Bible Readings for July 21st
In Judges 3–4, we read short descriptions of the ministries of four of Israel’s judges: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, and Deborah. As a preface to the stories of three of these judges (Shamgar’s one-verse story being the only exception), we read that the people of Israel sin by serving the false gods of the surrounding nations, provoking Yahweh to anger, and Yahweh then hands Israel over to oppression from their enemies (Judg. 3:7–9, 12, 4:1-3). In these stories, we see that the spiritual condition in Israel is rapidly deteriorating but that Yahweh repeatedly saves his people through the faithful ministry of even a single servant in each generation.
Those single servants whom Yahweh sends to judge Israel in Judges 3–4 were mighty, valiant people. The Spirit of Yahweh himself was upon Othniel (Judg. 3:10), and the story of how Ehud killed Eglon to give Israel eighty years of freedom after eighteen years of Israel’s oppression is extraordinary (Judg. 3:12–30). Finally, the story of Deborah, Barak, and Jael is absolutely worthy of the song recorded for us in Judges 5.
If Joshua was a high point in the story of Israel, Judges is a very low point—and, with each cycle of Israel’s apostasy, the degree to which the people sin against Yahweh will increase and the relative strength of the judges whom Yahweh sends will decrease over the course of this book. By the end of Judges, we no longer see strong leaders like Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, and Deborah but rather fools like Jephthah and Samson, all leading up to the horrific, final scene of a gang rape and murder in the Benjaminite city of Gibeah. But along the way, in situations that are by no means ideal, even one man or woman willing to obey Yahweh in these situations can make a big difference.
From these stories, we should recognize the value of our own obedience, even in the midst of mass unfaithfulness from professing believers. It should grieve us to see widespread apostasy, but we should take comfort in the fact that, as Paul writes, “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace” (Rom. 11:5)—that is, there is a group of people whom God is preserving through his grace to continue his work in this world until Jesus returns. The strength and size of the church will grow and shrink, but just as one judge could return the people of Israel back to serving Yahweh, so now God can use even the smallest remnant to restore his church to the faithful service of Jesus Christ today.
As those around you fall away, remember the words of Jesus: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
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.