The book of Judges is maybe the most disturbing book in the bible. Disturbing because of the violence and mayhem committed by the people who were ostensibly the people of God, the Israelites. Judges chronicles the movement of Israel away from God and its decision to participate in the pagan ways of foreign neighbors. Because ‘each man did what was right in his own eyes’ (a recurring phrase in the book), soon there was no real distinction between Israel and the Canaanites.
This refusal to honor God resulted in a series of repeated cycles consisting of apostasy, oppression, distress, and deliverance. Israel would sink into a downward spiral of immorality and godlessness, resulting in punishment by God, resulting in repentance and deliverance, and then the cycle would repeat itself. The people of Israel were shockingly blind to the fact that they had become spiritual chameleons—blending in entirely with the sinful culture around them.
Even more shocking is the willingness of God to keep working with these obstinate people. In spite of their gross disobedience, God will be faithful to his covenant. He will not give up on them in spite of their stubborn decisions to scorn Him and His ways! God is the definition of forbearance with a nation that has gone way over the edge. It is remarkable that He didn’t wash his hands of them and wipe them off the face of the earth.
This story reminds us of man’s desperate need for God’s grace, and God’s amazing willingness to seek a people who have repeatedly thumbed their nose at Him. The book reeks of bloodshed and man’s inhumanity to man. As you read, you will likely shake your head in disgust at the moral poverty of the people of Israel—but you may also bow your head in thanks that God persevered in pursuing the people with whom He had made a covenant.
For more on the book of Judges, see the video from the bible project at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOYy8iCfIJ4