The Message of Judges

The book of Judges is quite a hard book, full of both moments of crisis and moments of victory. It contains some well-known people and some horrific stories that are hard to read. It’s one of those books that seems a little bit like it’s come out of an action movie including battles, power struggles with twists and turns along the way. So how do we understand the book of Judges and get to its main message?

This is where IVP step in. IVP have a really helpful set of commentaries (though they don’t call them that) on the Bible called the ‘Bible Speaks Today’. I own a good few of this series and have definitely found them to be helpful in both preparation for sermons and for my own devotional life. The series has three goals in mind;
1. to expound the biblical text with accuracy
2. to relate it to contemporary life, and
3. to be readable.

I think this book ‘The Message of Judges‘ by Michael Wilcock definitely does those three things well (1 and 3 probably a bit more than 2).

Wilcock begins by giving you the big picture, an introduction to the book of Judges. When reading a book like Judges it might be easy to see each element of the story as a stand alone section, but Wilcock highlights the repetition that you see in Judges.

“The careful reader will see that the book of Judges is not just a string of stories, but that a pattern recurs in many of them. Repeatedly God’s people turn away from him, and he responds by mobilising an enemy against them; then they cry to him for mercy, and he responds by sending a rescuer for them.”

One of the things that I like about this book is that Wilcock is honest about how, after studying the book for years and preaching through it multiple times, his mind is still being challenged by it and he still finds it hard to pin down at points. Wilcock helps us see that whilst our attention is drawn to the judges mentioned in the book, ultimately The Judge (God) is in control.

As you walk through the stories of the judges int his book Wilcock draw comparisons and contrasts between these earthly judges, God the Father and Jesus. The book os Judges isn’t neat and so it doesn’t always follow a clear discernible pattern, but Wilcock certainly does a good job at helping you see the big picture. Judges shows you the bleak reality of the human heart and the bright hope of God’s forgiveness, care and love for His people. Wilcock draws that out well.

As it says on the tin, it isn’t a commentary as such. There are plenty of things that the book does well (cultural background, text work, reading Judges Christologically, etc.) but because it is short, just 132 pages, it doesn’t go into a huge amount of depth about other things (historical background, the academic discussions about dating and writing of Judges, etc.). This book will serve any preacher who wants to do a bit more of an in-depth study well, but doesn’t want to tackle the thick books on Judges. It will also serve church members well who want to wrestle with Judges int heir own devotional times.

As I mentioned above, the book has three goals in mind. I think it does goal 1 and 3 well, it would have been helpful to have more application in the book and examples of what we can learn from Judges today and how it should change our lives, challenge our thinking and effect our hearts. Wilcock does a bit of this but a bit more would have improved the book, in my opinion.

The Message of Judges is readable, it isn’t clunky or hard to get through, so you’ll finish it quicker than you expect!

Michael Wilcock was Director of Pastoral Studies at Trinity College, Bristol, and then minister of St Nicholas’ Church, Durham. As well as The Message of Judges he has written the volumes on Luke, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Psalms and Revelation in The Bible Speaks Today series of commentaries.

*** I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not change the way I rate the book. My views are my own. ***

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