My favorite book in the Bible is the Psalms, with my favorite chapter in the Bible being Luke 15.
But, then there’s the book of Judges.
The book even begins with bad news:
“After that generation died (the generation that followed the godly leadership of Joshua), another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done…” (2:10)
This is, not surprisingly, followed repeatedly with, “all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.”
Translation: God had been, for the most part, completely removed from the pathos – the culture – of human life. (Sounds a lot like North America, right?)
Judges is hard to read. Even the story of Samson is a lesson in what happens to a person who lives in arrogance and utter disregard for God. And then, there’s chapter 19 – a disgusting reminder of just how capable mankind is of becoming heinously wicked.
The Bible is clear: we can’t exhaust God’s love, but we certainly can exhaust his patience. And, if we rebel long enough, God will hand us over to our depravity and, in essence, say to us, “Let’s see how that works out for you.”
Although every part of the Bible cites the rebellion of mankind against God, the book of Judges seems to contain the mother lode. Israel, and its surrounding neighbors, serve as a graphic picture of what mankind becomes when we believe we can run things apart from God, that we’re smarter than God, more powerful than God. It’s a slow burn. A subtle descent into the utter depravity of human nature.
Although I wish I could ignore Judges, to ignore any part of scripture is to ignore God. Additionally, it serves as a warning for what awaits if human nature is left to itself.
The Bible is a collection – an anthology – of stories of mankind: the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s unedited, unsanitized, putting on full display the depravity of mankind. Yet,..
…the meta-narrative, the overriding story – of all 66 books of the Bible is the pursuit of a loving God to, thankfully, make right what mankind made horribly wrong. This is the gospel.
So, rather than end on bad news, allow me to offer genuine hope. And hope changes everything.
During the precise time of the book of Judges there was something miraculous taking place. And God graciously included this story in the book immediately following Judges.
God was, as only he can do, working mightily in the midst of human rebellion to make beauty out of ashes.
A famine in southern Judea forced a woman named Naomi to travel to the land of one of Israel’s enemies, Moab, in hopes of finding food. But, there’s more to this story. Much more.
This story points, as all Old Testament stories do, to Jesus. (cf. John 5:39) For, in that foreign land was a young woman named Ruth, who would become the great-grandmother of King David, through whose bloodline would come the Messiah, God made flesh, the King who would, once for all, conquer death: Jesus Christ.
The lesson is this: even in the most anxious and darkest of times God hasn’t ‘stepped out of the office.’ He isn’t taking a nap. “He neither sleeps nor slumbers,” wrote the psalmist, but is “intimately acquainted with all our ways.”
Jesus, himself, said, “My Father is always working and I, too, am working.”
Just as God was quietly using a famine to bring Naomi to find Ruth, God is using the current events of our time to cause us to return to him and call on his mighty name. He longs to forgive, bless and empower his people.
Jesus is whispering to us all, “I’ve got this. Trust me.”
Solus Christus, Nick