If you're using the Bible reading plan discussed HERE, then you're in the midst of the book of Judges. Let me tell you right now... don't hold out hope for a happy ending.
This is an era of chaos, lawlessness, violence, and gross immorality---sexual and otherwise.
"In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." That's how the book of Judges describes itself. Everyone's doing what's right in his own eyes; no one is concerned about God's eyes. Sad stuff.
The consequences are disturbing, and the conclusion is obvious: WE NEED A KING! We need a faithful king, an eternal king---one who will rule over us in wisdom and love. Because left to ourselves, we fall apart and our entire culture becomes unraveled.
By the way, have you seen today's newspaper?
We still need that king. And the good news of the gospel is that we have him! He is King Jesus, the one prefigured and foreshadowed in many wonderful ways throughout the book of Judges, over and over and over again.
This is 21 chapters (618 verses) of a sad tale, full of longing---skillfully told. Unforgettable stories, unforgettable people.
Actually, sometimes the stories in this book are downright gruesome. Why do you think God thought it was important for us to read this? The point is plain and profound: we need the Bible's king.
There's an important cycle in the book of Judges:
- The people of God do evil.
- They are punished for this evil.
- They cry out to God for deliverance.
- He graciously sends a savior / deliverer / rescuer / judge. Each one of these judges is a picture of Christ in some way. But, of course, the picture is very limited and the deliverance is very temporary.
- When the judge dies, the people generally return to Step 1. (It's a cycle that every self-aware Christian can identify with.)
And in Christ, that's what we're freely given.
He's the Greater Adam (Romans 5), the Greater Moses (Mark 6; John 5), the Greater David (Matthew 12), and the Greater Solomon (Luke 11). The salvation he brings is the Greater Exodus (Hebrews 12) and the Greater Restoration from Exile (Luke 4). The church he founds is the Living Temple (1 Peter 2) and the Israel of God (Galatians 6).
And on top of all that, he's also our Greater Judge and our Long-For King.
"What do these judges have in common?... What they have in common... is their rich diversity. The book of Judges delights in surprises, in diversity of character and situation, in reversals of expectations. The hand of the Lord falls where it will, often in unexpected places---on a southpaw, on two women, on the youngest son of a poor farmer in a weak clan, on the son of a prostitute, on the son of a barren woman...."
~Kenneth R.R. Gros Lous
"The book of Judges is full of paradox. It contains some of the most famous of the Bible's stories and some of the least known. In them there is much that is attractive, perhaps more than is repulsive. Their lessons are at one simple and difficult. They show us man's blackest sin, but we see it by the light of God's most luminous grace."