No one can read through Judges and think it irrelevant for us today. We will see aspects of ourselves reflected in the narrative and the characters. As you go through the reading plan, it’s probably becoming obvious that our general knowledge of the Bible is often very narrow. Most people have a sanitised and flawed, almost ‘superhero’ view of Judges – that it’s all about people who have done great exploits. The majority of people have no clue about the main theme and purpose of this book.
Judges deals with a period of about 260 years between the death of Joshua and the rise of the monarchy under Saul, the first king of Israel. It looks at the history of Israel in relation to their behaviour before God. God had promised they would dwell in the Promised Land with great blessing as long as they obeyed Him. The history is told by looking at several characters that God raises up to keep the nation from self-destruction.
Calling the book ‘Judges’ in modern English is probably not the best. None of the ‘judges’ were judicial officials. They were more like charismatic personalities given profile and authority by God in the eyes of the people. Their roles were different but all were given to save Israel (or parts of it) from themselves and their enemies in the surrounding nations.
Reading Judges can be a rather gloomy affair if we simply look at the nation and the spiral of failure and repentance which never seemed to go anywhere other than to a worse state. But the people are not the only ones on the stage. God is there. God is the only one who is called ‘The Judge’. He is there in the midst of His people. He is there, the perfect judge, allowing sin and issuing redemption to bring about obedience. God is at work in every detail of failure and success.
There is one thing that all the judges did right. They placed their faith in the right place: God. Hebrews tells us God commended them for their trust in Him. Failures, mistakes, serious errors and sin can all be dealt with. People can be used warts and all, but not if they don’t have a rich and true trust in God. Misplace our faith and we will fail and fail indeed.
Picture: “Poussin La Victoire de Gédéon contre les Madianite” by Nicolas Poussin – Aiwaz. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons