Life is messy. So is the Book of Judges. As we continue our journey through God’s Story, the History of Israel and Jesus’ ancestry, we find a phrase repeated over and over again… “The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight.” Over and over again. It became a vicious cycle. As the generation that knew Joshua dies off, the next generation starts doing what God told them NOT to do — mix with the pagans. So….
- They get in trouble by worshiping the gods and idols of the local pagans, resulting in oppression and suffering
- They call to God
- God sends a “judge” or leader
- He/She is victorious
- The judge dies
- They get in trouble, AGAIN, by worshiping the gods and idols of the local pagans resulting in oppression and suffering
And it starts all over again. A vicious cycle.
We easily get into vicious cycles. Take attempting to lose weight. You try a diet plan, start exercising, you’re very gun-ho. It works and you lose weight, then you slowly starting eating the foods you shouldn’t eat, and you gain the weight back. So you try another diet plan….and on and on. This vicious cycle goes on until you seek help from God — yes, God — for guidance, self-control and self-discipline, along with a professional, who gets you on a meal plan that works for you and you lose the weight for good.
How bad does this Old Testament book get? Pretty bad. We meet a variety of different characters — including familiar names like Deborah, Gideon and Samson. Each with a story. Each with a lesson for us today. See if you can recognize Jesus in these stories. Let’s dig in….
Judges 1 – Judah and Simeon Conquer the Land
After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, “Which tribe should go first to attack the Canaanites?”
2 The Lord answered, “Judah, for I have given them victory over the land.”
3 The men of Judah said to their relatives from the tribe of Simeon, “Join with us to fight against the Canaanites living in the territory allotted to us. Then we will help you conquer your territory.” So the men of Simeon went with Judah.
4 When the men of Judah attacked, the Lord gave them victory over the Canaanites and Perizzites, and they killed 10,000 enemy warriors at the town of Bezek. 5 While at Bezek they encountered King Adoni-bezek and fought against him, and the Canaanites and Perizzites were defeated. 6 Adoni-bezek escaped, but the Israelites soon captured him and cut off his thumbs and big toes.
7 Adoni-bezek said, “I once had seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off, eating scraps from under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.” They took him to Jerusalem, and he died there.
8 The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem and captured it, killing all its people and setting the city on fire. 9 Then they went down to fight the Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev, and the western foothills. 10 Judah marched against the Canaanites in Hebron (formerly called Kiriath-arba), defeating the forces of Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai.
11 From there they went to fight against the people living in the town of Debir (formerly called Kiriath-sepher). 12 Caleb said, “I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the one who attacks and captures Kiriath-sepher.” 13 Othniel, the son of Caleb’s younger brother, Kenaz, was the one who conquered it, so Acsah became Othniel’s wife.
14 When Acsah married Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field. As she got down off her donkey, Caleb asked her, “What’s the matter?”
15 She said, “Let me have another gift. You have already given me land in the Negev; now please give me springs of water, too.” So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.
16 When the tribe of Judah left Jericho—the city of palms—the Kenites, who were descendants of Moses’ father-in-law, traveled with them into the wilderness of Judah. They settled among the people there, near the town of Arad in the Negev.
17 Then Judah joined with Simeon to fight against the Canaanites living in Zephath, and they completely destroyed the town. So the town was named Hormah. 18 In addition, Judah captured the towns of Gaza, Ashkelon, and Ekron, along with their surrounding territories.
Israel Fails to Conquer the Land
19 The Lord was with the people of Judah, and they took possession of the hill country. But they failed to drive out the people living in the plains, who had iron chariots. 20 The town of Hebron was given to Caleb as Moses had promised. And Caleb drove out the people living there, who were descendants of the three sons of Anak.
21 The tribe of Benjamin, however, failed to drive out the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem. So to this day the Jebusites live in Jerusalem among the people of Benjamin.
22 The descendants of Joseph attacked the town of Bethel, and the Lord was with them. 23 They sent men to scout out Bethel (formerly known as Luz). 24 They confronted a man coming out of the town and said to him, “Show us a way into the town, and we will have mercy on you.” 25 So he showed them a way in, and they killed everyone in the town except that man and his family. 26 Later the man moved to the land of the Hittites, where he built a town. He named it Luz, which is its name to this day.
27 The tribe of Manasseh failed to drive out the people living in Beth-shan, Taanach, Dor, Ibleam, Megiddo, and all their surrounding settlements, because the Canaanites were determined to stay in that region. 28 When the Israelites grew stronger, they forced the Canaanites to work as slaves, but they never did drive them completely out of the land.
29 The tribe of Ephraim failed to drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, so the Canaanites continued to live there among them.
30 The tribe of Zebulun failed to drive out the residents of Kitron and Nahalol, so the Canaanites continued to live among them. But the Canaanites were forced to work as slaves for the people of Zebulun.
