For my Old Testament class, we were all assigned a huge group assignment that took about a month to present. As part of the papers due at the end of this presentation, I was assigned a paper on "how my personal relationship with God has changed". Now, I don't know if I am excessively reserves, but I don't like to share my feelings, especially deep feeling, with very many people. And by very many people I mean everyone in the world except for a special few that I can count on one hand. Because of this reluctance to show my feelings, I decided that I would do a more general approach to this paper. While trying not to sound conceited, I can admit that writing papers is not an exceptionally hard venture for me. I love to write and I understand most of the topics covered in school, so papers don't scare me one bit. Right now, I am hoping that writing a nice, well thought out paper will save me from avoiding the actual prompt. Here is my view on how the book of Judges pertains to the life of a Christian.
I have read parts of Judges before this class through the lectionary, so I was aware of the text and some of it’s history. For instance, I knew that the book of Judges was written by Samuel. However, I do find that reading through something with the intention of teaching it does tend to help you pick out some interesting themes in the reading. What I was not prepared for, however, was the amount of in depth discussions produced by my presentation.
One thing that is very prevalent in Judges is the “pattern” of the relationship between God and his people. I found that this relationship is really what sparked most of our conversations, because understanding that relationship is a struggle that all Christians must endure in this murky world of sin and shades of grey. I found that the pattern of sin, repentance, and redemption was very comparable to the story of Christianity as a whole, and to our lives of faith, in both the short and long term.
Humanity was created perfect, without sin, and in the image of God himself. In the garden, we chose to rebel against God and, in doing so, the whole human race plunged both ourselves and our world into sin. Even though we were fallen, God heard the cry of even Adam and Eve, and gave the proto evangel. He promised the deliverer, a judge and saviour. Christ was the fulfilment of that promise, and through him, the world has a means of deliverance.
Each of us is born with original sin into a broken world. God first loves us and reaches to us through the Word. We cry out in repentance and receive the deliverance that Christ won for us through baptism. We then continue on in faith and grace, being sustained by word and sacrament. These are both large views of how the pattern portrayed in Judges applies to us, but I also think that this relates to our everyday struggles.
As Christians, we continually struggle in a war between being sinner and saint, a war that will never end until this earthly life is over. We sin daily, forgetting God or just rebelling against him. In this, we are like the Israelites: forgetting what God has done for us and insisting upon going our own way. Fortunately, our God is a steadfast God that never will abandon us. When we repent, we receive the forgiveness of sins that Christ won and are washed clean. In this way, we live like the Israelites of the Old Testament.
The biggest difference between us and the Israelites, however, is that they were bound by the law. Their covenant was a covenant of human obligation, one that they must earn. Our covenant is in the blood of Christ, acted by Christ, and sustained by Christ. We could not come to God without him first loving us, and we could not earn the salvation without the blood of Christ, and we would soon despair if not held up by the Word and sacrament. In this we are a world different than the Israelites.
This is not to say that we do not have to do anything. Saint James tells us that a faith without works is dead, and if we are saved by grace through faith, then that faith must surely be alive. The problem that we can run into is thinking that God does the first part and then all of the rest is up to us. I think that thinking like that can be exceedingly dangerous, for it puts the weight of our salvation upon our own shoulders. We must remember that our faith is sustained by the Holy Spirit, which does come to us through Word and sacrament. We must stay in the Church, in scripture, to continue to grow as Christians, and the good works will flow out of that. For, if we truly understand how God loves us, and that our neighbors are created in the image of God, how could we stand to watch another suffer?
This was one of the biggest things that Judges made me think of. This train of thought led me down many paths that would be too lengthy to mention here, but I will try to summarize it the best that I can. God never abandoned the Israelites, and he will never abandon us. My faith comes from God, is strengthened by God, and, if I cling to him, I know he will never leave me, regardless of how many times that I wander.