The story of Judges is the story of a people who have moved far away from God. They have substituted their thoughts and plans for his, with disastrous results. We can save ourselves a great deal of pain and trouble in learning from their mistakes.
Judges: Broken People, Faithful God
Remember: Israel was charged with going in and taking the Promised Land, and casting out the enemies of the Lord!
Today, we’re going through the book of Judges, the LOW POINT of God’s history with Israel.
The land Israel had was relatively small. The land God promised them was much larger!
The book of judges overs a period of about 350 years from the conquest of the Promised Land under Joshua (c. 1400 BC) until just before the birth of Samuel, the first in the line of prophets. There was no king during this period, no monarchy.
Why bother studying this stuff? I Corinthians 10:11 and Romans 15:4. God had these stories written down in a certain way–for us to learn from them.
Judges 21:25–the verse that explains all the craziness!
If someone thinks that the Bible whitewashes its main characters, take a look at this book! Judges records a period of gross ignorance and sin. Perhaps the most extreme examples of tragic and depraved behavior in the Scriptures are in the book.
Judges 2:16-19–the story of the sorry cycle! Question: Is that a pattern in your life, too?
We follow many judges in the book, who are really more warriors. Some are brave but most are compromised. There is Deborah, who stepped in when a man wouldn’t do the job. There is Gideon, the subject of next week’s sermon. Abimelech was a successful warrior, but killed all his brothers to gain power.
Then there is Jephthah, who made the worst vow in the Bible! (Judges 11:30-31) When his daughter came out, he blamed her! Instead of retracting the vow and repenting of making an ungodly vow, he just lamented the loss of his daughter!
We don’t make deals with God!
Then there is Samson, whose story has been romanticized and sexualized to no end! This was a man with a high calling who let the pleasures of the flesh ruin his life. The story of Samson shows us that God can use anyone, but Samson’s pursuit of pleasure caused him and those around him great pain and we’ll never know what he could have done if he’d had his heart set on the Lord.
A man named Micah was a thief, and then he turned real religion into superstition (Judges 17-18).
Then the tribe of Dan demonstrated how far they were from the Lord. Instead of going against the enemies of the Lord, they turned on their own brothers.
Judges 18:1 They never took the land that God told them to take. They began to grow and needed more space. So they attacked an innocent group of people. Satan must have rejoiced as their behavior was a sad mockery of the righteous behavior earlier in the nation’s history. Israel was supposed to go into the specific lands the Lord called them to conquer. They were to go in with the power of the Lord, even against greater forces. Here, they spy out a land that the Lord had NOT given them, and with great power of bigger numbers, overtook a peaceful people. Then they set up an idol!
When we don’t conquer what God has before us with His strength, we may get squeezed and tempted to use our own thinking and strength to solve the problems caused by our disobedience. This only causes more problems!
Then we get the story of another Levite who had a concubine. When she died in a reflection of the sorry story of Sodom, he cut her body into 12 pieces and sends the pieces around to the various other tribes of Israel, calling them to war against the tribe of Benjamin. So here is Israel, with a call to go after her enemies, who is now engaged in a civil war, killing one another.
What can we learn from them?
There is always something that God has for us to do. It may be as dramatic as taking the Promised Land or something as quiet as continuing to do what we know we need to do with grace and without complaint. But never ignore God’s instructions. If we do, we risk falling into a position where craziness makes sense to us!
If there is something the Lord has told you to do, and you haven’t done it yet, get to it! It doesn’t just affect you, but affects other people too! As Israel ran into problems caused by their own sin, they added sin to sin by using their own twisted thinking to solve the problem.
The only thing that worked was crying out to God. They did that only when they ran out of every other option. If they had cried out to God earlier, they wouldn’t have had as many things to be delivered from!
There is another lesson here. If we’re not engaged in God’s battles, we’re going to end up fighting each other. God wants us to use our energies to go after His and our enemies, to fight sin in our hearts and to minister to those hurt by sin. If we’re fighting Christians, we’re in the wrong fight!
We all have a great deal of spiritual land that is ours! That land might include sins that need conquering, or demonic strongholds in our lives or families that need breaking, or it could simply be the promises and blessings of God that He has for us. Ask God–what does your Promised Land look like, and what do you need to do to take it?