15 July 2010

FINALLY Pondering a Puzzling Story

I've read through my Bible several times now (although still struggling to make it all the way through for the first time in French) and usually I love stories from the Old Testament and seeing specific ways that they can be applied in my life. Judges 19-20 was NOT one of those stories. In fact, it was typically one of those ones that I'd race through 'cause it was "on the schedule" then think: "I'm sure God has this account here in the Bible for some reason, probably an important one, but I really don't have time... or the desire... to figure this out and let the Holy Spirit show me why." And then I'd move on and think no more of the story until I'd stumble over it the next time. When our Sunday School class was looking at it a few weeks back, I decided I'd better let the Holy Spirit talk to me some about this story and stop trying to run from a story that I found revolting, confusing and hard. And that very fact - that God doesn't try and hide the ugliness of this world and His chosen from those who are seeking to know Him, but instead allows us to see the good, the bad and the ugly - is one of the reasons why I'm convinced that the Bible is totally and completely God's Word, totally and completely inspired by Him while scribed by men's hands.

Answers.com summarizes these chapters this way: "The war against the Benjamites commenced with an incident when the people of Gibeah assaulted a Levite wayfarer, surrounding his house and demanding that he submit to homosexual practices (19:22). When he sent out his concubine in his stead, she was abused to death (19:25). The man cut her body up into 12 pieces and sent one to each of the tribes, demanding revenge for the foul deed (19:25-29). In the subsequent inter-tribal war, Benjamin was decisively defeated. The Israelites took a vow not to marry Benjamites (21:1); but, fearing that one of the tribes would vanish, the people nevertheless continued to effect marriages with them, resorting to subterfuges to avoid breaking their vows."

My summary looks something like this (my typical, initial responses: Levite takes concubine (big no no), procrastinates leaving dad's house, ends up in inhospitable (another no no) Gibeah at nightfall. Old man takes pity, invites Levite and concubine into home. Depraved people of Gibeah ask for Levite for NOT nice reasons. Old man and Levite refuse (good choice). Old man and Levite give them concubine (What? Really? ...angry, unkind thoughts about those two men... why doesn't God stop this?). Concubine abused, killed (Selfish coward! Really not liking the Levite right here). Levite cuts her into 12 pieces, sends her to all Israeli tribes (Gross). Tribes gather and declare war on Gibeah (First "yay" moment - Israel standing up for what is morally right). Judah leads charge. Is massacred (huh???). Tries again. Another massacre (NO WAY!). Finally seeks the Lord (about time, but why wouldn't God bless them for doing the right thing on their own initiative?). God gives plan and victory. Arrangements made so hasty vow doesn't wipe out Benjamites (just really wierd).

Any way you look at it... it is an AWFUL story.

Sunday School discussions and further "thinking on these things" has led me to make several observations and one huge application in my life.

  1. Sin in our lives clouds our judgment. The Levite took a concubine, a practice clearly condemned in Scripture, and then we see procrastination... undecisiveness... pride... a failure to protect/provide for the needs of his family... lots of poor decisions and not once is it recorded that he asked the Lord for guidance.
  2. Hospitality, or the lack thereof, can be a good spiritual marker, because hospitality (even when inconvenient) is obedience.
  3. Those who have strong convictions in one area can be very weak in others, myself included.
  4. All too often, we look for our own solutions in difficult to impossible situations. I wonder what would have happened when the townspeople came if the old man and the Levite had prayed or relied on God instead of trying to figure things out themselves.
  5. The old man and the Levite hadn't learned from the lesson of Lot and his family in Sodom and Gomorrah - was this because they weren't familiar with God's Word, His story?
  6. I often look to blame others for my sin and mistakes - and so expect others to enact retribution instead of seeking forgiveness and then seeking God's will for my response.
  7. Using shock/inflammatory methods will usually get a reaction, but it may not be a God-pleasing, God-honoring one.
  8. Rising up to fight injustice and to look out for God's cause in my own strength, without consulting Him first, is not guaranteed success - no matter how right I might be.
  9. Anger towards the things that anger God is not sin; arrogance and assuming I am the one to be God's mode of correction, that I'm going to put the sinner into his/her place is sin and is an attitude that does not please God. Confrontation and correction must come from a heart of humility.
  10. It is easy to assume I know God's will and then ask the wrong question... with serious consequences.
  11. I'm not just to get angry about depravity and its victims; I'm to be totally and completely brokenhearted at sin in the world and in my life.

As I think of all these lessons I've been pondering, the one that convicts the most is the arrogant attitude it is so easy to adopt when I see someone clearly doing something stupid... selfish... sinful... when there's no question in my mind that the behavior or action is contrary to biblical teaching... and I assume that I should confront and correct. Then I do so, not gently, nor with a heart broken, first by my own sin, by the damage sin is causing in another's life and finally (most importantly) by the agony every sin has caused my Savior... but arrogantly, delighted to be God's rod of correction in this particular instance, happy to set someone else straight and lift myself up (in my own eyes) in the process.

And the place where this sinful chain of events, responses and reactions is most likely to occur? Right in my home, with my family... my children... my husband... just as it occurred within the family of Israel. Ouch! This fits in so well with another "idea" the Holy Spirit has planted in my soul - but that will have to wait for another time, another day...

...as will any thoughts regarding chapter 21... the conclusion of this story... because I'm still pondering that part! :-) So tell me, what do you think?

Photo above was originally published on July 11 in a post by biblereadingcompanion at Closer Day by Day, How to read the Bible in a Year and I thought it worked perfectly.

1 comment:

  1. Wow- I appreciate your insight and honesty. Boy can I echo those thoughts and "ouch" moments in my life. When I read OT stories I am struck how quick I am to point out "their" wrong choices, decisions etc... but lately I've been stopping to process what was going on in their lives- trying to get a big picture of that specific person- and then seeing that ..hm... I very likely would've and could've (and do) make the same dumb choices that they made (i.e. relying on myself, not going to God first etc...) Oh how quick I am to judge and oh how much there is to learn!
    And btw- where on earth did you find that lego picture!??! =) it's awesome!


Stop in for a chat! I love to hear what you have to say ~


Related Posts with Thumbnails