Judges takes place at a time of huge change. Israel has entered the promised land under Joshua, who has now died (Judges 1:1). Despite the promises of God, and a generation of faithful leaders, Israel fails to obey God in driving out the nations (Judges 1-2). The nations that remain will be a constant source of oppression and temptation to God’s people.
Judges records a great collapse in Israel’s fortunes that are a direct result of their failure to be faithful and obedient to God. The tension between God’s unchanging faithfulness and Israel’s fluctuating faithfulness and obedience is played out in the story of successive judges whom God raises up to deliver Israel. But the spiritual quality of these judges decline as the book goes on, as does the state of the nation.
The fractured state of the nation, with tribalism rather than unity, is constantly highlighted. The need for a unifying leadership gradually emerges, which will lead to the establishing of the monarchy.
There is a huge need for God’s people to hear and pay attention to the message of Judges today. It is a direct challenge to our faith in and obedience to God. There is encouragement that even flawed and failing people can be used by God. But ultimately the book looks beyond very human deliverers and points to our need for our saviour Jesus. It is Jesus who can truly bring peace and justice to our broken world. It is Jesus who brings the answer to our sin. It is Jesus, through the Spirit’s power, who enables us to live as God’s people in faithfulness and obedience.