Judges shows the stark and deep nature of human sin; Israel’s greatest problem, and ours – to which only Jesus provides the solution.
6 After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to their own inheritance. 7 The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel.
8 Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. 9 And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.
10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.14 In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist.15 Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.
16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.
20 Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. 22 I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it as their ancestors did.” 23 The Lord had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.
3 These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan 2 (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience): 3 the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath. 4 They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the Lord’s commands, which he had given their ancestors through Moses.
5 The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 6 They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods.
After forty long years wandering in the wilderness, Israel had finally entered the Promised Land. It was God’s victory, and a great victory. Yet, Judges reminds us of humanity’s deep sin. How quickly Israel turns from their God, despite his character, holiness and his steadfast love and amazing rescue of them.
Judges 2:16-19 virtually sums up the whole, often-distressing, book of Judges, in four verses! It highlights three serious problems on Israel’s behalf:
Firstly, they failed to teach their children about who God was, and what he’d done for them. (2:10) Even though Israel had been reminded repeatedly to tell their children about God, (Deut. 6:7; 11:19; 32:45-47) his holiness and steadfast love, his rescue of them out of Egypt, and how precious it was to be one of his people – his treasured possession – they didn’t.
Secondly, they turned away to serve other gods – the Baals. But why? The Baals were weather gods. For agricultural people like the ancient Israelites, rain and weather mattered. So, they fell prey to what the people around them said they needed to do for success – forgetting who is the true creator, sustainer and rain-giver. (Ps. 104:10-16)
Finally, they turned away from their God, ignoring the voices of the judges he raised up for their sake. They forgot his covenant, and disbelieved his promises. Despite all they had seen and experienced, they had an unbelieving, forgetful heart.
We are so like Israel. As much as we’d like to distance ourselves from much in Judges, we are sinners as they are sinners. We return to our sin and turn from our God in the same incomprehensible way that Israel did.
Judges shows us, above all else, that God is unwearyingly faithful and patient, and will not abandon his covenant promises. He shows how committed he is to dealing with our greatest problem – sin. Judges starkly hints at how much it will cost to deal with sin; it will ultimately cost the death of Jesus, God’s Son. In light of Israel’s sin, and ours, how great is the faithfulness and love of our God, in Christ!
Head: When are you particularly prone to forget God and all he’s done for you in Christ? In times of comfort? Of stress?
Heart: What sin have you been struggling with lately? Feel the weight of it, and confess it to God. Remember and meditate on the complete forgiveness of that sin in Christ.
Hands: How can you encourage kids, youth, or those younger than you at church to remember the Gospel, and to fix their eyes on Jesus? (Whether or not it’s an “official” serve area for you.)
Prayer: My Lord God, I come before you today, a sinner in need of your grace. Thank you that I rest in the completed work of Jesus Christ, and that my sin is utterly forgiven and dealt with at the cross. Help me remember the Gospel, and to speak words of life to others today, by your Spirit. Amen.
A song to listen to: Grace Greater