Flawed Saviors (Judges 1-2)


Some people enjoy roller coasters while others will do everything in their power to escape them.

  • My first was in HS @Kings Dominion “Anaconda” w/ loops & turns. Then it was a bold ride.
  • Hershey Park coasters: Wild Mouse (hairpin turns), Wildcat (wooden), Great Bear
  • Disney: Space Mountain
  • Universal Studios: VelociCoaster travels 70mph with 155’ fall and four inversions

For many of us, life is a lot like a roller coaster with its series of twists and turns with crazy loops and fears of getting stuck. The same is true for our spiritual life. We experience joy-filled highs and dark valley lows and sometimes wonder if God hears or cares.

The Book of Judges displays the continuous roller coaster history of Israel. Unfortunately, it was a roller coaster cycle that had no end in sight. For 350+/- years, the nation cycled through national disasters and spiritual decline. Today we start a series of messages to study this book not just for its historical record but its present relevance.


Introduction to the Book of Judges

  • Unknown author but Jewish tradition says it was prophet Samuel. The continued reference, “in those days there was no king in Israel” (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25) indicate a contrast between history past and present.
  • Judges is a kind of sequel to the book of Joshua. It describes events ranging a period of about 300-400 years of Israel’s hard history.[1] In fact, some believe this book was written by Samuel as a sort of political and spiritual defense for Israel having a monarchy that is godly.[2] In a sense, the book serves as a charge to Israel’s kings to fear God and be faithful to Him.
  • Judges describes a time of apostasy and turmoil for the nation of Israel. The repeated phrase is “the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” (Judges 2:11; 3:7, 12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1; also 17:6, 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). The tribes frequently forgot God’s work and failed to follow His commands. They were idolatrous, immoral, disturbing (many portions rated PG-13+), and divided. The tribes hurt each other, seeking to wipe out Manasseh (Judges 12) and Benjamin (Judges 20-21).
  • While Judges describes a time of great rebellion, there are a few heroes – those called Judges. There were 12 judges: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jepthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson. The priest Eli and prophet Samuel were also judges in Israel’s history (1 Sam 4:18; 7:15), yet there were many more unnamed and unknown (1 Sam 8:1). In all, the judges were tribal leaders or advocates who often were used by God to deliver God’s people.
    • Despite Israel’s judges their decline was rapid. “Othniel and Ehud had rallied all of Israel to fight their oppressors (3:10, 27); Deborah and Barak took two tribes (4:10); Gideon had only 300. By Samson’s time, sin had so devastated the people of God that no one (including, for almost all his life, Samson himself) was willing to give themselves to the liberation battle (15:9–13).”[3]
  • Overall, the book reveals the reality that people are free to obey or overlook God, but they are not free from those consequences. Payday comes someday. Judgment for sin often arrives inconveniently and uncontrollably.

Judges 1:1 “After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel inquired of the LORD, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?”

  • Joshua was successor to Moses. Waiting for the promised land and fulfilled purpose takes intentional investments and preparation. Destiny without discipline is just a dream.
  • Joshua was a strong warrior. He was willing to defy the odds as a minority to fight against the mighty giants (Nu 12). Joshua crossed rivers and commanded the Lord’s army to defeat many battles.
  • Joshua was strategic organizer. Joshua allotted land and established inheritances for the tribes. He formed cities of refuge to protect the weak and wandering sojourners. In all, leaders must be willing to do many things with few things applauded but most things critiqued and criticized. By God’s power, Joshua led Israel to “land they had not labored, cities they had not built, with vineyards and orchards they did not plant (Josh 24:13).
  • Joshua was a spiritual leader. He was unwilling to coddle idols or compromise genuine faith in the LORD. He stood as a model of faith saying, “choose whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh 24:15).

Leaders can be challenging to replace, which indicates a necessity to 1) initiate a team mindset so the labor and livelihood doesn’t revolve around one person, 2) implement systems of discipleship and mentoring for future generations to succeed.

  • Emphasize importance of participating and moving forward with new structure Oct 24.
  • Emphasis on discipleship and disciplemaking. #WhosYour1

Judges 1:2 “The LORD said, ‘Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand.”

