Last Sunday morning I began a new series of messages in our church on the book of Judges. Naturally I’ve thought through the way to preach this kind of narrative book. The sad truth is that most of the sermons that I’ve listened to or read from the book of Judges have resorted to a series of character studies — a heroes of the faith approach. It’s easy to see why this happens but I would like to caution all of my preacher friends that this is the wrong way to approach the book of Judges, or any other book of the Bible of that matter. Judges was not written to give us human examples to follow but rather to point us to our need for a savior. In the end, God is the only true hero in the book of Judges. When we can see this, it opens up the book to us in a brand new way. In fact, it helps to show us a tremendous spiritual pattern that unfolds in the first three chapters. Briefly let me explain.
In chapter one we have Israel’s explanation for their failure to drive out all of the Canaanites. In the second chapter, God gives His side of the story basically saying that Israel failed to keep the covenant. But at the beginning of chapter three God gives the reason all of this happened. Israel’s disobedience did not negate God’s plan but instead God built their disobedience into His sovereign plan to help them grow.
As preachers we all probably know the basic pattern of Judges — the people chase after on of the foreign gods, the Lord sends a conquering nation against them to punish their disobedience, Israel repents, God restores them, then the cycle starts again. We all know the pattern from Judges, but we have all seen in played out in our own lives and in those of the people we minister to. So why does it happen?
God explains it in chapter 3. Basically he says that this cycle tested the people and it taught the people to fight. Here is a beautiful gospel lesson for people in the church. God does not test us to find out what we will do but rather to show who we really are and to draw us to a deeper dependence on the gospel. For the Christian failures will happen, we will have momentary lapses in our faith, but our failure is never final. Those who truly have been saved, although they may fall away for a season will always come back. They will, under God’s power and authority, eventually stand up for their faith.