The book of Judges can be summed up in the last verse of the last chapter, Judges 21:25, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Emphasis Mine). The point of Judges is not just to say, “Don’t be like Israel who turned away again and again,” but the greater point is that we are all just like Israel now when left to ourselves, apart from the intervening work of the Holy Spirit. Within the book of Judges, there is a pattern of Israel falling into sin, God judging them by bringing calamity or destruction upon them (disciplining them), Israel crying out for mercy to the LORD to deliver them, the LORD delivering them in His great patience, and then Israel falling back into sin despite God’s merciful help and kindness. This pattern goes on and on throughout the book and illustrates a huge point about man in general. Israel was the chosen people of God, a people for His own possession. And yet despite God’s pursuit of Israel as a people, personally speaking to them, giving them His law, the covenants, the temple worship, etc (partially quoting Romans 9:1-5), they still ran away from God. If the very people chosen by God were so wicked as to turn their back on the true God who pursued them, what does that say about the Gentiles, the rest of the world? What does that say about all of us together? If the very people of God failed over and over in Judges, how much more so have the rest of us failed?
This illustrates the greater point that we as fallen humans, both Jew and Gentile alike, are in total bondage to sin, slaves to sin, and the book of Judges couldn’t illustrate that more. “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Does that language sound familiar these days within our secular culture? And yet this was the people of Israel, the very people the LORD had spoken to Himself! And they still turned from Him, their hearts hardened by sin. What does that say about all of us wicked humans? If this doesn’t illustrate man’s wicked rebellion against the LORD God Almighty, I don’t know what does. The history of Israel within Judges shows that when man is left to His own devices to follow God, even when God calls to us in mercy, we will always turn from Him. God must come and uphold our end of the covenant we could never uphold on our own and then empower us to live holy lives, changing us from the inside out. God commanded Israel to follow His laws and commandments or else. And yet, it is not possible with man to follow the Lords precepts. This could not be clearer with Israel in Judges.
But there is an even greater illustration of the wickedness of man, even moreso than Judges. Judges is simply a foreshadowing of the greatest sin ever committed by man. What would man do to God if He came into the world as a human, living among us, fulfilling the law of God, upholding our end of the covenant perfectly on our behalf? Well, we put Him to death, whipped Him and beat Him, pierced Him, and strung Him up on a cross. As the song Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted states, “Ye who think of sin but lightly, Nor suppose the evil great, Here (at the cross) may view its nature rightly, Here its guilt may estimate.” At the cross, we see what man thinks of God; we hate Him so much we killed Him. That’s how great our sin is against the Lord. Oh the depths of our sinning! Who can fathom it? To look upon the perfect Lamb of God upon that cross and to think we put Him there with our sinning! It horrifies me. I ask all of you who think very little of their infinite sin against the Creator, how are we “basically good” if this is what we do to our Creator who came to save us, the Lord Jesus Christ?
And so Judges points out God’s absolute holiness, and the desperate condition of every man apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit to breathe new life into us, to enable us to live lives pleasing to Him; and it also ultimately points to the cross where our wickedness was at its worst point ever. And yet Jesus, the Son of God, in His great mercy, willingly came and submitted Himself to our wickedness, bore the penalty of that wickedness (the infinite wrath of God) for any who would believe in Him, died upon the cross, rose from the grave, ascended into heaven where He now sits at the right hand of God, and will come back soon to wipe out all of His enemies (those who betray Him and never trusted in Him for salvation). But those who believed in Him will live with Him forever in glory, being forever satisfied by His presence. Turn to the Lord from your wickedness, repent and believe in Jesus, the Son of God, who bore the sins of His people, to save them from the awful hopelessness of eternal destruction. Oh God, have mercy on any who read this, send your Holy Spirit to open their ears, their eyes, their hearts, their minds, to understand and believe in Jesus Christ that they may be saved. And for those who have believed in Christ, I pray the cross would bring them unbelievable joy, because they have been set free from the power of sin and hell, and are liberated to freely pursue You, Lord. Uphold us by your Holy Spirit, made possible through the cross.