God Raises Up Leaders

The first judge God raised up was Moses. Exodus 18:13 says, “Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening.” Serving as the only judge, Moses was overwhelmed at the workload, and people could not get justice in a timely manner. So, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro says in Exodus 18:19-22: “You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves.”

Moses delegated his workload so that he could elevate to a higher level of leadership. Exodus 18:24-26 says, “So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in- law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And they judged the people at all times. Any hard case they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves.”

The similarities between the judges Moses and Gideon are many.

  • Both men had ties to the region of Midian, as Moses married a Midianite woman, and it was the Midianites many years later who invaded and destroyed Israel during the days of Gideon.
  • Both men were doing agricultural tasks when God called them into new leadership positions as judges.
  • Jesus Christ appearing as the angel of the Lord appeared to both men in fire.
  • God raised up both men to deliver His people from evil political oppression.
  • God gave signs to both men to help convince them of His divine calling on their life.
  • Both Moses and Gideon felt inadequate for the calling God gave them and asked to be excused from serving in the role of judges.
  • Both men were given orders from God to obey and did so, even though imperfectly.

In the days of both Moses and Gideon, God’s people cried out in desperation for deliverance, and God heard and answered their prayers by raising up leaders called judges.

Judges in the Old Testament were a combination of spiritual, political, legal, and military leadership “raised up” by God to deliver God’s people from their enemies. A Bible dictionary says:

“The judges primarily functioned as military leaders, and it seems that they were supposed to function as spiritual leaders, who at the very least set a positive example. The judges functioned within their own tribes and across tribes.

The stories of the spirit-empowered, yet often very flawed, judges combine to show the faithfulness of Yahweh to an unfaithful people. The temporary and successive leadership of the judges underscores Israel’s dependence on human leadership during this time, which ultimately leads them to declare that they are in need of a king. The difference between a judge and a king was temporary leadership versus long-term leadership: Judges do not seem to have had unilateral power like a monarch, but rather power limited to military (and possibly arbitration) matters, and it does not seem that the successors of judges were meant to be chosen based on blood line.”1

That last point is another clue about how to interpret Judges. Although the book features those who “judged” Israel, only one named figure – God himself, the Judge – is given that title [A substantive participle, used as a noun. Only Yahweh is called a “Judge” by name] (by Jephthah). The point all along is that only God is the real Judge. He is the Judge of Judges, and God judges everyone, and everyone will give an account to Him. This is because authority is derived from God, and those with authority are still under God’s authority.

Take some time and pray for God to raise up Spirit-filled leaders for our country today. 

  1. John D. Barry and Carrie Sinclair Wolcott, “Judge, Role in Israel,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

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