The book of Judges is not a popular book read from the pulpit or at home. It’s a book of betrayal, faithlessness, idolatry, sin, and pain. It’s a dark time for the Israelites. They are not far removed from Egypt where their ancestors were enslaved to Pharaoh, witnessed the miracles of the plagues and the red sea, the scribing of the commandments and bread from Heaven in the desert..
The Israelites are out of Egypt at this point in the Bible. Moses, the guy who murdered someone, the guy who stuttered, led the Israelites out of enslavement. These people witnessed the plagues of Egypt as God “took on” the gods of Egypt showing his power and sovereignty. The Israelites reached the Red Sea and saw Pharaoh and his army coming toward them. And the people cried out to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt?” Exodus 14:11
We see how quickly the Israelites forgot the wonders that God did in Egypt. How quickly they forgot how mighty and powerful their God was. How quickly they turned away and lost faith.
Moses replied, “fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Exodus 14:13-14
Moses’ quick reply points to the faithfulness of God to an unfaithful people. He shows us a God who pursues his people regardless of their merit or worthiness.
This is the story that Joshua tells at the end of his life in the end of Joshua. He is reminding his people where they have come from, their lineage, how God has proven himself faithful.
He continues reminding the people of the battles that the Lord won on their behalf. “Then I [God] brought you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the other side of the Jordan. They fought with you, and I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land, and I destroyed them before.” (Joshua 24:8) He reminds them of the Moabites, of Jericho, of the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittities, the Girgashites, the Hivities and the Jebusites.
“I [God] gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you and not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.” Joshua 24:13
Joshua is pointing out that the people of Israel did hardly anything to get where they were. God, their God, fought for them, gave them what they needed and continuously pursued them despite their faithlessness.
The people respond to Joshua’s sermon with renewed faith and strength to serve the Lord. They enter into the book of Judges promising to be different, to trust and serve the Lord, to be faithful.
But by chapter two of Judges we see the Israelites have already broken that promise. An angel of the Lord comes down and speaks to the people reminding the Israelites of God’s faithfulness despite their unfaithfulness. “You have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done?” (Judges 2:2) asks the angel of the Lord, an echo from the Garden when God asked Adam what he had done?
Upon this the people of Israel lifted up their voices and wept. In that moment the people of Israel were given clarity of who they were and their response was with broken hearts.
You see, we are just like the Israelites asking where God is, forgetting what he has done, forgetting who he is and breaking his commandments. We hold empty promises, speaking words we are unable to fill, fooling ourselves into thinking we could fulfill the law, that we could appease God and atone for our sins.
We are the unfaithful. We are the adulterous, the murders, the coveters, the idol worshipers. Christians are a race of hypocrites, of broken promises and broken hearts. But the beauty of the story does not lie in us, just as it does not lie in the Israelites. The beauty lies in God.
He is faithful. He continuously, faithfully pursues his people even to the point of the cross. His faithfulness to save us in spite of ourselves, is proof of his immeasurable love. This same God who remained faithful to the Israelites is the same God that remains faithful to you and me. He continues to pursue us and will not forsake us. In him we can trust fully.
There is no chasm to wide, nor valley to low. No height nor depth that can keep us from His love. He pursues even when we run away because His love is that BIG, because He is that big. “How great the love of God that endures, the pursues even a sinner like me.”
He is the faithful among the faithless.