Archive for the ‘Book of Judges’ Category

Judges 21:1-25
Israel Provides for the Wives of Benjamin

As we conclude the book of Judges, the thing that is so often repeated in this book is exactly how the book is wrapped up in its final verse, “in those days Israel had no king; all of the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” This passage is no different. The compound mistakes already made with more mistakes. The mistakes of the tribe of Benjamin were followed by a civil war that practically wiped out the tribe of Benjamin. The civil war was concluded with the mistake of killing off of the people who did not participate in the civil war. That was followed up by the remnants of the tribe of Benjamin stealing women from other tribes. What a messed up mess this was! What a fitting way for the book to end. A flurry on messed up actions undertaken by men who did not consult God but went through the motions of consulting God. They took actions into their own hands though they built an altar and made sacrifices. They did not wait for God to tell them what to do. They just went off on their own way. There were great heroic men in the book of Judges known for their heroism in battle but their personal lives were far from being men seeking after God. Each one of the great heroes of this book, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson, were morally bankrupt in some way. They were indicative of the society in which they lived. Each seeking to please himself was the name of the game in ancient Israel at this point in its history.

How much like modern day society does this sound like? We live in a culture that may give credence to the existence of God (if they do that much) but yet act as those He does not exist. We exist in a society that does what it thinks is right and places its faith in itself. What is right for me is right for me and what is right for you is right for you! My truth, my reality is mine and yours is yours. If you define that God just wants you to be happy then multiple sex partners outside of marriage is OK. If you define that God just wants you to be happy then multiple wives over the course of a life is OK. If you define that God just wants you to be happy then homosexuality is no longer a forbidden practice. If you define that God just wants you to be happy then if I feel like a woman today though I am obviously and genetically male then it is OK for me to identify myself as a woman and have the world defend that right and vilify those who do not buy into it. If you define that God just wants you to be happy then lying to get what you want is OK. If you define that God just wants you to be happy, then, selfish ambition is OK. If you define that God just wants you to be happy, then, you go to church to feel good and then live as you desire the rest of the week. We are a nation that believes that seeking one’s own desires is nirvana. We have become a nation that believes that I define for myself what is right and what is wrong. There is no universal truth because we each define for ourselves what truth is. Since truth is relative to one’s own desires, then, we produce leaders that are just as morally bankrupt as we are as a nation. We bemoan the fact that in the last presidential election that our choices were between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton – two people who are known to have situational ethics and develop spin machines to justify their actions as OK. What do you expect? We glorify such power players as Donald and Hillary. The morality of a politician does not matter. The policies and political stances no longer matter. It is all about persona and who can tear down the other the fastest. Why did we not have better choices? We have no one to blame but ourselves. We are so like the nation of ancient Israel at the time of the judges that it’s not even funny. When we read the Book of Judges, we see ourselves. Let us read now the final chapter of this book:

 

21 The Israelites had vowed at Mizpah, “We will never give our daughters in marriage to a man from the tribe of Benjamin.” 2 Now the people went to Bethel and sat in the presence of God until evening, weeping loudly and bitterly. 3 “O Lord, God of Israel,” they cried out, “why has this happened in Israel? Now one of our tribes is missing from Israel!”

4 Early the next morning the people built an altar and presented their burnt offerings and peace offerings on it. 5 Then they said, “Who among the tribes of Israel did not join us at Mizpah when we held our assembly in the presence of the Lord?” At that time they had taken a solemn oath in the Lord’s presence, vowing that anyone who refused to come would be put to death.

6 The Israelites felt sorry for their brother Benjamin and said, “Today one of the tribes of Israel has been cut off. 7 How can we find wives for the few who remain, since we have sworn by the Lord not to give them our daughters in marriage?”

8 So they asked, “Who among the tribes of Israel did not join us at Mizpah when we assembled in the presence of the Lord?” And they discovered that no one from Jabesh-gilead had attended the assembly. 9 For after they counted all the people, no one from Jabesh-gilead was present.

10 So the assembly sent 12,000 of their best warriors to Jabesh-gilead with orders to kill everyone there, including women and children. 11 “This is what you are to do,” they said. “Completely destroy[a] all the males and every woman who is not a virgin.” 12 Among the residents of Jabesh-gilead they found 400 young virgins who had never slept with a man, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.

13 The Israelite assembly sent a peace delegation to the remaining people of Benjamin who were living at the rock of Rimmon. 14 Then the men of Benjamin returned to their homes, and the 400 women of Jabesh-gilead who had been spared were given to them as wives. But there were not enough women for all of them.

15 The people felt sorry for Benjamin because the Lord had made this gap among the tribes of Israel. 16 So the elders of the assembly asked, “How can we find wives for the few who remain, since the women of the tribe of Benjamin are dead? 17 There must be heirs for the survivors so that an entire tribe of Israel is not wiped out. 18 But we cannot give them our own daughters in marriage because we have sworn with a solemn oath that anyone who does this will fall under God’s curse.”

