The book of Joshua records God leading His chosen people into the land He had promised to them. Long before Moses’ death, God chose Joshua to be the human leader to succeed Moses. As Moses had done before him, Joshua relayed God’s instructions and promises to the people. God promised to never leave or forsake the Hebrews. He promised them victory over their enemies if they would not tolerate sin, if they would ruthlessly root it all out. God also makes those exact same promises to you and me. Sadly, our obedience is a pretty close match of the ancient Hebrews. Thus, our lives closely match theirs.
The death of Joshua was a turning point in the history of the Hebrews. No longer did they have a definite, recognizable, human leader. A common theme in the book of Judges is “everyone did what was right in their own eyes." Each person acted selfishly in what they thought would benefit them individually. They failed to observe God’s basic moral commands and they refused to consult with God before choosing their course of action. Violating the laws God put in place, physical or spiritual, always results in consequences. God will not be mocked. Man will reap what man sows. This is just as true for you and me as it was for the ancient Hebrews.
Another huge problem for God’s chosen people was their toleration of sin. Their refusal to ask God to eradicate sin from their midst prevented them from living in the victory and abundance promised to them by their God. My toleration of sin in my life and your toleration of sin in your life prevents us from living joyful lives basking in the abundance of our loving Father.
Early in the book of Judges, as Joshua was about to die, Christ Himself appeared as “The Angel of the Lord”. He brought an ominous message. In great sadness, He asked them about their failure to obey. Then He told them that He would not drive out the enemies before them. Judges describes the struggle of the Hebrews to survive in a very dangerous and difficult world of their own making. My autobiography would describe my struggle to survive in a dangerous and difficult world of my own making.
The Hebrews repeated failure to obey got them into one tragic predicament after another. God sent human deliverers time and time again. Today’s English would call these human leaders, deliverers rather than judges. God sent them Shamgar, Deborah, Barak, Gideon, Samson and other less well-known deliverers. God wanted His people to recognize Him as “The Deliverer”. He longs to deliver you and me from our troubles. His heart’s desire is to protect us. However, please know that delivering us is never His main goal. His purpose is always to get us to recognize Him as The Deliverer, to draw us into a closer relationship with Him. In Judges, God manifests Himself as The Deliverer, not only to them but also to me and to you.
If you know the history of the Hebrews, you know that the judges/deliverers were soon replaced with kings. God warned them that a having a human king to rule over them would not satisfy them, but they clamored for one anyway. In God’s kingdom, judges have been replaced by The Judge. Deliverers have been replaced by The Deliverer. Kings have been replaced by The King. Priests have been replaced by The Priest. Christ has filled each of those offices. He waits with great anticipation for you to recognize Him as your one and only Deliverer. He stands ready to Deliver you, to be your Deliverer. Place your trust in Him; He will not disappoint.
Pastor Steve Ellison is the director of the Ouachita Theological Training Institute in Mena, Ark.