Date written – Around 1025 B. C. to the Israelite, and all future readers of the Bible.
The theme – “Choosing not to obey God fully results in personal and spiritual disaster”
Author of the Book – Possibly Samuel, the prophet.
Key verses – Deuteronomy 11:26-28, “Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; a blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God”
Someone wisely observed, “If we fought sin as hard as we do middle age, this world would be a moral paradise.” However, when it comes to fighting sin, too many people in our postmodern world resemble dead fish. They let the current of popular opinion sway and carry them along. Popular opinion claims Biblical values are old-fashioned and out of step with progressive thinking. It is popular opinion that denies the existence of moral absolutes. It champions the cause of doing your own thing. Its theme song would be “I did it my way.” It advocates the questioning of authority, and it crowns self-will as king of decision-making over the principles set forth in God’s precious and Eternal Word.
Those who let self-will determine their choices and lifestyle may think they are blazing a new trail, but they aren’t. Israel followed that trail many centuries ago, in the time of the judges, when “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). The trail led to slavery, not freedom. The Lord allowed the Canaanites to gain the upper hand over the Israelites and oppressed them. However, when the Israelites winced under the weight of oppression, acknowledged their waywardness, and turned to the Lord, He sent them deliverers – judges – who pulled them out of the oppressors’ hands and restored peace to His people.
Unfortunately, the Israelites failed to learn what they should have learned through the school of suffering (as we sometimes do). Thus, doing what is right in one’s own eyes amounts to doing what is wrong in the eyes of the Lord and will ultimately lead to divine judgment. So the cycle of sin, slavery, supplication, and salvation spins its ways through the entire book of Judges. However, we can learn from the book to do what is right in the Lord’s eyes in spite of what others may be saying and doing. If they choose to do their own thing, they will suffer the consequences; however, if we choose to obey God, we will experience His blessings. It almost seems like obeying God is an easy choice, doesn’t it? It isn’t. But it is the right one. May the study of this book serve you well wherein you can boldly announce to a spineless culture, “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).
INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF JUDGES
(1) Its Title
The book of Judges is so very relevant for today. It takes its title from the fact it records the activities of 12 men and one woman, raised up, appointed by God and designated as judges, to deliver Israel in time of deterioration and falling away after Joshua’s death (Judges 2:16; Ruth 1:1, Acts 13:20). The judges were chosen from different tribes; however, not all of them exercised jurisdiction over the entire territory of Israel as the influence of some was local. It records the Israelites fall into sin and its terrible consequences. The judges were not elected nor did they inherit the position or receive it by human appointment. Rather, God raised them up for specific tasks. Usually their work involved two areas of responsibilities:
(a) Delivering the people from foreign oppression, and
(b) Providing spiritual leadership (Judges 2:18, 19).
If the people had been obedient to begin with, they wouldn’t have needed judges; however, they didn’t and continued in sin. As a result, God allowed Israel’s enemies to oppress her. Thus, the people needed judges to lead the Israelites, as well as those which succeeded it, because the Israelites were characterized by a lack of national unity, indifference to the commands of God, and a general moral and spiritual decay (much like that of today’s world).
(2) Its Setting
The period of the judges lasted from Joshua until Samuel, approximately 350 years. In addition to the judges recorded in this Book, Eli and Samuel were also judges, but they will not be included in this study. The book of Ruth also fits within the time frame of the judges. The book of Judges does not reveal the length of servitude and judgeship for all the judges. Thus it is difficult, therefore, to determine exactly when a particular judge served. Also, there were probably times without a judge and times when more than one served. Most would have been local rather than national judges.
Conditions in Israel were chaotic during the period of the judges. The Lord had commanded the Israelites to destroy the inhabitants of Canaan so they would not contaminate Israel with idolatry. However, Israel disobeyed the Lord and became idolatrous and immoral. The moral and spiritual conditions during the period of the judges were similar to the conditions that we face in the world today.
(3) Its Themes
A serious problem with people today and one of the main themes of Judges. When the Israelites failed to completely drive out the wicked nations in Canaan, they left themselves open to their influences, chiefly idolatry and immorality. The theme of Judges may be seen in the book’s key verse; “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
Our immediate environment can affect our relationship with God. The Israelites did not set out to be idolaters. But when they intermarried with the people of the surrounding nations, against God’s command, they began to accept the pagan Canaanite gods and goddesses — and the immoral practices associated with them — into their homes, thus she suffered under the disciplinary hand of God, as He allowed foreign nations to oppress her.
