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Here come da’ Judge! Here come da’ Judge! Well, God predicted it would happen and we’re seeing it unfold here again in the book of Judges.
Israel is quickly forgetting God, turning away from Him and spiraling down into destruction. As they insist on disobeying Him He allows them to suffer the consequences of the curse He predicted. While He once was leading them and fighting for them, He is now opposing and resisting them. He is allowing them to suffer the consequences of their disobedience (sounds like Romans 1, doesn’t it?).
The book of Judges opens with this description…
“Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the LORD was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.”
“Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them…Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.” Judges 2:15-19
What plays out over 21 chapters are the stories of 12 judges who are raised up to judge (or lead) Israel. Even though they are rescued from their troubles they always end up rebelling even more. The book ends with the words, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” Judges 21:25
In fact, the reality that Israel had no king is mentioned four times near the end of Judges (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; and 21:25). This suggests perhaps that if Israel had a king things would have been better.
This leads us to the book of Ruth (today’s reading) which seems almost like an interruption in the story. Judges ends with the words, “In those days Israel had no king,” and 1Samuel begins the story of Israel selecting her first king. So why Ruth and why here?
Remember how the story of Judah and Tamar (Gen 38) seemed to interrupt the story of Joseph in Genesis? This story was necessary to preserve the story of the line of promise. The Promised One was coming through the line of Judah,
“The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his…” (Genesis 49:10)
Judah and Tamar are in the line of Jesus (Matthew 1:3a) and we pointed out last week that the Jericho prostitute, Rahab, was also in the line of Jesus (Matthew 1:5). We’ll read today how Ruth, a Moabite, demonstrates true faithfulness and becomes the great-grandmother of King David (also in the line of Jesus – Matthew 1:5).
So the story of the promise of God is carried through, even in the midst of stories that spell out nothing but tragedy as we see Israel consistently going their own way and forsaking God.
As we approach Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday this weekend, I can’t help but be reminded of how the story of Israel is really the story of our lives.
How often have we insisted on going our own way? Of doing our own thing? Demanding that He bless us?
Are we really so different from them?
Without the continuing line of promise being played out in our history could any of us stand? Would any of us have any hope?
May you have a blessed Easter this year, thinking about and being thankful for a God who loves us with a love that is beyond our comprehension…and a Son who gave of Himself and was obedient to death, even death on a cross, that you and I could have a renewed relationship with Him… and proclaim Him to others.
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