On the 20th of this month, a new American president will move into the White House and assume responsibility for governing the country. During the inauguration, the president will lay a hand on the Bible and swear, with God’s help, to uphold the Constitution.
In ancient Israel, political power was transferred after a leader’s death. In fact, every time a leader’s death is announced in the Old Testament, it signals an important historical moment. The book of Judges begins with the announcement that Moses’ successor, Joshua, is dead. (Similarly, the book of Joshua begins with the announcement of Moses’ death.) In contrast to the book of Joshua, however, in Judges, no appointed leader fills the vacancy. The motley crew of Israelite tribes assemble to finish the task given to them by Moses, by Joshua, and most importantly, by God: conquer the Promised Land and inhabit it.
From our reading today, the Israelites seem inclined to do Yahweh’s will. The text offers signs of national strength and spiritual vitality, not least that the military campaign is preceded by a prayer meeting; notice that the story begins with the phrase, “The Israelites asked the LORD” (v. 1). God’s people understood that the battle belongs to the Lord and must be fought according to His time and methods. They knew they had to depend on His power and His Spirit.
The Israelites sought God, and this resulted in success. Judah, in partnership with the tribe of Simeon, attacked the Canaanites in three strategic locations: the hill country, the Negev, and the western foothills (v. 9). In city after city, they were given the victory promised by God, reaping the reward of obeying and depending on Him.
Apply the Word
This month we will see the surprising salvation of our faithful God for His unfaithful people. There can be no doubt that salvation, in the book of Judges and for us today, is God’s work and the glory belongs to Him alone. But surprisingly,
God works His divine will through fallible, human hands. Will we obey Him and ask Him to guide us?