Idolatry, harlotry, theft, rape, murder, deceit, mutilation, and eventually their first civil war are just a few of the rebellious acts of the people of God detailed in the book of Judges. Rewind one generation before, and we find a simple, trusting faith in God that conquered all the challenges they faced! Yet, Judges 2:11-23 gives the sad “how” and “why” of the book that is shrouded in darkness compared to the book of Joshua. “They did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals.” (2:11, 3:7, 3:12, 4:1, 6:1, 8:33, 10:6, 13:1) Our lessons in the book of Judges often focus on the rich character studies of individuals who give us an important glimpse into this period of history (Jael is my personal favorite!), but there is also much to learn about our God. As you read through Judges this month, here are a few things to consider to enrich your study:
Keep the timeframe in mind. First, the period of the Judges lasted roughly 300-350 years. The United States is not even that old! Consider all the ideas, advancements, wars, and government leaders that have changed in our short 243 years. It is easy to give the Israelites a hard time but consider how much turmoil our country has gone through. Next, when thinking about the rebellion-oppression-liberation-peace cycle of Judges, pay attention to the number of years spent in each phase. For some, it could have been their entire lifetime in one or two phases. Our view of God is often influenced by how well or how poorly things are going in our life. How might that have affected them? Also, know that the twelves judges in this book (military leaders chosen by God) are not necessarily written about chronologically. Some of them overlapped and were judging in different regions at the same time. Locate some good visual resources (a timeline and a map) to reference as you read.
Don’t forget about the promises to Abraham. Though the events of Genesis 12 are far removed from the times of the Judges, they are an integral part to what is happening. Remember, we serve a God who keeps His promises. They have taken possession of the land (Jos. 21:43-45). The descendants of Abraham are still multiplying and despite their significant flaws, God is still working to bring about the Savior through this group of people.
Look for the light amidst the darkness. There was significant disobedience among some of the individuals that God chose to deliver His people (Judges 8:22-28; 14-16). Still, God used them for His glory. He can use imperfect me, too. Despite seven cycles of Israelite apostasy, God was faithful and eager to forgive each time. He is willing to forgive me, too. Even in tragedy and rebellion, there were people faithfully serving the Lord – read the book of Ruth! I can shine in this dark world around me. What other shining lights do you find from the period of the Judges?
Know that God always stands ready to deliver. If you have a son named Nathan or Nathaniel, you may already know that their name means “he has given” or “gift of God”. It comes from the Hebrew word nathan of the same meaning, and in the book of Judges it is frequently translated deliver, as in “God has delivered them into your hands.” This is a key theme and a key word in this important book of history, and deliver is also the challenge word for the month. As you read, make a chart of who or what is being delivered, and to whom or by whom it is delivered. Was it a positive or a negative thing? Pay special attention to the times that God was doing the delivering. Often God delivered the people of the land into the hand of the Israelites for military victory. Other times He delivered His people into the hands of an oppressor. In both instances the word nathan is used. How can these both be gifts? You’ll be blessed if you take time to dig into this rich word study. It is just further evidence that the great God we serve is far more concerned about eternal salvation of souls than our temporary comfort. There are always blessings from God in times of prosperity or difficulty (Jam. 1:2-4). Even when we “do what is right in our own eyes” (17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25), God stands ready to deliver!
by Kathryn Baker