  • The battle is promised to have victory.
  • Judah name means “praise or thanks.” Thanksgiving precedes the conflict and praise perseveres to overcome the battle.
  • Christian, we win in the end. Stop enduring life as if your outcome is uncertain and your future is unclear. Stop debating obedience with God and doubting His promises whether you should live in joy.
    • 1 Cor 15:58 “Beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
    • Gal 6:9 “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up.”
    • Eph 3:20-21 “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask of think, according to the power at work within us to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
    • Php 3:13-14 “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
    • Col 3:2-3, 4:2 “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things… Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful and thankful”
    • 1 & 2 Thess “stand firm”
    • 1 Tim 6:12 “fight the good fight of the faith”
    • James 1:2-4 “Count it all joy when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And perseverance must finish its work so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
    • Rev 22:7 “Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy [of God]”

Christian, we win in the end. Stop enduring life as if your outcome is uncertain and your future is unclear. Stop debating obedience with God and doubting His promises whether you should live in joy.

Judges 1:1, 3-10 “fight against the Canaanites… They found Adoni-bezek and cut off his thumbs and big toes. And Adoni-bezek said, ‘Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off used to pick up scraps under my table. As I have done, so God has repaid me.’”

  • Joshua & Judges are difficult books to read bc of their conquest nature. Why does OT God kill so many people? Weren’t the religious crusades wrong and unjust?
    • Notice the Canaanite king admits to deserving judgment; like divine karma.
    • Read Deut 18 & Lev 18 God makes clear that the Canaanites were not innocent. Israel was not driving out Canaanites because they were disliked but because they were depraved. Their wickedness was excessive. They worshiped idols that led them to detestable acts like indulgent and immoral practices such as fornication, adultery, homosexuality, pedophilia, orgies, bestiality, human and child sacrifice, and other cultic practices, not to mention their blood-thirst for violence and war.  
    • So, God was bringing judgment upon Canaan through Israel. 
      • Isn’t it dangerous for nations and individuals to view themselves as divine instruments of justice? Yes! Sadly, people have committed many horrific acts of injustice in the name of God. But know two realities:
        • Not everyone who professed religion were practicing righteousness.
        • Since the coming of Jesus, God began a new way of working in the world – not to condemn but to save. Jesus did not take life but laid down His own. Jesus does not excuse sin but absorbs it through His sacrificial death. So, God’s wrath and judgment has already been paid through Christ. Now, followers of Jesus are not dispensers of justice but mercy, grace, and peace.
      • God’s judgment upon evil people seems fair but what about the innocent? Sadly, sometimes innocent people are tangled with illness.
        • Good people get sick or experience tragedy, and die.
        • When a person sins, other people suffer and sometimes unjustly*: consider adultery and divorce in families / drunk-driving murders / narcissistic leaders. If you read the Bible carefully, there are many complex answers to the question of why God allows the innocent to be tangled with consequences from or judgment upon evil.  
        • *Consider a man and woman decide to abort a baby. The baby suffers but escapes Gen 3 curse on earth and does not suffer eternal hell.
          *Imagine USPS overcharged on $.58 stamp and you complained. The cashier calls manager and after an hour-long wait they return saying they’ve received permission from US Gov to free your whole family from any future income tax. While you could complain, your perspective has changed about a short-term injustice for a long-term grace.[4]
  • Judges 1:19 “Judah could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain because they had chariots of iron.” Cf. Judges 4:15 where Deborah leads conquest against chariot warriors. Also, their lack of faith (cf Ps20:7 “Some trust in horses & chariots but we trust in LORD).
  • Judges 1:21 “Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites”
  • Judges 1:27-28 “Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants… for the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land”
  • Judges 1:29 “Ephraim did not drive out inhabitants in Gezer”
  • Judges 1:30 “Zebulun did not drive out inhabitants in Kitron or Nahalol”
  • Judges 1:31 “Asher did not drive out inhabitants in of Accor or Sidon or [host of other places]
  • Judges 1:33 “Naphtali did not drive out inhabitants of Beth-shemesh”
  • Judges 1:34-35 “The Amorites pressed tribe of Dan into the hill country and did not allow them to come down into the plain; they persisted in dwelling there”
  • Did not God command Israel to take the land?
  • Did not God promise to be with Israel in their battles?
  • Did not God guarantee Israel victory in their wars?

