Judges: Why faith in and obedience to God really matters

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.

Promises, Faith and Obedience - Judges 1:1 - 2:5 - George Campbell (Video)
Morning Service, Sunday, October 15, 2023
Judges begins with a recap of the conquest of the Promised Land. Joshua and Caleb, two great faithful leaders, are moving out of the picture. Questions are raised about what happens next in terms of leadership and the nation. Despite promising beginnings, the people do not sustain faith in God and fail to obey God’s commands. This will have lasting consequences. Are we, like Israel, missing out on the fullness of God’s promises because we lack faith and obedience?
An Unbelieving Generation - Judges 2:6 - 3:6 - Stephen McQuoid (Video)
Morning Service, Sunday, October 22, 2023
The death of a faithful generation “who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel” (2:7) gives way to another generation “who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel” (2:10). Israel descends into idolatry. Though God repeatedly intervenes, the nation is in a downward spiral. How would we assess the impact of our generation? Are we being faithful and obedient to God, and are we ensuring that the next generation follow in God’s ways?
Othniel and Ehud: Two Judges who Deliver - Judges 3: 7 - 30 - Alex Warren (Video)
Morning Service, Sunday, October 29, 2023
The first two judges are described. Their stories introduce a repeated cycle during this period that highlights the faithfulness of God and the failure of Israel. Do we recognise ourselves in the description of Israel, and are we aware of our need for a saviour?
Where is our Faith? - Judges 4: 1 - 24 - Josh Luke (Video)
Morning Service, Sunday, November 5, 2023
The character of Deborah, the first female judge we meet, is contrasted with Barak. Her faith is in God. Barak instead seems to depend upon Deborah. When God raises up great leaders, there is always the temptation to trust in them, rather than God. Where is our faith?
Gideon: An Uncertain Leader - Judges 6:1 - 40 - Alan Paterson (Video)
Morning Service, Sunday, November 12, 2023
Gideon comes to the fore at a time when God has again spoken through a prophet to his people. Despite an angelic appearance and a clear instruction from God, Gideon is full of doubts and needs reassurance – repeatedly asking for signs. Despite God’s great victory through Gideon (Judges 7), Gideon’s legacy will be marred by his own flaws and the lack of unity amongst Israel’s divided tribes (Judges 8, 9). How can we ensure that our first response to God is faith, rather than doubt?
Samson: A spirit-filled but failed leader - Judges 14: 1 - 20 - George Campbell (Video)
Morning Service, Sunday, November 19, 2023
Samson’s story (Judges 14-16) is tragic: set apart from birth for the Lord, his life is characterised by great victories over Israel’s enemies that are occasioned by his own moral failure. Samson is the last in a long line of Judges who have successively deteriorated in terms of faith in and obedience to God. Is the presence and power of God in our lives blinding us to our failure to completely put our faith in God and obey him?
A Nation Crying out for a Saviour - Judges 21: 1 - 25 - Andy Paterson (Video)
Morning Service, Sunday, November 26, 2023
Judges 17-20 provide the awful context that leads to the events of this chapter. Israel has descended into idolatry, genocide, and civil war. It takes a particular terrible incident (Judges 19) for the nation to wake up to their total moral collapse. The final two chapters of Judges are marked by the pained cries of a nation in ruins as they lament before God. The book of Judges concludes with the words, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit”(21:25, which echoes earlier statements in 17:6; 18:1; 19:1). Yet ultimately it is the rejection of God as King that has been their downfall. A king is being held out as the inevitable trajectory and great hope for the nation. Yet, ultimately, Israel – and we – will have to wait many centuries before the true king and saviour of the world appears. Do we recognise how much we and our world need a saviour?