“And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. 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...” Judges 2:11-12
So the Lord gave the Israelites over to plunderers, who did what plunderers do best… plunder. The Israelites fought back in their own strength. And lost. Several times.
“Enough!” they cried, “We want you back, Lord, save us.” The Lord listened. (This phrase shocks me whenever I see it in the living Word). The Lord listened.
The Lord chose judges to rescue his people. Judges beat back the enemies of the people of Israel… sometimes with a two edged sword, sometimes with an oxgoad, sometimes with jars and torches. If ever you know a twelve year old boy looking for a book of violent adventure, he need look no further.
But as I am older than twelve, and never was a boy, the pattern becomes discouraging.
“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. 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.” Judges 2:16-19
The judges were swashbuckling heroes. They rescued the people of Israel time and time again from their enemies. But that’s all they could do. The judges couldn’t rescue the people of Israel from their own corrupt hearts. In the end, it seems the judges couldn’t even save their own hearts from corruption. Disobeying God, falling for wives of the bad guys, it’s what judges do. Gideon got my hopes up. Humble, hospitable… but that was in the beginning of his story. In the end Gideon’s son slaughters 68 of his other sons.
The accounts of these judges leave my soul feeling bleak. How can one rescue other when he cannot rescue himself? This question pushes me upwards for a breath above the surface. One does rescue me. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor. 5:21