God’s Mercy for Israel’s Misery

  • January 3, 2017 | JUDGES 2:1–3:6
Today’s parents are being coached to correct their children “positively.” Positive parenting is defined as a gentle form of guidance by which parents seek to avoid harsh methods of punishment, looking instead to nurture the child’s self-esteem and enforce logical, natural consequences for bad behavior.

Punishment may seem like a primitive notion, but our passage today reveals God’s willingness to punish His wayward people. But punishment is not the final word in Judges. In fact, we learn that God is far more merciful and gracious than expected or deserved.

The book of Judges describes the cycle of Israel’s misery and God’s mercy. God’s people abandon Him and worship other gods. They break the covenant. Their shortcuts to obedience (such as forcing the Canaanites into slavery rather than destroying them completely) have not made their lives any easier. In fact, their sin is to blame for their misery. God brought harsh consequences upon His children for their sin, and they were “sold into the hands” of their enemies (2:14). But if sin and judgment compose the brooding melodies of Judges, the book always returns to a coda of mercy. God won’t abandon His people.

In the descriptions of both of Israel’s punishment and Israel’s rescue, we see the theme of the hand of salvation. Salvation is first, finally, and fully God’s work, and in the book of Judges He works out His divine plan using the human hands of Othniel, Ehud, Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson (among others). He also uses a human hand to unleash judgment: the kings of Mesopotamia, Moab, Canaan, Midian, and Philistine. The hand of the Lord is active in Israel’s history, sovereignly working through human agents to accomplish His purposes.

Apply the Word

In this book, the heroes aren’t the judges—the hero is God, whose mercy meets Israel’s misery, both when they are broken and contrite and when they are not. As we learn today, God has bound himself to His own promise: “I will never break my covenant with you” (2:1). What encouragement do His constant mercies give you today?

BY Jennifer Michel

Jen Pollock Michel is a regular contributor for Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics. Her first book, Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith, is published by InterVarsity Press. Jen earned her BA in French from Wheaton College and her MA in Literature from Northwestern University. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and five children, and serves on staff at Grace Toronto Church. You can follow Jen on Twitter @jenpmichel or you can find her at jenpollockmichel.com.

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