Judges 2

Judges 2
By Pastor David Groendyk

The book of Judges begins with two crises in Israel, and it ends with two crises in Israel. There is a territorial crisis in chapter 1, that is, the tribes of Israel fail to conquer the Canaanites in full; then, in chapter 2, there is a covenantal crisis, that is, Israel repeatedly disobeys God and his covenant. Pastor Lawrence pointed out yesterday that these two crises are inseparably bound up with each other. Because of Israel’s covenantal failure, the Canaanites would end up remaining in the land. And, because the Canaanites remain in the land, they will always be tempting Israel to forsake the Lord and worship their gods. So, Judges 2 gives the blueprint for the entire rest of the book, beginning in verse 11. In essence, the author says, “Here’s exactly what’s going to happen over and over and over again.”
• Israel will forget God and follow other gods (vv. 11–13)
• God will get angry and send enemies to punish them (vv. 14–15)
• Israel will cry out in distress for God to save them (v. 15b)
• God will send a judge to rescue them (v. 16)
• The judge will die, the people will forget him, and they will forget God (v. 17)
Notice that the judges God raised up to rescue Israel are called ‘judges’ here in chapter 2, but they’re probably not the kind of judges that we’re accustomed to. Judges saved Israel. Othniel is called a ‘deliverer’ or ‘savior’ (Judg. 3:9). So is Ehud (Judg. 3:15). In fact, the word ‘save’ is used 16 times in this book to describe what the judges do for Israel. Don’t misunderstand what the judges do! They’re not deciding disputes in a court room. They are crushing and killing the armies of those who oppress God’s people, then they are preaching and teaching God’s law to the people so that they wouldn’t fall away again. They’re saving Israel from its enemies and from its sin.

Knowing the state of the nation and what the judges do, it’s not hard to see that they are meant to foreshadow the great Judge and Savior, Jesus Christ. Each of these judges was limited in his or her effect, and each one had his or her moral failings (some greater than others!). But they all point forward to the ultimate savior who would end the cycle for good. These merely-human judges only were able to deliver Israel from their outward oppression and preach reminders to them. Jesus delivers us from the guilt and power of the sin itself, and literally transforms us from the inside out. Othniel, Ehud, Gideon, and Samson will do great things, but they all fail or fade away eventually. Jesus’ work is permanent and everlasting.

As you read through Judges, hopefully you will see your own sin and your own need for an even greater deliverer, and hopefully you will see how Jesus meets that very need.