Judges 1:1 {Un}Faithful Intro

March 11, 2012 Series: Judges | {Un}Faithful (Part 1 of 2)

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Judges 1:1

After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel inquired of the Lord, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?” Judges 1.1

Intro. to Judges
The book of Judges is one of the most disturbing narratives in Scripture, recording of some of most disturbing people who ever lived, who do some of the most disturbing things imaginable (This is probably why most churches avoid it). The world of judges is described repeatedly as one in which, “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” This is not only true for the enemies surrounding God’s people; it is true for God’s people themselves. And because most of the book is a solid PG-13, other times it is R, men are tempted to either avoid it or sensationalize it. We must avoid both. We do not have the right to declare some of God’s Words unusable NOR do we have the right to abuse it for our entertainment. The Word of God is for His glory and our edification: whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15.4). That being said, this is really hard to believe with the book of Judges.

This is the story of a holy God who judges sin. It is the story of God’s faithfulness and man’s unfaithfulness; the story of God’s devotion to His glory, to His Holiness, to His name, and man’s devotion to himself and his sin. Judges is bookended by the conquering of the Promised Land under Israel’s first General (Joshua) and the establishment of the monarchy under Israel’s first King (Saul), the Book of Judges records what happens after Joshua and all of the leaders in his generation have died. Unlike when Moses died, there is no clear successor. Still surrounded by God’s enemies, Israel cries out for a new leader. And because God believes in using leaders, He raises up heroes to “judge” God’s enemies and, as a result, deliver God’s people from oppression. And the oppressors that they are fighting against were raised up by God to judge the sins of his own people. Not a single individual is ever directly called a “judge” in the entire book. The only time the term is used is when it refers to God as “The Judge” (11.27).

This is also the story of a God who shows GRACE. The book of Judges is the continuing story of God’s mission, which began in the garden of Eden, to redeem a community of worshippers from within an evil and rebellious world. Although men continue to be wayward, though men continue to fail, though men continue to go after false gods and saviors, THOUGH ALL MEN JUSTLY DESERVE DEATH, God is unrelenting and unstoppable in accomplishing his mission. And though the Canaanites are evil, they are not judged and Israel saved they are something special. Though they are unfaithful, God is faithful to His promise. Deuteronomy 7.6-9 6 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,

This is a story ultimately about Jesus. We want a holy God who judges sin (as long as it isn’t ours). And we want a gracious God who loves men (as long as they are not too sinful). But what disturb most is not WHAT his mission is, but exactly HOW he accomplishes it and with WHOM. Judges shocks us because we see that God works, not despite the sins of men, but through them. All of God’s “heroes” are anything but heroic; they are sinful, imperfect, and dark. Like delusional fools, we sit in judgment on the judges fully convinced of our own “rightness” in our own eyes. When we read about the ever-rebellious Israelites with its misguided leaders, we come face to face yesterday’s version of our own present-day idolatry and my need for a savior.

Jesus & the O.T
It’s not often we read the O.T. expecting to find Jesus there. When (If) we read the Old Testament, we often make one of three mistakes in our approach: 1) We misunderstand the Old Testament as only a series of independent stories and events that teach good principles for today; 2) We dismiss the Old Testament as only applicable to Israel as a nation, and not to the church today; 3) We ignore the Old Testament completely because it is difficult to understand. But Jesus said all of Scripture was one story, and it all pointed to Him. Think about it…Adam and Eve are told that their child will one day crush Satan, Abraham is told that his child will one day bless the world, David is told that his child will one day sit on the throne forever; all of it points to us to Jesus, whether the author knew it or not. The O.T. always points to Jesus first coming and the N.T. always points to his return. In order to full understand the story of Judges, we will need to do some work setting the stage.

Pre-qual to Judges
The prequel to Judges is the book of Joshua (whose name means Yahweh is salvation)—where the PROMISE to Abraham was kept. Who was Abraham? Abraham pagan Babylonian, super great-grandson of Shem, the son of blessed son of Noah, whom God commands to leave his own country, his extended family, his home, and go to a foreign land called Canaan. By GRACE, God makes a covenant with him, promising to make his seed a great nation that will, in turn, bless the world…eventually: Genesis 12.13-20 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” (Grace to CAANANITES) 17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”

