative is said about Othniel.

3. Othniel acted in tandem with God.

In verse 9, we learn that the Israelites are saved from Aram, but it’s unclear who they’re saved by—God or Othniel. The point of the ambiguity of this construction is to highlight the fact that Othniel was willing to work in tandem with God and His purposes.

The reason Othniel experienced peace, and helped others experience peace, wasn’t because he was such a hard worker. It was because he was obedient to what God called him to do.

We all want to experience the peace and rest of God. The question we have to ask ourselves is if we’re willing to be obedient to God. Even as we do our best to live in obedience to God, the reality is that we are broken people. Nothing we will ever do can earn God’s peace; it was Jesus’ ultimate obedience to God through dying on the cross that grants us access to God’s divine rest.

Discussion Questions

  1. When have you experienced God’s corrective nature in your life? What was a wake up call you had when you weren’t living faithfully?
  2. Are you living faithfully now? Are there any areas in which you’re compromising God’s values? What are they?
  3. Think about some of the plans you’re making. Are you making the plans and asking God to bless them, or are you seeking out God’s will and making plans based on His purpose? What does it look like for you personally to be part of what God is doing?
  4. Are you currently in a spirit of striving? What are you striving for?
  5. What does it look like for you to get out of the cycle of striving and step into God’s rest?