13. Faithfulness to the Faithless

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Introduction

The closing of Joshua created a strong tension between what Israel had been promised and their current situation. It forced the questions, “how long will Israel remain faithful to Yahweh?” and “how long will they maintain possession of the land?” This was compounded by the existence of various remnants of the nations whom they conquered among them and left open the possibility of disinheritance (Joshua 23:12-13). Judges will answer these questions as we see the relationship between Israel and these nations play itself out over the course of four-hundred years.

I. Judges

A. Judges in Context

While the events recorded in the book of Judges immediately follow the conquest of the land recorded in Joshua it was not written down, by Samuel, until around four-hundred years later, sometime during the beginning of Saul’s reign. This is significant because Israel was not longer comprised of people who had witnessed the mighty working of God to bring them out of Egypt or to conqueror the Promised Land. They had received these as stories and traditions. Rather than witnesses of God’s great saving acts this generation witnessed Israel’s apostasy and God’s subsequent judgment. This is the context in which the book of Judges was written and it served as both a warning and a reminder of how they arrived at their current situation.

B. The Narrative of Judges

Will someone read Judges 2:1-5? In what way did Israel fail to obey the Lord and what is His response to them?

Despite His promised protection Israel failed to drive out all the inhabitants of the land that He was giving to them. Because of this He is not going to drive them out; rather he is allowing them to stay so that their deities will ensnare Israel.

Will someone read Judges 2:6-15? What is significant about this new generation and what does this tell us about the past generation?

This new generation does not know the LORD or His mighty acts on Israel’s behalf. After the giving of the Ten Commandments Israel is exhorted to teach these commands to their children so that they and generations to come might not forget the mighty works of the LORD after they enter the Promised land (Deuteronomy 6; 11). The new generation does not know the LORD because of the previous generations failure to instruct them and their failure to drive out the inhabitants of the land.

We have talked about how God’s presence is often equated to God’s protection in what way is 11-15 related to God’s presence and when did the LORD warn them of this?

This is the negative aspect of God’s presence. Positively God’s presence means His protection but negatively His presence necessitates His judgment of sin. God has warned them of the dangers of disobedience throughout the Scripture that has been recorded at this point in history but no clearer is this seen than in the lists of covenant blessings and curses (cf. Deuteronomy 4-26).

Will someone read Judges 2:16-23? This section serves to summarize the cyclical pattern which is presented in the book of Judges. What is this pattern and what does it teach us about God and His covenant?

The pattern presented in Judges is that of apostasy, false repentance, temporary salvation, and then continued apostasy. Their repentance is false because it is based upon their physical situation (2:18) and not upon their relationship with Yahweh. This teaches us that God is faithful to His covenant. He has not destroyed them because he has made an everlasting covenant with them; He will make Israel a great nation and a blessing to the nations. However, we see that while God will keep His covenant to Israel the people can forfeit their participation in the covenant blessings to a future generation. Furthermore, we see God’s fatherly concern for Israel’s wellbeing as He disciplines His people in hopes of their repentance and return to Him.

Judges 21:25 (cf. 17:6) is in many ways a summation of the entire period of the judges but in an important way it also serves as an argument for what is to come. Would someone read this verse for us? As Judges was written during the beginning of Saul’s reign what argument is this verse making?

It is arguing for the importance and necessity of the monarchy. Everyone did as they saw fit because there was no king. This both reminds Israel of their failures in the conquest, the profound grace of God amidst their apostasy, and the necessity of divinely appointed leadership.

II. Ruth

A. Ruth in Context

The book of Ruth come to us sometime before or during David’s reign and it records events that began during the time of the Judges to the birth of David. While it was written in a similar context to that of Judges is serves two far different function. First, is serves as a rebuke as we see Yahweh working among Gentiles and their faithfulness to Him during a period marked by the apostasy of Israel. Second, it serves as a reminder of God’s covenant faithfulness to fulfill His promises (Genesis 49:8-12).

B. The Narrative of Ruth

Will someone read Ruth 1:1-7?

Naomi then pleads with her two daughter-in-laws asking them to return to their mother’s house and marry. Orpah returns to her people but Ruth stays with Naomi, which is where we will pick up in 1:15-18.
While her character is praised later in the book by Boaz (3:11) here we see a profound statement of her loyalty to both Naomi and to Yahweh. This is a harsh rebuke to Israel that in the midst of their apostasy a
Will someone read that for us? This verse is often read at weddings, and it is a profound statement if loyalty, but what is really said here?

Gentile would chose to commit herself to the people of Israel and their God. Furthermore, it is a reminder that God will bless the nations through the seed of Abraham even in spite of their faithlessness.

Ruth then encounters “a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz” (2:1). This relationship introduces the reoccurring theme of a kinsman-redeemer who “could redeem (1) a family member sold into slavery (Lev. 25:47-49), (2) land which needed to be sold under economic hardship (Lev. 25:23-28), and /or (3) the family name by virtue of a levirate marriage (Deut. 25:5-10).”[64] This theme points Israel back to Yahweh as the redeemer of Israel in Egypt. Boaz redeems Ruth, they marry, and have a son named Obed. Obed is the fathers Jesse, who fathers David the king of Israel.

III. Judges and Ruth as Eschatology

Through Israel’s cycle of rebellion in Judges we are constantly confronted with the need for a king in Israel. Amidst the rebellion God’s faithfulness to His people and refusal to destroy them stands as a tremendous testimony to His commitment to fulfill His promises a commitment which is clearly seen in the book of Ruth. Despite Israel’s failure to be a blessing to the nations we see God calling the nations to Himself in the person of Ruth. Furthermore, it is through this gentile that David is born and we will see the significance of this event in I and II Samuel.

Conclusion

What do these two books teach us about Yahweh and His covenant?

[64]John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2005), 293.

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