In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.Judges 21:25 NIV
The period of the judges came between the conquest of the land and the establishment of the monarchy. During this time, Israel had no central authority. And during this time, the people continually turned away from the Lord to worship the other gods of the land. When they did, God would allow neighboring peoples to oppress them. The people would cry out to God for help, and he would raise up for them a judge who would deliver them and then rule for a while. But the judges only had regional authority and did not always lead the people back to God.
The author of Judges seems to attribute the troubles of this period to two related causes. The primary one was that there was no central authority, no king. This is mentioned four times in Judges. And the second cause, resulting from the first, was anarchy; everyone did as they saw fit. As you read further into the history of Israel, you find that having a king did not always result in the people serving God. But when the king’s heart was right with God, the people seemed to follow his example.
All too often today, as individuals and churches, we follow the example of Israel during the period of the judges. While we have a king, Jesus, and his inspired and authoritative word to guide us, we often ignore his rule in our lives and do as we see fit. We may well give lip service to him. But we live the way we want to, enjoying the pleasures of this world, and mostly indifferent to the instruction he gives in his word. Is it any wonder we are weak and ineffective in carrying out the Great Commission that Jesus left us with?