Some preachers have amazing stories about their first preaching attempt. They clearly communicated God’s Word, the Holy Spirit moved, people responded, and the church unanimously affirmed God’s calling on their life. Good for them. My first attempt was not so stellar.
I was twelve or thirteen, and my dad, who is a pastor, gave me the opportunity to preach a five-minute sermon (what was he thinking?!?). I selected Judges 3:12-30 as my text and delivered a sermon on Ehud and Eglon that I had titled “When Lefty Stabbed Fatty” (a title I had plagiarized from an older pastor). The sermon was little more than an extended joke, with the climax of the sermon coming when I proclaimed, “The King James said the dirt came out, which means he pooped himself!” The church was not impressed, and neither was my father! The sermon was completely devoid of the gospel and revealed I had much to learn about preaching.
As I began a series on the book of Judges recently, I started thinking about that first sermon. There were numerous problems with the sermon and my preaching, but the biggest issue was my failure to proclaim the gospel. I did not point people to Jesus Christ. Looking back, I wonder how I missed the connection. The book of Judges replays this cycle of sin, judgment, cry for help, and deliverance over and over again, like a song stuck on repeat. In spite of the unfaithfulness of the Israelites, God always raised a deliverer to rescue the people. In spite of His grace, the people always fell back into sin and idolatry. It was a vicious cycle. The failure of the judges to provide permanent deliverance for God’s people reveals the need for an ultimate deliverer: Jesus Christ!
In the book of Judges, the men that God raised up to deliver Israel were temporary deliverers and were incapable of dealing with the rampant sin problem. They did not provide an ultimate solution to sinfulness and idolatry of Israel. We have to wait until the New Testament for man’s sin problem to be fully addressed and resolved. In the New Testament, God sent Jesus Christ to provide ultimate deliverance. Through His sinless life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection, Jesus Christ provided the deliverance that the judges in the Old Testament could not provide. All who repent and believe will be saved. As we preach from the book of Judges and examine the various men God used to provide deliverance, let us not become so focused on these temporary deliverers that we forget the One who provides ultimate deliverance: Jesus Christ.
Here are a few ways to move from the book of Judges to Jesus. There are other ways to preach Christ from the book of Judges, but these three suggestions provide a good starting place:
1) Focus on Man’s Sinfulness and the Need for Deliverance – Throughout Judges, the Israelites worshipped idols and disobeyed God. They repeatedly demonstrate the sinfulness and depravity of human beings. As a result of their sin, God punished Israel by allowing other people defeat them. Just like Israel sinned and experienced God’s righteous judgment, people today will experience the righteous judgment of God if they do not repent and believe the gospel. By pointing to human depravity and the justice of God, preachers can highlight man’s sin problem and its consequences and then transition to Christ’s work on the cross to provide deliverance from the penalty and power of sin.
2) Focus on God’s Grace – The book of Judges definitely highlights the grace of God. The people of Israel are stubborn, continually falling into sin. The judges are flawed, often failing to obey God’s clear commands. Nevertheless, God raised up deliverers to rescue Israel. This is a demonstration of the goodness and the grace of God. Likewise, God’s grace is extended to undeserving sinners today. The grace displayed in the book of Judges allows us to move to God’s demonstration of grace in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
3) Focus on the Temporary Nature of the Deliverance Provided by the Judges – God raised up judges to deliver Israel, but the deliverance was never permanent. The people always fell back into idolatry and sin. Their inability to provide permanent deliverance reveals the need for a better deliverer. Jesus Christ is that “better” deliverer. He is the perfect Deliverer! He was the only One who could ultimately defeat sin, and He did this by dying on the cross for our sins. His substitutionary death provides ultimate deliverance from sin for all who repent and believe the gospel.
If you are preaching through Judges, don’t become enamored with the temporary deliverers. Let us preach Christ, the only One who can rescue us from sin and condemnation!