Learning from Flawed Faith

The book of Judges—what a mess! It starts bad and gets worse and worse, then ends so poorly that it’s awkward to read in public.

Yet God put it in the Book and means it to be for “our instruction” (1 Corinthians 10:11; Romans 15:4). The author of Hebrews even goes so far as to mention Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah in his faith hall of fame (Hebrews 11:32). What are we to do with this?

Tremper Longman and Ray Dillard help us see how Judges is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)—and for pointing to Jesus.

What a collection of human beings in the book of Judges! Strange heroes they are—a reluctant farmer, a prophetess, a left-handed assassin, a bastard bandit, a sex-addicted Nazirite, among others. It is easy at a distance to point out the foibles and failures of the leading characters in this downwardly spiraling story.

But lest we get too proud, Paul reminds us, “That is what some of you were” (1 Corinthians 6:11). With similar mixtures of ignorance, frail obedience, and tangled motives, we, like them, were “washed, sanctified, and justified” by the grace of God. For all of their flaws, we are to learn from their faith. For it was in faith that Gideon, Barak, Jephthah, and Samson “conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised” (Hebrews 11:32–33).

In spite of their failures, their faith was not misplaced. They become a part of that great cloud of witnesses calling for us to persevere and to fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1–2). We too need a champion to fight our battles for us, one raised up by God and invested with his Spirit in full measure; we too need a leader to secure for us the inheritance that God has promised, one who will perfect our faith. (An Introduction to the Old Testament, 143)

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at desiringGod.org and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He has edited several books, including Thinking. Loving. Doing., Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.