Listening to the story of his glory in Jesus Christ
And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.
11 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 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. 13 They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. 14 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. 15 Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress.
16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. 17 Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord, and they did not do so. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. 19 But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.
We have come together to worship God by listening to the story of his glory in Jesus Christ. This is the true story about how God acts in real history to save his people whom he has chosen. Up to this point, we have focused on how God’s message reveals who he is as he announces his plan of salvation. We have learned about God’s promises, his name, his holy presence, his grace, and his power. At the same time, we have learned about God’s mission and God’s prophet. Today in Judges, the second book of the Prophets, we hear the Lord God set forth the need for the King he planned to send in his plan. This is a “messy” part of the story. This should not surprise us, because the history of salvation shows how God rescues people from the mess and ruin caused by our sin.
The book of Judges gets its name from the twelve leaders or heroes that led Israel out of repeated bondage to her enemies. Yet the storyline of the book makes clear that these “heroes” are not very heroic, especially those about whom we know the most. The sovereign God used flawed, messed up people to rescue his people, and these judges could only carry out their missions because Someone of almighty power was at work through them. It is in Judges that we start to hear a lot about Him.
It is easy to discern the structure of Judges.
- The failure to do God’s will (1:1-3:6)
- The downward spiral of the judges (3:7-16:31)
- No king and no restraint (17:1-21:25)
- As Joshua warned, Israel was unable to serve the Lord in the Land of Promise
- God is faithful to his covenant promises. Though Israel repeatedly walked away from God, he repeatedly provided a way back to him.
- People with true faith (Heb 11) can be messed up. This is not an excuse for you to try it, but a simple statement of fact.
- Human effort and the law cannot change people – During the whole time of the judges, the people are living under the law, but they become increasingly corrupt. Neither could the best efforts of the judges produce lasting change.
- After the Lord gave victory over the enemy, the land had rest (3:11, 30: 5:31; 8:30). This happened when there was some measure of turning back to God. But by the time of Jephthah and Samson, this rest is not spoken of.
I. The spiral (2:10-19)
A.Stages of the spiral – this progression can be seen in each of the six major judges
1.Apostasy: the people turn away from the Lord to worship other gods
2.Bondage: the Lord hands the people over to other nations to oppress them
3.Groaning: the people cry out to the Lord to be rescued
4.Deliverance: the Lord sends a judge to rescue the people from oppression
B.Observations about this spiral
1.We call this a spiral, because every time Israel went through this sequence, their spiritual condition became worse (2:19). It was a spiral down and down and down.
Point: Only God can break the spiral in a person’s life; this happens through the gift of true repentance.
2.Although the people did not return wholeheartedly to the Lord, the Lord was gracious and merciful. He patiently endured their spiritual decline over a period of a couple hundred years.
3.The Lord became very angry with Israel for their evil practices and stubborn ways (2:19-20). Yet he still interacted with them as his covenant people. The reason is that God’s purpose of salvation was not in that covenant but in Jesus Christ (Gal 3:24).
II.Examples of serious spiritual decline
A.From the early days of the time of the judges – They failed to complete the conquest after the death of Joshua, and so they fell into serious sins (cf. Deut 7:1-6).
1.The Israelites made covenants (solemn agreements or treaties) with the Canaanite people groups, which was contrary to the law covenant (2:2). Think about the serious nature of them making these agreements. They were not spur of the moment actions, but deliberate, planned decisions to disobey God.
2.The Israelites did evil by departing from the Lord and serving the Baals of the land (2:11-13). They did exactly what the Ten Words told them not to do.
3.The Israelites intermarried with the people of Canaan (3:5-6). Marriage is a deliberate action in which one person makes a covenant with another. Again, the Israelites did what the Lord had forbidden them to do.
B.From the accounts of the Judges – The first three major judges served the Lord better than the last three, though they had great difficulty getting the people to follow them back to the Lord.
1.Gideon was weak in faith, just as most of the people he led. He was constantly looking for signs, instead of simply trusting in the word of the Lord. After the Lord gave him victory, he took gold from the Israelites and made a golden ephod, which was probably some kind of priestly garment. However, this was contrary to what God had appointed for the priest, and the people started to worship this object (8:27).
2.Jephthah wrongly and rashly made a vow that resulted in the sacrifice of his daughter (11:30-40).
3.Samson was to be set apart to the Lord as a Nazirite (Num 6:1-21), but he broke every vow that a Nazirite was to keep and had a wild, sexual life. His countrymen did not rally to him, and so he fought his battles alone.
Point: Outward physical blessing in itself is no proof of true spirituality. Though you might be a “success”, that does not mean that the Lord is pleased with you.
C.From the appendices – These events happened throughout the times of the judges. The writer gives these examples so that we might know what that whole period was like.
1.Micah of Ephraim set up an alternative religion, complete with idols, ephods, and a priest.
2.The people of the tribe of Dan adopted this alternative religion as their own for generations (18:31). They also annihilated a peaceful town of people.
3.In a very sordid affair, the concubine of a Levite is gang-raped by men from Gibeah in Benjamin. When you compare Judges 19 with Genesis 19, you can discern the author’s point: Israel had become like Sodom.
4.Israel responds to this situation, not by dealing with the guilty, but by nearly annihilating the tribe of Benjamin. In other words, Israel was destroying herself. This is what happens when everyone does what is right in their own eyes! The people of Israel seemed bent on doing everything they could think of to break the law covenant and so to bring God’s judgment on them. We are doing the same thing in our country. Violence, greed, drunkenness and drug addiction, and sexual immorality are tearing the lives of our people to shreds. People are retreating into their private cesspools of personal pleasure. If you understand, cry out to the living God for mercy!
Point: When sinners are not restrained, they become increasingly evil (2 Tm 3:13).
III.The great need
A.The whole book of Judges demonstrates the need for a King who could deliver God’s people from their sins (cf. 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). This book shows what happened when Israel lacked the God appointed king (David and his successors). Samuel and Kings will show that a King greater than David and his sons would have to come. His name is Jesus Christ.
B.The way God sent help was through the Holy Spirit. At one of Israel’s darkest times, the Helper came to rescue. The Spirit of God came upon the judges and enabled them to win great victories (3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14). When we come to the book of Acts, we will see how the same Holy Spirit worked mightily through the church.
Point: The Holy Spirit has more than sufficient power to bring victory in desperate situations.
Ideas to transform our lives:
- Only God can break the spiral
- Outward physical blessing in itself is no proof of true spirituality
- When sinners are not restrained, they become increasingly evil
- The Spirit of God has almighty power to bring about true change
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.