Children rarely see discipline as an act of mercy. When I was young, I disobeyed my parents enough that when they revoked certain privileges or imposed other consequences, I did not consider what other, worse disciplinary action they could have taken against me. When a parent grounds his or her child for a week and revokes phone privileges for a day, the child rarely considers the discipline merciful. Why? Because children are naturally more distraught over the presence of any consequence than they are considerate of the fact that the consequence could have been ten times worse.
In Judges 3, we see God discipline His people, Israel, but in a merciful way. Their resulting disobedience shows that they did not fully grasp the grace of God in the work of God.
After Israel disobeyed God by not killing off all of the Canaanites He’d commanded them to eliminate, God could have punished His people by wiping them off the face of the earth. He could have sent nations of Gentiles to kill and enslave them immediately. But He didn’t. Why did God handle the disobedience of Israel this way? Scripture tells us, “This was to teach the future generations of the Israelites how to fight in battle, especially those who had not fought before” (Judges 3:2).
Throughout the entire chapter, we see Israel repeatedly disobey God despite His mercy toward them. They find themselves in compromising situations because of their disobedience. They cry out to God, and in His mercy God delivers His people with a judge. Upon their deliverance and freedom from threat, Israel recedes into its patterns of disobedience and sin. This cycle continues throughout the chapter and throughout the book of Judges. Throughout its existence, God made clear to Israel that it was to maintain its purity and its holiness, yet despite His discipline and His mercy, they pursued their wants over God’s wisdom.
All of us are broken in some way. Our sin separates us from God and, apart from the cross, we are enslaved by our idolatry. In Judges, we see Israel’s continued cycle of self-destruction and disobedience. It’s the same cycle we find ourselves in if we do not cling to the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Sometimes the rules and wisdom of God may seem unattractive to us. At times we may be tempted by the wooing of worldly influences and idols like Israel was. In humility, we must maintain a posture of repentance that recognizes the mercy of God present in the commands of God.
Written by Chris Martin