“And when the LORD raised them up judges, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way.” Judges 2:18a, 19
The Book of Judges reveals a consistent pattern of behavior among the children of Israel. God’s people would turn from the right way, and God would allow their enemies to oppress them. Then God would raise up a judge, or deliverer, and the people of God would be delivered. When the judge was gone, the people would go back to their disobedience or idolatry, leading to bondage. After a while, they would begin to cry out to God; and He again would send them a leader who would lead them to victory. After that judge died, they would turn away from the Lord, find themselves oppressed, and thus another deliverer was sent.
Thank God for the judges who led them to victory, but one has to wonder why the Israelites never got to the place where they could keep themselves from turning astray. We must admit that we have seen the same pattern of behavior, perhaps in our own lives. As long as a person has someone standing over him and supervising him, he usually stays close to where he ought to be. But as soon as he is on his own, he does not remain faithful.
Leadership is a wonderful thing, and it is a part of God’s plan for helping us grow and mature. However, a part of maturity is learning to supervise ourselves. In training children, we want to bring them to the place where they can be trusted to make the right decisions, whether we are in their presence or not. It is a sad thing when grown men and women, some who have been saved for a long time, never learn to supervise themselves. Like the Israelites of old, they depart from the narrow way as soon as no supervision is present, or when things begin to go well. Only when serious trouble invades their lives do they turn back to God and beg for His intervention. Something is lacking in the spiritual discipline of such a person. We need to cease from our own ways, whether being supervised or not, and learn to walk in the fear of the Lord; for He is always looking over us.