This evening we move in
thought into the Book of Judges - and how very different
it is from the Book of Joshua! I think the Book of Judges
is the most terrible book in the Bible! And why is it
such a terrible book? Because it is the book of the
In the Book of Joshua the people of Israel went into the
land, and had a wonderful history of victory after
victory, moving more and more into God's full purpose.
Then, before they had finished the work, they settled
down. In the last chapters of the Book of Joshua we see
the people just settling down before the work is perfect.
They had heard the great call of God. God's purpose had
been presented to them and they had made a response to
it. They had moved so far, and then, before it was all
finished, they settled down. The Book of Judges follows,
and that is the book of the tragedy of the unfinished
None of us will say that there is nothing like that in
Christianity today! There are many Christians who make a
wonderful beginning. They see the vision of God's great
purpose, and certain words in the New Testament make a
great appeal to them, such as: "Called according to
his purpose" (Romans 8:28). That is a wonderful
vision! "According to the eternal purpose which he
purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ephesians 3:11).
Such a thought makes a great appeal to these people and
they make a heart response. They go on so far, and then
many stop too soon. They lose the vision; they lose the
inspiration; they lose the sense of purpose; they lose
the energy to go on, and of some we have to say:
'Something has gone out of their faces. What was there
with them once is not there now. They were so positive
once, so occupied with the heavenly calling, but
something has happened.' These people may not be
altogether conscious of it, and they would not tell you
that something has happened, but it is quite evident that
something has happened. They have just lost
something, and you do not get the response now from them
that you once got. They are not so interested now as they
were. The heavenly vision has gone out of their lives.
That is true of many Christians, and it could be true of
all of us.
And the Book of Judges is our instructor in this matter.
What I say now is not in judgment - although it is from
the Book of Judges! I have a very great deal of
sympathy with these people. Oh yes, I know how wrong it
was, and how this book spelt the failure of these people.
I know how sorry the Lord was about it, but from my own
experience I cannot help being sympathetic, for I think I
In The Battle
Why did these people
stop short of finishing the job? I think that very likely
it was because they became weary in well doing. The
battle was long drawn out. It was spread over years and
was very exhausting. No sooner had they gained one
victory than they had to start fighting again. They did
not have much rest between one battle and the next one.
It was a long drawn-out warfare; they got weary in
battle, and in their weariness they lost the vision, they
lost heart, and they lost the initiative.
I am so glad that with all the strong things that the New
Testament says, it says some very kind and understanding
things about this: "Let us not be weary in
well-doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint
not" (Galatians 6:9); "Wherefore, my beloved
brethren, ... your labour is not vain in the Lord"
(1 Corinthians 15:58); "God is not unrighteous to
forget your work and labour of love" (Hebrews 6:10).
What a lot of things there are like that! And Jesus said
to His disciples, who were being brought into the battle:
"Let not your heart be troubled!" (John 14:1),
while we can hear the Lord's words to Joshua: "Be
strong and of a good courage; be not affrighted, neither
be thou dismayed" (Joshua 1:9). Again, the Lord
Jesus said to His disciples: "He that endureth to
the end, the same shall be saved" (Matthew
These people in the Book of Judges were discouraged by
weariness - and we are all capable of that! Sometimes it
is not easy for us to give up - or perhaps I ought to say
that it is not difficult for us to give up! -
because we do not want to get out of the battle, and yet,
at the same time, we do want to get out of it. The battle
is inside, and even so great a man as the Apostle Paul
had that battle. He said: 'I really do not know what to
do! I have a strong desire to depart and be with the Lord
in order to get out of the battle, and yet I know that
duty to the Lord would keep me in the battle. I do not
know whether to give up or to go on!' I say that that is
a possible temptation to every Christian, and the Lord
knows all about that! The New Testament is full of
understanding things about it.
The first reason why these people settled down too soon,
then, was discouragement. It was not because they had had
no victories - they had had many - but because they said:
'There is no end to this battle! It looks as though we
shall never finish!' So in weariness and
discouragement they settled down too soon.
I feel sure that this Book of Judges recognizes that.
Every time these people stirred themselves again they
found that the Lord was very ready to go on with them.
This book is a picture of an up-and-down Christian life.
One day these people are down in despair, and another day
they are up in victory. It was that kind of Christian
life which was always up and down, but when they turned
their faces to the Lord they found that He was waiting
for them. The Lord had not given up. He was always ready
to go on. I think that is the first great lesson in this
Book of the Judges.