Time and time again she would call on God, and He would compassionately send a judge to deliver her. Filled with the Holy Spirit, these valiant men and women obeyed God, although imperfectly, to demonstrate His faithfulness and love. Israel would enjoy rest until the judge died; then the process would begin once again. Thus, the cycle of sin, servitude, supplication and salvation would be repeated throughout the book.
OUR CHOICES EQUAL CONSEQUENCES
I note for you the many difference between the Book of Joshua vs. the Book of Judges regarding how far the nation of Israel had wandered from God. In the book of Joshua we find victory, faith, spiritual vision, joy, strength, sense of unity and sin judged. However, in the book of Judges we will find servitude, unbelief, earthly emphasis, sorrow, weakness, disorder and sin lightly regarded.
Many times we often think problems stem from other people, and this sometimes is true. However, if we casually dismiss ourselves from self-criticism and think we are beyond the reach of sin, we will have no chance even to face up to the battle we are in: the battle with sin. The book of Judges should cause every believer in Christ to take a closer look at ourselves and our own weaknesses. We see again and again what God expects of His people. The failures of His people are also brought before our eyes until we almost can feel the weeping and despair. God, of course, worked through these difficult situations and repeatedly restored His people.
God’s relentless patience and awesome power should give each generation hope. But even still, in the course of these several hundred years and many judges, they had failed miserably, and had missed their opportunity. The Israelites had their good times, of course. They saw tremendous miracles occur. Great names like Gideon and Samson come before our minds. Generally, though, God’s Promised Land was not much different than the ungodly societies about them. Our battles are not very different, though perhaps we would like to think so.
Because of our forefather’s weaknesses and the influence of our own pagan societies, we must in a deeper way prepare for battle with sin. The war has been launched by Satan against our soul, our family, our church, and our nation. If we do nothing, we shall surely fail. We have before us in the book of Judges a very clear and concise picture of what happens when we choose not to fight. Weariness, avoidance, busyness, comfort and whatever other excuses that have been conjured up all have the same deadly consequences. The call of God and our love for Him must not tolerate such excuses. The enemy is upon us and we need to fight.
THE DAYS AFTER THE CONQUEST
The exciting days of conquest under Joshua had passed and it was time for Israel to settle in the land God had given her. Instead of experiencing blessing and growth at this stage of her history, Israel wandered from God and experienced spiritual and political chaos. If you have read Charles Dickens novel “A Tale of Two Cities” he began his novel with the infamous line, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” If he had written an introduction to the book of Judges he may have written, “It could have been the best of times but it became the worst of times.” How sad!
When we read about Israel’s entrance into the Promised Land in the books of Exodus through Deuteronomy, it’s somewhat of a roller coaster ride of ups and downs that lasted 40 years but should have been much shorter. But by the time we get to Joshua, a new generation of Israelites have listened to God and learned from the mistakes of their deceased parents – deceased in the desert because of failure to believe and trust God. Reading through the book of Joshua, you will find how he leads Israel into the land of Canaan where they start capturing towns, cities and large areas of land. At the end of Joshua the Israelites vowed to follow God and promised not to serve the false gods that the Canaanites worshipped. Then when you read the book of Judges and find the people of God are defeated, oppressed, had fallen into idolatry, and the further you read into Judges the worse it gets. The obvious questions we need to ask are:
(1) What happened?
(2) Where did Israel go wrong?
(3) Why didn’t they receive the rest in the land that God promised?
These first two chapters of Judges explains how Israel lost God’s blessing and failed to receive the promised rest God wanted to give them. While great leaders like Moses and Joshua were now gone, the people of God needed other godly leaders to pick up the slack and step in to lead God’s people into experiencing the promises of God. You will notice that one of the key phrases in the book of Judges is:
“In those days Israel had no king. Everyone did as he saw fit/what was right in their own eyes.” (17:6)
I’m not sure we live in a time that is much different. In our day our world goes by its own standards. Has the world gone mad? It sure seems like it. So many people act as if they are the only ones who matter. They want their own way and are willing to push others out of the way or trample them to reach their goals. As far as they are concerned, the end justifies the means. They think they can do what is right in their own eyes and answer to no one.
