Bible Readings for July 18th
The positive beginning to the book of Judges is entirely misleading. Joshua’s death leaves Israel without a clear leader for the first time since Yahweh called Moses to shepherd Israel. The question, then, is this: Will Israel continue to follow Yahweh or not? And at first, things seem to go well. In Judges 1:1, we find the people of Israel inquiring of Yahweh to ask about how they should proceed with their battle plans. Then, in Judges 1:2–26, Yahweh gives Judah, Simeon, and Joseph clear marching orders, and they all obey. So far, so good.
But from chapter 1, verse 27 on, the book of Judges recounts Israel’s slow descent into some of the darkest days in their history, a descent that begins initially with small acts of disobedience. To begin, Israel merely fails to drive out the inhabitants of Canaan completely. In some cases, the Israelites capture the Canaanites and put them to forced labor (Judg. 1:28, 30, 33, 35), and in other cases, they simply allow the Canaanites to continue living in their midst (Judg. 1:29, 31–32).
Part of the reason for Israel’s disobedience stems from an unwillingness to obey Yahweh fully. These stories sounds a lot like the one we will read later in 1 Samuel 15, when King Saul wants to keep the livestock of the Amalekites and to spare the life of their king, Agag, rather than devoting everything to total destruction as Yahweh had commanded. Because of Saul’s disobedience, Yahweh tears the kingdom of Israel away from him (1 Sam. 15:28).
But as we continue to read, we will discover a larger theme throughout the book of Judges, which is that Israel desperately needs a leader. Toward the end of the book, a verse emerges twice to crystalize this idea, once in Judges 17:6 and again at the end of the book in 21:25: “In those days, there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Additionally, the phrase “there was no king in Israel” shows up another two times, in Judges 18:1 and 19:1.
The book of Judges teaches, then, that God’s people are lost sheep who need a shepherd. The stories of Israel’s weakness without a leader set up the story of the coming of Israel’s great shepherd king, David, in 1 Samuel. In David, God would put a man after his own heart on the throne of Israel, not only to lead his people in conquest against their enemies, but also to lead them in seeking Yahweh. Ultimately, Yahweh would raise up from David’s line our great shepherd of the sheep, the Lord Jesus Christ, to reign as Israel’s king forever.
But that’s getting a bit ahead of the story. In the coming chapters of Judges, things will get much worse before they get better.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.