Living Free in the Spirit of Christ

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Was the Time of Judges Bad?

Published on: Mar 30, 2008

For many years I have been led to believe that the time of Judges was a lawless time for the nation of Israel. The verse:

“In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”

is repeated twice. First in the middle of the book (Judges 17:6), then again at the very end of the book (Judges 21:25) by the writers, who clearly added this during the time of the kings of Israel. In the church the verse is used as an expression of the wrongfulness of their ways. For they had the Law of Moses, yet, it seems, they followed their own hearts.
Jeremiah said,

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9 KJV)

which is a proof text that we are not to follow our hearts. But recently I have begun to question this assumption. Let us stop and consider some simple facts of history.

First, the amount of time that had passed from the death of Joshua to inauguration of Saul as king of Israel was 326 years. During that period, the Jews settled down to their own lives. They had a mandate from Yahweh to destroy all the Canaanites, which they did not do. So they were considered disobedient to God.

While they pursued their own lives they tended to fall into the practice of the heathen and God would raise enemies that required a leader to conquer and bring their eyes back on the Torah. In that time, they had 15 judges, excluding Joshua and ending with Samuel. Two of those judges, Tola and Jair, had peaceful reigns and little is mentioned of them. The other 13 had to battle for Israel.

When we consider the period of the Kings of Israel, we usually omit God’s warning not to take on a king.

“And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king“. (1 Sam 8:7 NIV)

“Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.” (1 Sam 8:9 NIV)

Then Samuel lists all these abuses to their freedoms: their sons will be drafted into his armies, their daughters will become maid servants of the king, he will confiscate their properties and impose taxes on them.

This objection is completely ignored by the church businesses. The institutional churches gain the same benefits that the kings gained. I think it is a reasonable comparison to change the wording of king to pastor. The pastor will draft your sons into their ministries, they will have your daughters serve in their businesses, and they will impose tithing taxes upon them all. The businesses say that all service and gifts are being given to God, but I have no doubt that the kings said the same thing.

Look what happened to Israel after the kings were instituted. The period from Saul to the Babylonian captivity was 460 years. A little more than the time of the Judges. But during that time they remained united under 3 kings for only 115 years. During that time they had two good kings (David and Solomon) and one bad king (Saul). From the time of Rehoboam to the Captivity, then was 345 years – only 19 years longer than the time of the Judges (326). In that 345 year period, between two kingdoms (northern kingdom of Israel and southern kingdom of Judah) they had a total of 39 kings. Twenty kings in Judah and nineteen in Israel. All 19 kings in the north were considered bad by the Bible, whereas in the south 15 out of 20 were considered bad. Only 5 are given positive report in the Bible (Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah and Jehoichin). The others have their good and bad qualities, and I am sure you could disagree on some, but my point is still the same: the good kings were extremely few, whereas the judges were all good except Samson and maybe a few others, such as the sons of Gideon.

What’s the difference? The judges had temporary offices established at the time of need. The kings sat in permanence. Compare the judges and kings to the 5 fold ministries of Ephesians 4, and we see a difference between function and office. The traditional view of these ministries is that they are permanent offices of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers. But a functional view sees these ministries raised by God as needed, not permanently.

God plainly told Samuel that He did not want kings established because the people were rejecting God, and substituting the kings for God. It is clear by His objection that He preferred the time of the Judges to the time of the Kings. The people lived in freedom during the time of Judges. Yes, they went astray, but God brought them back to Him.

Now that we all have access to God through Jesus Christ, what makes us think that we need Pastor/Kings ruling over our lives. Why should we be in bondage to them, when God wants us free in Him? Isn’t God able to bring us back to Him if we stray?

Where does God dwell today? In the hearts of every believer. If we are born again according to the biblical promise that He would give us new hearts, then why should we not trust our hearts today? If our consciences have been purged of dead works by the blood of Jesus, don’t we have the ability to do what is right in our own eyes? Because we now have the ability to see with the eyes of the Lord who dwells in our hearts. I believe, with Christ in our hearts, we can trust our hearts. Isn’t that what it means to be led by the Spirit?

We have been given the Scriptures to confirm what the Spirit is saying to our hearts, so we have a tandem rein on our hearts. Brothers and sisters in the Lord I enjoin you to trust the Lord in your heart. He speaks to you through your hearts, so listen to your hearts. The time of Judges is a closer illustration to how the organic church functions.

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