Today’s Reading: Judges 2:6-3:6
Also helpful to read: Judges 1-21
Over the last few weeks, we’ve slowly been making our way through the Old Testament, trying to get a birds-eye view of it’s story. It’s the story of God’s good creation, and of humanity’s rebellion against God. It’s the story of God acting to set things right. The main emphasis in the Old Testament is on God’s showing us who He is, in preparation for His arrival in Jesus to defeat sin and death on our behalf.
In order to make Himself known, God chose to work through one man and His family – Abraham. God made promises to him, including the promise to bless the whole world through Him. And Abraham’s trust in God grew. Eventually, his descendants were led out of Egypt by God’s mighty hand. Having saved them, God instructed them on how to live as His people – so that they would be a holy nation and a kingdom of priests. Israel was to be God’s ambassador to the world.
And when we came, last week, to the book of Joshua, it seemed like things were on track to meet this goal. God had given the victory, and had given them the land. The people were committed to serving the Lord alone. They recognised that everything they had they owed to His grace.
And then we come to Judges.
Things in the promised land started out so well. And they stayed that way – until the elders who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel had all died. The next generation to grow up didn’t know the Lord or what He had done for Israel. They turned their backs on God, and started worshipping the gods of the people in the land. God gave them into the hands of raiders to discipline them. And in their great distress, He would raise up a judge, a leader, to rescue them. But it didn’t take long for them to sink back into their idol worship.
Everyone did what they thought was right. They refused to follow God, and there was no king.
At one point, Abimelek tried to be king – although he didn’t rule over all the tribes. So far from being a godly man, one of the first things Abimelek did was to kill 69 of his half brothers. God intervened, and Abimelek was killed. This was not the sort of ruler that God’s people needed.
This nation, that was meant to introduce the world to God and His goodness, became just like the peoples around them. They weren’t a holy nation. By Judges 19, Israel looks more like Sodom. And yet this is the nation through whom God had promised to bless the world! How would God do that?
As we look at the story of Israel’s descent into darkness, we might wonder what it means for us. How is our story similar to theirs? Is it possible that we too might forsake God for the sake of the idols of our day and age? And how can God save a world spiralling downwards in sin?
And why is simply being rescued not enough?