The book of Judges is a wonderfully troubling tale of depravity, and broken promises met with justice and grace. Timothy Keller outstandingly represents the entirety of the story of Judges while drawing necessarily useful conclusions for a modern reader. Keller does not allow Judges to simply be a historical narrative or space filler in a textbook. Instead, he clears the air for the text to breathe life into modern readers who find themselves struggling in a cycle of paralyzing failures.
Keller’s approach rises above a verse-by-verse criticism of the text. Rather, he allows large swaths of the story to logically woo the reader to join the storyline. Judges for You, is not the most alluring title for a book, but it is packed with readily applicable truths found by unpacking God’s response to the people’s continued failures.
Keller explains the Book of Judges as a book of “tension”, the tension between law and grace. This tension is represented in a cycle of sin called “the repeated cycle”, which Keller explains defines the relationship between God and his people during this time. The cycle Keller explains is:
While explaining the futility of this cycle Keller draws obvious correlations for the modern reader. He masterfully explains the hopelessness of disobedience, while taking the reader back to God’s “relentless offer of grace” found throughout each novella.
The term novella is a solid description for the way Keller presents the different terms the Judges served for the people. Each storyline follows the cycle he laid out and each storyline presents the law/grace tension. However, rather than simply duplicating the common cycle present, Keller explores specific details in each story which hold truths that speak to all potential readers. This explains Keller’s position and purpose for Judges for You, this book was written to personalize the scripture and be completely usable by all readers; to be fun yet impactful.
Many might wonder what part a crusty book written thousands of years ago could possibly play on the modern sensibility, and that would be a fair question. The answer lies in the distinct similarity of the human dramas lived out in the book of Judges to those experienced today. In a strange way, the book of Judges offers the reader a chilling glimpse of scenarios that seem all too familiar once the cultural differences are cleared away.
We see real people struggling with real choices and repeatedly falling into generationally damaging cycles. We see people who utilize faith as a life ring that they discover while floundering in the deep waters of poor choices, and poorer responses. We see ourselves.
Keller’s book is so impactful because it personalizes this historical narrative and brings it right to our feet, for careful inspection while tickling the senses of familiarity.
I hope you will take the time to read the book of Judges with fresh eyes, searching for your own story among those represented there. And Keller's Judges for You will help you move beyond the historicity to the eternal truths woven throughout the fabric of this narrative. Enjoy!