The Book of Judges covers the first 350 years of Israel’s history in Canaan, the Promised Land. It is a dark and sad time in the life of God’s people. The Israelites served the LORD while Joshua was alive and in the lifetime of the elders who were contemporaries of Joshua. But then we read these words of Judges 2:10,12 : “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. ……They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them.”
Instead of maintaining covenant faithfulness with their Covenant LORD, the Israelites entered into covenant with the people of Canaan and their gods (Judges 2:1,2). They disobeyed God’s commands by giving their sons and daughters in marriage to the children of the Canaanites (Judg. 3:6).
The whole message of Judges can be summed up by the short phrase “failure through compromise”. Under Joshua’s leadership, the Israelites scored a decisive victory by taking all the major cities of Canaan when they first entered the Promised Land (Joshua 11:23). But the tribes of Israel had to take possession of the rest of the Land by pressing home that initial victory (Joshua 13:1). There is an analogy here for the Christian. Christ has won a decisive victory over the powers of sin and Satan through His life, death and resurrection. But for Christians to actually experience spiritual victory and fruit in their life they have to take possession of it through the walk of faith and obedience. In the Book of Judges, the Israelites failed to take full possession of the Promised Land because of disobedience.
In Judges 1:27-36, the tribes of Israel were unable to drive out the Canaanite nations. The LORD didn’t give them the strength to accomplish this feat because they compromised their covenant with the LORD (Judg. 2:1-3, 3:6). Everyone did what was right in their own eyes (Judg. 21:25).
The main narrative of the Book of Judges is Judges 3-16. It consists of Israel’s 6 apostasies (or falling away) from the LORD. In each of these 6 cases, the LORD disciplines His people by giving them over to a foreign nation who enslave them. Each apostasy and enslavement results in Israel crying out to God for relief. In each instance, the LORD wrought a deliverance through a judge. The deliverers(judges) are as follows: Othniel (Judges 3:9-11); Ehud (3:15-30); Deborah (4:4-5:31); Gideon (6:11-8:35); Jephthah (11:1-12:7) and Samson (13:2-16:31).
These 6 recurring patterns of sin, suffering, supplication (prayer for deliverance) and salvation reminds us that in the moral and spiritual realms certain things are wedded together. Sin and suffering always go together. Even after several thousands of years of human history, many human hearts still need to be persuaded of this. Furthermore, the LORD has joined together supplication and salvation. J.Sidlow Baxter puts it this way: “God will be entreated by a true supplication in which their is a putting away of the evil; and then He will show His salvation”.
Let us be faithful to our Covenant LORD. Let us not test Him by falling into idolatry and moral compromise like the Israelites during the time of the Judges. Let us heed the words of 1Cor.10:11,12: “These things happened to them and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” In Christ’s love and service, Pastor John