‘Again the Israelites did evil in the sight of the Lord…’ – Judges 3v12aFrom Hannah Black:
I wonder if you’ve ever been in the situation where someone has taken a group photo, then showed it to everyone. Often, as it’s passed around, no one’s really happy with how they look. “We need to take another one”, someone says, “I look so ugly there!”
The book of Judges is a bit like that photo, but instead of a little bit of messy hair or a slightly odd facial expression, it’s the whole of humanity that’s looking ugly.
The main part of the book follows a pattern, with the same cycle of events repeating over and over again. Broadly, the ‘Judges Cycle’ is something like this:
- The people rebel against God,
- God judges Israel; they are attacked by their enemies,
- The people repent and cry out to God for help,
- God, in his mercy, sends a judge to rescue and rule the people,
- The people enjoy a time of peace,
- But it doesn’t last long… The people rebel against God again!
And so the cycle repeats; generation after generation of God’s people are quick to abandon and rebel against him. They never seem to learn from previous mistakes, but instead keep failing in the same ways.
But this idea of the cycle misses something: Judges is actually much more like a downward spiral. As the book goes on, the moral state of Israel goes from bad, to worse, and then to absolutely dismal. There is so much dysfunction and depravity going on that I’m sure any film adaptation of Judges would need to be rated 18.
The book paints a strikingly ugly picture of what humans are naturally like, left to their own devices, with no regard for God. It’s a picture of total corruption and complete rebellion against him.
But, of course, we’re reading the Bible here! There is hope – the last verse of the book of Judges points towards a coming king for Israel. The nation went on to have many kings, of whom David was the best; however even he couldn’t fix the ugly picture. Under the rule of these kings, the nation still rebelled against God, and depravity was still commonplace.
Only Jesus’ perfect kingship offers a way to break the cycle, escape from the spiral, and fix the heart problem that leads to rebellion against God. Those who accept Jesus as king are being changed to be more like him, and less like the Israelites in the book of Judges. Praise God for his offer of redemption and transformation for even the ugliest of humanity!
I recommend sitting down sometime to read the book of Judges, to see for yourself this ugly picture of humanity, and how it highlights even more the beauty of Jesus and the salvation he offers.