Judges 21:25

In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes. (NRSV) The book of Judges picks up from where Joshua left off: in Joshua we read about the invasion of the Promised Land, pitched battles for Jericho, Ai and other cites, dividing the land among the tribes and settling in. Judges 2:16-19 is the book in a nutshell: God provides a leader (Deborah, Gideon, Samson, and many others) who guides the people to follow God’s ways; when the leader dies, the people cease to follow God’s ways; God provides a new leader and the cycle repeats. Time and again the Bible says that when the people had no leader, everyone did “what was right” in their own eyes. But 21.25, the last verse of the last chapter, is different. Let’s go through that verse:

  • In those days
    • The author refers to a prior time, not the present time, as if to say “back when we were not as advanced as we are today.”
  • There was no king in Israel
    • Israel didn’t have a leader. It had been proven time and again that Israel needed a governor to rule and guide them, and now they had no one.
  • All the people
      • Everyone, no exceptions.
  • Did what was right
    • They were doing the right things, and that was a huge improvement over what they had been doing before.
  • In their own eyes
    • But everyone was doing what they wanted to do.

Everyone in Israel was finally doing the right thing which God had been training them to do for a couple of centuries. However, there was no leader or king to guide everyone so that they were working together for a common goal. Instead, everyone was working for their own purposes and not for the best interests of the country. For the lack of a leader, the nation went in a million different directions, all of them good. A good leader can help his or her staff and followers pull together so that they are unified in rowing the ship toward the same horizon. If everyone is rowing in different directions at different times, then the ship is going in circles. The ship is moving; it’s just not going anywhere. A ship is meant to sail on the high seas with the work being done by the sailors who are led by the captain. Organizations, including churches, are meant to be intrepid and taking risks under a leader who uses his or her people wisely. I implore leaders to be leaders, to guide wisely, and to unify followers in a common goal.

Lead On!