We’re at the midpoint of Judges and it’s an appropriate time to take stock of our journey. Probably a few hundred years has passed since Joshua led Israel in its first conquests. While a series of judges has been raised up to deliver Israel and serve as a nominal leader, no one has held the stature and position of Moses and Joshua for many generations.
The land, which was to have been cleared of its inhabitants, seems instead to be teeming with them – and their gods, among them the Baals and the Asherah. It is not that the LORD has been entirely forgotten, but that it’s been all too tempting for Israel to absorb the practices of those around them. This was by no means unique in the ancient world; in fact, Yahweh’s demand that Israel worship Him alone was exceptional. But it was what He expected, and His demand for exclusivity followed His rescue of Israel from Egypt.
I’ve asked you before to listen not only for what is present in Judges, but also for what is missing. There has not yet been a mention of the Ark of the Testimony, where Moses and Joshua had spoken with God. Thus far in Judges, the LORD has spoken through prophets, through angels, but only once directly to a man. The LORD has been observed disciplining Israel, fighting for Israel, but not directing Israel’s paths as He did through the exodus, wilderness, and conquest.
Listen for the LORD’s interactions through today’s reading. We begin in chapter 12 with a return to the world of Jephthah, whose term overseeing the Eastern tribes includes an inter-tribal scrap reminiscent of Gideon’s. A series of less noteworthy judges follows, and sharp readers will notice that there is no longer a mention of the “land resting” during their tenures.
The last three chapters today cover the birth story and early exploits of Samson. This is not a safe Sunday School story, but one of deceit, despair, and troubling developments. As this book is ultimately about the LORD, pay attention as much to His actions as you do to Samson’s.
Our verse for this week is John 3:35: The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.
Judges chapters 12 through 15. Now let’s read it!
The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.