Judges 17:1-18:31, John 3:1-21, Psalms 104:1-23, Proverbs 14:20-21
Today is the 4th day of the month of May welcome to the Daily Audio Bible Brian. It is wonderful to be here with you today as we move into our first full week of this brand-new month, the fifth month of the year. And we…we have been taking a journey through the book of Judges. And simply by way of reminder, you know, we…we’ve followed the journey of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and then Joseph in slavery in Egypt and wandering in the wilderness and finally we got to Joshua and crossed the Jordan River and the settling of the Promised Land. And judges is the story of the several centuries that followed Joshua and the way in which the people without a like…like a supreme leader, they did what they thought was right in their own eyes, which has definitely created a different way of doing things and we see the children of Israel back and forth and back and forth with God and with their enemies and those surrounding them. And today we get to a rather troubling story. We’re reading from the New Living Translation this week. Judges, chapters 19 and 20 today.
Okay. What a troubling, disconcerting, horrible convoluted mess of a story we have going on in the book of Judges today. Really, at least in my opinion, one of the most horrific stories that we could find in the Bible and this is a story that’s really old, thousands of years old. So, like trying to read it through modern lenses makes it even more convoluted. So, we have like to set that aside for a second and go back in time and try to move through this story to make any kind of sense of it. We have this man who lives in the remote Hill country of Ephraim who makes his way to Bethlehem and meets a concubine, takes a concubine, a secondary wife or a common-law wife. Like, this is about as close as we could…could get. And we can look at that go, “yeah, not so much because that’s not really in the cultures that we live in although it’s in the world.” But, like I said, we have to like, set aside our 3000 year in the future judgment against an ancient culture and just go, “this is the story. Like, this is what…I’m not judging it with 3000 more years of history in a completely different culture in a completely different part of the world. I’m just looking at the story.” So, this was common in this time. So, he has a concubine, brings her home. Things don’t work out. She leaves, she returns to Bethel have. Four months later, he follows her to Bethlehem to renew the relationship to reconcile. The woman’s father welcomes him. They spend days eating and drinking and visiting and getting reacquainted together then they’re ready to leave and she’s ready to leave with him, but the father, right, the guys father-in-law basically, he’s like, “stay another day…stay another day” and he keeps doing this until finally, even though they had planned to leave a couple days ago and even though they had planned to leave first thing in the morning they end up leaving a few days later in the evening like as the day is well underway. And, so, they leave Bethlehem, they get past Jebus, which is Jerusalem, that’s 6 miles and then they go another few miles to Gibeah because they want to stay in an Israelite controlled town. And I don’t have to retell this blow-by-blow, we just we just read it. They are taken in by an older man who happens to be from the same kind of area in Ephraim that this original man is from. So, they have this going on and they go to his house. The house is surrounded. All kinds of nastiness is about to take place. It’s very, very reminiscent of some of the depictions of the story in Sodom and Gomorrah, which is an ancient story by this time. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah goes all the way back to Abraham’s time, so we’re well into the future but there are similarities here. They want the guest. They want the man, the man from Ephraim, they want him to be sent out so that…well…probably…as he claims later, so that they can kill him, but it seems as if they wanted to do other things before they killed him. So, as it turns out the concubine that had left in the first place, she’s shoved out the door and over the course of the rest of the evening raped to death, which is shocking. And we find this in the Bible and it’s like some of these other stories where we’re like, “wait a second. This is the Bible. What is going on? Where is God in this story?” So, let’s pause for a second and just ask that question. “Where is God in this story?” Because up to this point in the story we would be hard-pressed to find Him anywhere in this story. None of the things that are happening in this story were commanded by God. He wasn’t involved in any way. The man met a concubine. He took her. He took her home. She left him. He followed her. Like there’s no angels in this story telling anybody what to do. They reconcile. They leave. Why didn’t they leave in the morning? Why didn’t they leave in the morning when they could get all the way home? God didn’t tell them to stay. The woman’s father compelled them to stay, even days longer than they had planned to stay. Where’s God? Like why is this His fault? This is what we do in these kinds of stories and try to go, “I don’t understand this, but it’s very disruptive and troubling, and it’s in the Bible so this has gotta be God’s fault.” And yet He’s not telling anybody to do anything. The story that we began today begins by informing us that in those times Israel had no king. So, it’s like as the story’s beginning, we’re being kind of told, “this is a crazy time. This is a very unsettled