The Book of Judges: An introduction
*note: I misspoke in this sermon when recounting the Israelites’ time in the wilderness. I said they had to wait in the wilderness because of the golden calf and Moses couldn’t enter the promised land because he broke the tablets. I conflated a few stories in my retelling. It was Mose’ anger and striking the rock that caused him to have to wait to enter the land (see Numbers 20:2-12), and it was the Israelites’ fear and disobedience that led them to have to wait to enter the promised land. (see Deuteronomy 1)*
So, today begins our study of the book of Judges. Now, before we get started, I need to tell you a few things about this book. The first is this, I am really excited that we are going through this book. As I have been digging into it, there is so much we have to learn about God’s work in His people, and how they fit into the overall plan of salvation. I think this is going to be a fun study. Also, we have a treat for you all. If you have been in the Sunday School class, you are familiar with the Crossway Scripture Journals. This is what they look like, they are a specific book of the Bible with text on one page and room for notes on the other side. We have purchased these for every person in the church, so you can keep track of notes and other thoughts as we go through this book. We hope to have those for you next week. I really hope this will be a great resource for you as we study this book. The other thing I need to tell you about is that This is a very graphic book of the Bible. There are graphic depictions of murder, and violence, all types of intrigue and sexual sin. So, really its no different than turning on the tv on a Friday night. The difference is we don’t normally think of the Bible being that way, but it is the Word of God, so we will be discussing those things as we come to them in this book. There is your parental advisory.
So, as we begin this book, We need to start with some of the nuts and bolts of the book and then get into the context of this book, where is fits in the OT and what is happening leading up to where we start off next week as we dive into Chapter one. So, that is what we are doing today. I am going to give you some info about the book itself, and then we are actually going too some background of the book of Joshua, and then give the overall theme of Judges and get a bit of a preview of what we will be seeing as we study this book together.
So, first off, the name of the book is The Book of Judges. Now, when you first hear that what comes into your mind? Old person in a black robe restricting your drivers license on your 17th birthday right? oh that’s just me. maybe you think of the Supreme court justices, or judges Judy, Mathis, Wapner, Hatchett, or maybe even Judge Reinhold. It might be possible that you think of Simon Cowell, or Paula Abdul, Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani, or Blake Shelton. Well, Our first obstacle in understanding this book is to understand that the word Judge in the sense it is being used here is not an arbiter of legal matters, or singing ability, although in Deborah’s case she does both arbitrate legal matters and sing. In fact the word Judge as used in this book is more than that, they are Leaders, and in context can be described as deliverers. They are people raised up by God to fulfill his covenant with His people by calling them to repentance and Delivering them from their oppressors.
Year written: Definitely after the institution of the Kings, since there are multiple mentioning of the fact that there was no King in Israel. It was also probably written before the time of David, since verse 1:21 states that the Jebusites were in Jerusalem “to this day” and David captured the city in 1003 B.C. In short, we know the Early date for its writing, but can’t be too sure of the exact later date in the range of when it was written.
Dates of events: Between Joshua’s Death (mid 14th or late 13th cen. BC.) and the rise of Samuel and Saul (mid 11th Cen.)
Author: No internal declaration of authorship. Anonymous. Possibly several authors, over period of time. Late Jewish Tradition gives credit to Samuel, but ultimately, the Author is unknown.
Theme: The basic theme of this book is very simple, God is faithful to His people, even when they are rebellious towards Him. This happens through the course of this book is a basic cycle of sin, oppression, repentance, deliverance and peace. We will see this cycle repeat itself a number of times in this book with each cycle getting worse and worse. There is a Phrase that gets repeated a number of times in the book and that is “There was no King In Israel” This theme ends with the final cycle being the worst, and the book ends with another phrase added to that, “and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
The Judges: In this book, there are 13 judges mentioned. Some have long detailed stories, and some only get a few verses. They are all from different regions in Israel, so it is important to realize that some of the events recounted in this book may have been happening simultaneously in different regions of the land. The Judges, in order of appearance are:
Now, there are a lot more nuts and bolts to get into, and those will unfold as we get deeper into the book, but what we are going to spend the rest of our time on today is understanding what happened before the book, so we get it into perspective in the full context of the Biblical narrative.
So, if I were going to relate this book to a movie, I would relate it to the Empire Strikes Back. Lots of action, and incidentally lots of hands getting cut off, but in the end, we are left with very little hope for the would be heroes in the saga. They can’t seem to get out of their own way.
It is incredibly important as we get into this book that we recognize where we are in the story of God’s people. So, our sermon text today is from the end of the book of Joshua. We are going to read it and then give a brief summary of all that happened in this book, so when we get into Judges in full, we can understand what is going on.
Ok, so, the first verse, “after these things…” What tings are we talking about here?
Well, are you read for a quick history lesson?
So, you may recall a guy named Abraham, God chose him from among the pagans to be the father of His chosen people Israel, and Eventually God’s people fell into slavery When they had forgotten all that Joseph had done for Egypt, So God rose up a man named Moses to lead his people our of Egypt and into the promised land. While they are in the wilderness, a very important event occurred, God met with moses on Mt. Sinai and gave him the 10 commandments, a covenant promise to His people. Then because of the peoples disobedience they had to wait outside the promised land a generation before they could enter it. Also Moses lost his temper, and he had to sit that out too. So, then God raised up Joshua To lead his people into the promised land. The book of Joshua has four main parts.
1. Joshua leads Israel into the promised land
2. The people of Israel battle with the Canaanites: Jericho, and Ai were the main battles detailed in the book, along with other cities that the People of God captured.
3. Joshua Divided the land between the twelve tribes, which was the fulfilling of the promises of God to give them this land.
4. Joshua charges the people of God in a couple speeches which had two main messages, 1. Turn away from the sin of the Canaanites, which was serious sexual perversion, and child sacrifice and 2. Remember the covenant with God.
In those speeches, There is a recounting of all that god had done for his people, and stern warning to remember God’s works, and his law. Echoed over and over is this reminder that it was not their strength that won the victories, it was the Lord who cleared the way for them and destroyed their enemies. 24:12-13.
The rest of Joshua’s speech is both a warning and a foreshadowing of all that would come in the book of Judges. Let’s take a moment and read it together.
Now, I know we have spent a lot of time talking about history and such, but in the time we have left, let me set up this book in this way. The book of Judges is a case study in what happens when we forget the works of God and follow our own desires, The destruction and carnage that takes place as a result of the people of God not obeying His commands is utterly devastating. The charge was simple to the People, cleanse yourself from the Cannanites, and hold fast to the commands I have given you. The problem was, they are not able to do those things apart from a work of God on their behalf. These people made bold declarations in chapter 24 of Joshua, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” “The Lord our God we will serve and his voice we will obey.” The problem is that no one can, in their own strength serve the Lord without divine work.
This sets the stage for the people of God to walk through a period of time where they try time and again to serve the Lord, but keep getting swept into sin and idolatry and have to be delivered by the Lord. The deliverer we will see in the Book of Judges are used by God to do a work of circumstantial deliverance, but the judge who will be coming later will be the one to deliver God’s people from spiritual bondage and make right what we will see was clearly wrong with their hearts. This is all setting the stage for Jesus.