Rebel, Rescue, Repeat
Read Judges 2:18-20a (ESV)
Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. So the anger of the LORD was kindled against them…
Have you ever witnessed the breakdown of an institution after a leadership transition? In your church, your workplace, or even on your favorite sports team? Why is leadership so important?
When the leader of any group steps down, it can result in chaos if there wasn’t a plan in place for the transition. When we ended the book of Deuteronomy, Moses appointed Joshua as his successor and Joshua was ready to lead. It seemed like a fairly smooth transition of leadership.
But then we get to Judges. It is the seventh book of the Bible and the second of twelve historical books. No author for the book is named specifically but the Prophet Samuel is traditionally attributed with writing Judges sometime between 1045-1000 B.C.
In Judges, we see that after Joshua’s death, the nation of Israel floundered under a lack of central leadership. The author of Judges often repeats, “In those days there was no king in Israel” (for example, Judges 18:1). But did they really have no king? They may have had no earthly king, but God was their King! He had given them all of the instructions they needed to experience success and His blessing in the land. Israel’s biggest problem was not that they had no king but that they rejected the King they had.
Instead of following God as their King and obeying His law, each person acted as if they were their own king. “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). But Proverbs 14:12 warns, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” And that is exactly what the people of Israel discovered.
In the first two chapters, we see that Israel failed to completely drive out the pagan inhabitants of the land as God had commanded them. As a result, they ended up worshiping the idols of the Canaanites. So as discipline, God allowed them to be oppressed by their enemies for a time. Then, God would raise up judges who would lead them in the fight against their oppressors. They’d be saved and experience a time of peace. But they’d soon forget God and turn back to their evil ways.
The book of Judges is a vicious cycle. I call it the “rebel, rescue, repeat” cycle. But commentators, Wilkinson and Boa, break the cycle down into more detail: rebellion (sin), retribution (servitude), repentance (supplication), restoration (salvation), and rest (silence). Judges records that the people of Israel cycled through this seven times! As a result, it can seem pretty disappointing and frustrating to read of Israel’s repeated failures.
But the Scarlet Thread of redemption shows up just as often! Despite their sin, God was faithful to send someone who would save and deliver them. Each of the judges is a picture of Christ. Judges like Othniel and Gideon were great warrior kings. In Revelation 19:11 we read of Christ as the ultimate Warrior King: “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.”
Eli was a priest and Christ is our Great High Priest: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession” (Hebrews 4:14). Samuel was a prophet and prophets bring the words of God to the people. According to John 1:1, Jesus is the Word of God. He is the final revelation from God. The judges of Israel foreshadowed Jesus Christ as our ultimate Prophet, Priest, and King.
Friends, we may be tempted to think that we don’t have a king and live as if we can do whatever we think is right in our own eyes. But in the book of Judges, we see that rebellion against God as our King only throws us into a vicious cycle. But we can repent and turn to Christ, the Greatest Judge and the ultimate Rescuer! In Christ, we can get out of that crazy cycle and submit to Christ our King!
Lord, I confess that I have lived as if I am the king of my life instead of submitting to Your authority over me. Please forgive me. Help me to get out of the cycle of rebellion. Thank You for being faithful to save me from my sin. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford