I had some correspondence the other day with a person who was doing a study on one portion of the book of Judges, which brought back again that feeling of remembering things that I had known and forgot about. Judges is the story of what happened from the time the people of Israel entered the promised land until God granted their rather pathetic request for a King. The period of time denotes a kind of loose federation of tribes that gathered for protection against foreign pagan enemies and sometimes against bad apples in the tribes of Israel themselves. It was called an amphictyony and we simply refer to it as the times of the judges. What made it remarkable was that the Judges themselves rejected the establishment of a King because theologically they knew that God was their King. Yet over time, as one scholar has written, this loose confederation of tribes considered confederal anarchism to be a bad idea as well. This led to the period where a priest led the people. His name was Samuel.
Professor Walther Roehrs wrote that “God had one purpose in creating Israel and giving them Canaan as an inheritance. In His covenant with the patriarchs and with Israel at Mount Sinai, He had made it clear that Israel was to be a means to an end: to bring the blessing of salvation to all nations. God had His own inscrutable reason for the election of Israel as the chosen nation, but He tells us some of the reasons why He directed the course of Israel’s history at the time of the conquest of Canaan as He did to achieve His purpose. He would first of all give Israel physical possession of the land in a way most advantageous to the conquerors: “The Lord, your God, will clear away these nations [the Canaanites} little by little . . . lest the wild beasts grow too numerous” (Deut. 7:22, d. Ex. 23: 29,30). This pattern of gradual conquest also committed Israel to learning to be true spiritual heirs of the land. In the extended operations during a protracted period they could conquer only by faith and in obedience to the covenant. Only as “a kingdom of priests” were they to displace the kings of Canaan.” *
Israel was to be a missionary people whose ultimate purpose was to bring the whole world under the Lordship of Christ the Savior the true Prophet Priest and King. The judges were heroes who did extraordinary things and Jesus the lowly Savior who dies is the great hero and champion whose rescue of mankind from sin and death and hell is the ultimate “good story”. What I had forgotten is what a ripping good yarn Judges is. From Samson, who could control a lion but not himself, and Jephthah whose heroic victory over enemies turns into a waking nightmare for two months, to heroic Gideon whose Bibles are in hotel rooms all over yet who made the people, “play the harlot”, the all too human natures of these heroes is on display. We marvel at God’s patience. We tire of even reading the recurring pattern of gross infidelity, repentance under chastisement, relief from disaster after repentance, and then the inevitable relapse into the same evil.
The more things change…….