These chapters should come as no surprise, for each proceeding judge encountered greater and greater resistance until the people became so comfortable in their conformity to pagan culture, there was no longer a cry for salvation. God appointed Samson, the lone judge, with no army and no support to disturb His people from their slumber with Philistine life. Even Samson was less than ideal, succumbing himself, only to cry out for salvation at life's end.
Within these chapters the caretakers of the covenant, the Levites, those who should be prodding the perpetuation of the faith, reject their duties and are as confused spiritually as the common man. One tribe has become a new Sodom and the other tribes, while enraged at the behavior of their brothers, have no leadership or wisdom to respond and act appropriately.
Their danger is ours as well and presents a series of warnings for the people of God today.
1. Failure to Lead. We need leaders who extend and perpetuate the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Courageous, aggressive leaders are needed, and not merely among the clergy but among the laity, providing holy examples to family and neighbors. We are always one generation away from abandoning the faith and the development of new generation leadership must always be a priority.
2. Failure to Worship. Worship transforms, but so does wrong worship, and the transformation may not be desirable leading to salvation. Israel is evidence. Their departure from true worship led to moral confusion. Right forms and content are a blessing, but we must participate with right hearts attentive to the words and actions, offering our whole self as a living sacrifice at every opportunity.
3. Failure to be Holy. Giving into the moral climate of Canaan was a constant struggle for Israel and consistently led them down a path of slavery and destruction. Moral laxity and conforming to our culture will lead us down a similar path, abandoning worship and ultimately the faith of our fathers.
During Lent, a story like this reminds us of our own sinfulness, and looking into our heart can often bring despair, but if we look up, like ancient Israel, we can hope because the King is coming.