2020-7-19 There Was No King

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          July 19, 2020

“There Was No King”
Judges 21:25

Have you ever been part of a group—especially a group with a charge to accomplish something—that had no leader?  In such a group, there is no one to explain the hoped-for end result and there is no one to teach and encourage the group members as they contribute to the whole.  Whatever the result of such group dysfunction, it cannot be all it could have been or should have been—if the end result amounts to anything at all.  Many who have endured such a group without a leader have cried at the end of the matter, “What a frustrating experience!”

This sad case appears to apply to God’s Old Testament Church in the period of the judges.  Granted, the case is appearance only; Israel had a Leader—the triune God.  Yet, apparently, they acknowledged Him but rarely—and that only when troubled.  This, too, is the case for many a member of God’s New Testament Church down through the centuries.  May the same not be said of us.  Let us hear the Word of God again in this place—and, as a result of our hearing, may the King of kings and Lord of lords have His rightful dominion and sway everywhere, especially in us.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

Our single verse today reflects the time, in God’s redemptive history, of the judges—those figures whom God raised to lead His covenant people for a season.  The period of the judges occurred between the time of the conquest of Canaan (after the Exodus from Egypt, ca. 1450-1250 B. C., depending upon view of the extant data) and the rise of Saul as the first king of Israel (ca. 1040-1000 B. C, again, depending upon view).  During this period of the judges, God’s twelve tribes formed a loose confederation.  There was no consistent, strong central human authority in Israel at the time.  True, again, God was (and is, and ever shall be) King, but His people rarely owned this fact.  This gives rise to the central problem of the period of the judges: God’s covenant people forsake Him to pursue the so-called gods of the people remaining in Canaan[1]

We can demonstrate this time and again in the book of Judges by noting the following recurring pattern.[2]  The LORD’s people do evil by serving other gods, and, consequently, the LORD sends a people to oppress them.[3]  In due time the LORD’s people cry to Him in their distress, and the LORD, in His mercy, raises a deliverer.  Once the LORD raises the deliverer, the oppressor is defeated and God’s people have rest until they once again do evil and serve other gods.  The spiritual condition of God’s covenant people at this time, unsteady at best, further degenerates in chapters 17-21.

The sacred narrator, in the final five chapters of Judges, relates outrageous happenings via his Spirit-led pen—to include idolatry, rape unto murder, warfare, and theft of women, in order that they become parties to forced marriages.  We hear, amid these outrageous happenings in a dark and darkening time, this refrain, “In those days Israel had no king.”  God’s people, forgetting they already had a divine King, sought, and got, a human king—like the surrounding nations.  In so doing, God’s people rejected Him as King (1 Samuel 8:7).  In place of God’s direct leadership, the people got Saul, of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin—who started well and ended very ill.  This would be typical throughout the four centuries of human kings over God’s people—sometimes kingship would be a good thing (as under David, Solomon [mostly], Hezekiah, and Josiah, among a few others), but generally kingship went poorly.

We are tempted to mis-direct this text in our time—and, if we be not careful, we shall mis-direct it.  We would direct it to our nation.  We would say that COVID-19, financial and vocational upheaval, enmities between various peoples and groups, and the like, have come as a judgment of God upon the world.  True, God does pronounce judgment upon the nations, especially through His writing prophets in Scripture, for their sins against Him—chiefly that of mistreating His covenant people.  Yet the Word of God written, the Bible, is for His covenant people, the Church—for us.  This text, therefore, applies even more to the Church than it does to the world.  Therefore, may the Holy Spirit apply this text to our souls.

Let us, the people of God, redeemed by Christ and animated by the Holy Spirit, not do what is right in our own eyes.  We are not left to our own limited, sinful, human devices to make it through this world and live the life pleasing to God.  Let us not make the same mistake that most of God’s Old Testament Church made in the time of the judges.  Let us not lean on our own understanding, but let us trust in the LORD with all our hearts and acknowledge Him in all our ways.  Then He, for His glory and for our good, shall direct our paths (cf. Proverbs 3:5-6).

Let us, rather, do that which God approves and shun that which He disapproves.  This will reveal that we know and love Jesus, our risen, reigning King.  We cannot do this in our own power; we need the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit to do what is right in God’s eyes—and that with consistency.  Let us so walk that the reign of Christ—in our lives and everywhere—may be apparent to all.  This will glorify God, will be of deep satisfaction to us, and will be attractive both to the Church and to such as will be saved from the world into Christ and His Church.  May He have all the praise as we acknowledge our three-in-one God as King.

AMEN.

[1] W. S. LaSor, D. A. Hubbard, and F. W. Bush, Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), 213.

 

[2] Ibid, 215.

 

[3] The word LORD (in all capitals letters) is the usual rendering of the Hebrew Yahweh—the essential name of God, meaning I AM Who I Am or I will be Who I will be, given to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14).