31 The tribe of Asher failed to drive out the residents of Acco, Sidon, Ahlab, Aczib, Helbah, Aphik, and Rehob. 32 Instead, the people of Asher moved in among the Canaanites, who controlled the land, for they failed to drive them out.
33 Likewise, the tribe of Naphtali failed to drive out the residents of Beth-shemesh and Beth-anath. Instead, they moved in among the Canaanites, who controlled the land. Nevertheless, the people of Beth-shemesh and Beth-anath were forced to work as slaves for the people of Naphtali.
34 As for the tribe of Dan, the Amorites forced them back into the hill country and would not let them come down into the plains. 35 The Amorites were determined to stay in Mount Heres, Aijalon, and Shaalbim, but when the descendants of Joseph became stronger, they forced the Amorites to work as slaves. 36 The boundary of the Amorites ran from Scorpion Pass to Sela and continued upward from there.Joshua 1 NLT
Judges 2 – The Lord’s Messenger Comes to Bokim
The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said to the Israelites, “I brought you out of Egypt into this land that I swore to give your ancestors, and I said I would never break my covenant with you. 2 For your part, you were not to make any covenants with the people living in this land; instead, you were to destroy their altars. But you disobeyed my command. Why did you do this? 3 So now I declare that I will no longer drive out the people living in your land. They will be thorns in your sides, and their gods will be a constant temptation to you.”
4 When the angel of the Lord finished speaking to all the Israelites, the people wept loudly. 5 So they called the place Bokim (which means “weeping”), and they offered sacrifices there to the Lord.
The Death of Joshua
6 After Joshua sent the people away, each of the tribes left to take possession of the land allotted to them. 7 And the Israelites served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and the leaders who outlived him—those who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel.
8 Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110. 9 They buried him in the land he had been allocated, at Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.
Israel Disobeys the Lord
10 After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel.
11 The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight and served the images of Baal. 12 They abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They went after other gods, worshiping the gods of the people around them. And they angered the Lord. 13 They abandoned the Lord to serve Baal and the images of Ashtoreth. 14 This made the Lord burn with anger against Israel, so he handed them over to raiders who stole their possessions. He turned them over to their enemies all around, and they were no longer able to resist them. 15 Every time Israel went out to battle, the Lord fought against them, causing them to be defeated, just as he had warned. And the people were in great distress.
The Lord Rescues His People
16 Then the Lord raised up judges to rescue the Israelites from their attackers. 17 Yet Israel did not listen to the judges but prostituted themselves by worshiping other gods. How quickly they turned away from the path of their ancestors, who had walked in obedience to the Lord’s commands.
18 Whenever the Lord raised up a judge over Israel, he was with that judge and rescued the people from their enemies throughout the judge’s lifetime. For the Lord took pity on his people, who were burdened by oppression and suffering. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to their corrupt ways, behaving worse than those who had lived before them. They went after other gods, serving and worshiping them. And they refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.
20 So the Lord burned with anger against Israel. He said, “Because these people have violated my covenant, which I made with their ancestors, and have ignored my commands, 21 I will no longer drive out the nations that Joshua left unconquered when he died. 22 I did this to test Israel—to see whether or not they would follow the ways of the Lord as their ancestors did.” 23 That is why the Lord left those nations in place. He did not quickly drive them out or allow Joshua to conquer them all.Judges 2 NLT
Judges 3 – The Nations Left in Canaan
These are the nations that the Lord left in the land to test those Israelites who had not experienced the wars of Canaan. 2 He did this to teach warfare to generations of Israelites who had no experience in battle. 3 These are the nations: the Philistines (those living under the five Philistine rulers), all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the mountains of Lebanon from Mount Baal-hermon to Lebo-hamath. 4 These people were left to test the Israelites—to see whether they would obey the commands the Lord had given to their ancestors through Moses.
5 So the people of Israel lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, 6 and they intermarried with them. Israelite sons married their daughters, and Israelite daughters were given in marriage to their sons. And the Israelites served their gods.
Othniel Becomes Israel’s Judge
7 The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight. They forgot about the Lord their God, and they served the images of Baal and the Asherah poles. 8 Then the Lord burned with anger against Israel, and he turned them over to King Cushan-rishathaim of Aram-naharaim. And the Israelites served Cushan-rishathaim for eight years.
9 But when the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help, the Lord raised up a rescuer to save them. His name was Othniel, the son of Caleb’s younger brother, Kenaz. 10 The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he became Israel’s judge. He went to war against King Cushan-rishathaim of Aram, and the Lord gave Othniel victory over him. 11 So there was peace in the land for forty years. Then Othniel son of Kenaz died.
Ehud Becomes Israel’s Judge
12 Once again the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight, and the Lord gave King Eglon of Moab control over Israel because of their evil. 13 Eglon enlisted the Ammonites and Amalekites as allies, and then he went out and defeated Israel, taking possession of Jericho, the city of palms. 14 And the Israelites served Eglon of Moab for eighteen years.
