Reading the Bible’s Overlooked Stories – September 7, 2017

Now these things happened to them as examples, and they were written down as instruction for us, on whom the end of the ages has come (1 Corinthians 10:11).

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met anyone who said Judges was their favorite book in the Bible. To some extent, this lack of affection results from the book’s gruesome violence, its attention to sordid details, and its seeming abundance of obscure historical figures. Judges is simply not the most uplifting book in the canon. On the contrary, it could compete with the book of Job as the most spiritually grueling book in the Bible!

Yet I would argue the greatest hindrance to appreciating Judges remains our lack of familiarity. Apart from hearing the occasional lesson on Gideon or Samson, even those of us who grew up attending Sunday School, have rarely, if ever, studied in-depth the exploits of characters like Othniel, Ehud, Abimelek, or Jephthah. Since many of the stories are not appropriate for children, they are understandably passed over. But even adults are tempted to ignore or overlook this pivotal book. The Revised Common Lectionary, for example, a resource used by many denominations to structure their worship and to determine their Bible readings, only contains one reference to the book (Judges 4).

While we still might not view Judges as our go-to book for spiritual encouragement, we neglect portions of God’s Word to our detriment. God gave us the Bible—all 66 books— “as instruction for us.” As Paul says elsewhere, “All Scripture is God-breathed and useful…” (2 Timothy 3:16a). Consequently, there are no accidental or tangential parts of the Bible, and there are no passages God has authorized us to overlook.

So how can we approach these parts of the Bible that are so unfamiliar and that so often disturb our modern sensibilities?

1) Remember Judges was a part of the only Bible Jesus ever read. Jesus learned from this book, and so can we.
2) Appreciate the variety of ways in which Scripture teaches. Sometimes we learn by reading what to do; other times we learn by reading what not to do.
3) Show humble reverence for God’s Word by being open to the Holy Spirit’s transforming influence in your heart. Let Scripture set the agenda and provide the answers.
4) Look for ways in which the passage is pointing to our need for salvation through Christ crucified and risen.

We don’t have to claim Judges as our favorite book. We do need to be willing to hear what God has to say to us through it. May we listen, and may Christ—to whom all Scripture points—continue to be exalted through our reading.

Your Pastor,