Superheroes certainly hold a popular place in movies and entertainment today. In the second movie of the most recent Batman series, The Dark Knight, Gotham Commissioner James Gordon closes the film with a monologue about Batman. One of the things Gordon says to describe him is that “he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now.” Gordon implies that Batman’s selfless actions and acceptance of undeserving blame stand in sharp contrast to the hero that a city currently hunting Batman deserves. He is the city’s hero, but the only need they have for him at the moment is to be a scapegoat. This is a quote that has been running through my head as I’ve been reading through the book of Judges with the middle school students at Grace.
In this lesson series, the people throughout the book of Judges were presented as heroes, and they were certainly people God used in extraordinary ways. Some of them are even found in the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11! Additionally, these judges were heroes that the Israelites deserved AND needed. The reason for this is simple: we see some pretty ugly sins looming large in many of the judges’ lives (think Gideon in his later years, Jephthah and his daughter, Sampson and the ladies, and so on). These judges are mirroring the Israelites, who have fallen into appalling sin despite God working miraculously in their midst and for their benefit in the not-too-distant past. This is where you can see the cycle that the Israelites were going through: falling into sin, receiving punishment in the form of warfare or captivity, repenting, God raising up a judge to lead, a time of peace, then a return to sin.
In the midst of a book full of graphic violence about people groups we’re not familiar with and sins which look very different in our modern world than they did back then, we might be shocked to see this cycle is something that we easily fall into today! However, we still worship the same loving and just God who worked in these people’s lives and ultimately provided a way to be saved. As we look at some of the more graphic or culturally distant parts of the Old Testament, I challenge you to see how they still can apply to your life and, more importantly, see how the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is at work, even in the Old Testament! While it may be hard to see the book of Judges pointing like an arrow to Jesus, the coming Messiah, the theme is clear: salvation comes from the Lord!
Finally, if names like Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, and Gideon are not familiar to you, I encourage you to check out the book of Judges. It may also be good to check out Pastor Mike’s blog post, God and Mass Killing, from this past February as you work through the book of Judges.
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John Robertson is a graduate of Grace College with a degree in Biblical Studies and is a pastoral resident at Grace. John is new to the Westerville area but was born and raised in nearby Mansfield, Ohio. John looks forward to pursuing a seminary degree sometime in the future and continuing to work in youth ministry. Currently he enjoys being outdoors—hunting, fishing, and disc golfing—but mostly being newly married to his wife, Callie.