Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands. Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.
As we saw yesterday the people of Israel were in great distress, constantly defeated by their enemies, because they turned from the true and living God to serve the Baals and useless idols which was the beginning of a pattern which tragically runs through their entire history.
These were God’s special people, the people through whom God would work out his great plan of redemption, not just for them but for the whole world. Through the Prophet Hosea, God says ‘How can I give you up Ephraim? How can I hand you over Israel? …. My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. (Hosea 11.8)
So we read in our passage from the Book of Judges this morning ‘The LORD raised up judges, who saved them…’ Salvation is at the very centre of the being and character of God!
In this context we are not to imagine a bewigged central official in a court of law but rather ‘one who puts things right`!
However the tragic theme running through the book is that the people ‘would not listen but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshipped them’ this being in direct disobedience to the first commandment ‘You shall have no other gods before me.’
Because of who he is, God continued to raise up judges and during their lifetime they saved Israel out of the hands of their enemies but as soon as the judge died, the people reverted to their old ways illustrating in a dramatic way the truth that we read in Jeremiah 17.9 ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick’
If we are honest with ourselves we know that that is as true today as it was when the judges ruled. We have only to look at the broken world in which we live and realise that it is not the world, but the people in it who have caused the brokenness and continue to do so. But admitting that we are the cause is hard to do and giving up ‘our evil practices and stubborn ways’ is even harder.
There is however a way of escape as Isaiah writes in Chapter 45 verse 22
“Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.”
However rebellious we have been God is still the one who holds out the way of salvation and he has raised up the final and supreme ‘judge’ the one who puts things right for those who will acknowledge him, namely the Lord Jesus Christ.
May we each be vital, living witnesses to him today following him wholeheartedly and not going after the ways of the world.