Joshua’ Final Speech: God is Faithful
After a lot of history, the book of Joshua records the tangible fulfillment of this promise. The first half of Joshua records the brutal military conquest of Canaan under his leadership. The second half is saturated with a sense of peace as the land is divided and the spoils of war distributed among the twelve tribes of Israel. Having possessed the land fully, the book of Joshua ends with a charge for Israel to live in the land faithfully. Before he dies, Joshua gives his final speech to the leaders of Israel reminding them of the RECORD of God’s grace and faithfulness that extended back to Abraham:

Joshua 24.1-13 Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel. And they presented themselves before God. 2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods. 3 Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac. 4 And to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. And I gave Esau the hill country of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. [GENESIS]

5 And I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in the midst of it, and afterward I brought you out. 6 “ ‘Then I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea. And the Egyptians pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. 7 And when they cried to the Lord, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians and made the sea come upon them and cover them; and your eyes saw what I did in Egypt. And you lived in the wilderness a long time. [EXODUS/LEVITICUS]

8 Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the other side of the Jordan. They fought with you, and I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land, and I destroyed them before you. [NUMBERS]

9 Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and fought against Israel. And he sent and invited Balaam the son of Beor to curse you, 10 but I would not listen to Balaam. Indeed, he blessed you. So I delivered you out of his hand. [DEUTERONOMY]

11 And you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, and the leaders of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And I gave them into your hand. 12 And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out before you, the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. 13 I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant. [JOSHUA]

Man’s Unfaithfulness
We learn several things from Joshua’s speech. First, we contribute absolutely nothing to our salvation. There is reason why the only things about men that God mentions in his speech (from General Joshua) is sinful actions: they served other gods, they wrongfully went down to Egypt, they wandered in the wilderness. Before God moved, it is not as if men were looking for God. And when he did move, it’s not as if they were running after him! It is God who chooses. It is God who delivers. It is God who gives. It is God who works. It is God who fights. It is God who blesses. Men contribute unfaithfulness.

Man’s Unfaithfulness
The fact that we are by nature unfaithful, the fact that God owes us nothing and has the right to kill us all, reveals the utter depth of GOD’S GRACE & FAITHFULNESS. Though you are blind, God is faithful. Though you are lost, God is faithful. Though you run, God is faithful. Though you are oppressed, God is faithful. Though you are attacked, God is faithful. Though you doubt and complain, God is faithful. Though you overwhelmed with impossible odds, God is faithful. Though you fail and fall down, God is faithful. God was faithful. God is faithful. God will always be faithful.

But he is faithful to ALL of His PROMISES. Consider the final part of Joshua’s speech:

Warning of Unfaithfulness: Idolatry
14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods, 17 for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. 18 And the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”

19 But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.”

THIS IS JUDGES: the story of God who is faithful to his promise love AND faithful to his promise to judge. This is our story. We don’t need a hero who can save us from the enemies of the world; we need a hero who can save us from ourselves. The problem is not outside in the big bad world, it is inside our big bad sinful hearts. We need a man who can somehow deal with my sin without having to deal with his own. A man, whether I put the cape on myself or someone else, cannot change a heart. But the book of Judges shows us what happens not only when we seek salvation in false gods but when you put your hope in men. The “best” of God’s men were bad. The best of God’s men led Israel from bad to worse—they are MORE unfaithful by the end than at the beginning.

Watching this kind of world, and seeing God’s people, “do what was right in their own eyes” was enough proof for the author of Judges to know that they needed serious help. The last verse in Judges points us to where he hoped to find it: 25 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 21.25. The author is thinking about David. We need a King. And unfaithfulness of Israel, especially in view of God’s immeasurable faithfulness, reveals our need for a hero, a king, and a savior who is more than a man. [DING!]

The unfaithfulness we see in judges should humble us. But the faithfulness of God should inspire us. As we come face to face with our own unfaithfulness, as seen in the actions of these judges, my prayer is that we will SEE IT, but we will not be driven to despair, but to the cross. That is not only where God proved his faithfulness to us, but to Himself as perfectly loving and just the same time. Judges confronts us with a God too big to explain, a God is bigger than any sin I have committed or any sin committed against me.

Faith in God is believing that our sin is too great to conquer, but that God is greater than our depravity.

More in Judges | {Un}Faithful (Part 1 of 2)

July 1, 2012

Judges 9:1-57 {Un}Faithful Rule

June 24, 2012

Judges 8.1-35 {Un}Faithful Zeal

June 17, 2012

Judges 7.1-24 Faithful Odds