Judges ~ Chapter Nineteen
Read: Judges 19:1-30
"And it came to pass in those days,
when there was no king in Israel..."
Four times, in the final chapters of the Book of Judges, these words are repeated: "...there was no king in Israel" (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). They prepare the reader for the unfolding of a most dreadful narrative and explain the reasoning for the appalling depravity of the people of that time. Israel had no king. "For now they say, "We have no king, because we did not fear the LORD. And as for a king, what would he do for us?" (Hosea 10:3). God's chosen nation had settled in their allotted territories in the land of promise, though not completely conquering the inhabitants as the Lord had instructed them. They were rebellious children who chose to do what was right in their own eyes, rather than obey the word of God. They rejected the Lord's sovereign rule, and consequently were deprived of godly political and spiritual leadership, and the results were disastrous for generations to come. "O Israel, you have sinned from the days of Gibeah..." (Hosea 10:9a). The contents of chapter nineteen are of the most alarming nature; it is a portion of Scripture so distasteful that few could stomach it, if not for having been so desensitized by the continuous barrage of violence in the movies and television and on the airways, and like Gibeah, have flooded the streets. The moral conditions at that time deteriorated to the level of Sodom (Genesis 19), and the shocking actions of the men of Gibeah ignited a civil war (Judges 20). Their violent and heinous deed was considered the worst crime committed in Israel's history up to that point. It is frightful to think things could actually get worse - but they can, and they have! Because of their disobedience, the Lord brought judgment upon Israel's independent spirit and political stability. As we look at the political and spiritual climate today, we must trust that the Lord is doing a work even now, in preparation for His return, as when John the Baptist first made the announcement, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:2). The Levite responded to the vile crimes of Gibeah in the most grotesque manner, but our Lord has responded to our crimes in the most glorious way. He has conquered sin and death by His own gruesome death on the Cross and His subsequent resurrection from the grave and exaltation to the right hand of the Father in heaven. He sent out the first twelve parts of His body clothed in His power to conquer the kingdoms of Satan and of this world and has commissioned His followers to go and make disciples of all nations and reconcile the world to Christ through the proclamation of the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20). May we be willing, even in the midst of growing hostility and persecution, to continue to show the hospitality and kindness of the kingdom of God to a world that once refused to welcome the Savior two thousand years ago, and continues even today to shut the door in His face, so that by our obedience and love we may bring His joy and peace to those who would open their hearts and welcome Jesus Christ into their lives (Hebrews 13:1-3).
"And He called the twelve to Himself,
and began to send them out two by two,
and gave them power over unclean spirits.
He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff -
no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts -
but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics.
Also He said to them, "In whatever place you enter a house,
stay there till you depart from that place.
And whoever will not receive you nor hear you,
when you depart from there,
shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them.
Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah
in the day of judgment than for that city!"
"And so it was that all who saw it said,
"No such deed has been done or seen from the day
that the children of Israel came up from the land of Egypt until this day.
Consider it, confer, and speak up!"
There was no king in Israel to seek justice from, so the Levite appealed to the tribes of Israel for judgment. His gruesome telegram was meant to awaken the tribes of Israel from their moral lethargy and rally the people to take action against the men of Gibeah who had killed his wife - and it worked. If only he had been so zealous for fulfilling his duty as a Levite, calling the people to righteousness rather than spending his days dabbling in sin, he would not have had to deal with this wickedness nor contend with the wrath of God upon the whole nation. May we receive this as a word of warning today to awaken out of our moral lethargy and address the sin in our camp. "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight - that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge" (Psalm 51:1-4). May God pour out a spirit of repentance upon His people, so that we might be restored to a right and righteous relationship with the Lord and be revived to continue the work of advancing His kingdom in this world. "Get up, sanctify the people, and say, "Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because thus says the LORD God of Israel: "There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you" (Joshua 7:13). If sin is not driven from our hearts, we risk becoming utterly corrupted as they were in the days of Sodom and in the days of Gibeah (Romans 1:18-32). God told His people that He would no longer be with them until they removed the sin from the camp. Though He has promised us that He will never leave nor forsake us, His presence demands holiness. "But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:15). The days of punishment are upon us. Our sins may be private, but God's correction is public. The world is waiting for the response of the Church - their lives depend on it! May we heed the counsel in this final verse and seriously and carefully consider it, confer, looking to the Word of God to show us the right way to walk and respond, and then humbly obey and speak up! Let us lift our voices to heaven in fervent prayer and let us "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the LORD!" (Hebrews 12:14). Please pray along with today's prayer HERE!
"The days of punishment have come;
the days of recompense have come.
The prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is insane,
because of the greatness of your iniquity and great enmity.
The watchman of Ephraim is with my God;
but the prophet is a fowler's snare in all his ways -
enmity in the house of his God.
They are deeply corrupted, as in the days of Gibeah.
He will remember their iniquity; He will punish their sins."