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Tragedy and Hope

Charlie Boyd - 2/27/2022


The stories in the book of Judges will bother you, and that’s not a bad thing. They should disturb you the same way a news report about child sex trafficking should disturb you. God didn’t give us the Bible to provide us with moral examples to follow. These stories help us see the tragedy of human selfishness and sin in the extreme. They force us to take a deep look at our own hearts to see what the idols of our hearts might be. But also, all the stories in the book of Judges look forward to the future hope of God’s Kingdom coming here on earth as it is in heaven. The book of Judges is a book of tragedy and hope. It tells us tragic stories from the past in order to arouse our hope for the future—a hope for the future made possible by Jesus—an unexpected Savior who came to us in an unexpected way.

SCRIPTURE: Judges 2-3


Most Bible commentators on Judges talk about a pattern, a Downward Spiral, that unfolds in the book. Here’s how I would describe this Downward Spiral. First, there’s an introduction to the “spiral” in 2:6-10. We’re told Joshua and his entire generation died—v10—” After that generation, another generation arose that did not know the Lord or the work He had done for Israel.” 

The Israelites knew about God. They knew the stories of the mighty acts of God in the Exodus. But, knowing about is not the same thing as knowing God personally and experientially. It’s not the same as allowing what you know about God to shape your life and your values. So, with that introduction, here’s God’s explanation of what took place in this new generation and for 300 years afterward.

The Downward Spiral (2:6-3:6)

  • Sin: “The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord…” (2:11-13).
  • Discipline: “The Lord gave them over to plunderers” OR “into the hands of _X_” … (2:14).
  • Distress: “And they were in terrible distress” (2:15b) AND “The people cried out to the Lord”
  • Grace: “For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning…” (2:18).
  • Deliverance: “The Lord raised up a deliverer” who saved them out of the hands of their enemies (2:16, 18).
  • Peace: “The land had rest for _X_ years (3:11, 30).

The Downward Spiral–this -6 step pattern–he repeats itself 7 times in this book–7 times, meaning, taken together, these 7 cycles represent the complete “Canaanization” of Israel.”

Spiral Pattern

Spiral Pattern
To download charts, click on Sermon Notes PDF above.

The first judge–(and “judge” is not so much a Judge Judy kind of judge or a circuit court judge. In Judges, “judges” are deliverers or saviors)–but the first “judge” is a man named Othniel (READ 3:7-11).

And, the main purpose of this first story is to show how erfectly the Downward Spiral Summary above works itself out in a specific time and place in Israel. Here you clearly see the pattern: sin, discipline, distress, grace, deliverance, peace. For Israel, in the days of the judges, the heart of the problem was idolatry.

  • Whenever we value something more than God, we commit the sin of idolatry (cf Col 3:15).
  • The second “judge” is a man named Ehud and the details in his story point us to how God works to save his people. (READ 3:12-30).
  • “The message of the Bible is that God persistently and continuously gives his grace to people who don’t ask for it, who don’t deserve it, and who don’t even fully appreciate it after they get it.” (Tim Keller)
  • God uses unexpected people in unexpected ways to accomplish saving work.
  • Nowhere do we see this more clearly than in our Savior, Jesus.

*We are a church located in Greenville, South Carolina. Our vision is to see God transform us into a community of grace passionately pursuing life and mission with Jesus.