…where Angels fear to tread. RBT Notes – Judges 20, 25th April

Of all the illnesses men are prone to, sudden rush of blood to the head is one of the most deadly. It can be more dangerous than a heart-attack. The Levite in ch.19 has summoned his countrymen through his hideous sending-out of his murdered partner’s body parts. After he explains what happened to his shocked audience, he asks them for their reaction (vv.1-7). If they can think carefully, they can find a way to handle this terrible crime wisely. If they have a rush of blood to the head, and rush to a plan of action which feels right to their outraged sense of decency, then all hell could be let loose on the nation. They do, and it is.

 

Rush to Judgment

The first thing they do is plan for battle. It’s an open and shut case. They don’t need an investigation, witnesses, questions to be put to the Levites. It’s all so black and white, so it demands Infinite Justice. They draft ten percent of the fighting men of Israel into a army which goes down to Gibeah and demands the criminals (vv.8-13). Funnily enough, the Gibeahites don’t want to know. It’s highly likely that there were witnesses to that hideous gang rape, and that people in the city know what has taken place,and just who did it. But people under pressure respond foolishly. People who feel threatened by outsiders close ranks amongst themselves. Of course, the Israelites should have gone to Gibeah to deal with this crime. Equally, they should have thought out a plan which would have got to the truth, and those guilty.

 

Rush to Arms

From this point, everything spirals out of control. The men of Gibeah put the word out to their fellow Benjamites, and though they’re outnumbered ten to one, the Benjamites are fighting for their wounded pride, which makes them a very dangerous enemy (vv.14-17).

Finally, God shows up. That’s wrong, of course, as He’s never been anywhere else. But at last the Israelites speak to Him. They’re not seeking His will for the crime, and but are asking Him for battle strategy (v.18). The only time God speaks is when it’s all too late. They didn’t ask what He thought, and they didn’t seek His guidance. Don’t be quick to hear God’s Word as an endorsement of their plans. They haven’t asked for His guidance so far, and they’re already in too deep. Why believe that His Word to them now will bring blessing?

Of course, God wanted this evil purged from the land. Of course, He wanted judgment. But judgment which honours God comes from justice. And justice comes from wise, careful and patient inquiry and then decision-making.

 

Rush to Ruin

We don’t need to trace the details of the slaughter. Men are brave on both sides. Men fight and die for their convictions. All the while, a nation is being cut of pieces. God’s covenant people are hacking each other to death. The chapter ends with the whole land belonging belonging to the Benjamites being put to the sword. Justice? Wisdom? Or ruin, and a cause of lasting misery to the nation?

May God give us the grace as His people to live in the wisdom of His Spirit, to the praise of His Son. Anything less might well lead to disaster.

 

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Lewis Allen

Pastor, Hope Church Huddersfield, Director of Gospel Yorkshire, husband, father of five, football follower and dreaming fly-fisherman, Daily Reading the Bible Together blogger.

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