Times were dark for Israel and there was a reason for it. We’re told by the writer of Judges that, “another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel,” (2:10). Their problem wasn’t a lack of information; it was a lack of appreciation. The nation had been given all kinds of tools to aid them in learning and remembering (the Passover and other feasts, memorial stones, the Scripture, etc.), so it won’t do to say that they were ignorant because they weren’t. But you can be knowledgeable and unappreciative and that seems to fit their situation. And where there is no appreciation there will be no transformation and that’s exactly where the nation was.
Having rejected God, they were left to their own enlightenment and soon afterwards the Baals and Ashtorehs began showing up. As a result of their apathy toward God and truth, they had allowed themselves to be pushed through the world’s mold (Romans 12:2), and “their foolish hearts were darkened,” (1:21). We snicker at their ignorance—worshipping “gods” they had created with their own hands. But truthfully—how well has our enlightenment worked out?
Our culture has been in the process for some time of turning away from God’s wisdom to our own ideas and values. What assessment can we make? Millions of the unborn would say it isn’t working out too well because in our rush to entitle everybody and everything, we somehow overlooked the ones who were the most vulnerable and needed the most protection. We decided that sex before marriage and outside of marriage were okay and coupled with divorce for any reason, we have created a burgeoning sub-culture of single parent families living in poverty with a lowered immunity to all of the struggles and challenges families face under the best of circumstances. And rather than focus all of our energies and resources on healing these gaping wounds, we have the hubris to do what no civilization ever dreamed of doing and entitle another yet another group of people because we have a better idea of what marriage should be than the One who created us. The truth is that for all of our twenty-first century sophistication, our Baals and Ashtorehs don’t look any better—just more modern.
During these wilderness years, God raised up brave men and women like Deborah, Barak, Jael, Gideon, Samson, and others. They were hardly perfect people. In fact, they had a lot of rough edges. Barak was stubborn, Samson had a problem with lust, Gideon required a lot of convincing, etc. But they were people of faith who stood for God during difficult times. They stood against the cultural currents and helped Israel survive and move toward the better days that would come under David and Solomon.
It’s still better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.