A week ago Sunday evening I began a series through the book of Judges entitled Theocracy In Decline. I had been thinking, reading, and preparing for the start of the series for at least a couple of months. I am excited to be started. I love to preach from the OT narratives. There are so many practical lessons to be learned.
Judges chronicles the fits and starts of the only true theocracy the world has ever known. The people being governed were God’s chosen people the Israelites. The very ones, whom he had delivered from Egypt with an outstretched hand, led through and provided for in the wilderness, and promised them the land. Their King was the true God, creator of heaven and earth. They had a perfect law. They had an established religion. It was all right, except their hearts.
It was a theocracy in which the king (God himself) raised up men to lead them, or in the case of Judges men to deliver them. But, there were no monarchs, no ruling families. The tribe of Levi and the family of Aaron is about the closest we get to that. The people were to be devoted to God and their leaders were to direct their devotion to God. The problem is the people struggled with being devoted to God. As such we have the familiar declaration beginning to occur in Judges 17:6, “There was no king in Israel.” It was a phrase which ended several times with the statement that, “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”
It is not technically that there was no king, but the King was not being sought and obeyed, so effectively it was as though there was no king in Israel. It devolved into anarchy. The last several chapters of the book bear out this reality when the religious and moral decay of the people is paraded before our eyes.
I found myself asking after reading the book several times, why Judges?? The question became pronounced and I realized before I started the series I would need to answer that question in a way that I could be confident of my conclusion. Certainly it was not given just to unfold the exploits of a few men. Of course it was not given for its entertainment value although it is certainly entertaining. Judges as much as any book of the Bible is a book of war, intrigue deception, seduction, murder, civil unrest, pride and self-promotion. It lacks nothing on that front.
The book covers a time period of approximately 400 years. But it cannot be for the purpose of just filling up the space of 400 years. There was 400 years between Malachi and Matthew when nothing is said. There is about 400 years between Genesis and Exodus. My point is it would not have been unheard of to allow 400 years slip by with little notice.
There is a lot going on in Judges. It is not all bad. There are some good things that happen here, as you well know. Even some great things. Some great men, men of faith are presented to us here. There are some great acts recorded here. I intend to give these men and women their due. There were also some foolish things done by some great men. Why Judges?? The answer is found in two passages one in Joshua and the other in 1 Samuel.
Joshua 24:14-18 – Therefore will we also serve the LORD; for he is our God.
1 Samuel 2:12-22 – Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.
Judges explains how we get from the people saying we will serve the LORD for he is our God to the sons of the High Priest being sons of Belial and not knowing the LORD.
Judges explains how we get from the state of things at the end of Joshua to the state of things when we get to the beginning of 1 Samuel. It teaches us about the downward spiral. It gives us a 400 year overview.
A 400 year overview that begins with the death of a great man.