READ: Judges 1-2
BACKGROUND: Judges covers the historical period between the death of Joshua and the first Israelite king, Saul – from about 1380-1050 BC. Unfortunately, it is a story about how the Israelites didn’t follow God’s instructions and lived wickedly. They were constantly influenced by the culture around them, rather than living the way God called and being an influence on those around them. The “judges” themselves weren’t judges the in the way that we think of now. They were military and civil leaders who delivered the people from oppressors and made rulings (like modern judges) and kept order.
1:6 – Seems cruel but it had a purpose. He had done this to others, so it symbolized powerfully that the roles were now reversed. Also, it made sure that he couldn’t use any weapons anymore.
19 – The iron chariots may have been the military reason for the Israelites’ defeat. But their spiritual disobedience was the overarching reason.
2:1 – This was very likely the Lord himself that came to address Israel.
2 – In Deuteronomy 7:1-6, God had given very clear instructions to Israel about how they were to conquer the land he was bringing them into. They didn’t follow these instructions. And they suffered for it.
3 – God is telling them how easy it is to be influenced by the wickedness of the culture around you.
13 – Baal was the rain & fertility god of the Canaanites and the Ashtaroth were his female companions. Worship of Baal included prostitution and human sacrifice.
16 – The judges are also called “deliverers” and “saviors” in this book.
18-19 – This is the recurring cycle that defines this time period in Israel’s history.
THINK: Sadly, the book of Judges could almost be called the book of defeats. Eventually, as if almost all hope is gone, the writer of Judges concludes, “They did not know the Lord” and “each man did what was right in his own sight.” Judges is a detailed book of history and geography – of unfamiliar names in faraway lands, and it may seem incomprehensible. However, like nearly all the other stories in God’s book, we can see ourselves on these pages. If we were reading the Bible straight through, the book of Judges might be even more depressing. Just a page or two before, Joshua leads the entire nation of Israelites in a mighty victory cry, “ We will serve the LORD our GOD and obey him!” These people had seen God’s hand of deliverance and protection from the Canaanites and they were committed to serving him completely. So what happened? Chapters 1 and 2 are a brief introduction outlining the basic problem: The Israelites did not obey God completely and there’s a word for that: disobedience. Apparently, rather than taking God at his word and following his directions, they assumed God wasn’t serious, or that he meant nothing, or that their failure would have no consequences. Of course, they were wrong. Over and over again throughout the book of Judges, the Israelites face defeat. And over and over again, Chapter 2 verse 16 tells us: “The LORD raised up judges (leaders), who save them out of the hands of…invaders.” Though they abandoned the LORD, he never abandoned them.
How might this apply to us today? I’m fairly certain most of us haven’t been called to overtake and occupy a foreign land. But take a quick look at James, Chapter 4, in the New Testament. James reminds us that too often, like the Israelites, we have a casual, almost arrogant, disregard for God’s instructions. We don’t take God seriously. James asks in verse 5: “Or do you think the scripture means nothing when it says…” When it says what? When it says to flee from sexual immorality? (I Corinthians 6:8) When it says to watch our mouths and what we say about other believers? (Galatians 5: 15) When we are called to repent of pride before we fall? When it says unrepentant sin will lead to discipline? (Hebrews 6:8) Or do we think the scripture means nothing?
ASK: Am I being arrogant about my sin? Do I think God isn’t serious? Have I, like the Israelites, decided it’s okay to only obey a little bit? If so, what consequences might I face?