When we left the Israelites, they were languishing under the hand of Midian. Israel suffered oppression from the enemy because they had forsaken the Lord and gone after other gods. Therefore the Lord had summoned the Midianites, who encamped against Israel and ruined the yield of the earth. The Israelites took to the mountains and made dens and strongholds to escape from the Midianites, and they cried out to the Lord in their distress (Judg. 6:1-6).
Yet the people did not understand the real problem. They had “felt needs”: They lacked grain, oil, wine, and livestock. But they did not feel the real need: the need for the forgiveness of sins because they had offended against the Lord. When the people cried out, the Lord sent a prophet to reproach them (Judg. 6:7-10). Through the prophet, the Lord detailed what he had done in rescuing the people from Egypt, and recounted his command not to fear the gods of the peoples of the land. And then he gave the charge: “But you have not listened to my voice.” In other words, the problem is not that you lack food. The problem is that you have ceased to listen to my Word.
Some would call the prophet “loveless.” “Here are a bunch of hurting Israelites in need, and he comes and kicks them while they’re down. Is that how a minister of the Word ought to act?” Yet what should he do instead? Should he ignore the root of the problem and give them all warm hugs? Should he say, “There, there. I know life is hard, but the Lord is watching over you and there are better days ahead”? Does not love require that he give them the Word they need, especially since he was tasked by the Lord to do so?
By analogy, is it “loveless” when a doctor picks up a scalpel and cuts into a patient who’s already languishing? Not when the goal is to cure the patient. The most loving thing the doctor could do when an operation is necessary is to put the patient under the knife. In like fashion, the Lord put his people under the knife and cut them to the heart with his reproach. The Lord through his prophet was truly loving the people. You can read more about reproach in the previous installment of the Judges commentary.
The prophet issued the reproach, and his words were left ringing in our ears. There was no recorded lament of the people. There was no ensuing promise of a savior. The reproach was followed by silence, which is what the preaching of the Law does: “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God” (Rom. 3:19).
The first thing we hear in the book of Judges after the Lord has issued his reproach is that he set to the business of raising up a savior for the people.
“He will not always contest,
and he will not keep wrath forever.
Not according to our sins does he act toward us,
and not according to our iniquities does he deal with us” (Ps. 103:9-10)
“But God shows his love for us
in that while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
Judges 6:11 And the angel of Yahweh came and sat under the terebinth which is in Ophrah, which belongs to Joash the Abiezrite. And Gideon his son was threshing wheat in the winepress to make it escape the notice of Midian…
After taking a hiatus from this Judges commentary, I intend now to return to it with new installments every other week (the next one sooner than that), if the Lord wills.