I love elephants, they are not just the largest land animal, they are amazingly smart. Part of their intelligence comes from their ability to hold memories. Studies have shown that in times of drought, the older elephants can recall previous droughts from many years before and remember how to find water outside their normal stomping grounds. Their memory literally saves their lives. If only we humans had this kind of life-saving memory, especially with the really important things (not just where we left our keys) – God’s promises of his presence and provision.
As we enter the book of Judges, the people of Israel have just witnessed God fighting on their behalf to give them the Promised Land. He was their Warrior King, but in the new land they look like a people with spiritual amnesia. They have lost their way and forgotten where to find life-giving water. The theme of Judges is, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (17:6; 21:25).
After reaping the consequences of going their own way, they are desperate and cry out to God for help. Each time, God, out of his abundant grace, provides a leader or ‘judge’ to deliver them from the consequences of their sin. God continues to be with Israel, using fallen and imperfect leaders, to rescue them from their sin. But over and over Israel forgets God’s promises of his presence and provision and they continue to turn away from him and turn to deeper and deeper sin, until, at the end of the book, civil war breaks out. It’s an ugly, but real, picture of our rebellion against God. Simply put, we forget him and seek to find connection and provision in our own ways.
This pattern repeats throughout the Old Testament until Israel is exiled from the Promised Land, left awaiting another leader who will deliver them. In fact, the very last word in the Hebrew Bible (in 2 Chronicles 36:23) leaves the reader wondering how God will be with his people and whom he will raise up to rescue them.
After four hundred years of ‘silence,’ we get the answer in the first book of the New Testament. It’s Jesus Christ! He is the son of the warrior King David, of the tribe of Judah (the same tribe that God raised up to lead Israel in the book of Judges). He will be the rescuer, the deliverer of Israel – the perfect Judge. He will not only rescue Israel from the consequences of their sin, but from sin itself! He is God with them – the ultimate Warrior King – who will deliver them, defeating sin and death once and for all through his own death and resurrection.
Coming out of the darkness and sin of the book of Judges, and our own lives, this is the ultimate good news. God does not forsake us and leave us in our sin. He loves us and wants to be with us. God descends into the mess we have made. He rescues us from our own sin and rebellion and restores us into a relationship with him, despite our short memories and our desire to continually do what is right in our own eyes. For those who trust in Christ, he is with us, he provides for us, and he is our life-giving water – may we never forget that.