As I was planning the sermon calendar for the first months of 2017, I was faced with the challenge of telling the story of Judges in four weeks (such challenges tend to happen between Christmas and Easter). The Book of Judges is twenty-one chapters long and records eight major events of Israel in a 310-year span. So, I began to look for ways to squeeze all of it into four sermons.
Then, as I studied the story, I began to realize that the last verse, "In those days, Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit." was the author's thesis. The Israelites desired freedom from all rulers (including God), and over the generations, they discovered the consequences of this philosophy. The Book of Judges is the story of the downfall of Israel, not due to the outside attackers, but because of the internal decay. To pinpoint where they went wrong, I saw that the prequel (Joshua 23 and 24) was essential in understanding where the Israelites failed.
Since the start (Joshua 23 and 24) and the end (Judges 19-21) are crucial to the story, that took up two of the four slots. So, now I had the responsibility of choosing two to fill out the series.
For the first slot, I prayerfully chose Ehud; Ehud, because he is a relatively unknown character. I was debating between him and Deborah, but since that Sunday falls on our women's retreat weekend, I decided to save that for another sermon series.
The second is Gideon. While most know his story, many stop reading at the victorious apex (much like the Jonah story). The final paragraphs of his account holds the key to true freedom.
This means, there are great narratives we are missing such as Deborah, Jephthah, Samson, Micah, etc. I hope to teach on these one day, but for now, the best I can do is to give you tools to read it on your own. So, I want to leave you with a mindset that may help you find a lot of wisdom in the Book of Judges.
- Write down the patterns. You will note that each story begins with sin, which leads to oppression. In response, there is repentance, followed by a divine deliverance (God appoints a judge). This leads to a time of peace where they put down their guard and sins again. See how far this pattern holds up in your reading. When this pattern breaks, what does it mean?
- Every once in a while, ask yourself how you define freedom, then ask how the Israelites define freedom. You may find that your definition gets tweaked a few times.
- What do you think God is feeling through this book? Is God rescuing people always the best thing for Him to do? What does this book reveal about human nature? Do we always know what is best for ourselves?
Enjoy the book!