(1) If a wife or husband no longer brings the spouse happiness, the spouse has an affair or gets a divorce or both. After all, the dissatisfied spouse deserves to be happy. Right? Wrong?
(2) An unscrupulous CEO changes his corporation’s books so he will look good when the annual report is distributed to the board of trustees and stockholders.
(3) Self-serving sales reps pad their expense accounts. Their reasoning is that it’s okay to do so because, after all, they are worth more than the salaries they are paid.
(4) Self-centered women abort their unborn babies. They claim that what they do with their bodies is nobody’s business but theirs. They scoff at the notion that they are accountable to the God Who commanded, “Thou shalt not kill.”
(5) Homosexuals and lesbians scorn the Biblical injunctions against same-sex relationships.
(6) Undisciplined teens, thinking they can do what is right in their own eyes, destroy their bodies and throw away their lives by doing drugs.
(7) Students’ demands for “personal rights” have teachers running scared or running for new careers. After all, they can’t insist that students dress modestly, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, sing the national anthem, or pay attention in class. They can’t impose their personal values on their students or teach creation or honor Christian traditions.
(8) We are shocked when a fourteen-year-old boy shoots his bus driver because she objected to his chewing tobacco on the bus.
(9) We cringe at reports of a male basketball coach having sexual encounters with female and male team members.
(10) We detest the actions of parents who allow their kids to host keg parties for their friends. And we get angry when we learn that another young mother has abandoned her newborn.
(11) We repudiate the actions of a few soldiers who think it is okay to pose nude prisoners of war for lewd purposes.
Yes, I would definitely say that the world we live in has gone mad, but in its own way, just as Israel went her own way in the times of the Judges. Judges 21:25, “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” We must remind ourselves that “there is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
Joshua 1:1, “Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them”
The very first verse shows great promise. At this point they are not presuming upon their own strength or military strategy. They know the battle is the Lord’s and they are seeking direction from Him. Unfortunately, this is one of the rare moments in the whole book where Israel is looking to do things God’s way. The book of Joshua shows quite clearly that when Israel sought the Lord and did not trust in their own strength, they were successful and received God’s blessing. So, what kind of lessons can we glean from this introduction to Judges? Simply put if we want God to bless us and direct us as individuals and more importantly as a nation, we must adhere to the five areas listed below:
(1) WE MUST MAINTAIN A CLOSE & PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD OUR CREATOR
At the end of the book of Joshua, chapters 23 and 24, Joshua gathered all the leaders of Israel to renew their covenant relationship with God. He rehearsed some of the things God had done for them in 24:1-13, and then he issued this challenge:
Now fear the LORD and serve Him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped beyond the River in Egypt and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day who you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.’ ‘Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods! It was the LORD our God who brought us and our fathers up from Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes; please note Joshua’s response in verse19, “You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; He is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, He will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after He has been good to you.”
Joshua was warning them to make sure they really meant it. Don’t make light of your commitment to God. Don’t presume that you will stay faithful to God. Pursue God. Stay faithful. Maintain your relationship with God by listening to what He is saying in His Word and talking to Him about everything through prayer. Oswald Chambers wrote: Don’t plan without God. God seems to have a delightful way of upsetting the plans we have made, when we have not taken Him into account. And this is exactly what happens in Judges. The people stopped:
(a) Asking God for direction.
(b) Obeying God’s Word.
As we study the book of Judges, Israel has some successes in their battles. They had a great victory against the Canaanites & Perizites but the king escaped. They captured the king and cut off his thumbs and big toes making him unable to fight militarily. In v.7 we read that they brought him to Jerusalem and he lived there in captivity until he died. Sounds fine but it wasn’t. God had told them in Deuteronomy. 20:16-18 this, “. . . do not leave anything that breathes. Completely destroy them – the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites – as the LORD your God commanded you. Otherwise they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshipping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God.”
(2) WE MUST NOT DECEIVE OURSELVES WITH PARTIAL OBEDIENCE
Israel failed to completely obey God. God wanted the influence of idolatry completely removed from the land and Israel failed to do that. They thought defeating them in a battle was enough. However, God wasn’t pleased with partial obedience because partial obedience is still disobedience. King Saul was guilty of the same thing. God told him to completely destroy the Amalekites and all their possessions and livestock. However, Saul spared the king and kept the best of the livestock for themselves. 1 Sam. 14:9 says “They were unwilling to destroy completely but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.”
