“…[unbelievers] are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”1 Peter 4:4-5
In Sunday School we began by studying the Psalm appointed for the day. Every Sunday we read a Psalm responsively in our worship service. The Psalm is related to the other readings or it is related to the particular Sunday. I would spend the hour discussing the Hebrew and pointing out where many of the psalms taught the people about Jesus. Even Jesus quoted the Psalms when he was on the cross.
After we finished the Psalms study we moved onto the book of Judges. This book is wonderful because it shows the faithfulness of God. God’s people would begin many times to waver in their faithfulness. They would begin to lose faith and become just like the surrounding unbelieving nations and then they become enslaved. They cry out to God and he saves them by sending a “Judge.”
However, the word judge isn’t what we in America picture when we hear the word judge. The book of Judges should more accurately be called the book of Saviors. Each time God’s people get themselves into trouble they finally call out to God for rescue and God rescues them using a “Savior.”
What is interesting and unique about the book of Judges – I mean, the book of Saviors – is that each savior saves the people in unique and surprising ways. The means by which these saviors work is oftentimes unexpected or even offensive.
The book of Saviors should come with at least a PG or even PG13 warning because of some of the graphic descriptions and plot lines. That, however, is how life is in a fallen world.
The sins of the people though, are really the offensive part. That is what God tries to tell his people but they just can’t help to want to be like the other unbelieving nations. The book of Saviors, though, isn’t just about the wretched state of sinners but the unfailing mercy of God.
The book runs in cycles that begin with, “The people did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.” Then, “The people cried out to the LORD and the LORD rescued his people.”
After the savior/judge works to free the people the text will often say things like, “And the people of God had rest for forty years.” Each time God would rescue in unusual ways but the result was always the same, God’s faithfulness.
The book of Judges was to prepare the people of God for a most unusual savior, Jesus. Even in Isaiah 53 we are told that the servant of the LORD would not really stand out in appearance, “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
Jesus was an unusual savior to those who did not know the word of God. This is just how God works. Isaiah again in chapter 55 warns, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
The book of Judges is so surprising – even offensive in some places – because God is preparing his people for Jesus and the most offensive means of salvation; the cross.
How ridiculous that the means of our salvation would be the tool of common criminal execution! How silly and offensive that a man’s death would win salvation for all mankind! How unbelievable that God himself would work for our release when we would sin again. How loving and merciful is this God and savior!
And further, in strange and weird ways he delivers that salvation to us personally in baptism! Where you do nothing and God does all the work! And how the world scoffs at our confessing Jesus’ words, “This is my body. This is my blood for the forgiveness of your sins.” How ridiculous! Our savior works in unusual ways but he is always predictable. He is always forgiving the sins of his people.
The book of Judges is very useful for us because it humbles us. It teaches us we are no different from the people of God throughout all the ages. Even more, the book of Judges teaches us that God never lies, he rescues his people no matter how far they have fallen, for his mercy is for those who fear him. That the one who judges all people himself declares you forgiven because he himself is judge and savior.
So join us! I would encourage you to consider coming in person only if you are comfortable. But if you are going to the stores, visiting with friends or eating at restaurants, pray that the LORD would give you the same courage to come back to his house. God grant you peace and joy in Jesus – our unusual but always trustworthy judge and savior.
See you on Sunday, in person or online!