During Israel’s forty years of wandergin in the wildernes, God prepared his people to become a nation and taught them to rely on him. Now, at last, Israel is ready to take up residence in the Promised Land. God leads the people into battle, providing victory after victory. After about thirty years, Israel’s army has conquered every city-state in Canaan, but they have left many of the local people living alongside them.
Finally, the Hebrews settle doen in the areas designated for each of the twelve tribes. The first part of God’s promise to Abraham, Issac, and jacob has been fulfilled: they were living in the land. God is with his people in every region as they enjoy peace and rest. But God’s plan is not yet complete–he desires for the people to, in turn, bless all nations. Years pass. Before Joshua dies at age 110, he promise to do so. Unfortunately, their oath lats only as long as the elders who served under Joshua’s leadership. In a short time, the people forge about their vow to serve the Lord and obey him alone. They blend their worship of God with the local people’s worship of pagan gods. Some desert God completely.
Where are we going?
For the next 325 years, God’s people wil experience cycles of disobedience, punishment, confession, and restoration: They forget Go and worship idols; God allows an enemy to punish them; the people cry to God for deliverance; God sends a judge to save them; they return to obeying and loving God. Then the pattern repeats. Oppressive enemies arise from the areas surrounding the promised land, and at different times they attack various Israelite tribes, but not all of Israel at once. Some judges have great influence in one area and not in another. Some judges overlap as Israel’s leaders but rule in different regions. Occasionally peace reigns; at other times violence and discord erupts. Twelve judges guide Israel until the people demand a king. Although God is with his people, the people are not with God. They ignore him and his law and instead do “whatever seem[s] right in their own eyes.” This moral apathy leaves God’s people lving in chaos.
Jesus as true north
God chooses leaders to free his people. Each one foreshadows the ultimate leader, Savior, and Redeemer–Jesus. Like the judges, Jesus will free his people from the bonds of oppresive forces. However, Jesus will not be fighting merely against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against the pervasive powers of sin and death. God raises up the judges to free his people and restore their relationship with him. The judges’ work points to Jesus by giving the people a glimpse of what Jesus will accomplish as the ultimate Redeemer and Savior of all.