In the Day of the Judges
February 7th, 1960 @ 8:15 AM
IN THE DAY OF THE JUDGES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Judges 1, 2
2-7-60 8:15 a.m.
You who listen on the radio are sharing with us the early morning service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing that morning message entitled In the Day of the Judges. Last Sunday morning we finished our following through the life of Joshua, and this morning we begin in the Book of the Judges. It will be profitable to you if you will take your Bible and follow through with the message. It would be doubly profitable if you would bring a red pencil with you and underscore some of these things that are so valuable and instructive and interesting.
This book is one of the saddest books in the Bible. It is a record of the compromise and apostasy of God’s people. After the apostasy at Kadesh-barnea [Numbers 14], the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for almost forty years. And the story of that wandering is to be found in the Book of Numbers, but as sad as that story is, forty years wandering in the desert wastes of a wilderness, when they could have been in the land of promise. As sad as that picture is, it is nothing comparable to this; for this period of apostasy covers four hundred years. That is such a long, long time, four hundred years.
The Book of Judges is the story of the compromise and unbelief and sin of God’s people over a period of four hundred years. Did you ever notice how much of the story of God’s children back here can be grouped in periods of four hundred? It was about four hundred years from the birth of Abraham to the death of Joseph. It was about four hundred years from the death of Joseph to the Exodus. It was about four hundred years from the Exodus through this Book of the Judges, to say the end of the life of Samuel and the beginning of kingdom under Saul. It was about four hundred years from Saul unto the exile. And when then the return from exile, it was a little more than four hundred years, five hundred years until you come to the days of the Lord in the New Testament.
Now, this Book of the Judges is a delineation of this time of darkness. In the story of the Christian church, you would call this the Dark Ages. Now the book is divided into three parts. You have a prologue; you have a prologue of about two chapters. The first and the second chapters are introductory by way of explanation. Then the middle part of the book is from chapters 3 to 16, in which you have the main story. And then chapters 17 and 18 and chapters 19 to 21 are an epilogue by way of illustration. So you have there a little summary of the Book of Judges. The first two chapters are introductory – a little summary. Then chapters 3 through 16 tell the main story, and then 17 through 21 are by way of illustration, an epilogue.
Now, the format of the story is very, very much the same. The story of the judges lists twelve of them in number. They were not successive governors. They had no particular succession at all, except as in periods of great trial and oppression, God raised up deliverers. And these deliverers lived after their great feats of achievement and victory; they continued as the rulers and judges and administrators of justice for the people. But there was no order in it. There was no succession in it. It was altogether adventitious. It was here and then it was there, and the Lord raised them up from time to time to lead His oppressed people out of their misery and to administer justice. They were not in any sense governors or presidents or rulers such as we think of a dynasty or a series of kings. They were just raised up from time to time in a day of great trial.
Now, of those twelve judges, there are six of them around whom the story mostly revolved. Those six are prominent because of the six great apostasies of the people. And in each instance, in those great six apostasies, in each instance God raised up a great deliverer. And those six deliverers, or we call them judges, are those around whom the story is largely written.
Now, I said a moment ago that the story follows a pattern, a format, and it is the same in each situation. It is repeated, repeated, repeated, exactly alike. In the second chapter of the Book of Judges – now you follow this, it will be interesting to you – in the second chapter of the Book of Judges, you have the summary of that pattern, of that format. And it always follows the same thing, four things. To commentators and exegetes who like alliteration, why, they would say these four things. First there is sin, then there is suffering, then there is supplication, then there is salvation; and those four things form a pattern into which this story is repeated again and again each time it is told. Now, in the second chapter of the Book of Judges, you have the summary of those four things. Then, beginning in the third chapter, you will have the story as it is fitted into that format.
Now, let’s look at the format. Let’s look at the pattern. In the second chapter of Judges, the eleventh verse: "And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord." Each time each of those apostasies will be introduced with the same and identical words, those words. "And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers . . ." now that’s the first, always it will start with those same words.
All right, the second: the suffering that is attendant upon their sin. Now verse 14, now this is the summary, this is the general format: "And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and He delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and He sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, Whithersoever they went, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil" [Judges 2:14-15]. All right, that’s the second thing: in that format, sin is followed by suffering. The anger of the Lord is against them, and wherever they turn, there is evil, trial, tribulation, heartache, misery, oppression; the whole world turns to be their enemies.
