Short daily devotionals for the socially distanced. These are thoughts from my daily time in the word. I use a bible reading plan that will have me in a different section of Scripture every day.
I hope they serve to give you courage and hope. You can subscribe to receive them as a daily email at the bottom of the page.
Tuesday, April 21st
Reading: Judges 19-21
25 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
— Jdg 21:25 (ESV)
I didn’t enjoy the content of my prescribed bible reading today. There would be something wrong with me if I did. The end of Judges is dark and depraved and I seriously struggled to make my way through it this morning. I only just did, through tears, after walking away from it a few times.
Is it okay to acknowledge that?
I didn’t enjoy it.
It tells the story of the gang rape and murder of a Levite’s concubine by the men of Gibeah. It’s too much. This precious daughter, was put in the position of being a concubine in the first place (a role in society that I don’t understand), and then was given to violent men to do with as they pleased. And what pleased them was deplorable. The story then goes on to tell of how Levite dismembered her and sent pieces of her body to the twelve tribes of Israel as an act of protest against the violence of Gibeah. This resulted in a war between Israel and the tribe of Benjamin (Gibeah was made up of Benjamites) which cost the lives of tens of thousands of people, including many women and children, and the ultimate destruction of Gibeah. The story doesn’t even finish there. The settlement of Jabesh-gilead was then routed and all of the inhabitants were put to the sword, except for young virgin women who were carried off to be the “wives” of the remaining men of Benjamin. This wasn’t quite enough, and so they also arranged for the kidnapping of more young women from the daughter of Shiloh, who were out dancing in the vineyards. Men lay in ambush, and the young women were taken and carried off.
It reads like the dark plot of a twisted film that we would turn off before we could get through it. It reads like the horrific reports from far-flung places where this still happens, and we readily condemn through one line social media shares before moving on with our days. But, this is the story of our people. These are the people of God.
What do we do with that?
So much trauma.
So much abuse.
So much death.
So much sin.
Such horrific sexism and gender-based violence.
What on earth do we do with all of this? Well, I wasn’t really sure for quite a while after my reading today. I wanted to feign illness and just not post. But, after some prayer, some lessons began to emerge, and so I will briefly share some of those.
Firstly, this again exposes what humanity is without restraint, and it isn’t pretty. It shatters the myth that says that mankind, left to themselves, are essentially good and will find ways to do good to others. They won’t. With no king, and when people do what they have in their heart to do, this is what you get. Praise God for the restraint of the Holy Spirit. Praise God for the common grace of the restraint of governments, who are fallen agents, but still provide a measure of restraint on a fallen society.
Second, sin, violence and utter depravity isn’t reserved to a specific group of people. This should erode and ultimately erase our prejudice – it doesn’t, but it should. the Bible doesn’t divide its groups into white hats and black hats, goodies and baddies. It divides the people in the narrative as those covered by covenantal grace and those not. If it were to divide on behavior, it would have to have two camps. Jesus, and then everyone else. There are degrees of sin, to be sure, but no one escapes it.
Third, it creates a longing for a king. The way Judges ends creates nothing but ache. It doesn’t resolve, it only exasperates. That is the point. If you know your bible, you know that the next book in the story is Ruth, which chronicles the triumph of a vulnerable woman, and the continuation of a bloodline from which the King would come. The redemptive arc of the Bible is long, and it bends towards the King, who came from the line of Ruth and Boaz, a line that endured the horror show of the end of Judges.
Lastly, it creates a desire to do better, to start to see the kingdom of God advance through greater justice and communities of flourishing for all of its members, especially those who have traditionally been seen as vulnerable. It makes me want to raise a daughter who is fearless, and a son who creates environments where his sister’s fearlessness is well founded. We must do better, but the power of the Spirit within us.
Courage, dear friends. The world might be dark, but the King is coming, soon.