Today’s Reading: Judges 19 – 21
We have just finished reading our 8th complete book. It is not so much an uplifting book, filled with encouragement on how to live and love as we walk through this world. Instead we just read a book that covers 300 years of the history of Israel. The narrative begin after the nation of Israel has conquered the promised land and has begun to settle it. We then read through 12 cycles of sin, shame, foreign oppression, repentance and deliverance. It is a bloody book, a book filled with violence and revenge and hatred. It is definitely an R rated book of the Bible.
What can we learn from such a book? Is it simply a snapshot of another age and time? Does it have a message for us today?
In a sense there is a set of bookends holding up the book of Judges. In both the first chapter and the last story of the book, Israel is preparing to go to battle to conquer a city and its peoples. Both times the Lord has said that Judah should lean the nation into battle. In the first chapter we see that here:
Judges 1:1 – 2 (NIV)
1 After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, "Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?"
2 The LORD answered, "Judah is to go; I have given the land into their hands."
The book ends with a very violent story of the Levite and his concubine (Judges 19 – 21). It is very similar to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is basically an example of how deep into sin and lust the Israelites had gone. Ultimately the Israelites seek revenge for the murder of the concubine. They must go to war to wipe out the people who committed this heinous act.
In the last story we see that again Israel is about to go to war. Again, Judah is chosen to lead the battle. But this time there is a different enemy, a different town, a different people to slaughter.
Judges 20:18 (NLT)
18 Before the battle the Israelites went to Bethel and asked God, “Which tribe should go first to attack the people of Benjamin?”
The Lord answered, “Judah is to go first.”
The book of Judges begins with Israel fighting the remaining Canaanites and ends with all the tribes of Israel attacking the lone tribe of Benjamin. How is that in the span of 300 plus years of Israel in the promised land that the people of Israel are now killing each other?
The story of the Nation of Israel in the Book of Judges is a story of disobedience and lost opportunities.
Israel had the opportunity to settle into the land promised to them by God for hundreds of years. Once the people of Israel obeyed God and fulfilled their promise to Him, they could have enjoyed the fruits of their labors and rest comfortable in the promised land of God. Remember the promise they made at the end of Joshua?
Joshua 24:16 – 24 (NIV)
16 Then the people answered, "Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods! 17 It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. 18 And the LORD drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God."
19 Joshua said to the people, "You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. 20 If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you."
21 But the people said to Joshua, "No! We will serve the LORD."
22 Then Joshua said, "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the LORD."
"Yes, we are witnesses," they replied.
23 "Now then," said Joshua, "throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel."
24 And the people said to Joshua, "We will serve the LORD our God and obey him."
The people of Israel did not fulfill their promise. The did not cast away the foreign idols. They did not tear down the altars to foreign gods. They did not cleanse themselves from the influences of idols and foreign gods. They did not seek the Lord with their whole heart. They sought a live seeking to meet their greedy and self absorbing ways. They had so much potential and the wasted it away.
In one sense the story of Samson is the perfect example. Here was a man chosen of God, raised in a Godly home and trained in the way he should go. Unfortunately, he chases forbidden women, strong drink and the desires of his heart. He walks away from the counsel of his parents and chooses his own way. In the end it was the way of blindness and death.
Edmund Burke (1729-1797) a British Statesman and Philosopher wrote this statement, "Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it." If there is one statement as a lesson to us from the reading of Judges in this day and age this is it. So let’s take a quick review of the book and determine if there is some lesson for us today.
Are we personally bound to repeat the sins of Israel? Are we going to go our own way and forget about the promise to worship only God? Are we going to succumb to the desires of our flesh and walk away from the things of God? Is it time for us to make an assessment of our own lives to determine if we have been distracted by our surroundings, (the things of this world) and are forgetting our Lord in Heaven. Maybe it is time for a Judge to help us clean up our lives.
Jesus can be that Judge that comes into our life to cleanse us of things that separate us from His love:
1 John 1:5 – 10 (NIV)
5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
Continue reading in 1 John 2 to read more of how Jesus can help us break the pattern of history and avoid repeating the history of Israel during the age of Judges.