Wrapped up Judges this morning. What a tough journey it has been. Tougher this year than in past years for some reason. Perhaps because over the past year we’ve had a ringside seat as to what it kind of looks like when “everyone does what’s right in their own eyes.”
And what a gong show — in the worst, most depraved sense — these last chapters have been. Gibeah, a town in Benjamin, has gone full on Sodom and Gomorrah and an innocent woman dies because her “husband” hands her over to a lust-filled, out of control mob. Then in “righteous indignation” he takes her corpse, dismembers it, and sends it throughout Israel evoking national outrage. For all the evil that Israel had fallen into by wedding themselves to the culture around them, Gibeah had crossed the line of whatever the prevailing moral standard of the day had been determined to be.
Then extreme cancel culture kicks in. 400,000 soldiers from the tribes of Israel rise up to go act as judge, jury, and executioner as they purpose to wipe off the map Gibeah and its army of 700 fighting men. But then tribalism rears it’s head. The people of Benjamin muster a combined military force of 26,000 to come to the defense of wicked Gibeah.
Bottom line? Three battles and over 65,000 battlefield deaths later, not only is Gibeah erased from the map, but the entire tribe of Benjamin is decimated.
And the people of Israel had compassion for Benjamin their brother and said, “One tribe is cut off from Israel this day. What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since we have sworn by the LORD that we will not give them any of our daughters for wives?”
(Judges 21:6-7 ESV)
Some remaining consciousness of Jehovah? Good. Compassion for Benjamin? Good. “What shall we do?” Hmm, not so good for a people who are accustomed to doing what’s right in their own eyes.
This sordid tale gets more bizarre as they decide to destroy another city of Israel and “harvest” virgins to be wives for the Benjamin survivors. But that doesn’t fill the quota and so they devise a plan whereby, although they can’t voluntarily “give” their daughters to the men of Benjamin because of an oath, they can set up a scenario whereby the remaining bachelors of Benjamin can forcibly “take” some of their daughters. O’ brother!
Honestly, if I was authoring Christianity, I wouldn’t include any of this in my holy book.
Unless, of course, I wanted to illustrate the depths of depravity and destruction which are the logical, eventual outcome of a people who remove God from their collective conscience and default to everyone doing what is right in their own eyes. Warning, warning, warning!
Like I said, I’m glad my readings in Judges are completed for another year. Hard, hard journey. Too close for comfort as I look out at the trajectory of our prevailing culture. Done! Let’s move on.
For joy comes in the morning. Light shines in the darkness. Beauty comes from ashes. The futility of man’s self-righteousness sets us up for God’s grace and the true righteousness which is from faith and for faith through the gospel.
Even as I wrap up Judges and process these final depressing thoughts, I know that, Lord willing, tomorrow I start in on the book of Ruth — an oasis in the desert of everyone doing what was right in their own eyes. A reminder is coming that God’s redemptive story is not derailed. A foreshadowing with be seen of a Kinsmen-Redeemer who is able, ready, and willing to pay the price to deliver the world from sin and death. The Deliver who is ready to shepherd men and women in a way that is right in their Creator’s eyes — leading them in a manner which enables those created in the image of God to thrive as they follow Him, and not just survive as they rely on their own wisdom.
Can’t wait for tomorrow morning.
Because of God’s grace. Only for God’s glory.