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Year 1, Week 27, Day 3

I have a brief observation for today’s reading of Judges 10.

Today’s reading, while continuing the pattern of the LORD raising up Judges to deliver Israel from their oppression, covers material related to a couple of minor Judges and sets the context for the next major Judge. Judges 10 briefly touches on the deliverance that Israel experienced through the Judges Tola and Jair. These men served as Judges in Israel for twenty-three and twenty-two years respectively. The brief mention of these two Judges serve to remind us that at least some of the Judges led in only regions of Israel and not necessarily the whole nation. Judges 10 also provides an extended look at two components of Israel’s downward cycle. Israel’s idolatry is given a bit more elaboration, but the LORD’s response to their cries for help is given even more attention.

One of the things that struck me from today’s reading is the LORD’s instructions to Israel concerning the uselessness of idols: “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them” (Psalm 115:4-8). Israel had completely given themselves over to idols: "The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the LORD and did not serve him” (Judges 10:6). The pattern of the cycle unfolded: “So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the Ammonites…And the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, saying, “We have sinned against you, because we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals” (Judges 10:7,10). But there was a sobering twist in the cycle: “Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress” (Judges 10:13). 

For a moment, it appeared that Israel had become like those with no hope. The LORD had already delivered Israel from every nation, whose gods they were now enslaving themselves to: “Did I not save you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines? The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, and you cried out to me, and I saved you out of their hand” (Judges 10:11-12). But now they had turned from the LORD to idols. Now they would feel the shame that Isaiah would later speak of: “They are turned back and utterly put to shame, who trust in carved idols, who say to metal images, “You are our gods” (Isaiah 42:17).

But Israel cried out to the LORD again: “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day” (Judges 10:15). And as Israel put away their idols, the LORD had pity on them: “So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel” (Judges 10:16). The phrase, “he became impatient over the misery of Israel,” reflects something of the struggle between the holy justice of God and His loving mercy. Once again the LORD would show pity toward His undeserving people. The prophet Hosea captures the tension between pity and justice: “How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath” (Hosea 11:8-9).

So the LORD responded to their cries: “To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame” (Psalm 22:5). Ultimately, the tension between the LORD’s holy justice and His loving mercy is resolved at the Cross. But before the Cross resolves this matter, Israel comes to learn an important reality in reference to their sins: “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10). Since the LORD is absolutely just, sin must be punished: “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:7). This tension gets resolved by means of substitution. Christ, the sinless One bears the sin of His people: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Justice and mercy are put on full display at the Cross.

What struck you in today’s reading? What questions were prompted from today’s reading?

Pastor Joe