The professor for the week is Bruce Chick, senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Community Church down in Roanoke, VA. He’s an engaging guy with a love for sports (one of his favorite things to do is throw a football at unsuspecting students during the lectures; if they miss the ball, the whole class gets to dogpile them…and yes, I did catch the ball, in case you were wondering) and a remarkable resemblance to Jim Carrey (at least, I thought so). Over the week he is teaching Old Testament 2: Judges through Proverbs. The prep itself was pretty extensive: 367 pages of reading and 28 hours of outside work, not counting the 15 hours of class-time (I should mention that Brew gave us grace and is only having us do half the reading, which is still quite a bit, but not quite as bad). I have a new respect for these students, let me tell you.
Today’s topic was the book of Judges. I never realized there was so much to learn from one of the historical books, but I now find this book absolutely fascinating. The purpose of Judges, according to Mr. Chick, is that it is “an apologetic for Israel’s monarchy.” It systematically shows the failure of the judges leading Israel, as they in fact lead Israel progressively away from God. The cycle started with Othniel, the brother of Caleb, who has no recorded faults and is in fact implicitly held up as the standard by which all the other judges are judged (pardon the pun). The cycle takes a familiar pattern:
- The people fall into apostasy (i.e. fall away from the Lord)
- The Lord hands them over to oppressors
- The people cry out
- God raises up a judge
- The people are delivered
- After a while apostasy returns and the cycle starts over
The judges we spent the most time on were Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson. It’s amazing the downward spiral shown just in these four.
- Deborah was a woman of faith, conscious of her God-given role as a woman and yet taking responsibility in the absence of male leadership (exemplified by Barak’s cowardice as the leader of Israel’s armies).
- Gideon needed fourteen different signs and the dream of an unbeliever before he finally believed that God would do all that he said he would, and even after the amazing victory he led the country into idol worship.
- Jephthah was a great military leader, but the leaders decided to take matters into their own hands in choosing a deliverer instead of letting God raise someone up. Plus, he was (in an implicit analogy by Mr. Chick) a lot like Terrell Owens: a guy who can win games in the short-run but will cause lots of trouble in the long-run. He eventually sacrifices his own daughter because of a rash vow he made.
- Samson totally disregards his God-appointed purpose in life, chasing after the lust of his flesh by marrying foreign women and corrupting his Nazirite vows. He can kill 1000 men with the jawbone of a donkey but can’t stand for a girl to cry, leading to his eyes being put out and being treated like a women. Even when he kills 3000 Philistine leaders by pushing down the temple, he does it purely for revenge, with no thought for pleasing God while doing it. The narrator of Judges clearly views him as a man with wasted talents and a wasted life (16:30).
The progression here is depressing, but it serves to illustrate the depravity of man apart from God’s grace—even when he saves them, they still rebel against his rule. Eventually they would need a king, but even that king could not save them for long, and within 600 years the country was conquered and the people put into exile. God’s chosen people need someone to rule them, but he progressively showed that no human could do that (for an excellent quote by Mark Dever on this very topic, click here). The only ruler who can rule righteously is God himself, and he shows this in detail throughout the Bible, but especially in the book of Judges.
Whew, condensing 24 pages of notes into six paragraphs is hard. I didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what we covered, and there were the sections at the beginning and the end covering Israel’s failure to finish conquering the Promised Land and the total anarchy reigning under the Levites. But hopefully I’ve given a sufficient overview of the basic idea of Judges. What an amazing book. I’m looking forward to continuing our study in the Old Testament over the rest of the week.