All right, now the third one: in the latter part of the eighteenth verse in this format, you will find, "by reason of them that oppressed them because of their groanings" [Judges 2:18]. There’s the third one: their suffering and then their supplication. They turn to the Lord, and it repents the Lord because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them.
Now the fourth one in this format, beginning at the sixteenth verse: "Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them." Now at the end of the eighteenth verse, after "it repented the Lord because of their groanings" – that’s their supplication – "by reason of them that oppressed them," then this last one, the salvation: "the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them" [Judges 2:16].
All right, now let’s take those four things, and you’re going to find that in each one of these six apostasies, that it will follow that same pattern.
Now, let’s start. In the third chapter of the Book of Judges, first those same words in verse 7, Judges 3:7: "And the children of the Lord did evil in the sight of the Lord." That’s the first one: their sin. Then their suffering, "Therefore the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and He sold them into the hand of Chushanrishathaim" – that’s enough to kill a man, to have a name like that – "and He sold them into the hand of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and they served Chushanrishathaim for eight years" [Judges 3:8]. All right, first their sin, "they did evil in the sight of the Lord," then their suffering, "therefore the anger of the Lord was hot against them, and He sold them into the hand of this king." All right, the third one, their supplication: "And when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord," all right, now the fourth one: "the Lord raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother" [Judges 3:9]. And that’s the first apostasy, and you have the first judge.
All right, now let’s start with the second apostasy. In the third chapter of Judges and the twelfth verse, here you see – you follow that same format, all four of them, one right after another. They start with the same words, Judges 3:12: "And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord"; that’s the first. All right, the second, their suffering: "And the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel." All right, the third one, their supplication in the fifteenth verse: "But when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord," all right, the fourth one, their salvation: "The Lord raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man left-handed" [Judges 3:15].
All right, now let’s go to the next one. We’ve had two of them. Here’s the third one. Now, the fourth chapter of the Book of Judges – we’re going to follow the same format; it will always be that same thing – the fourth chapter of the Book of Judges: one, their sin: "And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord" [Judges 4:1]. All right, their suffering: "And the Lord sold them into the hand of the Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor" [Judges 4:2]. All right, the third, their crying unto the Lord, their supplication: the third verse, "And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord." All right, the fourth verse, the salvation: and "Deborah, a prophetess" – now the sixth verse: "And she sent and called Barak." And there you have the third apostasy: they did evil, and the Lord sold them into the hand of their enemies, and they cried unto the Lord by reason of their oppression, and then you have the fourth format – Deborah and Barak.
All right, now let’s turn to the sixth chapter of the Book of Judges, and you have the fourth apostasy. And it follows that same pattern, always that same pattern. Judges, chapter 6: "And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord." That’s the first one, their sin. All right, the second, "And the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian" [Judges 6:1], there’s the second one. All right, the third one, chapter 6: "And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord." That’s their supplication, verse 6. Now, verse , the deliverer: "And there came an Angel of the Lord, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertaineth unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites." And there you have the story then of the deliverance unto Gideon.
Always that same format and that was the fourth one. Now let’s turn over here to the fifth apostasy. Turn to chapter 10 in the Book of Judges. In chapter 10, you’ll have the same thing again. Judges 10, [verse] 6 – I mean Judges tenth chapter, verse 6: "And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord." All right, verse 7: "And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines" [Judges 13:1]. All right, verse 10, their supplication: "And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, saying, We have sinned against Thee." That same format: they do evil, they are sold to the hands of their enemies, they cry unto the Lord; now, chapter 11, verse 1, you have the deliverer. "And Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor," and the Lord raises up Jephthah, and you have the story of the deliverance under Jephthah.
Now let’s turn to the last apostasy, Judges 13. Judges 13: "And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord." There’s the first one again. All right, the second one: "And the Lord delivered them into the hand of the Philistines." Gets worse and worse, forty years they served the Philistines. Now, the third one is omitted here, it’s taken for granted: their supplication. Now the fourth one: their deliverer. In verse 3, "And the Angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman," the wife of Manoah, and you have the story of the birth of Samson. Verse 24: "And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson," and from [chapters] 14 through 16 you have the story of Samson. Then [chapters] 17 through 21 is the epilogue, the two illustrations.
Now that’s the Book of Judges, following through that same format. We are now to look at these people, and looking at them, you will see yourself, and you will see your generation. You will see your people. You will see this church. You will see families. This is why the gospel of the Son of God has to be preached again and again and again; repeated. You would say, "Pastor, what triteness." That same story over and over again: and the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord sold them into the hands of the oppressors, and the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, and the Lord raised up – then all those series of judges.
