Today’s Reading: Judges 19 – 21
I wasn’t aware of how far we had got, but congratulations for getting to the end of Judges – the sixth book in the Bible! Tomorrow we get to start into a different series. We’ve traveled first through the five books of Moses, which were filled with the rules of the covenant binding Israel to God and God to Israel. There were stories of God’s faithfulness and Israel’s failure to really live up to the rules of the covenant. Then came the book of Joshua, where the Israelites entered into the land promised by God and conquest by Israel began. Now we are just finishing with the list of Israel’s failures to continue to be loyal to their promise to God and the continued conquest of Canaan. Consequently Israel has sunk to a lower and lower moral standard. Yet always in the background, God, our loving Father, is working to call Israel back into a close relationship with Himself, but on human efforts alone, this never works!
Now in the last episode we read today, we learn about a Levite, and his efforts to recover his concubine. At first look, it might seem good to repair broken relationships – certainly the father-in-law was happy for it to be so. But I shutter at the callousness of the old man, handing over his virgin daughter and the Levite handing over his concubine to a mob to be raped and abused all night! This is all to ensure, the old man’s hospitality is not violated and the Levite is kept safe! Somehow, as I look at the closest relationships in my life, I see how quickly I can & do drift in that direction, when my own safety is threatened or my own desires are frustrated by those closest to me! What havoc happens when there are struggles in family issues! (And we all are not exempt from it!)
But even greater repercussions happen when the Levite, bent on revenge (?), pulls others into his desire to repay the wrongs done to him. In actual fact, why did he ever give her to mob in the first place, if he wanted to keep her safe?! (Beyond that when does anyone ever think logically or honestly, when consumed with a desire for revenge!) I’m not comfortable with the Levite never coming out and saying what he’s about. Notice he slyly says, “Judge for yourselves what must be done!” God certainly tells the story as it is and doesn’t hide the internal corruptness rooted in our human character!
And so a tribe is almost wiped out. (25,100 of 26,000 swordsmen and probably more people? And only 600 left!). But don’t think that the victors go free either ( 22,000 + 18,000 + 30?). I suspect the lesson in this story and from what I have observed in life is that there are no winners in fights amongst Christians, and if the Lord doesn’t step in, we can cause tremendous harm to people and our Christianity, by our own civil-wars!
But I am comforted that they wake up (so to speak) and become filled with concern for their brothers, who have almost been wiped out! Not sure about the methods they use, but for me the care and concern in planning for the good of their brothers (& sisters!), must be a good thing! I remember from time to time, the verse that calls me to action (Gal. 6:1) to restore a brother or sister taken in a fault, but am brought up short by God’s quiet warning “to restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, each looking to YOURSELF, lest you too be tempted.” And then I understand that to do this work (& any work of God as far as that is concerned), I need to be yoked to my precious Lord Jesus who said, “Take my yoke and LEARN FROM ME, I am gentle and humble in heart…” And I’m glad that He whispers to me, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light!” – For me, maybe the gentle and humble part isn’t so easy because it doesn’t come to me naturally; however, I suspect that the burden part has truly become light, because He has thrown His weight into easing my burden!
It seems to me that the last phrase has started to become a more urgent observation due to the fact that it is being repeated more than once. This phrase shows that there is a foundational fault at work and the chaos results from there being no king but everyone doing whatever is right in their own sight! Sadly, where God was supposed to be their King, He is no longer allowed to function as King! The people have turned away from seeking Him for guidance and fulfillment in their lives. I shutter because I know what happens when my students all do whatever is right in their own sight! How much more with a world of people each bent on doing whatever is right in their own sight! The same will result if we, the people of God, adopt this standard for life! I challenge each of us today to seek God’s guidance and presence in our lives even when others take what should rightfully belong to us. The Bible says ‘Vengeance is mine says the Lord.’ So may it be so in our lives also. God is much better and certainly more fair at taking vengeance! Also let me remind us all that we should never give away what is ours to keep safe! God’s precious gifts to us in children, a spouse and friends all take time, effort and risk to keep safe but under God’s guidance we can keep what He has given to us as ours.