Judges 2:16-19 The Lord Raised Up Judges

Judges 2:16-19           The Lord Raised Up Judges                                      WC McCarter
In chapter eight of The Story we read about the period of the judges. This was a sinful time in Israel’s history that takes place between the death of Joshua and the rise of the monarchy. We know from our reading that a common statement God made about the people was, “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God. . . .” No, there were no mis-printings in this chapter. The Bible uses that phrase repeatedly. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes and did not follow the Lord’s commands. Despite the sins of the people, God would still raise up a judge to save them when the pressure became too much. God would not allow the covenant people, whom He had chosen, to be destroyed by a foreign nation.
The judges were nothing new in Israel; Moses had established judges among all of the tribes. The judges we read about in chapter eight were heads of their clans who became military leaders to provide deliverance for the whole nation. God did not raise up an individual during this period as He had in time past with Moses and then Joshua. He would choose one for a brief window of time in order to preserve a remnant of Israel.
“Several of the judges are portrayed as deeply flawed human beings chosen to deliver a deeply flawed nation” (Dillard and Longman, 119). You get the sense that during this period of their history the Israelites were becoming progressively worse in their ungodliness and immorality. Even the judges seem to get worse, climaxing with the life of Samson, one of the most irreverent, sinful men of all the Bible.
Do you ever find yourself repeating mistakes from your past? As much as we would like to learn from mistakes and break bad habits, we tend to find ourselves falling into the same trap over and over again. We all have our areas of weakness, flaws in our own lives. It takes a lot for us to turn away from these things. Most of the time, we do not lean on the Lord to overcome these addictions and weaknesses. We either try to do it on our own and fail, or we do not even try to defeat the temptations that plague us. The Scripture says that the Spirit puts to death the deeds of the flesh, but if we are grieving the Holy Spirit, He will not work in our lives. I think we all find ourselves repeating past mistakes just like the Israelites of the period of the judges. May the Lord grab a hold of each of us and make us obedient to His word. May we be found faithful at every point, unlike those Israelites of old.
The Israelites continued to follow the same cycle for hundreds of years. They would forget the Lord and wallow in sin which would lead to the Lord withdrawing His hand of protection. What would happen after that? A foreign nation would step in and harass the Israelites for a number of years. Finally, the covenant people would cry out to God for help, and God would send a judge to rescue them from oppression. What was the cycle? SinàSufferingàSorrowàSalvation. Let us take a look at our reading today to consider the sin of the nation and the salvation by the hand of the judges.
Scripture Reading (p. 104) – This is the Word of God
Judges, Who Saved Them
The Israelites forsook the Lord and turned to the worship of idols. They forgot who the Lord was and what He had done for their people in time past. Because of this, the Lord would withdraw His hand of protection and the Israelites’ land would be raided by foreigners, they would be harasses and oppressed by surrounding peoples, and many of them would be sold into slavery. This was divine discipline. Because of His holiness, God cannot allow sin to continue forever with no consequence. He would use the pagans to discipline the chosen nation.
There was a group of fifteen individuals, it appears, that can be identified as military judges during this time. Each of them had great weakness and extraordinary stories of what God did in their lives. The salvation that is talked about in this book (chapter 8 of The Story) was not eternal salvation, but military deliverance. Remember that before this time God used one man to lead the people; first it was Moses and then it was Joshua. Why didn’t God raise up a successor to Joshua for the leadership role over the entire nation? The people remained faithful to the Lord all the years of Joshua’s leadership and beyond. The land had mostly been conquered, and the people were settling in. It was completely appropriate that the mantle of leadership be handed over to the family heads within each tribe. These people were called “judges” because they resolved disputes and offered wisdom to their people. Yet, the judges we read about in this book were called to do much more than settle disputes. They were called to lead the cause of military deliverance and victory. The Lord would choose these individuals to do a mighty work.
The Prostitution of Israel
The judges were to lead the people within their own families and tribes by offering wisdom and encouraging them to follow the Lord, yet they were not obeyed. The people would not listen to them. Instead, they would chase after other gods. I hate talking about “gods” because there is only one God. It is like the Apostle Paul talking about heresy in the church. He would call it, “Another gospel,” but would quickly say, “Which is no gospel at all.” The Israelites would worship other gods, who were not gods at all. The old saying, “In the eye of the beholder” applies here. The people would do what was right in their own eyes and not what was right in the eyes of the Lord. What were merely idols of stone and metal, the pagans worshiped as gods, and the Israelites quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord, to worship these false gods.
The idea of prostitution is used throughout the Old Testament in reference to the Israelites relationship with the pagan nations and their false gods. That language is used so often because it clearly explains what the Lord expected and what the people did. These Israelites were in a covenant with God. They had been chosen by God to be His holy nation, and the Israelites had said that they would be loyal to the covenant and obedient to the Lord. This relationship is often considered a marriage. The Israelites were yoked to the Lord. He was the Husband and they were the bride. When they would forsake Him, it would be like forsaking marriage vows; when they would worship other gods, it would be like committing adultery; and when they would worship pagan gods thinking they were going to get something out of it (fertility gods), it was like they were prostituting themselves. “Moreover, the worship of the Canaanite gods literally involved sexual conduct with temple prostitutes supposedly to promote the fertility of the soil” (Wolf, 395).
The Lord Relented
The phrase at the end of verse eighteen sounds a lot like the language used in reference to the Exodus event. It says, “. . . for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them.” There would be a “mini-Exodus” each time a judge was raised up by God. The people would end up in slavery and oppression because of their own hard-heartedness. They would groan because of the tyranny of another nation, and the Lord would respond. The same thing happened to the people in Egypt. The Lord would not allow the covenant people to be crushed under the hand of foreign oppression. They were too valuable to the salvation of the world. Through Abraham’s seed, through Israel, through the covenant people, through the Jews would come the Savior of the world. Although the Israelites deserved utter defeat on many occasions because of their great rebellion, the Lord preserved them throughout their history in order to save as many from the world as He can, all those who will come to Him by faith in Jesus Christ.
As I have already mentioned, the judges were weak and sinful people as well. Yet, that is the reason the Lord chose them. He wanted to show His glory. Consider the story of Gideon. Why would the Lord choose such a timid man to lead the military? Why would the Lord slim the army from 32,000 all the way down to 300 when they had to face an army that was innumerable? He did not want Israel to have any reason to think that they saved themselves. He would be the One to rescue them. He would be the One to gain all of the glory.
Even More Corrupt
The Lord would give victory to Israel through a judge, and the people would be safe during the lifetime of that leader. When the judge died, the people would return to their rebellious ways. In fact, we are told that they would become progressively more corrupt through every period of the sin cycle (sin-slavery-sorrow-salvation). Each generation got worse and worse. We get a trio at the end of our text that stresses the nature of their ungodliness: they followed, served, and worshiped other gods. The last sentence says, “They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.” The Israelites were stiff-necked in the wilderness, and they were stiff-necked in the Promised Land. They were rebellious in the bad times, and they were rebellious in the good times. The scene and situation did not make a difference. Their heart was always bent on evil.
Conclusion- Finding Your Story in God’s Story
1) The Gospel message should encourage you to live a holy life. The standard by which you must consider your life is God’s standard found in the Bible. Do not evaluate your life on the basis of the world’s standards.
2) Biblical transformation takes place in the heart and mind. We are not to conform to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
3) God is faithful to forgive you of your sins and to cleanse you of all unrighteousness if you confess your sins to Him. You must repent: turn away from sin and to the Lord.