When Samuel the prophet confronted Saul with his partial obedience, Saul said that he did it because he was saving the best sheep for the Lord! But Samuel sternly replied in 15:22, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.” Partial obedience is still disobedience. Samuel called it arrogance and evil because when we only do a little of what God says or rationalize our disobedience, we are being somewhat arrogant in that we are ultimately saying our way is better than God’s. Israel failed to fully obey the Lord and lost out on God’s blessings to them and we’re no different from them. My brethren, the cost of obedience is nothing compared with the cost of disobedience.
In chapter 1 of Judges we are reintroduced to Caleb; Joshua’s counterpart, and faithful servant of God, who offers to give his daughter in marriage to the one who defeats and captures a certain city. Othniel, a younger brother of Caleb’s most likely from a different mother (Since Caleb lived so long he may have been married more than once) takes up the challenge and is successful. The positive thing here that goes without comment is that Othniel; Israel’s first judge married an Israelite. You say, ‘That’s really insightful – so what?’ (Read Judges 3:5-7).
The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hivittes, etc. [because they failed to drive them out] and they took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, who served their gods. God had warned the Israelites numerous times not to intermarry outside their faith because your new spouse will most likely lead you away from God. So Othniel models for us that if we want God’s blessing in our life:
(3) WE MUST MAKE GOD THE CENTER OF OUR LIFE, HOME & NATION
God told the Israelites not to let the pagan culture mold them into their likeness. He told them to be distinct and be set apart, and not to marry the inhabitants of the land; otherwise they would most likely drift away from God.
Farmers in Japan are preparing full-grown water-melons for shipment, only these are no ordinary melons, they’re square! They were placed in tempered-glass cubes while they were still growing. So why would anyone want a square watermelon? Simply because it is much easier to store in a refrigerator! It’s amusing to think of how a naturally round watermelon can become square because of the shape of the container in which it’s grown. This should remind us of the forces in the world that exert their influence on us and attempt to shape us. That’s why in Romans 12:2 we are told not to be “conformed to this world,” but to be “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind.” The idea is rather simple: We are to allow the transforming Word of God to work within us and produce outward results, instead of permitting external pressures to shape and mold us.
If we meditate on God’s Word daily, it will influence our thoughts and help us grow to be more like Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). Then we will act in a manner that pleases Him. Pressures of the world will continue to try to shape our character (just like the Israelites), but they will not succeed if God’s Word is changing us from within. Someone put it this way, “If we are being transformed by the Word we won’t be conformed to the world”. Listen to the Apostle Paul’s arguments about this found in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” Amos 3:3 puts it this way, “How can two walk together, unless they are agreed?”
Under Joshua and all the leaders from his generation the people followed the Lord. However, the generation that grew up after these leaders had all died, fell away from God. Verse 10 says, “After that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the sight of the Lord and served other gods. The generation that entered the land and received the blessings of God either failed to pass along the truth about God or the new generation was too complacent and took for granted that the land they lived in came at a great cost and that their very own existence came about by the powerful, miraculous hand of God.
This is relevant for us today because we have a generation today who doesn’t know who Jesus is, have never entered a church service and do not know what the Bible is. Why? Same reasons as Israel: they took for granted the blessings they had and the previous generation failed to pass the good news along. So, how can we prevent that from happening today so we can receive God’s blessing? This brings me to the fourth area which is:
(4) WE MUST TALK ABOUT & TELL OTHERS WHAT GOD HAS DONE IN OUR LIFE – (Judges 2:6-10)
Love, forgiveness, mercy, grace, goodness, compassion, kindness and generosity. Who in the world would be against these characteristics? Who could oppose such positive forces in a person’s life? In other words, who could be against a believer in Christ who exhibited these characteristics? Who could call us nasty names, consider us dangerous, and seek to put as much distance as possible between themselves and a believer in Christ. I submit to you that countless people do, simply because the born-again believers they know, don’t exhibit the above characteristics.
Psalm 71:14-18 says, “But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign LORD; I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone. Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come” and,
Psalm 78 puts it this way, “O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old- what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands”.
