Here is my sermon on the end of Judges. I had to fly because of the way I sat 1 Corinthians too close to Advent, but you can really only handle so many weeks of failures and bloodbaths of Judges. Sermon audio is below followed by my sermon notes.
Judges Part 3
 The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the LORD and did not serve him.  So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the Ammonites,  and they crushed and oppressed the people of Israel that year. For eighteen years they oppressed all the people of Israel who were beyond the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead.  And the Ammonites crossed the Jordan to fight also against Judah and against Benjamin and against the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was severely distressed.
 And the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, saying, “We have sinned against you, because we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals.”  And the LORD said to the people of Israel, “Did I not save you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines?  The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, and you cried out to me, and I saved you out of their hand.  Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more.  Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.” And the people of Israel said to the LORD, “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day.”  So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel. (ESV)
Life is all about city-states and strong warlord leaders. There is an episode in 11 that shows, in spite of all of their chasing after foreign gods and stuff, they have preserved the stories of their history.
There is a dispute about who took what land when the Hebrews came out of Egypt, because the Amorites are fighting to get the land back from Israel, and a guy says this :
 And [the Hebrews coming out of Egypt] took possession of all the territory of the Amorites from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the wilderness to the Jordan.  So then the LORD, the God of Israel, dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel; and are you to take possession of them?  Will you not possess what Chemosh your god gives you to possess? And all that the LORD our God has dispossessed before us, we will possess.  Now are you any better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever contend against Israel, or did he ever go to war with them? (ESV)
This guy, Jephthah, remembers the history of what land the Hebrews took and even the events of Balak and Balam that are written in the book of Numbers. So they haven’t forgotten this stuff. They are just choosing to not obey God.
 Then the Spirit of the LORD was upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites.  And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand,  then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.” (ESV)
Why did he do such a stupid thing? The Spirit of the Lord was already upon him. He was already mighty.
Religious vows like that are just our way of bargaining and trying to control God.
He doesn’t want our vows.
His daughter is more righteous than he is. She insists that he keeps his vow and he ends up killing her. It doesn’t say anywhere that God was happy with that.
Civil War over Who is Fighting Who
Like a bunch of idiots they are fighting about who is called in when they fight other nations. A civil war breaks out, and the Shibboleth event happens.
 And the Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites. And when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me go over,” the men of Gilead said to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” When he said, “No,”  they said to him, “Then say Shibboleth,” and he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it right. Then they seized him and slaughtered him at the fords of the Jordan. At that time 42,000 of the Ephraimites fell. (ESV)
(Overview and storytelling as time allows)
Samson was called out from birth to be holy. He was going to deliver Israel from all of her oppressors! He failed every single rule that was put upon him, but God still delivered Israel in some ways and brought judgment on Her enemies.
Starting next week, on the first Sunday of Advent, we’ll talk about the One who came to deliver Israel and the world and obeyed every single thing He was called to obey!