Throughout the book we see a series of Judges – not legal rulers, but people who are more like military leaders that the Lord raises up to free his people from the oppression they suffer under the Canaanites because of their sin. Over and over again throughout this book, what we see is a cycle of Israel sinning and God saving. It’s a cycle of rebellion, retribution, remorse, and rescue.
The cycle begins as we have seen in our text this morning, with the people of Israel going after other gods. In his righteous anger, the Lord then allows their sin to overtake them by letting the Canaanites harass and even dominate them. Israel responds with groanings of remorse that prompts God to raise up these judges and bring deliverance to his people. But notice this is a cycle. We read about twelve judges. Because after each victory, the people of Israel remain faithful to the Lord for while, but then they begin to go after other gods again. And each time, their sinfulness gets worse. The cycle is a downward spiral –
“Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them.” (2:18-19)
In the book of Judges, God continues to reach down and show grace to a sinful people who never deserve it. And despite failure after failure, God still saves them. God saves them despite their sin because he has committed himself to them by his covenant promises.
Thus, in the book of Judges, what we find is not a series of role models for us to imitate. Yes, there are some truly good judges towards the beginning, but towards the end of the book, the judges are just as sinful as the people. In every judge, the story is pushing to ask ourselves several things. How can a holy God keep saving such a sinful people? When will these people be set free from their sin? When will a judge come who will bring a lasting salvation?
The book of Judges then, helps us see that there is only one true Savior – God himself. And the salvation that echoes in each judge is only truly realized when God himself takes on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, and so identifies with his sinful people that he willingly offers up his life for them on a cross. Though he himself is perfectly righteous, God the Son bears the full weight of his Father’s wrath against sin. Why? To prove that is both holy and just, righteous and merciful. He is a God who loves and saves sinner who don’t deserve it and can never earn it.