19 Then they thought of the annual festival of the Lord held in Shiloh, south of Lebonah and north of Bethel, along the east side of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem. 20 They told the men of Benjamin who still needed wives, “Go and hide in the vineyards. 21 When you see the young women of Shiloh come out for their dances, rush out from the vineyards, and each of you can take one of them home to the land of Benjamin to be your wife! 22 And when their fathers and brothers come to us in protest, we will tell them, ‘Please be sympathetic. Let them have your daughters, for we didn’t find wives for all of them when we destroyed Jabesh-gilead. And you are not guilty of breaking the vow since you did not actually give your daughters to them in marriage.’”

23 So the men of Benjamin did as they were told. Each man caught one of the women as she danced in the celebration and carried her off to be his wife. They returned to their own land, and they rebuilt their towns and lived in them.

24 Then the people of Israel departed by tribes and families, and they returned to their own homes.

25 In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.

In this final passage of the book, we see that, during the time of the judges, the people of Israel experienced trouble because they became their own authority and acted on their individual opinions of right and wrong. This condition produced horrendous results. The Israelites moved from one messed up situation to another. Because of a rash vow made in the heat of emotion, they destroyed another town. They put tribal loyalties above God’s commands and they justified wrong actions to correct past mistakes. It was just a big old mess. Nowhere in this passage do you hear of the Israelites receiving a word from God. Their solutions were of their own opinions rather than a word from God. Even though they went through the function of building an altar (21:4) and offering sacrifices. They did not wait for a word from God. They went on to their own solution. They wept aloud to God as to why this happened but yet they did not look to themselves as the cause of the problems.

We wonder why our nation seems to be degenerating into a fractured mess. All we have to do is look at the final verse of the book of Judges. We have no king and we do what we think is right in our own eyes. We seek after our own desires. We are fractured into our own individual kingdoms and we define reality and truth for ourselves and refuse to believe that there needs to be a greater good. We may claim that God exists but we act as if He does not. We have made ourselves our own gods. The desires of our own hearts are what we have made god. We are ancient Israel in the modern day. We are the book of Judges. We must as a nation repent and return to God. We will suffer the same fate as the nation of ancient Israel if we do not. We must put God as our king. We must return to Him. He will speak to us again when we put His will above our own. He will speak to us again when truly act as if He exists. We must repent. We must put in God we trust back at the forefront of our lives as individuals and as a nation.

Amen and Amen.

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Judges 20:1-48 (Part 2 of 2)
Israel’s War with Benjamin

One of the things that amazes me about this sequence of events chapters 19 and 20 of Judges is how the Levite man just demonstrates a complete lack of morality. Not only does he treat his concubine like she is property or a piece of meat but then, then, he conveniently leaves out the fact that he offers up the woman to the mob to save his own skin. He twists the truth to suit his own needs.

Reading this passage made me think about some of the experiences that happened to me while going through my first divorce. If you have been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you know that my first divorce was the divorce from hell. My ex-wife spun events during that divorce to portray herself as the victim and the heroine of the situation. It was highly effective at first. She portrayed me as a wife beater and a pedophile when I took her to court for contempt (she had been refusing to allow the children to come with me on my specified visitation dates – every other Wednesday evening and every other weekend – for about six months). Once we got to court, she claimed that I had molested by oldest daughter the last time that she allowed the girls to come with me on visitation. Well, bam, once that was said, what was a slam dunk contempt of a court order became entirely something else. DSS swooped into our lives and did not leave our lives for 3 years. During the early phases of the DSS and Guardian Ad Litem investigations, my ex-wife had these investigators believing that I was a sick, twisted pedophile who beat his wife for sport while drinking excessive amounts of alcohol every day and every night. You know, just an immoral redneck that beat his wife and abused his kids. She portrayed herself as the defender of the realm, the protector of the defenseless. It was so bad and pervasive a thought process about me that the first time the Guardian Ad Litem interviewed me at my home (my parent’s place on Lake Hartwell at that time) that she was afraid to be alone with me in my home. As a result, she brought her husband with her to the investigative interview (which of course violates privacy laws I am sure, or at least in the 2010’s it would). It was so bad that I had to go the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department and talk to investigators and take a lie detector test, voluntarily. It was as if this simple contempt case of me just wanting the court to enforce the separation agreement had been spun into this major nightmare scenario when my freedom could have easily been taken away from me.

Not only was my now ex-wife (God rest her soul) portraying me as a pedophile but also as a wife-beater. She even went as far as to start attending battered women’s meetings and had battered women’s rights things posted on the refrigerator at her house, our former marital home. She bombarded my children with constant information about how I had been an abuser and a drunkard. It was all so very effective for a while. It was all to deflect away from the real facts of the case.

