NewLife Anglican / Pastors Blog / Judging Judges?

Judging Judges?

{This is a response written to a congregation member at NewLife who was struggling her way through the readings from Judges with their brutality and wondering how it engaged with God’s plans in the wider world – even up to today}

I believe what you’ve articulated is a concern that I think every sensitive heart should have when we read Judges (and Joshua). It’s a good part of the reason I put the Psalms there as an alternative or additional reading.

I think at the biggest level our challenge is that we imagine the Cannanites living quietly in cottages with white picket fences and buying their furniture from IKEA then being overwhelmed by the white crusaders from Egypt. The reality is that they were profoundly wicked people and their worship was causing evil and evil consequences everywhere across the land. See this note from Kings:

“He desecrated Topheth, which was in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, so no one could use it to sacrifice their son or daughter in the fire to Molek.”

(2 Kings 23:10 NIV11)

They were killing their kids in worship and if they weren’t stopped Israel would follow on.. like they inevitably do. 

It’s no simple thing, but I believe we underestimate their profound evil as a society and God’s right to judge them. The problem of course is that Israel has to carry it out and there’s no way to escape that. 

This really is a one time deal – taking the land was supposed to teach them and come as an act of judgement – we see an intriguing hint of God’s bigger timescale in this snippet from Genesis 15; “In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”” (Genesis 15:16 NIV11)

So, what do we do with it? A couple of suggestions:

A) We remember that God is Holy and therefore is profoundly (and confronting-ly) opposed to human evil.

B) God’s opposition will result in judgement on all sinners and that judgement is ultimately their death. In Ezekiel God reminds us that, “..everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die.” (Ezekiel 18:4 NIV11-GK)

C) God’s promises – to establish a pure and separate people who would show His goodness and prepare for the revealing of His plan – had to take place in real human history and space and time. In short Israel would need to drive someone out for the Abrahamic promises to be fulfilled. 

D) The horrific job of judgement that Israel carries out is not anyone else’s to carry out. Ever again. In all human history. Nowhere else is the land of promise. No one else is the promised people. There will be wars and battles but this cleansing of the land is intended to be singular activity in history. This also means that I can’t look at human history as it unfolds now and apply a ‘God is judging that nation’ rule to it – I’m simply in no place to know that and this fallen world will have wars and rumours of wars right up until the time of Jesus’s return without any single one of them being specifically the judgement of God on an ethnic people group. “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” (Mark 13:7 NIV11)

E) We know that God loves His creation even as He judges it. Easter is our great reminder of the lengths that God will go for those who have grieved Him to be redeemed. We see it is ultimately God who takes on sin’s dreadful cost so that forgiveness might be offered. 

F) So as we stand in shock at the judgement of God let it not be because we don’t believe He’s allowed to judge. Let it not be because we believe they didn’t deserve it. Instead, as we stand in shock at the actions let us look again to Jesus and see that God’s ultimate plan was that the nation He was establishing might prepare the religious and historical and geographical foundation for the coming of The One who would ensure no one need ever die under God’s judgement again.

And then.. I think we need to read a Psalm because in them we see the heart of the God who you might be shaken from believing in from what you’ve been reading. Remembering that the God who is really there is both more seriously opposed to evil than I can imagine and more ready through the death of His Son to apply the reality of His great love and mercy than I can believe. 


About The Author

New Life Anglican is a group of Christians who live in and around Oran Park, starting a brand new church with the express goal of seeing new life come to every home in Oran Park and the growing South West.