TODAY’S READING: JUDGES 20-21
The last verse of the book of Judges says, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” While this is the close of the book, it is not a summary statement for the entire book.
The first 16 chapters of Judges recount the 12 judges that God sent to judge Israel and the periods of time between these judges when
“Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” Each time one of the twelve judges was sent Israel was saved from doing what was evil in the sight of the Lord and the land had rest.
The number 12 symbolizes several things throughout the Bible. First, it is a symbol of the foundation and rule of government or power. Second, it is a symbol of the totality of a people, in particular God’s people. Third, it is a symbol of God’s power and authority.
Twelve as a symbol of God’s power and authority is revealed in Jesus. Luke tells us that Jesus and his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of the passover when he was 12 years old. When the feast was over, his parents left to return home, but Jesus stayed behind. Once Mary and Joseph realized Jesus was not with them, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.
Luke 2:46-47 says, “They found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” Why where they amazed at his teaching? Mark 1:22 says, “And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.”
NO KING ON THE THRONE IN ISRAEL
In Judges 16, when Samson, the 12th and final judge of Israel, dies, it symbolizes the complete expulsion of God’s power and authority in Israel. Once God’s power and authority gets expelled from Israel, the events recounted in Judges 17-21 get really weird and really violent.
Just after the God’s power and authority is expelled from Israel, Judges 17:6 says, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” This verse along with the close of the book serve as bookends for all the weird and violent stuff in between. In between, we are twice reminded that in these days there was no king in Israel.
Not only do the events become really weird and violent, but the violence gets turned inward so that Israel is destroying itself. The tribes are fighting against each other. Brother is brutally murdering brother. This is what happens when there is no king on the throne. Everyone does what is right in his own eyes.
GOD EXPELLED AS KING OF HIS CREATION
When Israel had no king they did what was right in their own eyes. The book of Judges that this was equivalent to doing evil in the sight of the Lord. This is the dynamic that places out in Genesis 2 and 3.
In the garden, God caused to grow every tree that was God for food and pleasant to the sight. There were two other trees in the garden – the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But, note carefully that the text does not say that God caused either one of these trees to grow. We are told that tree of life was in the midst of the garden. Presumably, God placed it there.
However, we are told nothing about how the tree of the knowledge of good and evil came to be in the garden. We are simply told that it was there. God does tell man that he should not eat from it though. For, in the day that man eats from this tree, he will die.
What is God saying?
God is showing that he provided everything that was good for us. He made every tree that was good for food, or everything that is good for our body. God made every tree that was pleasant to the sight, or everything that is good for our mind. And, he gave us the tree of life to continually renew our spirits.
But, to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was to do evil in God’s sight. To eat from this tree was to reject God’s goodness.
So, the serpent comes to Eve and asks her if God really said, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?” The intent of the question was to get Eve to doubt God’s good provision for her body, mind, and spirit. But, not only was the serpent tempting Eve to doubt God’s good provision, he was trying to get Eve to doubt God’s nature as always and only good.
Eventually the serpent succeeded in getting Eve to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
How did he do it?
Genesis 3:6 says, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took its fruit and ate.” It was when Eve saw, when she was convinced by what her own eyes saw, that she believed the lie that God was not always and only good. When believed the lie about God’s goodness, it was then that she was spiritually murdered.
When we do what is right in our own eyes, we internally destroy ourselves. This is the lesson of Israel’s internal infighting and destruction in Judges 17-21.
The serpent lied to Eve and spiritually murdered her. But, it was only possible because Eve did what was right in her own eyes. By doing what was right in her own eyes, Eve expelled God’s power and authority in her life. Eve took God off the throne of his kingdom, his creation. (I have focused on Eve in a typological sense as she represents mankind while Adam is a type of Jesus, the second or last Adam.)
Therefore, when we remove God from his throne, the result is lies and murder.
THE KINGDOM IS HERE, REPENT
In Mark 1:15, Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
After Jesus was baptized and he rejected the same temptation of Satan that Eve succumbed to, the very first words of Jesus’ ministry were the kingdom of God is here. Therefore, he says to repent and believe the gospel.
Repent means to change your mind, to change your thinking. Most Christians know this. But, we tend to think of repentance as an emotional event, a deep feeling of sorrow or remorse. However, this is not what repentance is. Repentance really and truly means to change your thinking.
But, what about are we thinking are we to change?
It’s wrong to cut people off in traffic? Lord, I repent.
It’s wrong to hold a grudge and be angry with someone? Lord, I repent.
It’s wrong to covet what others have? Lord, I repent.
Yes, all of these are wrong and we shouldn’t do them. But, I don’t believe this is what Jesus’ call for repentance was about.
In John 8, Jesus says that Satan is the father of lies and was a murderer from the beginning. But, Jesus, the truth, came to free us from this – lies and murder.
Lies and murder.
This is what Jesus’ call to repentance is about. Jesus is taking us right back to the garden. He is saying that we have believed a lie about God – he’s not always and only good. And, Jesus is saying because we have believed that lie, we murder.
Go through the entire Old Testament and you fill a very close connection between lies and murder. Scripture after scripture after scripture links these two ideas:
- Lies, lying lips, deceit, deceitfulness
- Murder, bloodshed, violence, corruption, wickedness, evil
Jesus is calling us to repent of these lies and murder. We believed the lie that God was not always and only good. Because we believed that lie, we removed God from his throne. Then we tried to provide good for ourselves and we go so far as to murder our brothers to do it.
But, Jesus says the kingdom of God is here. It’s back. So, repent of your lies and murder.
So we are to repent and change our thinking about lies and murder. But, what we do change out thinking to?
The gospel. The good news.
What is this good news?
That God is always and only good.
Repenting of our lies and murder and believing that God is always and only God puts God back on his throne. Repenting and believing the gospel puts Jesus on his throne.
Where is his throne?
JESUS IS THE KING ON THE THRONE OF OUR HEARTS
In Luke 17:20-21, Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”
The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be seen. It is in the midst of each one of us. The kingdom of God is in our hearts. When we repent of the lie that God is not always and only good and we stop murdering to have what is good in our own eyes, then we put Jesus on the throne of our hearts.
This is the fulfillment of Proverbs 3:1-8.
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.
“Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”
Repent and believe the gospel.
Stop believing the lie that God is not good – always and only.
Believe that God is good.
Not just with your words. “God is good all the time. All the time God is good.” It’s not a platitude to be thrown around cavalierly.
God IS good.
Believe it and put Jesus, the king, back on the throne of your heart.