When men write a book of history, all pertinent information is recorded and most inconsequential happenings are omitted. The book of Judges is both history and scripture. It was written by men inspired by the Holy Spirit to give men knowledge of God and His ways. The details which are before us are there such that we might know His will and His being and respond in fitting manner.
The text before us focuses upon details which reveal the character of the children of Israel and the manner in which God chose to deal with their failings. To understand how this picture applies to believers of today, first consider what fell upon Israel.
“And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, saying, We have sinned against thee, both because we have forsaken our God, and also served Baalim” (v. 10). Israel was guilty of turning away from God and breaking the commandments which they had promised to keep. Their guilt, however, was not why that they cried out to the Lord. Israel confessed to their failure to keep their promise because they were in distress. The Lord had delivered them into the hands of the Philistines and the into hands of Ammon (v. 7) because Israel had done evil and served others gods. Verse 6 lists Baalim, Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Zidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines. By count, there are no fewer than seven different gods. The number seven represents completion. Israel had completely turned away from the Lord God.
The Lord answered Israel’s cry for help on seven different previous occasions. He had delivered Israel from the oppression of their enemies so that they might honor, not dishonor, Him. Israel had repeatedly dishonored Him by serving other gods.
Verse 11 begins with the words: “And the Lord said unto the children of Israel”. Scripture does not reveal the manner in which God spoke the words that He spoke, only the words which He spoke. God told Israel that He had repeatedly delivered them from their enemies only to have them (Israel) repeatedly forsake Him and serve other gods. In verse 13, the Lord states that He will deliver them no more.
God had delivered Israel from its enemies such that they might serve Him and Him alone. In serving false gods, Israel had made its own bed — a bed in which it must now lie. The Lord said, “Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation” (v. 14).
Verses 15 and 16 reveal that the children of Israel heard what God had spoken. Their words, “… do thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good to thee,” indicate that the children of Israel realized that they were to bear the consequences of their actions. Rather than to call upon the false gods of the land, they asked for unmerited mercy. This plea was also an open admission that they were unable to deliver themselves from the consequences of their sin. They put away their false gods and looked to God alone for deliverance.
The Lord did not respond immediately. The picture before us closes with a leaderless people gathered at Mizpeh (v. 17-18). God would later raise up Jephthah to deliver Israel from Ammon and Samson to deliver them from the Philistines.
America is not Israel and believers of today are not Israel. God, however, is unchanging. The Lord had delivered Israel from slavery and had given them His commandments. The Lord has delivered believers from sin and has given us the commandments to love one another and to broadcast the truth which He has revealed to us.
Israel was leaderless because they had turned from God. They had not done what God had told them to do. We, too, fail when we do not do as the Lord has commanded. The Lord has given us the Comforter who reveals all truth to us but we do as Israel did. We do not hear. We become leaderless.
Let us back up and review the sequence of interactions between God and His people again. Israel turned from God. God delivered Israel into the hands of its enemies. Israel cried out to God. God delivered Israel from its enemies. Israel served and honored God for a period of time. This sequence repeated and repeated again until God ended the sequence. God did not deliver Israel. God told Israel to seek help elsewhere. Israel had tried false gods; they needed to try something different. They did; they put away false gods and served God, their Lord. God had not delivered them but Israel chose to serve and honor God. They served God because God is God.
Could believers experience a similar scenario? When we fail to love one another and fail to proclaim the truth which we have received, the Holy Spirit is grieved and we are without a leader. If we return to serve and worship God because He is, He shall surely do what “seemeth good.” His Spirit shall lead us in all times in all places.
It “seemeth good” to God to raise up of Jephthah and Samson to judge Israel. The closing words of verse 16 state that God’s soul was “grieved for the misery of Israel.” The Holy Spirit of God has moved human authors to reveal God’s grief to us. God wants us to know that He is grieved when we suffer for reason of our doing as He has said to do.
Let us strive to do as He has commanded, knowing that He will surely correct all injustice.