Over at the B2Y blog, a group of us from my church in Glasgow have been reading through the Bible using the Robert Murray M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan with accompanying reading of D.A. Carson’s supporting notes. I was recently asked by the administrator Greg to write a short introduction to the book of Judges for the blog. (Incidentally, Greg also came up with the title for the piece, “Depravity Spirals”).
“And the people of Israel [again] did what was what was evil in the sight of the LORD”
Reading through Judges can be both frustrating and encouraging at the same time. Separated as we are from these events by time and culture, Judges can be a difficult read for those of us on this side of the cross, especially for those living in the “civilised” West. We see recorded within its pages amazing feats of strength and cunning, courage and cowardice, gang rape and dismemberment, massacres, enslavement and a pretty horrific “camping accident”! And that’s just from God’s chosen people.
From a purely Man-centred perspective, Judges makes for a depressing read. We witness God’s chosen people, as an indicator of ALL of fallen humanity, rejecting Him time after time, despite His many provisions, in a downward spiral of depravity. Judges is a damning record of an ever increasingly faithless people (Judges 2:19) before their faithful, loving and merciful Creator.
It would be helpful for us to remember where and when these events take place in Salvation History. As this is still relatively early in God’s salvation plan, we should remind ourselves of God’s purpose for saving the Israelites: Jesus Christ (Gen 3:15; Matt 1; Gal 3).
The Israelites disobeyed God by not completely removing the inhabitants of the “Promised Land”. Was this an act of mercy on the part of the Israelites? (Judges 1:28, 30, 33, 35)
In Judges 3:4, God reveals another purpose for His preventing the Israelites from fully removing the previous occupants from the land. Does this seem fair to you? How does Rom 3:20-26 help us to put these events in perspective (especially v20&26)?
Judges 2:6-20 summarises the whole book of Judges by illustrating the downward cycle of God’s chosen people under God’s law:
1) God reveals His character and provides for His people (v7)
2) God’s people forget Him and engage in idolatry (v10-12)
3) God sends affliction (v14-15)
4) God’s people remember what He has provided for them in the past and cry out to Him (v16)
5) God provides Judges (civil leaders) who lead the people back to God and victory (v18-19)
Why is it important for us to remember that the cycle of events always begins at 1)? How would our view of God as loving and merciful provider change if we only began the event cycle at 3)?
A similar cycle can exist in the NT church today. Where the gospel is at first proclaimed explicitly, the gospel can become assumed (implicit), leading to the gospel becoming consequently forgotten. In what ways practically do/should you remind yourself, your family and your church of what God has done for you in Christ Jesus? (Deut 6:4-9; Psalm 119:10-12; Rom 1:16; 10:14-17; Heb 10:23-25)