"How trite and how dull and how uninteresting." That’s because the people do the same thing over and over and over again. If they sinned just once, and were sold into oppression just once, and then the Lord delivered them just once and that was it, you would never have the repetitive story. You would never have the Book of Judges. You wouldn’t have this thing as it is unfolded here before us. But because the people do the same thing over and over again, you have that same message and that same format.
And that’s why I am telling you that the gospel needs to be preached and to be preached and to be preached and to be preached. "But preacher, we’ve heard it all our lives. Why should we hear it again?" Because human life has the tendency to fall over and over and over again into the same temptations and into the same pitfalls, into the same iniquity and transgressions and errors! You do it in your life! The generations do it over and over and over again! There is no life that escapes it. Man, if you never made but one mistake in your life, let’s stand up and look at you. You’d be a funny freak to stand up and say, "Preacher, I never made but one mistake. I never fell into sin but one time, and when the Lord dealt with me, I never sinned again, and I never made a mistake again." It’s because of that weakness in human nature to repeat its errors and its follies that the judgments of God and the message of God and the deliverer of the Lord is again and again and again.
Now that thing is true with the generations. If you were to win any generation to Jesus, whatever generation it was, you would have to do the same thing again with an oncoming generation. The preaching of the gospel of the Son of God is a needed, vitally needed thing, and it must be done again and again and again.
So, when a preacher takes a notion – "Now I have preached the gospel, I preached the Bible; now I think I will enter into the world of review and editorial, and we’re going to have some messages now on social amelioration, and upon the economic issues of the time, and upon the political complexions of the day. And we’re going to discuss UNESCO, and we’re going to discuss the United Nations, and we’re going to discuss the latest developments in the world of literature and drama, and in all of these phases of life, we’re going to enter into them now" – but while he’s doing that, and has turned aside from the preaching of the gospel message of Christ, the people have fallen again into sin, and the generation is growing up without anybody declaring unto them the message and hope we have in Christ Jesus. I am just doing my best to say that there never comes a time and there never comes an hour when we don’t need the preacher to preach to us the message of God!
Let somebody else do the editorializing. They’ll do it well, do it better than the preacher will. Let somebody else do the commentating. They’ll do it well, better than any preacher. Let somebody else do the book reviews and discuss War and Peace, and the United Nations, and all of the social, and economic, and political problems of the hour. Let somebody else do that. There’s lots to do it. They’ll be doing it on the radio. They’ll be doing it in magazines that you can buy for fifteen cents, and they’ll be doing it in the newspapers. Let them do that!
But we need the preacher of the Son of God to tell the people of the great, great, everlasting danger of sin, and the judgment of God, and the warning of hell and damnation, and to call us back to repentance and to faith. We need that message over, and over, and over again. Therefore, I’m saying that in the format that you found here in the Book of Judges, you find no other thing than what is needed in any hour, and in any generation, and in any life, and in any family, and in any church, and among any people. This is our story.
Now let’s unfold it. Let’s start out. All of this is preliminary, and we’ll go until we have time to quit, and then we’ll take it up next Sunday morning, and so on through the Book of Judges. Look how those people were when they first came into Palestine, when they first came into Canaan. The Book of Joshua closes in the thirty-first verse with these words Joshua 24:31: "And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that He had done for Israel." Now, you will find that repeated in the second chapter of Judges and the seventh verse, Judges 2:7: "And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that He did for Israel," and that’s the way the story begins. They are in the land, and they are there under that matchless warrior, God’s servant Moses’ minister, Joshua. And they did marvelously under him and under the elders that followed that knew Joshua.
Now look at the tenth verse of that second chapter of Judges: "And that generation died – they were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord," then the thing begins. Long, long time after in Jeremiah, the second chapter and the seventh verse, God says through His prophet, "I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled My land, and made Mine heritage an abomination." Then the thing starts off and starts down.
Isn’t that a funny thing? That’s true with all human life, every spiritual movement, the story of the church and the people of God. They will have a great Pentecost, they will start off magnificently, a man will be converted, a thing will just grow like fire in the Spirit of the Lord, and then give it time, and look at the church and look at the man. And how many, many, many, many times, most of the times, is this pattern followed, starting off gloriously, magnificently? Well, let’s follow it through: here they start off, we said, under a great, great leader and under the elders that followed that great leader. So the Book of Judges starts off: "Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the Lord, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first?" That was God’s commandment. The iniquity of the Amorite was full [Genesis 15:16], and God had judged them, and they were to be executed according to the judgment of God.
