Monday, July 3 Judges 1:1-26
“Which tribe should attack the Canaanites first?”
The Book of Judges covers the period from the death of Joshua to the time of the kings of Israel. Political and religious turmoil accompanied Israel’s attempts to occupy the land that had been conquered and divided by lot among the twelve tribes under the leadership of Joshua. Apart from the struggle against the Canaanites, Israel’s adversaries came from outside the land. Most of these, such as Moab, Midian, and Ammon, periodically plundered the land. The Philistines, however, who at this time entered Canaan in greater numbers, contested with Israel for permanent possession of the land.
During the 400 or so years covered in Judges, Israel plummeted to moral and spiritual disaster. Over and over the pattern of sin followed by foreign oppression was repeated. Occasionally God raised up a Deborah or a Gideon to turn the people back to himself, but the intervals of revival were all too brief. It was an unstable period characterized by tribal migrations and lack of central authority.
Thank you, Lord, for godly leaders who turn your people back to you. Amen.
Tuesday, July 4 Judges 1:27 – 2:5
“Why have you disobeyed my command?”
The primary purpose of the Book of Judges is to show that Israel’s spiritual condition determined its political and material situation. When the nation turned to God in obedience, God graciously sent deliverers to rescue the people from oppression. When they disregarded Joshua’s warnings and worshiped the gods of Canaan, the nation came under the control of tyrants and invaders. As the book progresses, Israel’s plight worsens. The stunning victories of Deborah and Gideon are followed by the less decisive efforts of Samson whose personal heroics did not throw off the Philistine yoke. By the end of the book, the stories of sin and all-out civil war depict the nation’s desperate need for unity and order.
Judges shows that Israel failed to realize her divinely intended goal: she was unable to govern herself according to the Mosaic law. In light of the leadership role assigned to the tribe of Judah in the first chapter, it is not surprising that eventually Judah emerged as the tribe that produced King David.
May we obey your law, Lord, that we may be governed according to your will. Amen.
Wednesday, July 5 Judges 2:6 – 3:6
“The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord’s sight”
This passage stresses the difficulties that Israel had with foreign religious idols. It remembers Joshua as “the faithful servant of the Lord.” In contrast, the Israelites of this period are characterized as religiously unfaithful. The developments described in these verses coincide with those narrated in the bulk of the book. The details are contained not in 2:6 – 3:6 but in what follows. Thus, these verses serve as an outline of the plot of the book which portrays the human inclination toward sin, the work of God in punishing that sin, the lament of those who find themselves under God’s disciplining hand, and God’s forgiveness and deliverance. Such a pattern can often be observed on an individual as well as a corporate level.
God is evaluating the behavior of his people and he clearly condemns it. Israel has broken her covenant with God and has assimilated to the Canaanite culture. This is most manifest in the Israelites’ intermarriages with the Canaanites and the subsequent worship of their gods. This is why they have not been able to secure possession of the land.
Thursday, July 6 Judges 3:7-31
“The Lord raised up a man to rescue them”
This story (as many others throughout the Bible) demonstrates the length to which God will go in order to deliver his people. The judgment of God’s enemies in the past assures God’s people that he will judge his enemies in the future. Those who exploit, abuse, and seek to humiliate his people run the risk of humiliation by God. Eglon in particular and the Moabites in general have for eighteen years exploited Israel, God’s people. The oppression brings Israel to the point of crying out to God (not in repentance, but in stress and pain). In compassion on his people, God raises up the judge Ehud who is willing without any assurances to risk his very life to save Israel.
Although Ehud’s deceptive plot and murder of Eglon may not have been God’s preferred means, it shows that the Lord can use Eglon’s action to accomplish Israel’s deliverance. Throughout the biblical texts God accomplishes his judgments often using individuals far less godly than Ehud. We can take encouragement that God will, in his timing, judge the wicked of the world, though sometimes this may be accomplished through other wicked people.
Heavenly Father, you are the One who delivers us from evil. Amen.
Friday, July 7 Judges 4:1-24
“Deborah was a prophet who had become a judge in Israel”
It is significant that the role over against the powerful monarch Jabin is Deborah, the prophetess – a person whom Jabin and Sisera would have mockingly derided as a leader. But in spite of her “weakness” in a world dominated by men, Deborah proves to be God’s answer. As his prophetess she will commission God’s general, Barak, the counterpart to Sisera. And she will willingly and with great faith initiate the process of the demise of the mighty Canaanite king and his military commander.
God in his goodness is constantly looking for opportunities to give good gifts to men and women. Yet because of their lack of faith, they forfeit these blessings that God would freely give. In the case of Barak, he loses the opportunity to truly be used of God. True, he does win the battle, and this is a testimony to his faith. But this is not completely what God had in mind to give him. When Christians fail to trust God, demanding assurance when God, in fact, has already spoken, they lose out on the opportunity to be used by him to the fullest extent.
May I trust your promises completely, Lord, and so receive your full blessing. Amen.
Saturday, July 8 Judges 5:1-31
“On that day Deborah and Barak sang this song”
In the Song of Deborah, the focus is first on the nation of Israel, then on the ten tribes that either did or did not participate, and then on the two women. But throughout the entire song, it is God who is acknowledged and praised for his great work. Were it not for him, there would have been no deliverance. The Song pictures God as triumphant over Baal when God is portrayed as in control of the storm (Baal was commonly depicted in storm imagery). This announces to the kings of Canaan that God, not their god Baal, reigns supreme; it does the same for the Israelites, whose fascination with Baal brought on the present crisis.
The scene of Sisera’s mother is a powerful image that only poetry can communicate with this kind of effectiveness. The horrors that Sisera (directly) and his mother (indirectly) have mercilessly dispensed on others come back on them. The mother’s thoughts about Sisera’s plundering and raping of helpless, innocent women reveal what he has done innumerable times in the past. But this time, instead of humiliating a woman, a woman has humiliated him by taking his life.
We praise you, Lord, that you are a righteous God who will judge the wicked. Amen.