I did this little piece of art in the front cover of a book I was studying. It's in the form of a tattoo and was done in colored pencils.
To tell you about my drawing above and give my wrap-up of Judges, I'll tell you a funny method I've used for memorizing scripture.
One of the very first verses I memorized was Philippians 1:21: For me to live is Christ, to die is gain. But after that I had a lot of trouble memorizing scripture. I decided the problem was that I couldn't remember the numbers. To solve the problem, I decided to memorize all the 1:21 and 21:1 verses in the Bible instead. I mean, it's not like there are any bad verses in the Bible to memorize, right?
He Means What He says and He Says What He Means
The book of Judges is written in a very matter-of-fact style: this happened and then this happened. This form has not endeared this book to me. I want to know how these people were feeling when they made their decisions. What was going through their mind. Were they conflicted? How did they get to where they are in these events? So many questions.
But this methodical rhythm of chronicling Israel's history does make the points of Judges very clear. An obvious one is that God means what He says and says what He means. Although this seems seriously harsh because of the repercussions Israel suffered, it really is good news. For example it reminded me of one of those 21:1 verses I memorized.
The Lord visited Sarah just as he had said he would and did for Sarah what he had promised. - Genesis 21:1
What a profound little verse! You can almost hear the sarcasm in the writers tone. He's sort of rubbing it in that God made a promise and, oh, look at that, He kept it. So even if we doubt Him or try to take things into our own hands, God still means what He says. It tells me I can hold Him to it. I can count on all those promises He's made me for an abundant life.
God had an abundant life in mind for Israel. You can go back to when He explained how tremendously great things could be now that they were no longer enslaved in Egypt and His very chosen people:
Look! I have set before you today life and prosperity on the one hand, and death and disaster on the other. What I am commanding you today is to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to obey his commandments, his statutes, and his ordinances. Then you will live and become numerous and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are about to possess. - Deuteronomy 30:15-16
Wow! Life, prosperity, numerous, and blessed. Doesn't seem like a hard choice, huh? Just love Him, pursue Him, and Obey Him. That's it, right?
Guard Your Heart
So, given this clear three-step process for an abundant life, how is it that so few, like Hannah and Samuel, end up making the choice for life when so many in Israel didn't? A verse I learned recently about life is Proverbs 4:23:
Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. - Proverbs 4:23, NASB
Maybe Hannah and Samuel were diligent to protect their heart. Maybe they knew if they were going to protect their love for the Lord, they would be attacked in their heart. Samson certainly didn't protect his heart.
I know my heart has been ransacked by those I've loved who don't promise me life. I've pursued those who don't mean what they say or keep their promises and found myself empty afterward. And I've obeyed my own desires, leaving my heart vulnerable to fear and drought.
The results truly are disastrous.
So treasure God's love in your heart. Guard it with diligence and you can count on God when He says, "You will live."