Which book could we ascribe with the title of “the most encouraging book of the Bible?” Immediately there are several candidates that come to mind. One might be the book of Revelation, with its constant affirmation of the victory that God’s people will have, even in the face of adversity (Revelation 2:10). Another candidate might be Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, for its continuous message of joy throughout the book (Philippians 4:4). And yet another possibility could be the book of Joshua; showcasing Israel at its spiritual peak, conquering the land of Canaan. However, I believe there is one book that stands tall among all of these possibilities, even though it is the unexpected underdog. I would nominate the book of Judges as the most encouraging book in Scripture.
This may come as a surprise, as we could be tempted to label this book as the most discouraging book of the Bible. After spending 40 years in a tiresome wilderness, the people of God were ready to enter the land of Canaan as it was promised to their ancestors. But before they saw this promise come to fruition, God presented them with a caution in Deuteronomy 6:10-12: And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers…then take care lest you forget the LORD. Upon reception of the coming abundance, they were to be watchful to keep the Lord in their remembrance. However, this warning was not given adequate attention, as the time of Joshua and the conquering of Canaan showed a faithful nation, but the time of the Judges, another type of nation. It is perhaps the most anticlimactic event in Biblical history. God’s people finally gained the abundance they sought after, only for a generation to rise up that knew not the Lord, or the great works He did (Judges 2:10). This led the nation, and the rest of the book of Judges, into a continual spiral of the people sinning, going into captivity, calling on God for help, the Lord rescuing them, and then the cycle repeats.
Why would we declare such a disheartening narrative the most encouraging book of the Bible? Because its message is not just about Israel’s wickedness. That is the element we tend to emphasize the most: the habitual regression of God’s people. Nevertheless, attached to that theme is the incredible patience, mercy and grace of God Almighty. Yes we see Israel sin over and over and over again; but we also see God save and restore them over and over and over again. That is what makes the book so encouraging. It’s dark and depressing atmosphere of a special nation continually allured by sin gives opportunity to show a measurement of just how far God is willing to go to save an ungrateful and disobedient people. You can’t really understand the extent of God’s grace until you see it in action against the most heinous of iniquities. This brings encouragement to a church filled with individuals that love the Lord, yet often make mistakes and fall to temptation, in spite of their love.
Have you ever felt like your sin was too big, terrible or grotesque for God to forgive? Read the book of Judges. Have you ever told yourself, “I have sinned too much, I have made the same mistake over and over again; God really has no reason to put up with my habitual mistakes?” Read the book of Judges. Have you ever imagined God being so angry with your continued rejection of Him that He won’t even listen to your plea for help anymore? Read the book of Judges.
If we keep getting up, even after we stumble, the book of Judges teaches us that God is willing to keep helping us up. This is not an attempt to encourage continuing in sin that grace may abound (Romans 6:1); but it is simply an acknowledgment that, no matter how great or numerous our sins are, grace can abound more (Romans 5:20-21). Repeatedly dipping in and out of sin is the most dangerous type of stumbling a Christian can fall to, no matter what the nature of the sin is. However, it is also the time we most need to be reminded of how far God is willing to go with us. After being caught up in cyclical mistakes, we tend to give up and forget that we have a way out, an advocate with the Father (1John 2:1). If this is you, if you feel too far into your sinful habits that you can’t turn back or that God has given up on you, I strongly encourage you, read the book of Judges.