“God, it turns out, does not require good people in order to do good work. He can and does work with us in whatever moral and spiritual condition he finds us. God, we are learning, does some of his best work using the most unlikely people. If God found a way to significantly include these leaders (“Judges”) in what we know is on its way to becoming a glorious conclusion, he can certainly use us along with our sometimes impossible friends and neighbors.”
—Eugene Peterson’s Introduction to the Book of Judges in “The Message”
As I know I’ve shared with you before, my preaching professor in seminary haunts me to this day with a simple thought he presented in a lecture: “If your immediate reaction to reading a passage of the Bible is to run away…then, by all means, preach it.” As I shared during our Revelation study last year, it has taken me a while to warm up to this idea when it comes to group studies; but I’ve learned from experience that the same thing happens in bible study that happens in the pulpit. By tackling the “tougher” books and sections, we dive into insights that we may have missed.
This was definitely my experience on my first deep dive into Judges. While I was “Sunday School Familiar” with some of the characters of Judges—Sampson in particular—I was challenged by the struggles and realities of power and idolatry in the book. For a collection of stories that I knew mostly from my youth, I was stunned by a book full of stories and images that made me hesitant and uneasy. It’s a book about corruption, the horrors of violence, moral confusion, destructive and abusive relationships, and the personal and community decay brought about by arrogance and selfishness. This material makes us uncomfortable; it should…it serves, in many ways, as a warning. But if we walk away and dismiss the book as a whole, I believe we miss important cautions and assurances God is trying to show us.
And, honestly, I think we need them right now. If you read that list of harsh realities above, it’s essentially a summary of certain sections of the Kansas City Star in 2019…or, really, the harsh realities of any other time in history. But rather than ignore this realities of sin, brokenness, and evil in the world, Judges takes on these themes warts and all and discusses how people of faith both rise and struggle in the face of adversity. The purpose of the book it to show us that while humans often come up short, God is always at work—endlessly patient, perseverant, and gracious—even in the midst of these brutal realities. As Peterson says above, Judges reminds us that God can do amazing things…even in the midst of uncertainty and brokenness.
And so I invite you to our group study the Book of Judges starting on September 10th on Tuesday nights in the Lounge at 7:00 pm. All themes aside, I think it’s a book full of fascinating stories and characters that can help us better understand the challenges of misplaced faith and the faithful God who guides us and loves us even when our misguided pursuits fall apart.