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what I’m reading: Judges

August 31, 2007

Sometimes when you think of the Bible you have two different pictures of God.  There’s the hippy, happy-go-lucky God from the New Testament.  And the mean, angry, I’m-going-to-smote-you God from the Old Testament.  At least that’s how I used to picture the Bible before I actually started to read it.

That’s why I really enjoy books from the Old Testament like Judges – it challenges those misperceptions.  There are two themes in Judges that really resonate with me.  The first is that you can be a total screwup and God will still use you.  The second: God has ridiculous patience. 

The book of Judges takes place after Moses (and Joshua), but before David and the Kings.  It’s a time where Israel kept getting “distracted” by the cultures around them and getting into trouble.  The pattern goes like this:

1.  Israel becomes prosperous and begins to worshiping pagan gods
2.  God gets (justifiably) angry and removes his blessing from Israel
3.  Israel is promptly invaded
4.  Israel (eventually) turns back to God and asks forgiveness
5.  God forgives them and sends them a deliverer (a Judge)
6.  The Judge, with God’s help, delivers Israel
7.  Repeat step 1

Usually at Step 7 I want to yell, “Hey Israel!   Haven’t you learned yet?!”  And it’s usually at that point I remember on most days I haven’t learned either…  It makes Israel’s plight very personal.

Books like Judges teach me that God’s blessings do not depend on my perfection.  Samson (the guy with long hair and super strength) had a weakness for women and prostitutes.  Another Judge tried to manipulate God.  Almost all of the judges have some trait we’d consider “bad” in today’s world.  But God still worked miracles through them.

Doesn’t that mean he can do the same through me?  And through you?

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