JUDGES 5: HOW CAN WE SERVE A GOD PORTRAYED AS A WARRIOR?
WHAT'S WITH ALL THE VIOLENCE?
“So perish all your enemies, O Lord!
But may your friends be like the sun as it rises in its might.” (Judges 5:31 NIV).
Welcome back! In the last devotional I left you with this question: “How are we to understand all this mayhem and violence?” There’s so much blood and gore. Instead of the Israelites being repulsed by the gruesomeness of it, they break out in celebration when their enemies are slaughtered!
This celebration of violence offends our moral sense of right and wrong to rejoice in the death and destruction of anyone, even if they are our enemies. Most people come to the Bible hoping to read about godly, noble and honorable people whose lives inspire and show us the right way to live. But, these heroes in Judges are so flawed that we may find ourselves reeling from the shock of it all.
Are we supposed to be okay with these forms of violence? Like it or not, the writer of Judges shows no awareness or concern of the moral questions we raise. In his rather matter-of-fact approach, the author simply tells the story of how God delivered his people—his focus is on God’s salvation.
While we rest in our leather recliners inside our secure, air-conditioned homes, and sit in our safe padded church pews, it’s hard for us to identify with a people who for 20 years endured “cruel oppression” from the Canaanites (Judges 4:3). Israel’s oppressors, acting like school yard bullies, raped, pillaged, stole, and made life miserable for the Israelites. The Canaanite king, Jabin, and his military general, Sisera, were not exactly Mr. Clean, nor were the Canaanite people. So, they had it coming!
Admittedly, this is not the way Jesus taught us to seek justice, but remember, the events we are reading about in Judges occurred about 1,300 years before Jesus was born. The ancient Israelites did not have the fuller knowledge of God that was later to be revealed in Jesus. So, it may be unfair to judge them by the same standard by which we measure in the Christian era.
Many people believe that God must always be gentle, soft and nice. They don’t want to read about a God whose wrath and judgement blaze out against evil. But Judges unabashedly presents God as a warrior who fights for his people. This concept of a warrior God is not restricted to the Old Testament. New Testament passages like 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 talk about God’s judgement against those who practice evil and the destruction of every force that revolts against him.
Revelation 19:11b says, “With justice [the Lord] judges and makes war.” How are we to square this with Jesus’ command to love, bless and pray for our enemies (Luke 6:26-28)?
Two truths may help us answer this question:
First, let’s remind ourselves that on judgement day justice will be served against all that is evil. God will make all things right. The reality that God has already executed judgement against sin through Jesus’ death on the cross is proof that at the end of time he will completely eradicate all evil.
Second, knowing that God will judge evildoers frees us from the need to take justice into our own hands. Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). We can yearn for God to bring justice, and, at the same time, we can also bless and pray for our enemies (Romans 12:14, 20). Hang in there; don’t let the brutality cause you to stop reading Judges. If you work hard to see these stories through the eyes of the ancient Israelites, you will see why they celebrated God’s saving acts on their behalf.
Lord, you are a God of justice who punishes evil. Thank you that you executed that penalty through Jesus, laying on him the sins of the world. Thank you that through faith in him I don't have to suffer the penalty of eternal death for my sin. Thank you from delivering me from the responsibility to execute judgement on others--I gladly leave that up to you. In Jesus' name, Amen!
Dr. Dan Dozier
Dan Dozier preaches for the Rural Hill Church of Christ in Antioch, TN. Dr. Dozier holds degrees from Lipscomb University, Harding School of Theology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate from Abilene Christian University. He has been married to his high school sweetheart, JaneLee, since 1972. They have three married children and eight grandchildren.