Judgment of God Is Described: Part 2 of 6 (series: Lessons on Judges)
by John Lowe
15 Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed.
The God of Israel was provoked to anger, and delivered Israel into the hand of their enemies. He was disgusted with them, for He is a jealous God and true to the honor of his own name. God loved them and scriptures bear out that those that He loves, He will also chastise. He punished them for their apostasy by giving them to their tormentors whom they yielded to like slaves to their masters. From such a low point, they made themselves as wretched and miserable by forsaking God as they would have been great and happy if they had continued faithful to Him. After they forsook God, whenever they took the sword in hand and went to do battle they were as sure to be beaten as they had been sure to conquer. Formerly their enemies could not stand before them, since wherever they went, the hand of the Lord was with them; and then, when they began to cool in their religion, God ceased to favor them; He stopped the progress of their successes, and would not drive out their enemies any more (v. 3); He only allowed them to keep their ground. But now, when they had become heavily involved in idolatry, which was regarded as a breach of the covenant with the God of Israel, the war turned directly against them, and they could not any longer stand before their enemies. God would rather give the success to those that had never known Him or possessed Him than to give it to those that had done both, but had now deserted him. Wherever they went, it might have looked like God himself had turned on them to become their enemy, and even fought against them, 10(Isa. 63:10 ). It was then that the balance of power turned against them. Any enemy might destroy them, any nation might oppress them. God gave them into the hands of their enemies; not only did He delivered them up without restraint, but He did it for a good reason, that He might be honored as a jealous God, who would not spare even his own peculiar people when they provoked him. Since their worship of Yahweh was the unifying factor among the Israelite tribes, the apostasy into Baal worship also tended to decentralize the strength of the nation. Their neglect of the covenant which bound them to the Lord, and also bound them together, caused them to present a divided front to their enemy invaders.
The hands of spoilers. The anger of the Lord was severely against Israel; therefore, He delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them; probably marauding parties of the Canaanites, making frequent incursions into their lands, carrying away cattle, ruining their crops, etc. These and other adversities befell them in close and rapid succession. But all these calamities were designed only as chastisements—a means of correctional discipline by which God brought His people to see and repent of their errors; for as they returned to faith and allegiance. He "raised up judges."
The lesson here may be…“THOSE THAT HAVE FOUND GOD TO BE TRUE TO HIS PROMISES MAY THEN INFER THAT HE WILL BE AS TRUE TO HIS THREATENINGS.”
16 Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them.
17 And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did not so.
18 And when the LORD raised them up judges, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them.
The God of infinite mercy saw their distress and took pity on them. Even though they had brought their troubles upon themselves by their own sin and recklessness, He brought them deliverance by the judges He elevated. Nevertheless, despite the fact that their trouble was the punishment for their sin and the accomplishment of God’s word, yet they were eventually saved out of their trouble. Notice the following:
1. The inducement for their deliverance. It came purely from God’s pity and tender compassion, and the reason for it came from within Him. It is not the case that they repented because of their iniquities (for it appears from verse 17, that many of them continued the same behavior). But, It repented the Lord because of their groanings; but it is not so much from the
burden of sin as it is from the burden of hardship and trouble that they are said to groan. It is true that they deserved to perish, and yet, He does not stir up his entire wrath, because He feels sorry for them. Justice says that He might have abandoned them, but, out of pity he could not do it.
2. The instruments of their deliverance. God did not send angels from heaven to rescue them, nor did He bring in any foreign power to help them. What He did was this: He raised up judges from among the people, as they were needed, men to whom God gave extraordinary qualifications to perform that special service for which they were designed, which was to reform and deliver Israel. They made great attempts to save Israel which God crowned with wonderful success: The Lord was with the judges when he raised them up, and so they became saviors. Observe:
1. At those times when the church is experiencing the greatest corruption and distress there will be some whom God will put together to deal with its grievances and set things right.
2. God must be given credit for developing useful men for public service. He endues men with wisdom and courage, and gives them hearts to act with courage. All that are in any way looked upon as being a blessing to their country must be looked upon as the gifts from God.
3. Those whom God calls He will own, and give them His presence and those whom he raises up he will be with.
4. The judges of a land are its saviors.
The Lord raised up judges. That is, leaders, generals, and governors, raised up by the Lord for a special mission; to deliver Israel, and take vengeance on, their adversaries.
Which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them. The judges who governed Israel were strictly God's agents, and He was the supreme ruler. Those who were elevated to this position retained the dignity of their office for as long as they lived; but there was no regular, unbroken succession of judges. Individuals, prompted by the inward, irresistible impulse of God's Spirit when they witnessed the depressed state of their country, were roused to achieve its deliverance. It was usually accompanied by a special call, and the people seeing them endowed with extraordinary courage or strength, accepted them as delegates from Heaven, and submitted to their influence. Frequently they were appointed only for a particular locality, and their authority extended no farther than over the people whose interests they were commissioned to protect. They were without pomp, great wealth, or the entourage usually attached to the office. They had no power to make laws; for these were given by God; nor to explain them, for that was the province of the priests -- but they were officially upholders of the law, defenders of religion, avengers of all crimes, particularly of idolatry and its attendant vices.
Went a whoring after other gods. Idolatry, or the worship of false gods, is frequently termed spiritual adultery, fornication, and whoredom, in the sacred writings. Since many of their idolatrous practices were accompanied with impure rites, the term “whoring” was not only figuratively but literally proper.
The cycle of apostasy, repentance, re-apostasy which is the theme for the historical narrative that is Judges is explained here by way of introduction. After deliverance by a particular judge, the people would not hearken unto their leadership, but would return to whoring after other gods, indicating that apostasy was looked upon as a form of spiritual adultery and infidelity. Sadly, we are told they turned quickly out of the way of the Lord and the leadership of the judge.
The degenerate Israelites were not thoroughly reformed by their judges.
1. Even while their judges were with them, and active in the work of reformation, there were those that would not hearken to their judges, but at that very time went a whoring after other gods. They had been espoused to God, but broke the marriage-covenant, and went a whoring after these gods. Idolatry is spiritual adultery, so vile, and hideous, and deceitful. It is a thing that is so addictive that it is very hard to reclaim those that are addicted to it.
2. Those that were alive during the times of reformation began to return to the true God, and yet they turned quickly out of the way again, and became as bad as ever. The way they turned out of was that way which their godly ancestors walked in, and also the way they were taught in their youth. You might say that they set out under the influence both of their fathers’ good example and of their own good education. The wicked children of godly parents still do so, and will therefore have a great deal to answer for.