In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes
The seventh book of the Bible describes the path of God’s chosen people in their decent towards dissolution. After 400 years of enslavement in Egypt the glorious hand of God frees them in awesome ways as He guides them personally towards Canaan and the fulfillment of His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In spite of the failures along the way of Israel to stay true and focused on God’s greatness and instead falling away time after time the nation is led by Moses up to, and then by Joshua across the river Jordan.
By the time we get to the Book of Judges Israel has been in the land for a while and has settled by their tribes to a great extent and is ready for the fulfillment of the sweet promises of blessing. But Joshua is dead and so it seems is their cohesion without a leader. Falling prey to the surrounding nations everyone does what is right in their own eyes; no longer looking to God as their head it is every man for himself. The result is God’s promised judgement for abandoning Him. Instead of ruling over and removing the remaining nations as instructed, Israel again is enslaved. But even though His people abandon Him, He does not abandon them. Every so often, when Israel’s misery becomes unbearable, the Lord raises up a judge to lead them back to independence from those nations and dependence on God.
There are great stories of bravery and conquest by the likes of Deborah and Gideon. And at times judges are used in spite of personal failures and lack of discernment like Samson and Jephthah. But God uses whom He will for His own purpose. It isn’t He who depends on man, it is the opposite. And in spite of the continuous failure of people to grasp the gift of life when it is freely offered, God never gives up.
It is of little surprise then even as mankind exhibits moments of brilliance (we are after all made in God’s image) the propensity for depravity is overwhelming. Just look at any newspaper with headlines about the latest genocide in Syria, and continued escalation of violence towards impending disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the rest of the manifestations of evil much closer to home. No wonder God told Moses He’d wipe out His chosen race. (Deut. 9:14, 32:26 ff.) But God’s redemptive plan grinds on as we continue reading through the Scriptures as shortly the glorious development in the nation of Israel blooms in the kingdoms of David and his son Solomon. And it is that blossoming we can’t forget about in the midst of all the misery in the Promised Land, redemption is coming. You better be prepared.
[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]