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  • James Stegall

Judges and the Patience of God

A month ago when I wrote to you, I shared from the book of Deuteronomy. I had just finished it on in my journey from Genesis to Revelation and felt a tug on my heart to share about the way God leads us similarly to how he lead Israel through the wilderness. As I made my way through Judges, I began to feel the same tug on my heart that I felt in Deuteronomy, and I have continued to feel it even in the weeks that have passed since I finished it. What stood out to me—and what I want to share about here—is mercy.

I assume that no tomatoes or rotten fruit would be thrown at me if I state that we are all imperfect and deeply flawed. Since the fall in Eden, sin has cut deeply into the heart of humanity. Even since Jesus’ death and resurrection and the miracle of salvation through faith in Him, we see imperfections in our everyday lives. As we rely on the grace of God and walk out our sanctification every day, it can be disheartening and frustrating to see the same sins reappear regularly (which, in the process of sanctification, becomes less and less over time). At different times in my life, I have found myself doubting the mercy of God. Not doubting that it exists and is real, but could God forgive me again? And again? I know Scripture says he is slow to anger, but could he this patient? Judges shines a bright light on this issue.

If you have read Judges, you’ll remember that it seems highly repetitive. This cycle seems to play over and over: Israel follows God, Israel turns from God, God judges Israel, Israel cries out to God for help, God helps Israel by delivering them from their enemies through a judge. This happens repeatedly. And, for what it’s worth, this happens throughout the entire Old Testament. What sticks out to me even more than Israel’s stubbornness, however, is God’s patient mercy. Even though Israel had turned their backs to him repeatedly, he always showed them mercy when they turned their hearts back to him and cried out for help. It defies earthly logic, but maybe that’s the point.

God isn’t like us. He isn’t flawed. Nor is he lacking grace or mercy in any way at any time. He also has “no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). With Judges in view, we have a real, concrete example of God’s mercy in front of us and, if we take the time, we can see ourselves in it. God’s mercy toward Israel is a beacon of hope to all who read it because it shows the nature of the God whom we serve. He is kind, gracious, patient, and willing to forgive. When we stumble and make honest mistakes, even if it feels like the thousandth time, we can look to that beacon just as the ships at sea look at the lighthouses in the dark of night. We can know that God is with us, for us, and will never leave.

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