Then the Lord raised up judges who saved them out of the hands of these raiders….But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers…. Judges 2:16, 19
During the days between Joshua and the kings of Israel, law and order were at low ebb, and “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” In such a situation God raised up men that were known as judges, whom we would think of as vigilantes, or defenders of justice and the oppressed. Some of the more famous of these fifteen men were Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, and Samuel. All of us remember well the exciting feats that some of these men performed.
But the important thing in Judges is not the stories we were told about these heroes in Sunday school. The important lesson of this book of the Bible is the recurring fact, repeated over and over, that when the people repented and lived in righteousness, they prospered; the minute they forgot about God, trouble ensued. In dreadful monotony we read again and again that there was peace in the land for about a generation and then followed war, oppression, devastation, and trouble.
One cannot read the book of Judges without being struck by God’s endless patience and forbearance. Time after time He would hear His people’s cry for help, and as soon as He put them on their feet they would forget Him again. It makes one think of the lines in Lamentations, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction…” (3:22, 23, 32)
Judges is a picture of almost every nation, with a war in every generation. What a shame that we have to learn humility and dependence the hard way!