Read Judges 3.
There are two reasons mentioned here as what God was doing with the nation. Pagan people groups lived all around them. First, He was testing them to see if they would reject spiritual corruption and obey His word. Second, this new generation grew up without knowing how to go to war when needed. They had to learn both.
Their moral and spiritual failure of God's tests did not happen overnight. The compromises took place over time, step by step.
Step 1. They lived among the unbelievers.
Step 2. They intermarried with the unbelievers.
Step 3. They served the pagan gods of the other culture.
This, then, began cycle number one in the book.
God was not going to tolerate their disobedience and evil in rejecting Him. So, He brought King Cushan-rishathaim of
Mesopotamia to enslave
them for eight years. The people cried
out to God for help and the LORD raised up a godly national leader. His name was Othniel, the nephew of Caleb. Note that it was not the leadership of Othniel
that delivered them, but "the Spirit of the LORD." The nation experience peace for 40 years.
Cycle number two begins in verse 12.
After 48 years, another generation had grown up who did not desire to live in honor of the LORD. So, God energized King Eglon of
along with a some allies, to conquer and enslave Israel for eighteen years. Then, the people cried out to God for help
and the LORD raised up Ehud to deliver them.
God gave the nation 80 years of peace.
There are four insights here for us.
1. The power of influence. All of us need to be fully aware of our surroundings. God has left believers in this world to influence our culture, not the other way around. Indeed, those who live for Christ will increasingly find themselves living counter to culture. We are "in the world but not of the world."
2. The priority of teaching the next generation. It is our duty, responsibility, and mission to teach the generations behind us what God's word says and how to put it into practice. Otherwise, the consequences of shame, loss, and ultimately enslavement are well documented here.
3. The purpose of accountability. It has never been the plan of God that one should live without accountability. Self-reliance is a recipe for disaster. That is why godly, transparent relationships are crucial to our spiritual growth and maintenance. Close friendships and/or marriage partner, and Bible teaching churches are core elements to the Christian life.
4. The primacy of godly leadership. When people are in need of leadership, the LORD does not raise up a committee. He does not ask for a majority vote. He raises up a godly leader, empowered by His spirit, and appropriately accountable. The book of Judges demonstrates repeatedly that one leader in the power of God can rally and deliver a nation.