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Out Our Way: Along the Covenant Trail with Goliath

Here come the Judge! -The Book of Judges


September 29, 2017

Out our way, there are times when even big old Goliath knows to follow the lead of someone else. While Babe is a much smaller horse, Goliath knows that in many ways she is smarter and wiser, and so he will follow her lead. When we come to that terrifying "monster" culvert on the nature trail in Beaver Creek Park, Babe always leads the way. She knows it is just a small tile of harmless plastic allowing the runoff to go under the trail instead of over it, but to Goliath, it is the monster from the black lagoon.

Even with Babe's encouragement I sometimes have to use the quirt to get him to step over this tiny bit of black piping in the trail, but it is easier when Babe goes first because Goliath has come to trust her leadership.  

In a way, Babe is like those individuals called "judges" in the Old Testament. Now the word we translate as "judge" was not actually a legal term in Israel. The word is "shaphat" in Hebrew, and it is roughly translated as "deliverer" or even " champion." These special people were usually raised up by God for a specific time and place, serving as God's "champions" in crucial moments of Israel's history.

Now at this time, Israel did not yet exist as a nation, but as 12 semi-independent tribes held together by common ancestry and history, and above all, by their Covenant with God.  After the deaths of Moses and Joshua, the tribes scattered throughout the Promised Land. Now, as in most cultures, the "elders" of a tribe tended to be the governing body, but here and there individuals were singled out and recognized for outstanding abilities. It is interesting to note that women as well as men could be called to leadership as judges. The power of God was seen in them as the people found themselves drawn to the clear evidence of God at work in these individuals. Some were judges in the traditional sense, people of wisdom and discernment, such as Deborah, while others were leaders of military genius, like Gideon, or people of courage and personal power like Samson. 

Each was called by God and gifted with a unique talent or ability by the Holy Spirit, and they all courageously stood up for their tribes in times of great trial because they knew and demonstrated that God was with them.

It is interesting that God still raises up "judges" amongst His people even today, individuals who may not be famous or have any official authority in the Church, and yet who show up and lead the way by example for the rest of us. I have certainly witnessed God's "champions" who appear at just the right moment with just the right ability, be it the guy who actually can get that cranky boiler to start working again when it's 40 below outside, or the lady who somehow managed to get to church an hour early and get the coffee going.  Another woman came from Lewistown with the idea of the Festival of Trees when she moved to Havre, and she got it started for the Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line years ago. These are just a few of the ones I personally know about, but there are hundreds more in this community, and chances are you know some of them. You might even be one of them, although if you are a true "champion of God" you would never think so. But others know because they see God at work in you.

Babe doesn't think she is anything special for trotting over that harmless culvert, but Goliath and I do, because we both know how frightened he is of it and how encouraging her example is. As it was said of Esther, an Israelite who saved her people in Persia -Iran - many years later, "Who knows but that it was for such a time as this God sent you?"

In this time of leadership melt-down and massive distrust of institutions, God raises up His "judges," His "champions," to lead us. In them we know God is indeed with us. 


John Bruington offers Out Our Way weekly as a free-will offering to the community, and is therefore not copyrighted. Anyone is free to quote, use it or send it to others if the Lord so directs. The book, "Out Our Way, Theology Under Saddle," is available in print on Amazon, but those guys will charge you. Sorry about that.


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