TITLE: Judging Judges
By Linda Lawrence
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The Deceiver used Judges to throw me into the pit. I had been desperate to know more about God, so I started reading the Bible - from the beginning.
From the angle I was reading, it seemed God was immoral. I was reading on my own, no study notes, no commentary. I didn’t know what to do with Abram giving his wife to Pharaoh, Sarai giving her servant to her husband, sodomy in Gomorrah, God telling Abraham to kill his son! Then the convoluted story of Jacob and Esau with God blessing a liar and a cheat really tripped me up. God didn’t look so bad in the story of Joseph, but by the time I finished Moses’ story, I was sick to my stomach. It appeared God thought little of so much bloodshed. Turning water to blood? Killing the firstborn? I didn’t know what to do with all the animal sacrifices. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus. . . God wasn’t even acting like a Christian.
When I got to Judges and stories of God telling His children to wipe out whole tribes, I decided I dare not read any further or I would not be able to even like God, let alone love Him. The Deceiver’s whispers had accomplished his purpose.
It wasn’t a chemical imbalance that threw me into depression, but a heart imbalance, the conviction that although God might be good, evil was stronger than good. What I thought I knew about God had me sinking in despair. The only way I knew to cope was to sleep as much as possible, and when awake, to suppress thinking by losing myself in mindless novels.
But God rescued me from the pit. A friend kept talking about a Bible study she had attended that had caused her to love the Bible. Loving the Bible was hard to imagine but with a pounding heart, I gave God another chance with His story.
Bible Study Fellowship was the hand God used to lift me. Its five fingers held onto me until my feet were firmly grounded and the Holy Spirit’s whispers blocked out those of the Deceiver. That year’s study was on the very books of the Bible I had stumbled over before, but I was led into these books from a different approach. The teaching leader had a gift for explaining what had seemed inexplicable to me. We were sent home with pages of commentary and study helps. I loved being in the weekly discussion group with women of all ages and multiple backgrounds and denominations. I received a phone call each week from the discussion leader, offering to pray for me. We were assigned twenty minutes of homework each day, reading the Bible and writing down insights.
It was while doing the homework I had my first experience of feeling God was causing certain phrases to jump out at me. He was speaking to me, showing me His heart and His plan. He has been faithfully, patiently, straightening out my skewed perspective ever since.
Fast forward twenty years to when I was asked to teach the book of Judges for a women’s Bible study. Truth? The assignment gave me the old stomach ache. But I now knew God is good and God is more powerful than evil. So I asked Him to give me His perspective of the stories as I read those ugly twenty-one chapters.
What God did was bring to my mind a Strength Deployment test I had been given at work to gauge my personal value system. My boss had chuckled at how low I scored on being assertive: 4 on a scale of 1-100. In my personal value system assertiveness was of low value. In fact, I viewed assertiveness as morally wrong. That had been my problem when reading Judges. God was being very assertive with sinful Israel and I had judged God as being morally wrong. He made it very clear to me that I was to line my value system up with His, not expect Him to line up with mine!
He pointed out man’s willful rejection of God’s authority all through the book of Judges. Would I reject His authority also? No! The long-suffering, holy, patient, merciful Judge of all had through the years won my love and my allegiance. I was finally seeing straight.
The Deceiver must have groaned. I had grasped the plumb line and God was on the other end.
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