When I was a college professor, occasionally I’d catch a student cheating (which by the way is increasingly difficult to get away with given all the internet tools teacher have at their disposal). When I’d confront them, I was always interested in their response. Some would flat out deny it, hoping to evade the accusation. Many times, they’d continue to deny it even when presented with hard facts! I was not so impressed with students like that. There was another type of student though, that I was impressed with - the students that contacted me and confessed they’d cheated before I even discovered it. That shows God at work in their character.
Israel in the book of Judges was like the first group of students – no repentance, no willingness to admit any guilt. Stubborn and stuck in the web of their sin.
That’s why it surprises me that in the book of Judges God repeatedly (7 times!) comes to Israel’s rescue – even when they don’t repent, confess, or show the slightest signs of remorse – they merely “cry out for help.” God does not always wait for us to repent before he delivers us out of trouble. God was pursuing them on their worst day.
Why does God rush in and provide deliverance when Israel merely cries out for help – offering no true repentance, no remorse, no contrition, no vow to never go back to their former ways?
Because of his character.
Years before, after Moses had broken the first set of the Ten Commandments in anger over Israel’s sin at the golden calf, God told him to return to Sinai for another set of commandments. Talk about a super awkward moment – Moses faces God because he had smashed the first and only set of commandments that God wrote down. But how does God respond? Just when we expect God’s anger to appear, He introduces himself like this:
6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Ex. 34).
“A God merciful and gracious” – that’s what you want to hear when you are standing before God, just having broken the first and only set of commandments that he had ever engraved for humanity.
We see that aspect of God’s character in Judges. Even though Israel never repents, God rushes in to deliver Israel from the very oppressors that their disobedience created for them.
Now that’s Amazing Grace!