Why our self-help society is a myth: Reflections on the book of Judges
What do we do with the book of Judges?
Typically, certain bits of it, in particular, stories about Samson or Gideon, are used to reinforce or validate things we say, believe and do.
However, I am not sure that is entirely appropriate, just as neither of these characters particularly acts out what I think a Man of God should be like!
It seems to me, more than anything else, this book makes it clear that we desperately need a saviour.
Following the death of Joshua this book describes what happens when people do what is right in their own eyes. Increasingly their behaviour gets worse and worse, and even the leaders, those who are used by God to bring salvation following repentance, are less and less the sort of people God intended them to be.
As you read you will find some recurring phrases that hint at what it is trying to tell us:“The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord their God…” Judges 2:11, 3:7, 4:1
This is followed by “But when they cried out to the Lord, he raised up for them a deliverer…” 3:9 which is not so often blatantly stated – but lived out through the ‘judge’ God sends.
“But when they cried out to the Lord, he raised up for them a deliverer…” – Judges 3:9
And then, following the most colourful of characters, Samson the philandering suicide terrorist, we begin to get a hint of something else, something more God is preparing for, when we read: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 17:6 (see also the last verse of the book).
In this book two things are made clear: We desperately need God to rescue us and God will send His King to do just that.
We live in a self-help society that works hard to believe the myth that ‘we have what it takes to make life work well’. Judges helps me face the reality that this is absolute nonsense. It doesn’t matter how much we have in our favour – when we insist on doing ‘right in our own eyes’ – this evil inevitably leads to disaster. But God does not and has not given up on us. He has sent His Saviour, the ultimate King and rescuer to set things right. As His people, this is both our experience and our message.
May we be faithful in living out this reality and sharing this life-giving truth.