15 But when the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help, the Lord again raised up a rescuer to save them. His name was Ehud son of Gera, a left-handed man of the tribe of Benjamin. The Israelites sent Ehud to deliver their tribute money to King Eglon of Moab. 16 So Ehud made a double-edged dagger that was about a foot long, and he strapped it to his right thigh, keeping it hidden under his clothing. 17 He brought the tribute money to Eglon, who was very fat.
18 After delivering the payment, Ehud started home with those who had helped carry the tribute. 19 But when Ehud reached the stone idols near Gilgal, he turned back. He came to Eglon and said, “I have a secret message for you.”
So the king commanded his servants, “Be quiet!” and he sent them all out of the room.
20 Ehud walked over to Eglon, who was sitting alone in a cool upstairs room. And Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you!” As King Eglon rose from his seat, 21 Ehud reached with his left hand, pulled out the dagger strapped to his right thigh, and plunged it into the king’s belly. 22 The dagger went so deep that the handle disappeared beneath the king’s fat. So Ehud did not pull out the dagger, and the king’s bowels emptied. 23 Then Ehud closed and locked the doors of the room and escaped down the latrine.
24 After Ehud was gone, the king’s servants returned and found the doors to the upstairs room locked. They thought he might be using the latrine in the room, 25 so they waited. But when the king didn’t come out after a long delay, they became concerned and got a key. And when they opened the doors, they found their master dead on the floor.
26 While the servants were waiting, Ehud escaped, passing the stone idols on his way to Seirah. 27 When he arrived in the hill country of Ephraim, Ehud sounded a call to arms. Then he led a band of Israelites down from the hills.
28 “Follow me,” he said, “for the Lord has given you victory over Moab your enemy.” So they followed him. And the Israelites took control of the shallow crossings of the Jordan River across from Moab, preventing anyone from crossing.
29 They attacked the Moabites and killed about 10,000 of their strongest and most able-bodied warriors. Not one of them escaped. 30 So Moab was conquered by Israel that day, and there was peace in the land for eighty years.Judges 3 NLT
Points to Ponder
- Where’s Jesus? Ah, the Angel of the Lord. Yes, it’s the pre-incarnate Jesus. Notice when He spoke He said, “I brought you out of Egypt… I said…, etc.” Not “God said”. So, when you see someone described as “the Angel of the Lord” — that’s Jesus! Think of it this way, back then, they didn’t know how to describe God. And as you’ll see, later on, actual angels say their names. Like when Michael talks to Daniel or Gabriel talks to Mary.
- The Israelites start out OK, with good intentions and they have victories. But, they get tempted to worship other gods.
- God is testing them. Remember that both Moses and Joshua told them to read the Book of Instruction (aka the Bible). The leaders were to meditate — think about what it says — day and night. Did they do it? No. Do you do it? Probably not. You should. It is God’s Book of Instructions on how to live righteously in this world ruled by Satan.
- Get to know God’s Character. How? By reading the Bible!
- You might have thought why are they repeating the story of Acsah, Caleb’s daughter marrying Othneil. Well, there’s always a reason why stuff is repeated in the Bible. Othneil becomes a judge! Watch for other repeated phrases of stories throughout.
- Please don’t fall into the vicious cycle of “doing evil in the eyes of God”.
What Happens to People When They Take Their Eyes Off God?
- At first, you are excited, you have fervor — are zealous. However, after a while it turns into APATHY. You stop caring about the things that God cares about. Like the sanctity of life and good morals.
- In the beginning, you are willingly obeying — doing everything right. Slowly, obedience turns into APOSTASY. You turn away from the things of God, like the truth of His Gospel message.
- At first, there is law and order — everything is running smoothly. All of a sudden you have ANARCHY.
Isn’t that what we’re seeing in the world today?
2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.Romans 12:2 NLT
He also wrote…
7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.Galatians 6:7 NLT
Who do you Follow? People or God?
Where do you put your trust? In sinking sand? Or solid ground?
Jesus told us…
24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”
28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law.Matthew 7:24-29 NLT
Again, I ask, who do you follow? Are they teaching the Gospel Truth? You can’t know the difference unless you ask the Holy Spirit to help you discern the truth. Once I asked Jesus into my heart, the Holy Spirit helped me realize that what I was hearing in the Progressive UCC church was false teachings. He guided me to the right, Bible-preaching church where the pastors are true, solid men of God and not “woke”. And, I am very grateful. My soul get nourished every Sunday morning.
It’s Time to Get Right With God!
Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.
- Believe — have Faith — that Jesus is the Christ and He died taking your sins away forever and that He rose from the dead 3 days later.
- Repent of your sins — stop sinning! Do a complete 180 degree turn in your life and surrender your life to Him.
- Be Baptized by water baptism — show the world and yourself that you have died to your old life and are born again in Christ.
- Receive the Holy Spirit in your heart.