Judges begins so well with Israel's continued benefit of Joshua's leadership, "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?' The LORD said, 'Judah shall go up; behold I have given the land into his hand.'" In the first several verses of Judges, the people seek God's instruction, and He both directs them and delivers the land into their hands. Judah successfully takes possession of their territory except for the plains. But Benjamin did not drive the Jebusites out of Jerusalem. Then the house of Joseph succeeds in taking the town of Bethel because the Lord was with them. This victory is followed by a succession of Manasseh, Ephraim, Zebulun, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan not driving out the inhabitants of the territory. Instead, they are allowed to live among them as forced labor.
Have you ever started reading a book and get a queasy feeling about what's going to happen and decide to check out how it ends before you get too involved?
Judges might be that kind of book. In the next to last chapter (Judges 20:18) we find the people of Israel doing the same thing they did in Judges 1:1. They ask the LORD who should lead them into battle and the LORD again selects Judah. But instead of Judah being the first to fight against the Canaanites, Jebusites, or Amorites, they are leading the other 11 tribes into battle against Benjamin.
The final statement in Judges is "Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." God had warned them in Deuteronomy 12:8, "You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, whatever is right in his own eyes."
Holy Spirit, please use the events and people in this book to increase our desire and effort for obedience. Teach us all You would have us know from a book that starts so well by seeking Your guidance and then concludes with everyone doing his own thing. Thank You that we are aware this isn't the end of Your story. We know the King of kings and Lord of lords is the conquering Hero even though the story looks bleak at times.
Thank You, Lord Jesus, for the abundance of Your salvation. Thank You that we would understand the importance of Your "blood upon us." Holy Spirit, instill in us the importance of obeying God rather than men. Father God, thank You for raising Jesus from the dead, the evidence of the sufficiency of His shed blood to cover our sin. Thank You for the gift of repentance and forgiveness of sin based solely upon Your grace and the finished work of our Leader and Savior. Thank You for the gift of Your Spirit. May we, like the apostles, be Your faithful witnesses.