The book of Judges chronicles the reigns of twelve leaders (judges) whose temporary leadership over the confederation of Israelite tribes was both civil and military.
The book of Judges covers the approximate 400-year historical period from Joshua’s death (end of book of Joshua) to the establishment of a king over the Israelite tribes (book of 1 Samuel).
During this time Israel’s national and spiritual life descended into chaos and apostasy. As a result the Israelite tribes fought with their neighboring nations to retain control over the promised land that they had conquered and possessed as described in the book of Joshua.
The leaders in Judges demonstrated a variety of leadership strategies. In spite of the unique and sometimes questionable approaches to leadership of these judges, there is an underlying theme in the book of Judges that has relevance for our individual and collective spiritual lives.
The lesson to be gained from the book of Judges is that like the Israelite tribes possessing the promised land, we have to fight to maintain any spiritual victories we have achieved in our lives.
“I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:12-14, ESV).
The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes is presumably written by King Solomon, king over Israel, in his old age. In this treatise Solomon proffers a philosophical perspective of life that advances the notion that much of human life on Earth is occupied with striving after what’s not really so important in life after all.
Solomon observes that it’s like spending your life chasing after the wind. And, in case his point doesn’t resonate with the reader the first time, he repeats this thought eight more times!
Striving seems to be in our DNA. It’s what we human beings do. We strive after happiness. We strive for health and long life. We strive after success. We strive for money. We strive for love and friendship. We strive over political ideologies and religious beliefs. We strive with one another for dominance and control.
Striving….it’s human nature!
“We aren’t like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the Israelites couldn’t watch the end of what was fading away… All of us are looking with unveiled faces at the glory of the Lord as if we were looking in a mirror. We are being transformed into that same image from one degree of glory to the next degree of glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:13,18,CEB).
The Old Testament story of Moses’ practice of veiling his face that the Apostle Paul is referencing in these verses is found in Exodus 34:33-35. The Old Testament story is one of my favorites because it’s theologically rich and yet, counter-intuitive.
Moses periodically entered into the presence of God at the Tent of Meeting. When he left the Tent of Meeting and returned to the people, he fastened a veil over his face. It seemed that Moses hid his face so as not to scare the already fearful Israelites with the shining glory of God that was reflected on his face.
But, that’s not really the case!
“Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord gave them into the hands of Midian seven years” (Judges 6::1, NASB).
After the time of the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites, each of the tribes settled in the land allocated to them. Since, the Israelites had not completely conquered or subdued all the various Canaanite people-groups as a nation, it was left to the tribes to fight against the Canaanites still remaining in the land they occupied.
The Israelite tribes often formed regional alliances among themselves to fight against the Canaanites. And the Canaanites often formed coalitions with one another and with people groups surrounding the land of Canaan to fight against the Israelites.
“When you drive out the nations that live there, you must destroy all the places where they worship their gods… Break down their altars and smash their sacred pillars… Completely erase the names of their gods…. you must seek the Lord your God at the place of worship he himself will choose from among all the tribes—the place where his name will be honored.”(Deuteronomy 12:2-5, NLT).
When the Israelites were about to enter the land of Canaan, Moses instructed them on an important aspect of possessing the promised land. He said they must dispossess the evil that was in the land! They must completely eradicate it!
Because, God cannot cohabit with sin and evil. God’s glory and presence won’t abide where evil dwells!
“If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:43-48, NASB).
This saying of Jesus alludes to the very last verse of Isaiah, which speaks of the punishment for rebellion against God as endless destruction.
John had asked Jesus what to do about someone who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name but was not part of the group of His disciples. Jesus answered not to be so concerned about someone doing good in His name but be concerned about false teachers. Be more concerned about someone who causes others to stop trusting in God or prevents them from ever starting to trust in God.
“On that day even the harness bells of the horses will be inscribed with these words: Holy to the Lord. And the cooking pots in the Temple of the Lord will be as sacred as the basins used beside the altar. In fact, every cooking pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. All who come to worship will be free to use any of these pots to boil their sacrifices” (Zechariah 14:20-21, NLT).
The last chapter of the book of Zechariah closes with visions of both the salvation and judgment that occurs at the coming of God’s universal Kingdom–“the day of the Lord.”
These last verses of the chapter and the book describe the pervasiveness of God’s holiness in His Kingdom. So much so that even the inscription on the harness bells of horses and the cooking pots in the Temple will be holy.