In our youth group, we spent the last few months of 2016 walking through the entire book of Judges. It’s not your usual sermon series for youth students, but I wanted to write some thoughts on the series and why we went through it.
There’s so much value in going through an Old Testament book.
We had finished up a longer series at the beginning of 2016, going through the book of Ephesians, and I thought it would be a good switch to walk through an Old Testament book. I knew the stories in Judges would be fascinating, with a mix of familiar (Gideon and Samson) and unfamiliar (Barak and Jephthah) for most of the students. It’s an action packed book too, and so the stories can be taken in larger chunks. After a series where we covered a few verses at a time, I knew it would be refreshing to take in more extensive passages of complete stories with a beginning, middle, and end. The overall narrative of Judges is absorbing when taken as a whole.
The book of Judges introduces many flawed figures.
The truth is, the Old Testament doesn’t contain a bunch of perfect heroes that we’re supposed to emulate and copy. Any careful read of the Old Testament will reveal plenty of flaws and anti-heroes. You see that the only person that is good throughout Scriptures is God himself. He is faithful when the Israelites refuse to be. Judges takes us deep into the heart of sin, and we see the damaging progressive nature of continued and consistent idolatry. It’s important for students to see that God uses flawed people for his purposes. For instance, walking through Gideon and Samson’s life was valuable because their stories are so familiar, and yet studying them in depth reveals the damage that sin causes in their life.
God’s mercy and patience are the highlights of the book.
The book of Judges features the same cycle over and over again:
1) Israel turns from God.
2) God hands them over to their enemies.
3) They repent. (Sometimes)
4) God sends them a judge to rescue them.
That cycle repeats itself, breaking down progressively over time. By the end, Israel stops repenting, but God provides a judge anyway. The glory of God’s mercy and grace are on full display on every page of Judges.
There are horrifying consequences for sin.
The book of Judges contains some of the worst chapters of human depravity in the Bible. These stories cause us to wonder how God can have compassion on such a stubborn people. We are tempted to think that these stories could only have occurred in an ancient, violent culture, but if we look at the world around us today, there are atrocities caused by human sinfulness and depravity everywhere. Judges provides a window into what God is dealing with every day. It causes us to long and wish for a Savior to come and fix everything. The book is most compelling when we see it as a record of why Jesus had to come and why as Christians we should be longing for Jesus’ return.
All of Scripture is God-breathed.
I knew from the beginning that going through Judges was going to be hard. One thing I didn’t anticipate was how much personal reflection I ended up doing. Through his Word, God did a number on my heart throughout the entire 13 weeks. There were sins in my heart that God revealed: He showed me my ugliness and shortcomings, and there were weeks when I wasn’t looking forward to studying or preaching because I knew it would be uncomfortable and painful. But because all of Judges is God’s Word, I knew it would be worth the hard work of preaching through it. The subject of each of the stories that we covered made it difficult to have happy-go-lucky messages, but I know that God convicted many of us of our sins. Some weeks were harder to hear than others, but every week was life-giving heart surgery, and it was a necessary, spiritual work that needed to be done.