Summary: The book of Judges points us to our ultimate need for Jesus
Israel has been delivered from Egypt, they have wandered in the desert for 40 years, Moses has died and passed his leadership on to Joshua, Joshua has led them into the Promised Land and led them to conquer many of the inhabiting nations, and with the many miracles and wonders and victories that this small nation has achieved, that God is the God of Israel.
When we get to the book of Judges, we see that Joshua passes away at the age of 110 years old and then we read some very disturbing words in Judges 2:10-11 - after that generation, a generation grew up that did not know the Lord and the did evil in the eyes of the Lord, giving themselves to idols. Not far removed from Joshua and miracles and the handing over of nations to them, the people of God forgot that they were the people of God and began to give themselves to false gods.
This is sad. You might be like me and wonder who’s to blame - is it the previous generation who didn’t do their job of mentoring or passing along the faith? Did they not live out Deuteronomy 6 where God tells them to keep His commandments in front of them at all times and to teach them to their children? Is it because that sometimes after times of great success, that we can begin to believe our own press clippings and think that it is all about us? In playing basketball in high school and college, something my coaches would always tell us when we would start playing well and the papers would start commenting on our play, they would say, “Don’t forget what got you in the papers in the first place,” or “Don’t believe the hype.” Is this what happened? Or is it just that the generation that came after was just an obstinate generation that just wanted to do what they wanted to do?
The answer is probably, “yes.” It is probably all of these issues or parts of each one. The people served God through the life of Joshua and the elders of his time, but after that it seems like the ball was dropped - that there wasn’t a great job of passing the faith down the line. Mentoring or discipling doesn’t appear to have happened. Also, people of faith tend to fare better during times of oppression or hard times - it is during seasons of success that we generally find ourselves complacent or unaware of the provision of God in the first place and we begin to think it is about us. And, sometimes generations (especially when you factor in the first two) just don’t want anything to do with the faith of their parents or grandparents.
Whatever the case or reason, the people of Israel have forgotten God and no longer know Him. The results were not good for them, either. God’s anger turned against them and the victories that used to come easily were now defeats. And so the generation that did not know the Lord, cried out to the One they did not know for deliverance. And because God is a faithful God, even to His faithless people, He sent judges to rescue them. And it is this pattern that we see in the book of Judges occurring time and time again. People forget who God is and give themselves to idolatry, they begin experiencing hardships and cry out to God, God shows compassion and sends a judge to rescue, the people are delivered, and then the cycle repeats.
All throughout the book we see this. Starting in chapter 3 and running through chapter 16, we see it happen again and again. It begins with Othniel, younger brother to Caleb and ends with Samson - the Japanese Electronic Maker Judge. In between we see: Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah (and Barak), Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon. There are some amazing stories in these chapters. Whether it is Ehud and him losing his sword in the fat king Eglon, a tent spike being drove through the temple of Sisera, Gideon and the fleece and the army of 300, or the story of Samson (which growing up was my favorite Bible story - violence, feats of strength, and pretty girls, it’s all an 9-year old boy could ask for).
Amazing stories of deliverance. Over and over again, God remained faithful to His faithless people. And yet, we still see this refrain seven times in the book: Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord. As generations had come and gone, this story was in some sort of sick, repeat cycle. Like a record that was skipping or a CD that has a scratch in it, we keep hearing the same thing, over and over. Why? A couple of reasons: 1) they never rid themselves of the sin of Peor and 2) Someone greater than a Judge was necessary.