These are times that try men’s souls, but who is the enemy — the greatest enemy — of God’s people?
Perhaps it’s liberal Supreme Court judges and the sexual ethics of secular society. Or maybe it’s ISIS and the looming threat of radical Islam. Perhaps it’s the rapid increase of those that identify religiously as “none.” Or maybe it’s Planned Parenthood and others who advocate for an adult’s right to comfort over a child’s right to life and barbarically snuff out life in the very womb that is for its protection and growth.
As I look, from my limited vantage, around our world today, I don’t know the answer to this question — at least, I don’t know the answer exhaustively. But I do know the answer that the Book of Judges gives, which is the same answer the whole Bible gives. According to Judges, if the people of God want to know who their greatest potential enemy is, they need only do one simple thing: look in the mirror.
The Real Enemy in Judges
In the time of the judges, there were some scary-strong enemies. They oppressed, they pillaged, they raped as they saw fit in their own eyes. And I’m sure if you did some man-on-the-street interviews, you would have heard all sorts of external reasons for their problems. “They have chariots and we don’t,” one Israelite might have said. “They are better fighters on the plains than we are,” says another. Or, “They have better generals, better kings; that’s why we’re not inheriting the land.”
Perhaps the Jerusalem Post of the day even ran headlines telling this tale of woe. But if they did, it would have been superficial reporting. These were notthe deepest issues. The greatest enemies were not external, but internal. And the Book of Judges both shouts and whispers this indictment.
Consider the last sentence in the book. “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges [21:25]; see also Judges 17:5). This is the ancient equivalent of bold, italics, underline, and all caps — an example of the book shouting that the greatest enemy is internal.
Another place is Judges [2:10], which is a key verse in the book. Here the blame is laid on the fact that “there arose another generation . . . who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel.” Again, the foe is internal, not external.
But the book also whispers this message. For example, consider the judge Tola (Judges 10:1–2). He, like another named Shamgar, was a deliverer only mentioned in a verse or two (Judges [3:31]). But unlike Shamgar, who delivers from an external enemy (the Philistines), no enemy is listed that Tola fought. This is because when Tola comes to save, he saves Israel from Israel. And this is why the book, as a whole, concludes with an appendix of sordid stories likely from an earlier time in the book, stories of a greedy priest, a Levite who dismembered his concubine, and a civil war that nearly annihilated one of the tribes. Internal enemies, not external.
The Real Enemy in the Bible
But it’s not only Judges that makes this point, is it? Across covenants and authors — from Abraham, to David, to exile, to the church, to the second coming — the greatest issue is the purity and fidelity of our faith.
Written by Benjamin Vrbicek- Desiring God
Full report at Desiring God