Loss of Heavenly Vision
But what was the effect
of this loss, of this stopping too soon? It was the loss
of vision. They only saw the things that were near and
lost sight of God's eternal purpose. They lost sight of
what Paul calls the "prize of the on-high
calling" (Philippians 3:14). Now this sounds like a
contradiction, but they lost sight of the things that are
not seen! You say: 'What do you mean by that? That is
nonsense! How can you see the things that are not seen?'
Paul says: "The things which are seen are temporal,
but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2
Corinthians 4:18). They lost sight of the things which
are eternal because they were looking too much at the
things which are seen. They lost the heavenly vision for
they became satisfied too soon. It was all good so far,
but the good became the enemy of the best.
The first thing that happened, then, was the loss of the
heavenly vision. It works both ways. If we lose the
heavenly vision we settle down too soon. If we settle
down too soon we lose the heavenly vision. And what do we
mean by settling down too soon? We mean: losing the
warring spirit. In this Book of Judges the Philistines
resorted to a very subtle strategy: they took all the
weapons of war away from Israel, and all that they had
left was one file to sharpen their agricultural
instruments, so that every farmer in Israel had to take a
journey to the blacksmith to sharpen his farm
instruments. All the sharp instruments had been taken
away and the spirit of war was undermined. The
Philistines had made it impossible for Israel to fight
and you know that there is a very big Philistine about!
The strategy of this great enemy of the inheritance is to
take the fighting spirit out of us. Oh, what a lot of
mischief the Philistines have done to Christians! What
about our prayer life? There was a time when we were
mighty warriors in prayer. We fought the Lord's battles
in prayer. What about our prayer meetings? Where can you
find the prayer meetings now that are out in spiritual
warfare? Yes, we ask the Lord for a hundred and one
things, but we do not battle through to victory on some
situation. There is some life in terrible bondage, there
is some servant of the Lord having a hard time, and there
are many other calls for battle, but where are the prayer
groups who take up these issues and will not give up
until they are settled? The warring spirit has gone out
from so much of the Church. That is a clever strategy of
the devil! Lose the spirit of spiritual battle and you
will stop short of finishing the work.
Spirit of the World
The next thing that
caused these people to settle down too soon was the
spirit of the world getting in amongst them. What is the
spirit of the world? It is the spirit of: Have a good
time! Let us have a good time! Let us eat and drink, for
tomorrow we die! And these people of Israel looked at the
world around them and, if I understand it rightly, they
said: 'These people do not have all the hard time that we
do. Our life is a life of continual battle. They do not
know so much about that, but they believe in having a
good time.' I think that is how it was at this particular
Of course, up to this
time Israel had given the people round about a bad time!
But Israel had lost the fighting spirit now, and the
world was having a good time because the Church was no
longer fighting it. Instead of fighting the world they
made friends with the world. They made the world their
friends, and so they did not finish the work. Compromise
is a dangerous thing to the inheritance! Trying to be on
good terms with the world and having an easy time will
result in our losing a large part of the inheritance.
the Fighting Spirit
But let us finish on a
better note. As I said before, God did not give up, and
whenever the people took up the battle again and turned
again on the Lord's side to fight the enemy, they found
the Lord waiting for them. So we have the story of
Deborah, the story of Gideon - and dare I mention Samson?
However, although Samson was a poor sort of man, if only
the Lord gets a poor chance, He will take it. You may not
think much of Samson - but do you think better of
yourself? We are all poor creatures! We have all been
discouraged, we have all been tempted to give up, we have
all stopped too soon, we have all been weary in
well-doing, but take the sword of the Spirit again! Take
up the battle again, and you will find the Lord is ready
and waiting for you.
Gideon - Deborah - Samson - and all the others. But I
think there is one who is better than them all - do you
remember that beautiful little Book of Ruth? Everybody is
charmed with that book! What a lovely book of spiritual
recovery it is! What a picture of the Lord's patience,
the Lord's readiness to take advantage of every
opportunity! How does that book begin? "And it came
to pass in the days when the judges judged..." The
Book of Ruth was in the times of the Judges, which until
then was the most terrible time in history of Israel, but
God was ready to change the whole picture. There are the
two different pictures: the Judges and Ruth, but both
were in the same period. Do you see what I am trying to
Dear friends, we are in a great battle, and it is long
drawn out. We can get very weary in the fight. We can
become discouraged and give up too soon. We may have to
stop before the work is finished. That is always our
temptation, the tragic possibility in the Christian life,
but the Lord does not give up. He does not faint, nor is
He discouraged, and if we will turn again to Him, rise up
again, recover our fighting spirit and continue to fight
the good fight, we shall find the Lord is ready every
time, and He is always wanting to help us to fight to the
end. He will help till the day is done!
First published in "A Witness and A Testimony"
magazine, Nov-Dec 1969, Vol 47-6