They Did It Their Way
Frank Sinatra sang, “I did it my way.” During the period immediately following the Conquest, “My Way” could easily have been the national anthem for Israel. The author of Judges wrote: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit” (Judg 17:6). Over and over in the period of the Judges, the people disregarded God’s instructions and did things their own way:
- Contrary to what God had commanded (Deut 7:1-6), the Israelites never completely destroyed the Canaanites: “Manasseh did not drive out the people of Beth Shan or Taanach or Dor or Ibleam or Megiddo and their surrounding settlements, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that land. When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely” (Judg 1:27–28).
- “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. They forsook the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the LORD’s anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths” (Judg 2:11–13).
- Abimelek killed seventy of his brothers (Judg 9:5).
- Jephthah made a rash vow and offered his only daughter as a sacrifice (Judg 11:31ff).
- Samson had a serious womanizing problem and a violent temper (Judg 14-16).
- Micah made idols, erected a shrine, and installed his own priesthood (Judg 17:1ff).
- A Levite willingly gave his concubine to be raped and murdered to save his own skin (Judg 19); the other tribes went to war with Benjamin to avenge the poor woman’s death (Judg 20).
The Book of Judges stands as a stark reminder of what happens when people abandon the God of heaven and follow the god of self. May we always carefully follow the word of God and avoid the heartache the Israelites experienced.