The Book Of Judges Part 1
Henry Steedman, Birmingham
Things written aforetime were written for our learning but have we learnt the lessons of the Book of Judges?
JUDGES may be divided into three parts:
Chapters 1-3, 4—The failures and disobedience of the people.
Chapters 3, 5-16—The history of the Judges.
Chapters 17-21—The lawlessness and corruption of the people.
In contrast to the book of Joshua, which is a record of victories and conquest, Judges is marked by defeats with only partial successes; the careful reader will also be struck by the difference in spiritual tone. There are two keys to these things. First, the people had inherited without conflict the territory which their fathers had fought for, and they had no personal knowledge of God or first-hand acquaintance with His work. The people served Jehovah all the days of Joshua and all the days of the Elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of Jehovah which He did for Israel. All that generation were gathered unto their fathers and there arose another generation after them which knew not Jehovah nor yet the works which He had done for Israel (Judges 2. 7-15). Secondly, we have the words recorded four times. “In those days there was no King in Israel,” and twice, “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” (See chapters 17. 6; 18. 1; 19. 1; 21. 25.) But it is not in man to direct his steps—a good man’s steps are ordered of the Lord. How necessary it is in our days to remember that the confession of Christ’s Lordship involves practical obedience to His Word. “No King” meant “No Rule,” and so men became a law to themselves instead of ordering their way by the Word and Will of God.
Departure from Jehovah, deterioration in morals and bestial corruption followed. Jehovah in faithfulness to His promise had brought the people into the land. Indeed the faithfulness of God runs through the whole history. Promise and possession, however, are two different matters. The former belongs to the Lord, the latter rests with the people. It is just here that the inability of the heirs is evident. They so frequently lapsed into the evil practices of the nations around them. The point of their departures was in their relation and attitude to God. This having snapped, they ran very greedily after the foul figures of Canaan.
Periodical deliverances were granted them by the Lord, but only to be followed by deeper departure. Howbeit, Jehovah has always had His purposes for His people and the accomplishment of these is socketed in the Sovereignty of His faithfulness. God cannot deny Himself. The Counsel of the Lord shall stand. The foundation of God standeth sure. Joshua and his worthy contemporaries were dead, but God and His Word were alive, yea, and for His people.
God’s power and presence were still available for His elect ones. God leads on to Kingdom, prosperity, power and peace when glory gilds all around. His purpose admits of no miscarriage, no frustration and no defeat. The end will inevitably justify His deep wisdom, His judgments and His ways. Compared with these, all else is superficial and apparently contradictory. In other words, the righteous Judge of all the earth is over all and through all, and unto Him are all things. Let all the heirs of God lift up their heads and follow Him in triumph, the Judge of all judges.
Surely no open-eyed saint can fail to see how the history of Israel repeats itself in the history of Christendom. What a spiritual awakening took place in the last century. Men of God were raised up to recover truths which had practically been lost sight of. Teaching as to the Body of Christ, the priesthood of Christians, the local assemblies of God with all their common privileges, Christian baptism applying to believers only, the breaking of bread and the rapture of the saints to meet the Lord in the air, was accompanied by the spread of the Gospel in far-flung fields in the world. Alas, much of the truth recovered is being ignored to-day even by some of the children of such witnesses of God. Truth bought by sacrifice should never be sold by compromise. No doubt the neglect of Apostolic teaching accounts greatly for the low conditions which are prevailing all around among professing Christians.
How soon after the apostles and the apostolically ordained elders who out-lived them did the gold become dim. Alas, how many have fallen victims to the varied forms of servitude and sin. Howbeit, our faithful God still grants us little spaces of grace and reviving in His love (Ezra 9. 8). Very often He raises up Deliverers, Judges, Saviours among His believing people even whilst many do that which is right in their own eyes, just as Samson did until he lost the sight of those eyes completely. King Zedekiah also lost his sight through sheer disobedience. If the light which is in us become darkness, how great is that darkness. God’s Word must be our light and lamp, and it is with Him more than with our brethren and our observant enemies, we have to do.
What about those eyes before which all things are naked and bare? Things may seem right in our eyes—possibly even right in our brethren’s eyes. Is all right in His eyes?—that is the point.