Invariably, there is a sense of dread as I enter the book of Judges each year as part of my reading plan. Though the book contains some of the most stirring and exciting “Sunday School stories” . . . though it offers up some of the most colorful “bible characters” . . . it does so because of a dark, dark backdrop. It is a context which begins with compromise and then goes from bad to worse . . . to much worse! I don’t even like thinking about how the book ends . . . the depths of chaotic depravity are unbelievable.
But these things are recorded “as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1Cor. 10:11) . . . “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). Written for my instruction . . . recorded that I might have hope.
If I learn anything from the opening chapters of Judges it is that I need to ensure that I clean house of anything which might cause me to trip up. God had been clear concerning the conquest of the land . . . they were to drive out all the inhabitants of the land they were promised . . . they were to destroy every pagan idol . . . they were to raze every pagan place of worship. If they failed to do so, warned the Lord, “then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell” (Num. 33:52-55).
So when you get to Judges 1:19 and read that Judah COULD NOT drive out the inhabitants because they had chariots . . . and then read another 8 times in the chapter that the people of God DID NOT drive out the Canaanites . . . you know this is a set up for an epic fail. So the conquering generation leaves Canaanites in the land . . . yes, they’ve forced them into submission and slavery, but the leaven is present. So, when the “old guard” passes on and there arises “another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that He had done for Israel,” watch out!
And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals. And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger. (Judges 2:11-12 ESV)
A little leaven, leavens the whole lump (Gal. 5:9) . . . a few Canaanites can ensnare the people of God. Written for my instruction . . . note to self . . . sweat the small stuff and clean house completely when God reveals the house needs to be cleaned.
But this was also written for my hope.
But when the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them . . . (Judges 3:9 ESV)
The people’s sin led to God’s discipline . . . which resulted in them being sold into the hands of their enemies. But God, in His mercy, when they cried out to Him, responded with a deliverer. To be sure, it was cycle that needed to repeated too often, but in it you see the grace of God and the foreshadowing of the “Greater Judge,” Jesus, and His greater deliverance, once for all, from the trappings of the world.
My Deliverer, not only rescued me from the oppression of sin and death, but He delivered me from a heart and soul incapable of seeking after God. Imparting His very nature, and sealing me with His Holy Spirit, I can, by His power and by His grace, “take the land” . . . and drive out that which would trap me and trip me up. And, when I falter, the blood of Jesus is provided to cleanse me from all unrighteousness . . . and the power of the cross is more than sufficient to enable me to enter the fray anew . . . and the grace of God is more than able to propel me on as a conqueror in Christ.
Written for our instruction . . . written for our hope.