Finding Jesus in Judges
There was a time in the history of Europe (410AD) when the opulent and powerful Roman Empire fell. The eternal city, the mother of the world, as it was called, imploded from within; we call it the Dark Ages. Civil wars, injustice, starvation, and a hovering cloak of darkness settled over the city of Rome and the entire empire. The only hope for rescue was turning to God. Bill Hybels penned it well, “The local church is the hope of the world.” During this time the monastic movement within the Church began to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ with new passion. Some bright stars were shining during this dark time: Augustine, Benedict, and Anselm were hard at work hearing from God and bringing revival.
Israel also suffered from dark ages; it’s recorded in the book of Judges. This book continues the historical progression of Israel from the time of Joshua. The Hebrew nation, over a period of many generations, fell into a cycle of sin that also had only one hope: turn back to God. That cycle is seen throughout Judges:
*disobedience leading to oppression,
*oppression, leading to repentance,
*repentance, leading to deliverance from God.
From the time of Joshua until Israel’s first king, Saul, (350 years) the people struggled with this cycle. However, God also had some shining stars that would lead the people to repentance: Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson (15 leaders in all) brought the light of God in this book.
Whenever God removes His hand of protection due to disobedience we see the natural consequences, even in our own life. This lower story during the time of the Judges points us to our own cycles. If we don’t drive out our enemies we’ll also see God allowing consequences to bring us back to Him. That’s the upper story. Unforgiveness, anger, sexual immorality, and the like will cause us to implode from within as Israel or Rome experienced. We find Jesus when we recognize that cycle and turn back to Him in repentance; He will forgive and cleanse us. That’s our only hope.
There are amazing times in this book when Jesus actually appears in the flesh! He’s called the Angel of the LORD as He visits His people, temporarily, to bring hope and reassurance that He is a covenant-keeping God. That doesn’t mean that He won’t discipline His people but that He loves them as a good, good Father. The Spirit of the LORD is also active in this book which points us to His role in our lives. We’re given the gift of Holy Spirit power, dunamis, to aid us as well but it’s not temporary: it’s permanent. His indwelling Spirit gives us direction and strategy to defeat our enemies and the enemies of our family. We cannot, as Israel experienced, live alongside or tolerate evil; we are called to be distinct and holy. Finding Jesus in the book of Judges is finding hope and not living in hopelessness.