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When Israel forgets its God, might makes right’. So says the commentator in the Bible Project video on the book of Judges - a book that is not for the faint hearted. A phrase in the book that is repeated a number of times is ‘everyone did what was right in their own eyes.’ And this is what the book portrays - repeated cycles of deliverance by God leading to peace which are then thwarted by the people turning from God, doing what is right in their own eyes, leading to judgement. The final part of the cycle is that of repentance as once again the people seek God and are delivered.
The progress through the book shows the increasing spirals of depravity where ultimately Israel no longer knows the character of their God. While God may empower his people with his spirit - and will guide and lead and advise on action - the choice of how we decide to act remains with us. Judges shows us what happens when our decisions go against the call of God. The wages of sin is death. As Israel turns away from the God who loves and saves them, they seek their own self-destruction.
The first part of the oft-repeated phrase ‘everyone did what was right in their own eyes’ is ‘in those days there was no king in Israel’. The tragedy of the book of Judges demonstrating the depravity of humanity, also has a two glimmers of hope - of a final lasting deliverance and of a coming king. And so the stage is set for kingship in Israel, and for a King that will rule his people. ‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders ... and he will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness’ (Isaiah 7).