18 Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them.
19 But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.
In the absence of Moses and Joshua, God raised up judges. These were special leaders of wisdom and godliness with the ability to turn the people from their evil, and to save them from the evil of oppression.
True to fallen human nature, Israel would rebel once again if there was nobody to lead them in wisdom to keep them in check. Very few people had it in themselves to keep them self on the straight and narrow.
Our challenge is to keep to the right path even when nobody is watching us or forcing us to obey God. This is one way to know if you have the Spirit - if you keep the pressure on yourself to be faithful when nobody else does.