"Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenlies, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:15-23).
"For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man" (Eph. 3:14-16).
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might" (Eph. 6:10).
"And when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother. And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the LORD delivered Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushanrishathaim" (Judges 3:9,10).
In the first place we want to know how the book of Judges should be read. It is always good to know how to read any particular part of God's Word, and when we come to the book of Judges we always want to bear in mind that the background of this book is a representation of Christ as the inheritance of God's people; that is, Christ as God's fulness for His own. If you like, you can put it the other way, the saints' inheritance in Christ. As we know, the land represents that.
Inasmuch as the book of Judges shows the Lord's people as having failed to possess all the land, it speaks to us typically of a stopping short on the part of the saints, and a failure to appropriate all God's intended fulness for them as vested in Christ. These two things simply go alongside one another. The land, representing the fulness of God's thought for His people, speaks of Christ and all the fulness of God in Christ for them.
We know what the thought of God is for us. It is fulness in every sense, in Christ. That thought is for all the Lord's people. We want to establish that, and make that perfectly settled so far as our recognition of it is concerned. The condition among the Lord's people, we know, is anything but that, but it does not alter the fact. God's desire, God's purpose, and what God has actually done for His people, is in relation to their knowing fulness of every kind in a spiritual way in Christ. Then the other thing is the fact that there has been a stopping short and failure on the part of the Lord's people in relation to that thought and will of God.
Remaining Elements Contrary to Christ
A third thing arises as we read this book, and it is that there are elements which have been allowed to remain in the place which should be occupied by the fulness of Christ. Those elements, therefore, must be the things which are contrary to Christ. Anything which takes Christ's place must be contrary to Christ. Anything which is a factor preventing the greater fulness of Christ must be opposed to Christ. So what we have here in this book is a whole range of elements which remain in possession where the saints ought to be enjoying something of the Lord, and those elements are preventing that enjoyment and that possession. Thus there are elements keeping out of full possession.
Seeing these three things, we have the clue to the book. It is this: we must discover what those things are which are contrary to Christ, and we must see that they stand in direct opposition to some particular feature of Christ. If only we recognised the feature of Christ which is challenged and set back, which does not obtain at that particular point, then we have the key to victory, to recovery, to moving on into God's full thought. These elements which are allowed to remain represent something that is other than Christ, so what is the characteristic of Christ which will eject them? For it is Christ in some particular characteristic or feature who is needed to be brought in to eject these other things, and so by the bringing in of Christ, the appropriation of Christ, the applying of Christ, we remove the difficulty, uproot the evil, displace the opposition, and enter into the greater fulness of Christ.
Therefore we have these two things. On the one hand, the people who dominated in the land were forces contrary to Christ. On the other hand, the judges bring into view the features of Christ for deliverance. Each judge himself or herself, (although not a type of Christ in the full sense), have something primarily spiritual about them which is a feature of Christ for the bringing of the Lord's people into the fulness of His will. That is how to read the book of Judges. That is simple, but it is tremendously instructive.
Othniel, "The Lion of God"
So then we come to the first of the judges. You will notice that very little is said about him. We are told that God raised up a saviour for them, Othniel, the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him; he judged Israel, went out to war, the Lord gave deliverance, the land had rest forty years and Othniel the son of Kenaz died (Judges 3:9-11). Quite a lot of history is crowded into a very abbreviated record of a man's life. Yet if we look inside we shall see all that we want to know as to a primary feature of Christ for deliverance from that which held back from fulness. It is impressive to recognise that right at the beginning of things this should be the first judge, the first step for deliverance, for recovery. Othniel. You notice how the name ends, therefore you at once conclude that it has something to do with God. God's Name is at the end, El. The first part of the name means lion. The lion of God! It goes right to the root of matters.
All the best features of the book of Judges are gathered into the first chapter. This book must never be read as though it were chronological. Everything that is good that can be said is gathered in the one chapter; after that there is not a great deal of good, so far as the people are concerned. But remember Joshua. In Joshua we have presented to us a wonderful possessing of the land, an entering in and a taking possession, a movement of faith in God, and a resultant fulness; fulness up to a point, and then a stopping. When Joshua died there was still land to be possessed, still these inimical elements to be overcome and cast out. At some point, for various reasons, the people ceased to go on.
