Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review: Judges for You: For Reading, for Feeding, for Leading

Judges for You: For Reading, for Feeding, for Leading
Judges for You: For Reading, for Feeding, for Leading by Timothy Keller

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Written in the God’s Word For You series, whose aims for each book is that it be Bible centered, Christ glorifying, relevantly applied, and easily readable, Keller’s Judges For You achieves each admirably.

But seriously. Judges for you? Judges for me? Judges for anyone? This Old Testament book is out of control! Is there anyone it can speak to today? “Judges is not an easy read,” acknowledges Keller, but “living in the times we do, it is an essential one.” It shows us that the Bible is not a ‘Book of Virtues.’ It shows us the gospel.

And here is where Keller can help. I want to say that Keller does three things very well (in keeping with the aims of the series): (1) Clearly unpacks the narrative; (2) Makes penetrating applications into our world today; (3) finds rich connections from Judges into the NT, especially to the person of Christ.

Let me give some examples of all of these.

Keller shows how the deliverers in Judges often achieve victory through weakness. Ehud destroys Eglon because, not in spite of, his handicap and being left-handed. Jesus is our left-handed Savior who saves a left-handed people (1 Cor 1.26-27). The story of Deborah and Jael lead him to talk sex roles in the church (he takes a soft complementarian stance).

In failing to purge the land of idols fully, they have left Canaan a minefield: “Like buried mines, these idols lie dormant in Judges 1, ready to explode in the spiritual lives of God’s people.” Idolatry leads to slavery as Israel becomes enslaved to the very people whose gods they serve.

Gideon’s famous fleece is not grounds to discern God’s will through tests. What Gideon was actually doing was “seeking to understand the nature of God.” To imitate Gideon in our day is “to ask God to give us a big picture of who he is” to which God responds by showing us the fullest expression of his character—Jesus Christ.

The phrase “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” is contrasted with Israel doing “evil in the eyes of the Lord”. Contemporary notions of morality are wrong. It is not true that “only you can define what’s right and wrong for you.” Rather, right and wrong are defined by God himself.

The Samson cycle gives Keller the platform to discuss unequal yokes, and to include a heading entitled “A Lion, a Bet, and a Woman” which from Keller is surely a nod to Narnia!

In chapter 13 he takes up the disturbing way in which Judges ends. The wicked men rape the concubine all night long; her Levite master looks upon her with cold indifference the following morning. After noting that the narrator is showing that the Levite is just as evil as the wicked rapists, Keller asks

Are there ways in which we listen to our culture about how we should view (either treat, or look at) women? In what ways are we in danger of treating women as property, as things?

Then observes:

…we may not have committed such things, but (like the Levite) have failed to prevent them, enabling them through our inaction. We will have all told ourselves and others a better story about ourselves and our conduct than the whole truth would reveal.

By the time this rape crime has descended to full civil war in the nation, and Israel is self-destructing, and the solutions they are coming up with are actually intensifying their problems and darkness, the narrator of Judges has made his point clearly: Israel’s worst enemy was Israel. And today, the Church’s worst enemy is herself. We need a King, a deliverer who can save us from ourselves. We need God himself to be the King, but we need him to deliver us through weakness, through his Son become flesh, through Jesus.

This book is a helpful guide for the person reading through Judges for themselves, and for those seeking to lead others through it the reflection questions interspersed throughout will help facilitate discussion and growth.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher but was not required to write a positive review.

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