“I did it my way” is the defining song of our culture today. The Book of Judges shows us all what tends to go horribly wrong when we become too casual about seeking God’s will and God’s ways. It is the bridge between the entrance into the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua and the establishment of the first kings over the nation Israel. God was still ruling the nation as a theocracy and the land was very fragmented. There was very little national cohesiveness. We witness the repeating cycles of sin and deliverance as God raises up a variety of different champions to meet the desperate needs of the moment. The opening verses accurately describe the situation: the compromise of subtle sin sows seeds of spiritual decay that lead to future catastrophic failures. A little bit of leaven then leavens the entire lump. These historical examples are recorded for our benefit that we might put a premium on obeying God and not allowing our present prosperity to divert our focus from dependence upon the Lord.
Deteriorating cycles of idolatry and rebellion (despite the Lord’s patient faithfulness and gracious deliverance) end up in the depths of religious and moral depravity.
Judges 21:25 “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
I. (1:1 – 3:6) Justification for the Lord’s Anger —
Introduction to the Judges
A. (1:1-21) The Compromise of Subtle Sin Sows Seeds of Spiritual Decay Leading to Future Catastrophic Failures
B. (:1:22-36) Northern Tribes Intensify the Disappointing Pattern of Failed Objectives and Compromise With the Enemy
C. (2:1-15) Despite Spectacular Miracles and Divine Favor Extended to Their Fathers, the Second Generation Sinks Into Apostasy and Defeat
D. (2:11 – 3:6) Stubborn Sin Provokes the Lord to Anger and Perpetuates the Cycle of Defeat: Sin, Servitude, Supplication, Salvation, Slippage (Rest)
II. (3:7 – 16:31) Journal of Six Repeated Cycles of Apostasy and Deliverance Highlighting the Faithfulness of a Long Suffering God —
Main Section – Selected History of Twelve Key Judges and their role in bringing deliverance from specific different enemies –
A. (3:7-11) Cycle #1 – Deliverance from Mesopotamia — The Cycle Summarized and Idealized – Privileged Othniel (Judge #1) – God can use a man controlled by the Holy Spirit
B. (:3:12-30) Cycle #2 – Deliverance from Moab (along with Ammon and Amalek) — The Cycle Expanded – Limited Ehud (Judge #2) – God can use a man who allows his weakness to be converted to a strength
PARENTHESIS (3:31) — The Cycle Minimized – Resourceful Shamgar (Judge #3) – God can use a man who dedicates all he has to the cause of the Lord
C. (4:1 – 5:31) Cycle #3 – Deliverance from Canaanites — Deborah (Judge #4) and Barak – God can use a woman who gives God all the glory
D. (6:1 – 8:32) Cycle #4 – Deliverance from Midianites — Gideon (Judge #5) – God can use a man who overcomes his fears and trusts the divine blueprint for warfare
ASIDE (8:33-9:57) – Failed Human Model of Abimelech – Lording it Over the Sheep
1. (10:1-2) Tola (Judge #6)
2. (10:3-5) Jair (Judge #7)
E. (10:6-12:15) Cycle # 5 – Deliverance from Philistines and Ammonites – Jephthah (Judge #8)
1. (12:8-10) Ibzan (Judge #9)
2. (12:11-12) Elon (Judge #10)
3. (12:13-15) Abdon (Judge #11)
F. (13:1-16:31) Cycle #6 –Deliverance from Philistines – Samson (Judge #12) – God can use a man who trusts in Him for supernatural results despite severe character flaws
III. (17:1 – 21:25) Jumbled Mess of Religious and Moral Depravity –
Characteristic phrase: 17:6 “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Repeated in 18:1; 19:1; 21:25
A. (17:1 – 18:31) Religious Depravity Decried – The Prosperity Gospel Exposed
B. (19:1 – 21:25) Moral Depravity Decried
WHY STUDY THIS BOOK?
• To warn ourselves of the inherent dangers of times of prosperity and rest when it is so easy to lose sight of our need for dependence upon God
• To learn the lessons of history of how compromise with sin can lead to such catastrophic failures and judgmental oppression
• To value Christ our Savior as we see how God raised up a variety of human champions to provide deliverance in the moment
• To appreciate the patience and faithfulness of our covenant-keeping God who never gives up on His elect people
• To observe Satan’s tactics in raising up such formidable enemies in opposition to God’s kingdom agenda
• To see how God can use individuals (both men and women) to accomplish His purposes despite their warts and flaws
Gary Inrig: Hearts of Iron, Feet of Clay
In our time, the winds of the “me generation” are blowing a strong and deadly virus. “Doing your own thing” has been enshrined as the national life-style, and the virus of relativism has infected every area of life, especially our concepts of spiritual truth and moral absolutes. Our society is increasingly secular, increasingly pagan, and vigorously anti-Christian. If ever a verse of the Bible has the ring of the twentieth century about it, it is the motto of the times of the judges: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” . . .
The book of Judges is filled with people very much like us – people with God-given potential for greatness and unfailing capacity for catastrophe. When they dared to trust God and depend upon Him, they were indeed people with hearts of iron, who made a positive, godly impact on their times. But when even the greatest heroes depended upon the flesh, they were revealed as people with feet of clay, who not only experienced but caused spiritual catastrophe.
David Malick: Purposes for Judges:
– To present YHWH as faithful to His covenant to Abraham even through the people break their covenant with Him and never repent of their evil (cf. Deut 11:26-28; 28:15)
– To remind the people that YHWH is faithful to His covenant and that He, not a judge or king, is the One ultimately responsible for the welfare of Israel
Warren Wiersbe: The nation of Israel quickly decayed after a new generation took over, a generation that knew neither Joshua nor Joshua’s God . . . Instead of exhibiting spiritual fervor, Israel sank into apathy; instead of obeying the Lord, the people moved into apostasy; and instead of the nation enjoying law and order, the land was filled with anarchy. Indeed, for Israel it was the worst of times.
C. H. Ryrie: Historically, the book serves to link the conquest of Palestine and the monarchy. Theologically, it provides many examples of the principle that obedience to the law brings peace, whereas disobedience means oppression and death. Spiritually, the faithfulness of God in forgiving His penitent people is seen even in this period when “every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Jdg 17:6; 21:25).
John MacArthur: God compassionately delivered His people throughout the different geographical areas of tribal inheritances which He had earlier given through Joshua (Jos 13-22). The apostasy covered the whole land, as indicated by the fact that each area is specifically identified: southern (3:7-31); northern (4:1 – 5:31); central (6:1 – 10:5); eastern (10:6 – 12:15); and western (13:1 – 16:31). His power to faithfully rescue shines against the dark backdrop of pitiful human compromise and sometimes bizarre twists of sin, as in the final summary (Jdg 17-21).