The Seventh in a Series of Sermons on the Book of Judges
In the days of Israel’s judges, the people of God found themselves surrounded by pagans on virtually every side. There was the Aramean empire of Cushan-rishathaim to the northeast. Then there were a number of old enemies to the southeast, just across the Jordan River: the Moabites, Ammonites, and Amlekites. To the northwest, there were the fierce Philistines, living in what is now Lebanon, but who traveled by boat and terrorized all those living along the coast. And then there were Canaanites of every sort, living within Canaan as well as on various areas of the frontier. In effect, Israel was surrounded. Although YHWH had promised to be Israel’s shield and defender, the people of Israel continued to forget YHWH, worship Canaanite “gods,” and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord. Given the geo-political realities of the age, there was no shortage of enemies for YHWH to raise up to chasten his disobedient people so that they would cry out to him for deliverance. Because he has pity on his people, YHWH responded to Israel’s trials by sending his people a series of judges (deliverers), who lead Israel to victory over these enemies and who secure for them a time of peace. And this pattern plays out again and again in this book.
As we continue our series on the Book of Judges, we have seen a number of rather interesting things playing out on the stage of redemptive-history. Throughout this period of Israel’s history, God’s sovereignty has been evident as he directs the affairs of both men and nations. To chasten his disobedient people, YHWH will raise up a pagan nation and its leader, who will come and oppress Israel whenever they turn away from YHWH, worship false gods, and then do what is right in their own eyes. And when the people of Israel have finally had enough of their oppressor and cry out to YHWH to be rescued from the current crisis, YHWH takes pity on Israel and raises up someone who will deliver them from the current crisis. These individuals sent by God to rescue his people are known as “judges.” And while they serve to rescue Israel from its current crisis, the judges can do nothing to improve the spiritual condition of Israel, whose condition largely stems from the failure of the Levitical priesthood to instruct the people in the ways of the Lord. If this period of Israel’s history shows us anything, it is that Israel needs a king (which will come to pass with the monarchy), and that the solution to human sin cannot come about by human means. It will take a divine Messiah, who is God in human flesh, to save God’s people from the guilt and power of sin.
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