by Tom Moll
The book of Judges is a “roller coaster ride” through a couple hundred years of Israel’s history. There are highs when the children of Israel are obedient. There are lows when they are drawn in by the culture around them and, through disobedience, walk away from God’s protection.
Seen on the ride are the colorful people who become judges. There are strong men like Samson, timid ones like Gideon, a left-handed judge named Ehud, and, my personal favorite, the courageous woman judge, Deborah.
The Lows Begin
The roller coaster ride begins with the new generation that followed Joshua. As this generation bought into the culture around them, the roller coaster ride picked up steam and began screaming downhill. Their desire to “just fit in” ticked God off and he fulfilled his promise to discipline them for their disobedience. The Israelites were conquered by marauding raiders who took control and brought incredible suffering.
The Highs Restored
When the Israelites reached the lowest point in the ride and were in great distress, God would send a judge. The people would repent and begin a journey up the incline. As long as they listened to God’s leader, they were protected, they flourished, and they enjoyed freedom.
The Cycle Then and Now
C.S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters, “Indulging in pleasure apart from the Creator’s intent can lead to a form of slavery.” It led to literal slavery for the Israelites. They had opportunity after opportunity to enjoy the favor and protection of God, but they chose to worship false gods and plunged over and over into slavery.
Sadly the same cycle is seen today. Instead of resisting the influence of a godless culture, Christians seem to embrace it. Rather than allowing God’s Word to impact the culture, revisionists want to allow the culture to impact the Word. That’s what led Israel to their lowest points.
Israel could not be restored to highs in their relationship with God without rejecting the force of the godless culture around them. Neither can we.
Tom Moll is senior minister at Christ’s Church at Mason (Ohio), where his wife Kay is director of Women’s and Missions Ministries.