The book of Judges is a dark one. It’s full of gory and vile atrocities, faithless people, and at times it even seems like God isn’t present. However, when we look deeper at the narratives found in this book, we see that God not only is sovereign over all nations, but that He is faithful even in the total failures of His people. From the beginning depictions of Israel’s half-hearted obedience, to the final narratives of Israel’s total loss of morality and godliness, we see the cross of Christ shining bright in the darkness.
Judges is not just about Deborah, Gideon, and Sampson. Judges is way more than that. The book of Judges is about Israel’s total failure and God’s total faithfulness. Let’s dive in together.
The opening of the book of Judges prompts us to look backwards at what has transpired.
After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel inquired of the Lord, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?” – Judges 1:1
Joshua was appointed by God to lead the Israelites into the promised land after the death of Moses. Joshua had remained faithful to the Lord, trusting that God would provide for His people and bring them into the promised land despite what was seen as impossible odds. It was only Joshua and Caleb who exhibited such faith, and so God proclaimed that they alone out of their generation would be permitted to enter the promised land.
not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. – Numbers 14:30
Joshua was a faithful leader of God’s people, and the book of Joshua depicts how God keeps his promises and brings them into the land. It is a book that details the victories of Israel under the leadership of Joshua, and it shows how God begins to give His people blessings previously promised as well as peace and rest. It is a book that reminds us that because God always keeps His promises, we can obey him wholeheartedly with courage and bravery.
In the book of Joshua we see the details of the allotments of land that God has promised each of the tribes of Israel. We also see that God commands Joshua and His people to live out brave spirituality as they walk with God.
5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left,that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:5-9
In this passage we see that God promises to be with Joshua all the days of his life, never leaving or forsaking him. With this promise of faithfulness comes the command to be courageous and strong. This command to be courageous and strong is able to be fulfilled by Joshua and the people so long as they obey God’s decrees. As long as they stay cemented in God’s laws and commands, then they will be successful in everything that they do. As long as they meditate on His Word and carefully do everything written in it, they will have prosperity and success. It is through this dedication to speaking and meditating on the words of God that the courage and bravery needed to take the promised land is found.
The people of God will not achieve victory and rest for themselves.
They are not to expect success if they do not accompany all their work with obedience to God as they meditate on his word and trust in his promises. – Timothy Keller
Victory over their enemies will not come via their own strength. It will come via the supernatural strength of the faithful God they serve and worship. If they faithfully follow God, He will pave the way to victory and rest. The book of Joshua shows how this process begins, as the people enter into the land promised to them by God. But as the book comes to a close, it is clear that much still has to be done before the promised land yields complete and total rest to the people of God.
It is through the lens of the book of Joshua that the book of Judges must be seen and read. This is the continuing story of God’s faithfulness. Unfortunately however, whereas the book of Joshua depicts Israel’s obedience (for the most part), the book of Judges documents just how far the people of God fall. Yet again, despite the grievous failures of His people, we will see God’s faithfulness shine bright.
In the darkness of sin and death, we will see the light of the cross.
In His Name,
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