Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.
This is important background to the book of Judges. It should not be overlooked. It is the precursor to the narrative accounts of individual histories of each judge. It shows us a tendency that we do well to learn from. We tend to fall in the same sins over and over. The book of Judges describes this on a national scale with Israel.
Their cycle was aggravated by several factors. One was that a new generation of Israelites had taken their circumstances of favor in the Promised Land for granted. It wasn't the Joshua generation that easily gave in to the seduction of idolatry. It was the generation that had always lived with Canaanites among them. That was the second big complication. This generation was being affected by the residual after effects of the incomplete obedience under Joshua. The Canaanites should not have been there in the first place. Now that they were, they became a source of cultural temptation for the nation. And the text makes it clear that Israel chose to give in to that temptation and suffered the consequences in divine judgment.
The third complicating factor has to do with the fact that sin tends to grow stronger in cycles, not weaker. That is something I know from my own heart. I might first struggle with an angry or bitter thought towards someone. Left unconfessed and unforgiven, it will move to a wrong statement or action. That might move into a full blown conflict or hurt relationship. The same thing happens in other areas. Sin cycles can lead people to ruin their lives morally... starting with a movie scene replayed over and over, going on to pornography, and then ending in a sexual affair that ruined an entire family. They never start with the affair. They start with the thought that they deserve to fill a sensual desire. They replay that thought over and over and it grows into full grown adultery. That is the way sin works.
So really, delving into the book of Judges will be a journey into the capacities of my own broken and sinful human heart. I am willing to admit that God wants to show me some preventative measures here, by making me witness in His word scenes of spiritual devastation. The instruction in these sin cycles can break cycles moving in my own heart. And for that reason I am glad God has included this book in the Bible.
- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13