It is not for us to judge them and determine why, but I think we could get very near the truth if we said that they felt perhaps that enough had been done. They had gone so far, and it was hardly necessary to go any further. A great deal of land was possessed, they had a measure of the knowledge of the Lord - to put it into spiritual terms - and now it was not necessary to go on any farther. At any rate, that was their spirit.
It may have been that they had grown somewhat weary, and that they recognised that these forces were a little more deeply entrenched than they had imagined, and could not be expelled quite so easily as they had thought. Whatever the case, they were coming up against fresh challenges, demands and difficulties, and the way led them into a state of spiritual decline. For some reason or another they came to the place where their spiritual strength for going on was surrendered. Although they had gone on in a large degree, had known wonderful deliverances and victories, had proved the Lord marvellously, they failed to go on. Yet all that the Lord had shown was not yet realised, and seventy-five percent, ninety percent, or ninety-nine percent would not satisfy Him.
For some reason or another that spiritual energy to go on ceased; spiritual strength gave out; they let go. It may have been a wrong attitude of contentment, a false satisfaction or it may have been discouragement, the hardness and difficulty, and the long delay. Many other things may have come in, but whatever they were, the fact was that they let go, became weak, ceased to lay hold on divine strength for what remained to be dealt with. The result was, of course, that those forces doubly entrenched themselves and consolidated their position. This failure in faith led the Lord to take another attitude towards them that, rather than being favourable towards their position, He allowed these things to bring home to them the evil of their position, and bring them into a state of bondage to the things to which they had voluntarily surrendered. They did not find the Lord with them as He was before. So we have this terrible state of things in the book of Judges.
How is there to be recovery? How will the Lord's people be delivered from this bondage of limitation, this state of spiritual defeat where they are not enjoying the Lord and His fulness? How will it be? Well, the Lord raises up judges; that is, the Lord raises up those who will make known to His people just what is of Himself, that is the way of deliverance.
The first judge is Othniel, the lion of God. The significance of Othniel and his name is that there is divine strength for these people if only they will lay hold of it. Yes, all the things round about are calculated to weaken the Lord's people today. He knows the intensity of the conflict, the length of the road, the weariness of the flesh, for He has been this way Himself. He knows all about it, the cause of the suffering, the fury of the oppressor, the subtlety of the devices of the enemy. He knows all about our frame; He considers that we are dust. We can tell Him nothing about that that He does not know, and probably He knows more, for He came down and went this way Himself. In a spiritual way in a human body He went this way.
See the Lord Jesus as He travels this road. Mark you, He was in very truth moving Himself towards divine fulness. That statement needs guarding at once. He had emptied Himself. He existed in God-form. He changed His form and came into man-form, and that meant a voluntary emptying of Himself, not of His Godhead but of His form. He was here on a basis of dependence upon the Father; just as dependent upon the Father as we are. That was His choice; that was the wonder, the glory of His emptying, that He accepted a life of dependence upon the Father, so that all that He got was to be had in exactly the same way as we get it. His purpose was to come back to fulness - not now on the ground of the right of Godhead, because it was His right to be there; not back into divine fulness because of His eternal right as the Son, but to come back into a divine fulness which was God's fulness for man. When Christ got through at length He was filled with all the fulness which was man's inheritance in God. Christ possesses the fulness of God, which is our fulness, our inheritance. There is a fulness of God which is not ours; that is, the fulness of deity, Godhead. That is Christ's on the side of deity. But on the other side there is that fulness, the inheritance which God had for man, intended for Adam, which Adam never attained. Christ came to redeem the possession, redeem the inheritance, and God vested Him in glory with all that inheritance which is ours. But to arrive at that fulness as a Man was along the road of dependence, suffering, where He had to draw strength, not out from Himself as Man, but from God.
