Judges, Misconceptions, and Life Today Part 1
This past couple weeks I have been reading in the book of Judges. It has been a depressing read. The time of the judges was just a terrible time. There was no one that seemed to really follow God or His ways. Now, I know you are sitting there thinking, “What about Deborah or Gideon or Jephthah”. The truth is that while these people did mighty acts for Israel none of them are your average role model. Let me explain in a two part post who the judges were and some misconceptions about them. But I want to offer some hope and insight from the book to our situations today as well. So if you find yourself depressed at first, push on to the end.
The theme of the book of Judges is found later in the book, “In those days there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in their own eyes”. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes? What does that look like cause it sure sounds scary. First let’s look at Deborah. Here is this prophetess that God spoke to on behalf of the people of Israel. Now the fact that Deborah was the “leader” in her area of Israel is a sad commentary on the state of the nation. You see God had set up the society to have a man be the head the nation. This was not because women were of lesser value but rather it was a role that God had assigned to each to reflect the roles of the Trinity itself. You can see this in the Pauline writings later. Anyway back to Judges 4-5, Deborah should not have even been in power, but then Barak would not go to war without her! It was clear that the man was willingly giving up his job as the person responsible for decision and leading because he was afraid. This is why God chose to use Deborah and Jail.
Next you have Gideon who was a coward of a guy. The fact that the angel came in chapter six and called him “mighty warrior” is quite ironic. I mean the angel found him hiding in a wine press threshing his wheat in the middle of the night! Then he asks God to show him several signs. The first of these signs does lead to an act of bold obedience from Gideon when he did cut down the idol in the town. But he needed more signs from God before he took on the massive army coming to raid Israel. So he laid out the fleece and asked God to demonstrate it was His will not once but twice. Often it is hailed as a good thing to lay out the fleece, but it is not a positive thing. He did not believe God and wanted God to prove Himself. This in fact was forbidden to do in the Law of Moses. They were not to put the Lord to the test. But God is gracious and gave Gideon the boldness he needed. Then after Gideon had destroyed the army, he became the ruler of the central section of Israel. He did turn down the kingship, but he set up idols that lead Israel into idolatry. This is not the action of a man of God, but rather it is an insight into the society of Israel during that time.
Finally, there was Jephthah. He was a prostitute son who was rejected as an illegitimate child. They drove him out of the region but eventually came back to him begging that he might take control of territory as long as he protected them. They were able to give up anything for the sake of being protected. Who had been the one to protect them up to this time? God had. But they turned to a man to protect them. So Jephthah displayed wisdom in how he dealt with the King of Ammon. But then he tries to make this “deal” with God. He promises to sacrifice whatever comes out to meet him first as long as God gives him victory. In other words, God you provide the win I will give something to you. How sad it is when we think that we can manipulate God with our little deals. Well he didn’t expect that his daughter would be the first one to come out. So what does he do? He sacrifices her! I know that some people try to say that he only dedicated her to the temple, but the language does not indicate that at all. The point of the times is that everyone did what was right in their own eyes. Jephthah sacrifice his daughter to fulfill the pledge he made to God. This was specifically condemned in the law of Moses. What a sad state Israel was in to think that they could please God with something He forbade.
Next week I will finish my thoughts on Judges and I promise there will be hope included in that post!