Meditations for Troubled Times
“After him Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel…After him Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel…After him Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel.” (Judges 12:8, 11, 13)
The judges of Israel were those raised up by God to deliver the nation, post-Joshua and pre-Saul. Many of these judges we know very well because so much of the book is devoted to them. In chapters 6-8, 89 verses focus on Gideon. In chapters 11 and 12, it’s 47 for Jephthah and then 109 for Samson. However, in chapter 12:8-15, we have three verses for Ibzan, two for Elon, and three for Abdon. If you were reading straight through Judges in one sitting, you might come to this text and see it as a bummer. We are left wondering, “Where’s the soap opera-like drama found in other portions of this book? Where’s the intrigue and suspense?” There are no swords stuck in bellies or pegs driven into skulls.
I am sure there were plenty of stories to tell, but Judges 12:8-15 is selective. The writer did not want to communicate the specifics. We see the same thing with others in the Scriptures. How about Enoch who Genesis 5:24 says “walked with God and was not”? Or Peter’s wife, whose mother Jesus healed (Mark 1:29-3)? We know little about them, and this is true of Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon. Why are we given such skinny details about these saints? One reason is to remind us that the Bible is not situated around us. It’s not fixated on human interest stories. It’s not anthro-centric, but theo-centric. Yes, we are a part of the overall story God is telling, but we are not the main characters. Instead, the Lord is the focal point. Giving so few details on these three judges is meant to make them fade into the background and bring God and his grace to the forefront. If we are honest, this is the direction our heads need to turn.
Our eyes are consistently fixated on recent protests, racial injustices, and COVID-19 statistics. In addition, individually, we have our own relational struggles, health concerns, and fears of the future. All these things, and much more, understandably garner our attention. However, Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “There is nothing new under the sun.” The problems of today have always been issues. Israel had its fair share of discrimination, disease, and economic downturns. Nevertheless, they are not mentioned in Judges 12:8-15 because our troubles, though they are in our purview, are not to be our focus. Rather, our attention is to be directed to the LORD—his character and work—and especially to Christ. In Mark 15:39, the Roman centurion at the Cross saw how Jesus died and said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” He probably had been present for numerous crucifixions. Yet, there was something about this one that captured his gaze, so that he kept his eyes on Christ as he died. As Jesus breathed his last, nothing distracted this centurion. His focus, at that moment, is instructive for us. We consistently need to look to that green hill far away outside the city walls, where our dear Lord was crucified and died to save us all. As you personally labor to walk the road of faith with the stiff winds of a cursed world blowing against you, don’t take your eyes off Jesus. Nothing in this world is more glorious and more beautiful than our crucified and risen Savior. See Jesus and be helped.