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18 March. Judges chapters 1-2
The next book of the Bible that I am reading is that which covers the days of the ‘judges’ who despite the name used in translation were actually still more like military leaders than lawyers. They did however have the responsibility for upholding the religious/civil law as well.
These first two chapters are a bit confused. Some material is repeated from the book of Joshua (e.g. the marriage of Othniel and Aksah). In chapter 1 Joshua is clearly already dead and the tribe of Judah is said to have captured and set fire to Jerusalem. But chapter 2 describes events in Joshua’s lifetime, and the Benjamites (in whose territory Jerusalem lay) fail to capture Jerusalem. So maybe these two chapters got put in the wrong order somewhere along the line.
The lesson for us today, however, does not depend on resolving that. It concerns the angel who appears to remind the people of the importance of obeying God. But even that, on top of Joshua’s exhortations and the people’s promise witnessed by the stone at Shechem (Joshua 24:26-27), fails to stop them reverting to idolatry within a generation. God says he will continue to provide judges to point his people in the right direction, but even so he knows that most of the people will not listen to them and will bring judgement on themselves.
That reminds me of two sayings. The first is that of Jesus – “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” (Luke 16:31). One cannot rely on a mass response at a rally, or even a dramatic miracle, to convince everyone who is there to make a real change in their lives. True conversion happens on an individual basis and is built on many encounters with God and his people.
The second is one often heard today in the Church – “the church is always one generation from extinction”. If we do not pass on a living faith in some form to the young people of our day, the Church of Jesus Christ (in its widest form) will cease to exist.