JUDGES:  DIVISION I

THE TRAGIC DECLINE OF ISRAEL: THE REASON GOD HAD TO RAISE UP DELIVERERS TO RESCUE HIS PEOPLE, 1:1-3:6

(1:1—3:6) DIVISION OVERVIEW—Israel, Decline of—Judges, Book of, Overview of—Failure, of Israel: the Israelites had always been nomads, a wandering people with no fixed residence. They were pilgrims, sojourners, aliens, foreigners upon earth. They had always wandered about from place to place, living in tents upon land owned by others, never able to settle down. They had always been foreigners in a strange land. They had never had a place to call their own, no place upon which they could build permanent homes and rear their families, grow crops, establish businesses, or build a prosperous economy.

Throughout their entire existence as a people—ever since Abraham—the Israelites had only one thing that gave them security and kept them going: hope. They had hope in the great inheritance promised by God, the wonderful inheritance of the promised land.

When Moses died, his personal aide Joshua—the brilliant military commander and strategist—had picked up the mantle of leadership. He had personally led the Israelites in the conquest of the promised land of Canaan. Not all cities of the Canaanites had been conquered, but the back of the enemy had been broken. Only mopping up operations remained. Each of the tribes of Israel was personally responsible for driving out the enemy that remained upon its inherited land. (See outline— Joshua 13:1-6 and note— Joshua 13:1-6 for more discussion.)

Before his death, Joshua divided the promised land among the twelve tribes. But as seen toward the close of the great book of Joshua, the tribes soon became lax—complacent and lethargic—and failed to drive out the enemies of the promised land. The Israelites became "at ease in Zion," self-satisfied with what they had received. A spirit of pleasure, apathy, sluggishness, and indifference swept over their lives. They lacked the zeal and dedication to complete the task, to lay claim to the full inheritance of the promised land. (See outline— Joshua 18:2-10 and notes— Joshua 18:2-10 for more discussion.)

The book of Judges picks up the same theme showing just how lax, complacent, and corrupt the Israelites became during the years following Joshua's death. For a period of over 300 years, a seed of corruption took root and the tribes began to decay or rot from within. They became a permissive, compromising society. The decay of sin and evil began its ugly process immediately after the death of Joshua and the leaders of his cabinet. Scripture itself tells the story in the following points:

1.  The Lord Himself had saved the Israelites and called them to be a holy nation, a people set apart to follow God wholeheartedly. They were to be a people who would make God the King of their lives, who would allow God to rule and reign over them.

"And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord" (Exodus 19:3-8).

a.  Moses reviewed the covenant with the second generation of Israelites right before they entered the promised land. He reconfirmed the fact that God was to be the King of Israel. God and God alone was to rule and govern the lives of the people.

"Ye stand this day all of you before the Lord your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water: That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day: That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath; But with him that standeth here with us this day before the Lord our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day" (Deuteronomy 29:10-15; cp. 29:1-29).

b.  Joshua also led the people to renew their covenant with God as King. He was to rule and reign over their lives.

"And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them" (Joshua 8:34-35; cp. 8:30-35).

"And the people said unto Joshua, The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey. So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem" (Joshua 24:24-25; cp. 24:1-28).

2.  The Israelites followed and served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and the leaders of his cabinet who outlived him.

"And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that he had done for Israel" (Joshua 24:31).

3.  The Israelites quickly slipped away from God after Joshua's death. Almost immediately, the Israelites began to compromise with their worldly neighbors, engaging in their carnal, fleshly ways. They became immoral, materialistic, greedy, lawless, and violent—a wicked people. And they became idolaters, false worshippers. In fact, many of the Israelites began to live just like the Canaanites, so much so that they became Canaanites. There was no distinction between the Israelites and the unholy, wicked Canaanites—not in lifestyle, not in their unholy, day-to-day living before God. The Israelites became a permissive society, a people who lived a compromising, inconsistent life before God. Again, Scripture tells the story by pointing out these very serious failures of the Israelites.

a.  The Israelites quickly rejected God as their king, refused to give Him the rule and reign over their lives. After Joshua's death, they quickly threw off the control of God. They rejected the kingship of God. They refused to continue serving God.

"And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that he did for Israel....And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel" (Judges 2:7, 10).

"And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim: And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger. And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth" (Judges 2:11-13).

"In those days there was no king in Israel [God's rule was rejected]" (Judges 17:6).

"In those days there was no king in Israel [God's rule was rejected]" (Judges 18:1).

"And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel [God's rule was rejected]" (Judges 19:1).

"In those days there was no king in Israel [God's rule was rejected]" (Judges 21:25).

b.  The Israelites quickly forgot the Lord their God and turned to idolatry and false worship

"And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods" (Joshua 24:16).

"And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim: And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger. And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth" (Judges 2:11-13).

"And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgat the Lord their God, and served Baalim and the groves" (Judges 3:7).

c.  The Israelites quickly began to do what was right in their own eyes, quickly began to do their own thing. What they wanted became the main focus of their lives, not what God commanded. They quickly compromised with their worldly neighbors and became...

•  a people who loved the bright lights of partying, pleasure, indulgence and sex

•  a people who craved the comforts and security of possessions

•  a people who preferred the worship of religions that made them feel good and that tickled or pleased the flesh

•  a people who became a permissive society—a compromising, materialistic, indulgent people

"Every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6).

"Every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25).

THE TRAGIC DECLINE OF ISRAEL: THE REASON GOD HAD TO RAISE UP DELIVERERS TO RESCUE HIS PEOPLE, 1:1-3:6

A.  Israel's Failure to Drive out All the Enemies of the Promised Land: A Picture of Disobedience—of Unbelief and Compromise, 1:1-36

B.  Israel's Repeated Cycle of a Compromising, Inconsistent Life: Sin, Chastisement, Distress, Prayer, and Deliverance, 2:1-3:6