The period of the Judges marks a dark and difficult era of Israel’s history. It covers the time between Joshua’s death to the time that Israel would later be ruled by a king (1 Samuel). There are several applicable themes within the book that are worth noting as you read Judges:
1. Israel’s Disobedience and Forgetfulness of God leads to Disaster after Disaster.
Judges reveals a brutal cycle of disaster when God’s people fail to remember and adhere to His instructions. So much of what God had shared with Israel in their covenant agreement was designed specifically for their own safety, protection, health, and prosperity. But almost all these grace-filled parameters were ignored and replaced with selfish, motives and action – “in those days, everyone did what was right in his/her own eyes…” (Judges 21:25).
2. God’s Discipline is an Instrument of His Mercy.
It’s amazing to consider that God at any point in these cycles of disobedience could have justifiably called it quits with a people prone to breaking their word, and embracing evil. Instead, He uses each circumstance to underscore His faithfulness and love. The Hebrew writer describes both this dynamic and its purpose well:
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son…No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed (Hebrews 12:5-6, 11-13).
3. Even in Disaster, Faith Rises
The author of Hebrews interestingly enough, lists several characters from Judges as models of Old-Testament characters who gained approval through faith (see Hebrews 11). Though Judges highlights the consequences of unbelief in its brutal cycle of destruction, one can also see that even in such periods of darkness, unbelief, and cultural digression, men and women of simple trust and obedience can be a powerful, positive light whose effects can move an entire nation.
The period of the Judges has remarkable application to our own cultural context – meaning You and Me. By reading both how God’s mercy works through discipline, and the dramatic pitfalls of following one’s own counsel without the guidance of God’s Spirit, Judges has much to contribute to our own relationship and walk with God.