Friday, July 21, 2006
JUDGES, AN INTRODUCTION
The book of Judges tells the history of Israel over a period of about 350 years, beginning with the death of Joshua and ending immediately prior to the life and ministry of Samuel. Samson, the last judge, was a contemporary of Samuel.
Judges shows a continual cycle of the Israelites breaking the covenant, God bringing punishment in the form of domination by another country or people, God raising up a judge to lead the people to repentance and victory, then the relapse of the people into disobedience.
What is the covenant? It is the terms of the relationship between God and Israel that was established at Sinai. God set the terms and the people accepted.
Remember that, after God redeemed Israel from Egypt, he brought them to Mount Sinai. Moses went to meet God on the mountain for the people, who remained at a distance. God set forth the covenant, beginning with the ten commandments in Exodus 20, and continuing with the law set forth in the rest of the book and the other books of the law. Exodus 23 tells us God would give them victory over the people in Canaan, and they were to destroy them and avoid adopting their religion. If they kept the covenant, God would establish them in the land.
Exodus 24 tells us that Moses read the whole covenant to the Israelites, and they said “everything the Lord has said we will do”. Moses set up 12 pillars to represent the 12 tribes, offered sacrifices, then sealed the covenant by taking the blood of a bull and sprinkling it on the people. It was called “the blood of the covenant”.
In Mark 14:24, Mark recorded Jesus’ words at the last supper: “this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many”.
Leviticus 26 sets out plainly the rewards for obedience and the punishment for disobedience, which included defeat by their enemies and having them rule over Israel. Moses reiterated these in Deuteronomy 30. Joshua led Israel to re-commit to the covenant before his death, as recorded in Joshua 8 and 24. The book of Judges will show the Israelites living with the consequences of disobedience, just as God promised.
This is the cycle of some of your lives. You live day to day with little thought to God, but you cry for help when trouble comes. You repent in hopes God will intervene. God does intervene, but you relapse to your old state rather than live in obedience.
Despite the fickleness of Israel, we see that God keeps his promises and that he was, and is, continually working to accomplish his purposes in mankind. His word to the serpent in the Garden of Eden is still valid at the time of the judges, and is he was working to produce the seed of woman who would have enmity with the offspring of the serpent, and who would crush his head (Genesis 3:15). He was also working to fulfill his promise to Abraham to bless all the peoples of the earth through him (Genesis 12:3).