See the Lord Jesus drawing His strength from above. He knew weariness of body, mind, and soul, perhaps weariness of spirit. He groaned in His spirit. "Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus upon the well" (John 4:6). And yet, what persistence! What going on! What refusal to be turned aside by enticement, promise, or the attempted comfort of friends! You find in this One a setting of the face, a going on resolutely, strongly, determinately, not being turned aside one hair's breadth, and all the time drawing upon the Father for that strength necessary, until He came right through. Heavenly ministrations strengthened Him to go through. He was being strengthened from heaven. Just think of Very God needing angels to minister to Him, to strengthen Him. Is not that a proof that for a little while He became lower than the angels for the suffering of death? It was not upon His own deity that He was drawing. He was being succoured by the angels whom He had created. The point is that His strength was above, and it was by drawing upon that strength above that He could go through.
What is the nature of this Lion of God? Look at Him on His face before God, pleading for strength that He shall not break down, reaching out with both hands to draw His strength from His Father to go on. Nothing turns Him aside; He goes on in that strength. This Lion of God is not some great majestic being that the natural eye can behold as such. When we think of the "Lion of the tribe of Judah" we immediately conjure up in our minds something very terrible, terrific, impressive, something that is a great outward demonstration of power, of strength, of majesty.
If you look at the Lion of the tribe of Judah down here there is nothing like that about Him. You have got to look inside to see the Lion nature; the strength is spiritual, not natural; it is from above, not from beneath. But it is very real, very wonderful, a strength which in the end all the combined power of hell and man cannot break, but which rather breaks all other forces in this universe as they converge upon Him.
You and I know very little about the power of the enemy, but all the power and all that the enemy had at his command was brought to bear upon God's Son, the Son of Man, to break Him, yet there was a strength in Him which broke that united force of the whole kingdom and power of Satan. It was spiritual strength by which He came through to that fulness as Man for us.
Now we see where we begin in the book of Judges. Who is Othniel? You need no fuller study of his life, you do not need to know his whole life background, all you need to know is what he stands for. The Lord's people have come into a bad condition because they have let go of their strength in the Lord. The only way for them to get into a good condition and out of the bad condition is to get hold of the strength of the Lord. In spite of conditions, in spite of what they are themselves, in spite of everything, they need to get hold of the strength of the Lord by faith. The Lord's strength which is more than our human frailty, the Lord's strength which is more than all the power of the enemy against us, the Lord's strength which is more than all the circumstances which would discourage us, is ours through faith.
Judges and Corinthians
You see, there is Joshua and Ephesians, and in between there is Judges, and, if you like, Corinthians. The book of Joshua represents the fulness in the heavenlies, the Lord's strength marvellously in evidence. The Epistle to the Ephesians represents the fulness of the heavenlies, "strengthened with might by His spirit in the inner man"; "the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe"; "that strength of His might which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead" (ASV); "be strong in the Lord". Judges is not in the heavenlies, in the fulness, in the victory, but is on the earth, grovelling in weakness, defeat and helplessness. What, then, do we need? We need Ephesian conditions, Ephesian elements, Joshua elements. That is just what we have already referred to. Look at Ephesians 1:18-23 again.
How do we get recovery? How shall we come into the fulness? How will the Lord's people be delivered from this terrible state spiritually? The answer is in a name in the book of Judges - Othniel, the Lion of God. In Ephesian language it is "the exceeding greatness of His power which is to usward who believe"; "strengthened with might through His spirit into the inward man".
That is what it is simply in words, but it has to be practised. It is a challenge. So the apostle brings the Ephesian letter concerning all this fulness to a close with this word: "Finally... be strong...". That is your business. That is your responsibility. It is not: "Finally... may the Lord strengthen you." That is how we should like it to be. We should take hold of that promise, if it were a promise; but it is not a promise, it is a challenge. "Finally... be strong in the Lord...", and take the whole armour of God.
