I grew up in the Midwest, and I have not been to many battle sites from the Civil War. But I have been to Gettysburg, Pa., where the Union and Confederate armies battled for three harrowing days in 1863.
Today, you can stand on Little Round Top hill and imagine the bayonet fighting in the thick trees by the 20th Maine soldiers, led by military commander Joshua Chamberlain. You can walk across Cemetery Ridge and picture Pickett’s Charge right into the teeth of the Union soldiers. You can also envision the bodies strewn across the battlefield at the end of the fighting. With over 50,000 casualties, it was the bloodiest battle in U.S. history.
The Battle of Gettysburg turned the tide of the Civil War, with consequences that reverberated throughout the history of the nation. Some 150 yeas later, we can study these events to see more clearly what mistakes were made and what choices secured a victory.
The same is true in the book of Judges. Page after page is filled with records of fierce battles between the nation of Israel and their surrounding enemies. Judges covers the nation’s turbulent history as God’s people tried to settle in their land.
But it is also a record of the mistakes made by God’s people—most of which happened off the battlefield. Despite God’s faithful and miraculous provision, the Israelites continued to disobey His commands and grumble at the results. Those actions had consequences. Judges 6:1 tells us, “The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD gave them into the hands of Midian seven years.”
Their only success came after God sent a deliverer. No matter how well we prepare or how sure we are of victory, the battle is always the Lord’s. Every true success has only one source: the provision of our sovereign God.
The real story in the book of Judges is not Israel’s military victories or defeats. The real Hero of this story is the Almighty God they served. The same is true in the story of our lives. We can easily be tempted to think we control circumstances through our strategic planning. We can try to orchestrate events so they line up in our favor. “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Zech. 4:6). The battle is indeed the Lord’s.