Monday, 7 April 2014

(98) April 8: Judges 20-21 & Luke 11:1-28

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read note how all Israel are at fault.

To ponder:
“All” Israel are now united as they assemble “before the LORD” in provocation at the events of chapter 19; although the tribe of Benjamin, whose men acted so appallingly are absent. The gathering is a rebuke to today’s church in it’s reluctance to agree and take action against the compromises amongst its people.
            Asked to “tell how this awful thing happened,” the Levite husband spins the truth to portray himself as innocent. But it is stressed what happened was a “lewd”, “disgraceful” and “vile” act. In response to the call for a “verdict” Israel don’t consult the LORD, but immediately organise themselves to attack Gibeah by “lot” – the very way they had been called to attack the Canaanites. This is a major theme throughout, and resonates with God’s warning that if Israel acted like the nations he sent them to drive out, they would be treated the same way (Lev 18v20, 22, 27-28). Similarly those who confess Christ but act as the world does, will receive the world’s fate.
The tribe of Benjamin refuse to surrender the men from Gibeah, but come out to fight. It is only now that Israel “enquire” of God – presumably via the priest’s urim and thummim (20v27-28). God responds that Judah must go first, as against the Canaanites (1v2). Twice however, Israel advance on God’s word only to be defeated. And the vast supremacy of Israel’s numbers (400,000 against 26,000) is recorded to show that the LORD must have been behind this. The point is that the wider nation are no better than Benjamin. God is using the battle to bring judgement on both.
After the first defeat Israel “wept,” but after the second they realise the problem, fasting and offering burnt and fellowship offerings, expressing their devotion to God and acknowledging their need of atonement. The initial defeat on their third attempt therefore turns to victory as we read “the LORD defeated Benjamin before Israel” - and with strategy, again, patterned on that against the Canaanites (Jos 8v1-29). Such confession of one’s own sin must surely come before churches or Christians ever seek to discipline others.
Chapter 21 begins showing that Israel’s unfaithfulness really has brought her to crisis, for not only were the Benjamite soldiers killed, but everyone and everything within their towns - which were then burned. Moreover, Israel took an oath not to have their daughters marry Benjamites, once more treating them like Canaanites. The point is that the Benjamite survivors have no way of marrying Israelite women and so continuing their line. So Israel cry out in grief to God that this could mean one whole tribe “missing.”
Israel's concern seems genuine, but their means of resolving the crisis is terrible. They increase their destruction, killing every man and woman who is not a virgin from Jabesh-Gilead, because they had not come to the initial assembly and so fought against Benjamin. As they hadn’t taken the oath, these people could give their daughters to the Benjamites. So the virgins who remained, are taken to Shiloh, and the surviving Benjamites told to abduct them from the festival there and take them as wives. Israel’s provocation at the gang rape of a concubine therefore results in the rape of so many more.
The book ends stressing this was because without a king “everyone did as he saw fit.” So even with the advantage of the law, Israel are unable to behave any better than the nations. And in representing wider humanity, this only proves how sinful we all are, meaning that “ever mouth is silenced and the whole world held accountable to God” (Rom 3v19). Not only do we all therefore need Christ to rule us and the Spirit to renew us, but we need the gift of a righteous standing before God if we are not to be included in his coming judgement of the world.

Praying it home:
Praise God for granting us a righteousness that is by faith in Christ. Pray that churches and Christians would be prepared to act against those who confess Christ yet compromise, but only having first taken the log out of their own eye.

Thinking further:
It seems “Mizpah” (20v1) at this time might be the designated a “place” of the LORD’s name. However, it the tabernacle was probably based at Bethel as the ark and priesthood were there (20v26-27). This explains why the annual “festival of the LORD” was at Shiloh, ie. near Bethel (21v18-19).

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