The Strength of the Lord
The point is clear: this is the strength of the Lord. If you are feeling sufficient and strong this word has no meaning for you. Sooner or later you will come to the place, if you are going on with the Lord, where you will know that only the Lord's strength will get you through. The fact remains that we may or may not feel strong, but that does not count, and we shall never get through on our own weakness or strength, so we must not rest upon either. Let us come off our natural ground, of whatever kind it is - our sense of sufficiency or our own weakness. If we take the position of our own natural condition spiritually or physically, circumstantially or temperamentally, there will be limitation. If we say, I am one of the weak, fearful, timid ones, we will be in very severe limitation as to the measure of Christ, and we will be of no value to the Lord for the deliverance of others from limitation. Remember that is not the Lord's thought for you, nor is it for me. The Lord's thought is perfectly clear, and it is the fulness of Christ. We must come right off our natural ground, and recognise that it is the Lion of God, that it is the strength of God, the strength of the Lord, the power of His might, and when we recognise that, that the exceeding greatness of His power is to usward, we shall get through. Who is it to? Is it to "usward", who are such strong, go-ahead, robust people with such a lot of faith and confidence; to "usward" who are quite sure we shall get through? No, it is to "usward" who believe. Are we going to put ourselves among the unbelievers? That is all that is required: "...who believe". We are weak in ourselves, we are finished, beaten, everything is too much for us. Are we going to accept that position and sit down in it? It will not be long before we find that other powers will rise up and gain the mastery of our life, and we will be beaten and harassed, just as these people were from these various forces coming in from round about, simply because they had accepted a lower level than the Lord intended. But even though we may be feeling perfectly unfit and worthless, if we will accept this position of appropriating faith as to the strength of His might, the Lord may take hold of us as that weak thing and bring to naught the mighty things, as a nothing to bring to naught the things that are, His strength made perfect in weakness.
We must not accept our own natural condition as the final criterion. Remember that God calls us through faith to His fulness, and to come there we must rise up and lay hold of His strength. The Lord needs, right at the outset, men and women who will - though they are weak in themselves, utterly worthless and useless, are strong in spirit, inwardly unbending, inwardly refusing to capitulate to the conditions, whether these are enemy conditions from without or from within, or human conditions from within. These things are not to dominate, for they are contrary to Christ. Our human conditions are contrary to Christ, and they will work against Christ. Whether they be physical, or moral, or any other conditions, they will work against Christ, and keep us in limitation and in bondage. We must lay hold of His strength by faith, and appropriate it to overcome the conditions which we find in ourselves which are holding us in bondage.
There were two things about Othniel; he judged Israel and went out to war. He determined the nature of the cost, and then went out to meet the enemy. That judgement, perception and insight caused him to recognise what the position was. He had the eyes of his heart enlightened, and he saw that this was not something that was to be surrendered to, because this was something against the Lord's thought, something that the Lord did not accept. Argue as you might for it, and for the hopelessness and helplessness of the position, nevertheless, it stood in contrast to what the Lord had shown to be His mind, and that is the final argument.
Ask yourself whether your condition is what the Lord wants for you, or whether the Lord has not revealed something other than that. Let that determine. Does the Lord want us to be poor, grovelling things, beaten and harassed by enemy forces and by human elements and natural conditions, so that all the time we are at the mercy of these things, in bondage, unable to deliver souls? The answer does not lie far off. That is not the Lord's thought for you and for me. The Lord has called us to liberty, victory, and fulness.
Othniel judged. He that is spiritual judges all things. He knows what the Lord wants and what the Lord does not want, and he sees the situation in a spirit of clear judgement. Othniel went out to war. There are a lot of people who think that they have a lot of spiritual perception, that they understand the difference. They can tell you the difference between conversion and new birth, and all these fine distinctions, but they are no good at fighting. The Lord does not want us to talk about distinctions, discriminations, or fine differences. The Lord wants that we, in seeing things spiritually, should go out to battle, and thus lay hold of His strength against ourselves, our weaknesses and conditions, and all else. We must lay hold of the Lion of God, which represents the strength that is in Christ Jesus.
The Lord make us strong, and give us faith to take His strength.