time.” And we are told over and over in the book of Judges, “everybody does what’s right in their own eyes.” And, so, what we have unfolding before us in this story isn’t some horrific things that have happened at God’s instructions. What we’re seeing is what it looks like when people do what they think is right in their own eyes. And we can be…I mean…like the story goes on, that the man takes the woman’s body and cuts her up and sends pieces of her to all the 12 tribes of Israel. Like it’s a gruesome kind of story, but it certainly got the attention of all the 12 tribes who assembled together. So, we can look at the story and go, “This is a horrific story and I don’t know how I have to feel towards God. And how can…what kind of weird time did these people live in? And how could they let people get away with something like this?” But that isn’t the story. As these gruesome parts of this woman’s body are sent around the nation, the nation assembles together with a massive outcry against injustice, literally saying nothing…nothing…like nothing this horrible has happened in Israel and they assemble 400,000 people against 25,000 people and they’re demanding of the Benjaminite’s, “give us the perpetrators. They need to be executed for what they did.” So, less we think like this is just permitted, like this kind of behavior is permitted, even in ancient culture, there is a massive outcry against this. So, the other tribes go to Bethel where the Ark of the covenant is. This is where we’re for the first time hearing here of God in this in this story and He’s telling them that they have…that they have to go and attack Benjamin like that justice has to be pursued here. And they do. And Benjamin is a victorious and over 20,000 people die. And, so, they’re back in Bethel going, “what did we do wrong? What do we do? Do we keep going?” And the Lord’s like, “attack them again.” So, like, even though they lost, God is saying, “no. Continue to press. Like press in toward justice here.” And they do and they lose again. And they go back to the Lord and the Lord’s like, “press in again” they will be delivered into your hands tomorrow.” And, so, like in all of this battle and stuff, in all this anarchy of the whole thing there’s still a beat in between here. Like repentance can happen in all of this destruction, but it isn’t meant to be. The Benjaminite’s remain rebellious in this situation, and as it turns out are utterly destroyed. We leave the story today with 600 people left in Benjamin. Like an entire tribe of Israel through Civil War because of the violent horrific unthinkable crime has basically made the 12 tribes of Israel 11 tribes of Israel. As we continue this story through tomorrow and then, even as this, the reverberations of this story kind of bounce their way all the way until we get into the times of the Kings, we’ll see that even a horrific story like this one does turn its arc toward repentance, towards restoration, towards some kind of hope. But are we left with to contemplate today in such…such a troubling story? The first thing that we can say is that God didn’t ask for this story to ever take place. One of the major things that the book of Judges shows us because it says it all the time is that there was no king, like there was no supreme leader and everybody was doing their own thing. So, one of things that we can say is that this is what that looks like. Then if we backtrack that into our own lives we realize that following our own way, doing whatever it is that seems to be the right thing in the moment, whatever, can lead us into some very disorienting twisted scenario’s, which leads us to the other thing we can say about this. We saw the systematic decisions that were being made in this story, right? The man meets a concubine. That’s a decision. Takes her to Ephraim. That’s a decision. She leaves him. That’s a decision. He follows her. That’s a decision. They reconcile. That’s a decision. They overstay what their plans were. That’s a decision. They left late instead of the morning. That’s a decision. They went to Gibeah instead of Jebus even though it was getting late. That’s a decision. Once they were in danger the man gave his concubine up to the crowd. That’s a horrible decision but it’s a decision. So, we could say that our decision’s, our choices, even the ones that seem completely insignificant actually do matter. Things build upon things that build upon things that build upon things that then build our lives. And Judges is in part, helping us see what that looks like when it runs amok and everybody’s doing what they want no matter the consequences it might have.
Father we invite You into this. It is indeed a troubling story and it’s gonna take some time for us to continue reading before we can find any hope in it. We have watched in this story, seemingly insignificant decisions compound themselves into Civil War and the destruction of many lives. And, so, we see the danger of walking away or drifting away, assuming it doesn’t matter and just going our own way. We see not only in this story but throughout the book of Judges that’s not true. What we do actually does matter. That’s how our lives are formed, based on the choices that we make and the actions that we take because of those choices. And, so, we pause here. Our story isn’t leading us down the path of a horrific story like this one, but it is no less twisted when we go our own way. So, come Holy Spirit. Lead us into all truth. Give us eyes to see the narrow path that leads to life. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
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