The rest of Psalm 78 goes on to say, don’t be like your forefathers who forgot the great things God had done and turned their backs on Him. People won’t see Jesus Christ and His attributes in our lives if we’re standing in the way. If we have a self-serving agenda or cause, they’ll see our hate instead of our love, our grudges instead of our forgiveness, our indifference instead of our compassion, our harshness instead of our goodness. Our lives need to be consistent with the message we proclaim (1 Thessalonians 2:1-12). Christianity is about Christ and His loving, forgiving, and compassionate gift of eternal life. Anything we do that reflects something else gives others the wrong idea. It’s all about Jesus Christ and we need to tell our children and others of the great things He has done for us and especially what God’s Eternal Word says. We must give credit to God for how He has provided for and how He has blessed us in our lives.
(5) WE MUST BREAK THE CYCLE OF REPETITIVE SIN – (Judges 2:11-23)
Judges 2:11-23 describes the pattern that appears over and over in the book of Judges. Israel does evil in God’s eyes by worshipping other gods. God is angered so He sends a nation in to oppress them. Eventually the people cry out to God for help. God responds by raising up a judge/leader who [usually] delivers His people who then enjoy rest for a number of years until that judge dies.
Why does Israel fall back again and again to idolatry? Because there was very little genuine repentance. They were sorry because they got into trouble, but there is very little evidence of a repentant spirit. Repent means to stop and turn around and go in the opposite direction. From partial disobedience to full obedience. The only way we can break our own cycle of falling into the same sins is being so sorry for the sin that we are willing to give it up. Authentic conversion includes repentance, which is a change of mind and direction. For the follower of Christ, repentance means to keep turning away from sin and turning toward Christ in obedience.
What do you and I struggle with? What recurring sin seems to crop up all too often? Have you ever genuinely repented and sought God’s forgiveness? Have you made a sincere attempt to repent, asking God for strength, to obey Him and stop that sinful habit or behaviour or thought processes? We can’t do it in our own strength, and Israel couldn’t do it in their strength. God helps Israel in the book of Judges by raising up men and women whose weakness He turns into strength. God is an extraordinary God who enjoys using ordinary people like you and me. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1 God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise [in their own eyes] and the strong [trusting in their own abilities rather than God’s].
LEFT BEHIND – (Judges 2:20-3:6)
As we observe the Book of Judges in a broader perspective, we are forced to ask, “What went wrong? Was the Lord unable to safeguard His people? Obviously the problem wasn’t with the Lord. You’re most likely familiar with the Left Behind book and video series. It chronicles unbelievers who are “left behind” to endure the tribulation after the rapture of the church. In the context of Judges, God allows some of the Canaanite nations to be left behind. The author of judges tells us precisely why God allows this. God uses the Canaanites to test Israel whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk in it as their fathers did, or not (2:22). God’s people are to choose between right or wrong, obedience or disobedience. The verses in Judges 3:5-6, summarize the entire introduction. They also function as a report card, expressing God’s evaluation of Israel, and the verdict is quite clear: Israel failed miserably in that:
(1) They “lived” among the Canaanites (3:5).
(2) They “took” the Canaanites in marriage (3:6).
(3) They “served” other gods (3:6).
These three verbs (lived, took, and served) emphasize the sins that continue to haunt Israel throughout the Book of Judges. We must be alert and on guard daily against the sins that Israel succumbed to. This means studying the Book of Judges and learning from their failures. If you have placed your faith in Jesus, you are a part of the bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7). Consequently, Jesus expects you to “walk in a manner worthy of His calling” (Ephesians 4:1). In doing so, you can express gratitude to God for His unconditional love and grace. In the book of Judges we will see how God does amazing things through flawed, ordinary people, some of whom exercised great faith so that God could accomplish His purpose through them. If you think about Jesus’ life on earth, you would find:
(1) He chose to identify with poor, destitute and ordinary people.
(2) He lived as one who had no place to call home (Matthew 8:20).
(3) His ministry was marked by compassion for the needy, and
(4) He never let the vast crowds discourage Him from helping individuals.
In Matthew 20:29-34, we read He stopped and healed two blind men who called for His help, ignoring the crowd that tried to keep the two quiet. In Luke 8 we read that a multitude pressed about Jesus, yet He took time to minister to one man and one woman in need. Jesus often interrupted His schedule to minister to people He met along the way. On another occasion, He rebuked His disciples for keeping little children away from Him (Luke 18:15-17). Ordinary individuals do God’s work on this earth. Oh, we may say to God, “I’m nothing. I have no gifts and I often fail miserably … do you really want to use me?” If that is the question you have … the answer is found in God’s Word.