Any nation is like that today. When a nation transgresses beyond a certain point, the judgment of God will fall upon it! Always and forever that happens! And the iniquity of the Amorite was full, and God sent these Israelites in there as His means of execution. They had the sword of the Lord in their hands: "And the Lord said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand. And Judah said unto Simeon and his brother, Come with me, and they went up and the Lord delivered the Canaanites into their hands" [Judges 1:1-4]. That’s the way the thing starts: under Joshua, gloriously, under the elders that outlived Joshua, gloriously. And they prayed the Lord, "Who is to lead us now?" And the Lord said, "Judah shall lead," and away they go and conquer their enemies.
All right, now look at the thing. Look at the thing. Judges 1:18: "And Judah" – 19 now – "did not drive out the inhabitants of the valley." All right, verse 21: "And the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites." Verse 27: "Neither did Manasseh drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shean." Verse 29: "Neither did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites." Verse 30: "Neither did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron." Verse 31: "Neither did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Accho, nor the inhabitants of Zidon." Verse 33: "Neither did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh." And verse 34: "And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain."
Now, isn’t that something? That sounds like a funeral nail, sounds like the tolling of a bell of death: And Judah didn’t, and Benjamin didn’t, and Manasseh didn’t, and Ephraim didn’t, and Zebulun didn’t, and Asher didn’t, and Dan didn’t, and then – and then nobody did.
Instead of going into that land and doing what God said to do, first, they didn’t drive them out! All right, look at the second thing they did. [Judges] 2:2, they made a league with the inhabitants of the land, when God said "you shall not make a league with them," [Judges 2:2]. All right, look at the next thing they did. [Judges] 2:13, and they went into idolatry with the people of the land, "They forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth." They identified themselves with the people of the land, and they fell into the idolatry of the land. Now look at the sixth verse and the third chapter of Judges: "And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods."
I have to close. The Book of Judges is written for a purpose. All of the books are written for a purpose; the Book of Judges also has a great purpose.
Do you remember how, before the epilogue, how John closes the Gospel? "Many of the signs did Jesus which are not written in this book, but these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that believing, you might have life through His name" [John 20:30-31]. So many things did Jesus, says John, "If I were to write them all, the world could not hold the books, but these are written in order that," [John 21:25].
All right, the Book of Judges is exactly like that. These things are purposely told! What is the great purpose of Samuel in writing this Book of the Judges? All right, this is it: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers, what concord hath Christ with Belial? or he that believeth with an infidel, or the church of God with idols? Wherefore come out from among them, and be separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing: and I will receive you, and be a Father unto you, and ye shall be sons and daughters unto Me" [2 Corinthians 6:14-18].
Now we’re going to pick up next Sunday morning. You see the people start wonderfully well, then they make league with the people in the land, then they worship their idols, then they intermarry with them, and finally you couldn’t tell the difference between a Canaanite and an Israelite. You couldn’t tell the difference between the people of God and the people of the world. It got to the place where you couldn’t tell the difference between a church member and a country club member: they looked exactly alike. Reckon that has a message for us today, do you suppose; the message of compromise entangled in the world? Ah, God put it here for a reason, and it has a message to us today.
Now while we sing our hymn of invitation, somebody this morning to confess his faith in Christ, somebody to put his life with us in the church, a family to come, or one somebody you, while we make this song of appeal, sing it and speak these words of invitation, would you come? In the balcony here, on the lower floor, on the first note of the first stanza, somebody you to give your heart to the Lord or to put your life with us in the church, while we sing this song, would you come, while we stand and while we sing?
IN THE DAY OF THE JUDGES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Judges 1, 2
One of the saddest books in the Bible
1. Record of Israel’s
2. Four hundred
1. Three parts,
prologue, main story, epilogue
2. Twelve judges
3. Main story
format repeated over and over
4. Mostly recounts
six apostasies followed by deliverance
1. Evil in the
sight of the Lord, forsook the Lord God of their fathers
2. Sin followed by
3. Suffering then
4. God raises up a
5. Similar pattern
of failure today
1. Judges repeats
six great failures in the same format
2. Gospel must be
preached over and over and over in each generation
Each tribe in Israel should have driven out the enemy, all failed
1. Made treaties
with their enemies
2. Took wives of
the enemies against God’s commands not to