The story begins and ends the same.
In the days between, cities are burned and blood is spilled.
Armies circle our people like jackals waiting to witness the final breath of a kingless nation. We have come to recognize the sound of enemy trumpets echoing over the waters of the Jordan and drums filling the valley of Jezreel. The two princes named Chaos and Pride walk our streets by night and are pleased with what we have become—feral, godless, indistinguishable from those we once called our enemies.
Indeed, we bathe in the fires set by our own hands.
Once, in the generations that came before us, our identity was found in the God of Abraham. A covenant was sealed that our people would be a blessing to all the earth.
The soil under our feet was bought with the blood and promises and suffering of our fathers.
And now we trade it all away for a kiss. A coin. A moment we will never be able to keep.
Still, everyone is right in their own eyes.
But not everyone fades quietly into the embers.
God raises Judges to carry the sword of truth in one hand and the sword of death in the other. These men and women stand against the rising tides that will certainly wash them away. Truth is whispered once more, if only for a moment, and then laid to rest. By grace some of these judges never live to see their work unraveled and defiled by a rebellious people.
These are the hours of Samson tearing down a building with his bare hands, thirty sons on thirty donkeys in possession of thirty cities, bulls burning on the altars of Baal. These are the days of Gideon’s fleece wet with dew, Ehud the left-handed assassin, Jael driving a tent peg through the head of an army commander. These are the years of Shamgar and his oxgoad of death, a millstone falling on Abimelech’s head, a concubine cut into twelve pieces and sent to the corners of Israel as a sign of what we have become.
This is the age when everyone is right in their own eyes.
Ash and smoke fill the air, whether from war or sacrifices made to foreign gods, no one can recall. The people parade in the streets demanding a king of flesh and blood, defying the King of light and truth. War is waged for soil and stones because our hearts were long ago conquered.
When the ash settles and the smoke clears, we will ask ourselves whether this is dusk or dawn.