YES! So, why did Israel lack the will to press onward?

  • Israel’s relationship with God was less than the enemies resolve with their gods. In other words, the unbelievers’ commitment to their way of life is greater than the believers’ dedication to their discipleship. It is often the case today that people are walking away from the church or not interested in faith not because they do not believe what Christianity teaches but because they believe Christians themselves do not believe what they say.[5] 

Judges 2:2-3 “you have not obeyed my voice… so now I will not drive them out before you but they shall become thorns in your sides and their gods shall be a snare to you… the people wept”

  • Israel’s disobedience was met with God’s discipline. Regardless of how small or significant, disbelief of God will result in destruction. God expected trust and obedience. God wasn’t satisfied with their “tries” – because it wasn’t that they could not but that they would not. It was not about Israel’s military ability but their spiritual availability. They failed to rely upon the faithful and powerful God who had led them this far but, in their eyes, appeared easily satisfied to compromise on their side of the commitment.
  • The application is we need to relate our life like the unconquered land of Canaan. In the closets of your life and crevices of your heart are little Canaanites of doubt and disobedience. Where are you telling God, “I can’t” when in reality, “You won’t?”
  • Commitment. Too easy we allow busyness to become an excuse for obedience to God or have compassion for people.
  • Character. Christian character is our credibility before a watching world. If we lack simple character with the way we speak and treat, whether we allow little lies slip, or whether our integrity is held up in private the same as in public ––– then
  • Contributions. Christians are called to give of their days and dollars to serve the Lord. Many people mismanage their stewardship of resources because they fail to understand God as owner of their days and dollars. Church – we haven’t passed a plate in over 18-months! We are grateful for online gifts but realize there are % decreases across the variety of contributions.
  • Cohabitation. When Christians allow the most intimate portions of their life and body to be mingled with worldliness and sin, the devil wins.
    • Prov 6:27 “Can a person scoop ember flames onto their lap and not have their clothes catch on fire? So will the person who commits adultery.”
    • 2 Cor 6:14 “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with demons?
    • You say, but doesn’t God want me to be happy? Am I not allowed to love someone? What if I never find someone else to love me? All these questions show a lack of trust in the God who gives and takes away in the blink of an eye.

Regardless of how small or significant, disbelief of God will result in destruction. Where are you telling God “I can’t” when in reality, “You won’t?”


  • Legacy needs leadership. The church needs leaders starting with fathers and mothers to choose to honor the LORD more than lesser priorities that will not last for eternity. Additionally, the church needs servant leaders willing to contribute of time, talent, and treasure for gospel unity and missional urgency.
  • Compromise creates consequences. It is undoubtable the Lord has brought to mind an area where you are saying “I can’t” but God would say, “You won’t.” What is your response? Remember, the Israelites wept and worshiped God, but it was empty words and short-lived change (Josh 2:4-5).
  • Spiritual renewal fades fast. The theme in the book of Judges is the cycle of sin with rebellion, retribution, repentance and renewal (cf Judges 2:11-23). In the life of the worshiper, altars alter – we need not be afraid of drawing near God’s altar – whether that’s at your chair, church steps, or chosen meeting place.
  • God is faithful despite our flaws (cf. 2 Tim 2:13; 1 John 1:9). God is not seeking perfection, but He does expect progression. God’s mercy and grace are not rationalizations for disobedience. “Or do you presume on the riches of God’s kindness and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of God’s righteous judgment” (Rom 2:4-5).

[1] Timeline in Judges likely not chronological and has some overlapping periods. See https://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/52/52-2/JETS%2052-2%20247-255%20Chisholm.pdf.

[2] Block, D. I. (1999). Judges, Ruth (Vol. 6, p. 57). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[3] Keller, T. (2013). Judges for You (p. 164). Purcellville, VA: The Good Book Company.

[4] Illustration from J.D. Greear sermon on Judges 1-2.

[5] Further present cultural analysis here: http://www.plough.com/en/topics/faith/witness/integrity-and-the-future-of-the-church.

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