All through the Old Testament the nation of Israel – God’s chosen people – through whom God would bring salvation to all mankind, repeatedly demonstrated their unfaithfulness to their God. This is especially true throughout the time of the Judges, a period of about 300 years (1400-1100 B.C.), where “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Jud 21:25). Scripture affirms that “whatever things were written before, were written for our learning” (Rom 15:4). Therefore, many lessons can be learned from a serious study of the inspired Book of Judges.
Throughout the book, Israel repeats a troubling and wearisome cycle of (1) faithful obedience, (2) rebellion & sin, (3) bondage & oppression, (4) penitence & repentance, and (5) deliverance & restoration through a God appointed Judge. Because of their sin and rebellious attitude, Israel had failed to utterly destroy or drive out the Canaanites from the Promised Land (Dt 7:24; Jud 2:1-2). The wicked practices of these ungodly people unduly influenced the Israelites and they were time and again drawn away from their faithfulness to God into the sin and idolatry of their neighbors.
Israel had been consistently faithful to God under the good leadership of Joshua, who died at 110 years of age (Jud 2:7-8). But this was not the case with the next generation. They “did evil in the sight of the Lord” (v. 11), “forsook the Lord God of their fathers” (v. 12), “and served Baal and the Ashtoreths” (v. 13). This “provoked the Lord to anger” (v. 12, 14), so “He delivered them into the hands of plunderers” and “sold them into the hands of their enemies all around” (v. 14), “and they were greatly distressed” (v. 15).
Yet, even in the face of this willful disobedience and deliberate sin, “the Lord was moved to pity (compassion) by their groaning because of those who oppressed and harassed them” and “the Lord raised up judges and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies” (v. 18). This is good news! But their faithful obedience to their gracious God did not last long. After that judge died, ungrateful Israel “reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own [evil] doings, nor from their stubborn way” (v. 19). Time after time, the Israelites violated the covenant of Jehovah God.
As Christians, we too are in a covenant relationship with God (Mt 26:28; Heb 5:9; 9:15). And we are to be faithful to Him as we live our lives in this wicked world (1 Cor 15:58; Phil 1:27; Rev 2:10). Israel allowed themselves to be unduly influenced by the godless nations among them, forsook their God and served the false gods of the Canaanites. If we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mk 12:30), and seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Mt 6:33), we will not repeat the sad cycle of the unfaithful Israelites revealed in the Book of Judges.