I’m mindful of the example found in the book of Exodus when God used the hesitant and inarticulate Moses to lead and free Israel from their bondage in Egypt. God used men of the herds and flocks, as well as fishermen and farmers to accomplish His work and record His Words. Just think; a simple carpenter and a peasant girl raised God’s Son, Jesus. This is still the way God works today. Although we have so called “mega-methods, mass media, and super-churches today”, its ordinary people who lead ordinary lives (like you and me) who does God’s extraordinary work. A grandmother prays faithfully for her grandchildren and talks to each one about trusting Christ. A clerical worker witnesses to those individuals in his office. A neighbor takes a meal to her unbelieving friend when their baby is hospitalized and assures them of her prayers. So, when we ask the question, “Does God really want to use me?” the answer is quite clear. God chooses “the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:27). God has been using ordinary people like you and me for thousands of years. Why would He stop now?
As we observe the Book of Judges in a broader perspective, we are forced to ask, “What went wrong? Was the Lord unable to safeguard His people? Obviously the problem wasn’t with the Lord. The book of Judges is meant to be a bridge from Deuteronomy until the coronation of a king in 1 Samuel. In the book of Deuteronomy, we are given the principles by which the Lord will deal with the covenant nation who are under the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 28-30). He will bless them when they obey, and He will curse (discipline) them when they disobey. Part of His discipline will be the use of foreign powers to invade the land.
The book of Judges evidences Israel’s failure to live up to the covenant terms for over 300 years. Things do not improve; they only get worse. Their failure is all the more inexcusable in light of the Shechem ceremony at the close of Joshua. The people had declared, “We also will serve the LORD, for He is our God” (Joshua 24:18). Even then Joshua warned them, “Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good. And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:19-21).
Joshua’s warning was indeed prophetic, because the people failed miserably throughout the period of the judges. As we get to the end of the book, we realize that a radical change is needed, and that change will be the introduction of “kingship”. Even though Israel is going to request a “king” (1 Samuel 8) and their request is based on impure motives, the whole book of Judges is meant to pave the way to the bringing in of the kings. Thus, we have the repeated comments in the epilogue to the book, “In those days, there was no king in Israel” (Judges 17:6; Judges 18:1; Judges 19:1; and Judges 21:25). Judges serves to evidence Israel’s failure to live up to the covenant terms whereby God could rule and bless them and thus sets the stage for the attempt at a monarchy.
Unfortunately, a human king (being a sinner himself) cannot ultimately be the cure for the real problem of the people. Their real need is for a “new heart” (which the New Covenant will give). But in God’s grand design, He will eventually bring in an “ideal king” (2 Samuel 7) who will give the people a new heart by way of a New Covenant. Hence, it’s inevitable that the story had to move in the direction of having a king, because that will ultimately be the means by which God accomplishes His purposes with the nation of Israel and fulfills His promise of using Israel to bless all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3). Because the people failed under the judges, they are driven on to having a king so that one day they will have the ultimate king … the Lord Jesus Christ.
I have often wondered how many of those people who enthusiastically cried, “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday shouted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” a few days later. Some may have been keenly disappointed, even angry, that Christ didn’t use His miraculous power to establish an earthly kingdom. Hadn’t He created a golden opportunity to rally popular support by parading into Jerusalem and offering Himself as King?
Many Jews failed to recognize that before Jesus would openly assert His sovereignty He had to rule in their hearts. There greatest need wasn’t to be freed from Caesar’s rule but to be released from the chains of pride, self-righteousness, and rebellion against God. They wanted the visible kingdom prophesied in the Old Testament with all its material benefits. But the Messiah first had to die for the sins of mankind and rise again to establish the basis for a spiritual rule.
My brethren, the issues are the same today. Jesus Christ doesn’t offer immunity from life’s hardships, a cure for every disease, or the promise of financial success. What the King offered then is what He offers today – Himself as the sacrifice for our sins, and a challenge to serve and be obedient to Him. If we accept His offer, we will never be disappointed.
In Christ, God veiled His deity to serve and to save humanity.