The real facts of the case were not as my ex-wife had portrayed them. She spun the stories to her advantage and it was all just to punish me and shame me into coming back to her. Now, I could think of better ways for reconciliation. Don’t try the punish route if you are trying to reconcile with your spouse. Punishing them into coming home just drives them further away. The facts of the case were that my ex-wife was the violent one and the one who played the harassment game constantly, and I left our marriage and my sweet girls (8 years and 3 years old at the time) to survive and to prevent literally someone from being killed or hurt badly. Ultimately, DSS had seen enough of the truth of the situation that they remove my daughters from my ex-wife’s care and I ultimately gained custody of them myself (after I had remarried). All those things have their own story that we got sit here for days and talk about, but for today, I wanted to concentrate on that early part of my divorce from my first wife.

When people today talk about how do country’s fall for socialism and even in our country how we fall for fake news and get all polarized against those who do not hold our same beliefs and wonder how it happens, I always reflect on that time period from 1993-1994 in my life, when my exwife made those claims about me. How people immediately and willingly believed these lies without first even getting to know me. I was branded with lies about me that were not true. How the spin machine flies into action without first investigating the facts and circumstances. People fall for what they WANT to believe about things these days because there is no longer a belief in weighing the facts. People fall what they WANT to believe today because there is no longer any consideration of what absolute truth is. People spin the truth to suit their own advantage today because they do not have God at the center of their lives. They perpetuate these elaborate spins on events to portray themselves as the one who holds the truth, the one who is the victim, the one who has their rights trampled.

It took me a long time to get over the events of 1993-1994 but eventually I came to see it as just a person with control issues doing whatever it took to regain control regardless of the truth. I came to pity my exwife for the way she spun everything to her advantage and she burned up pretty much every relationship in her life because of it. In the end, it was just her and her second husband that lived in their own little world with their spin on the world. Everybody else was crazy and they were the only two sane ones. Each of my girls has had to deprogram themselves from that mentality over the years. As they grew older they were able to see the truth about how life should be viewed. So, when people talk about how socialism and how people fall for, I think of ’93-’94 and how the real me was twisted into a monster to suit the needs of my exwife. I think of how my daughters were exposed as young girls to the propaganda over the years that I didn’t love them and how I was the sick and twisted one. Even in later years, after she had remarried, to love me or to love her was the choice she gave them. It was just so sad and such evidence of how opinion can become belief over time. Over time, the truth became a casualty. Over time, the truth became whatever reality was constructed in my exwife’s mind. It was just truly sad to watch over the years.

That is what I thought of this morning is how the Levite man spun this situation to his own advantage and even caused a civil war rather than reveal the truth of what he did. He did not reveal that he was a coward and threw his own mistress out to the wolves to save his own skin. And, how people can do that without flinching is what I thought this morning. My mind immediately drifted back to that time of my first divorce where truth got twisted and this whole scenario took over and how it did not seem that the truth mattered anymore. So with that in mind, let’s read this passage once more:

20 Then all the Israelites were united as one man, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, including those from across the Jordan in the land of Gilead. The entire community assembled in the presence of the Lord at Mizpah. 2 The leaders of all the people and all the tribes of Israel—400,000 warriors armed with swords—took their positions in the assembly of the people of God. 3 (Word soon reached the land of Benjamin that the other tribes had gone up to Mizpah.) The Israelites then asked how this terrible crime had happened.

4 The Levite, the husband of the woman who had been murdered, said, “My concubine and I came to spend the night in Gibeah, a town that belongs to the people of Benjamin. 5 That night some of the leading citizens of Gibeah surrounded the house, planning to kill me, and they raped my concubine until she was dead. 6 So I cut her body into twelve pieces and sent the pieces throughout the territory assigned to Israel, for these men have committed a terrible and shameful crime. 7 Now then, all of you—the entire community of Israel—must decide here and now what should be done about this!”

8 And all the people rose to their feet in unison and declared, “None of us will return home! No, not even one of us! 9 Instead, this is what we will do to Gibeah; we will draw lots to decide who will attack it. 10 One-tenth of the men[a] from each tribe will be chosen to supply the warriors with food, and the rest of us will take revenge on Gibeah[b] of Benjamin for this shameful thing they have done in Israel.” 11 So all the Israelites were completely united, and they gathered together to attack the town.

12 The Israelites sent messengers to the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What a terrible thing has been done among you! 13 Give up those evil men, those troublemakers from Gibeah, so we can execute them and purge Israel of this evil.”

But the people of Benjamin would not listen. 14 Instead, they came from their towns and gathered at Gibeah to fight the Israelites. 15 In all, 26,000 of their warriors armed with swords arrived in Gibeah to join the 700 elite troops who lived there. 16 Among Benjamin’s elite troops, 700 were left-handed, and each of them could sling a rock and hit a target within a hairsbreadth without missing. 17 Israel had 400,000 experienced soldiers armed with swords, not counting Benjamin’s warriors.

18 Before the battle the Israelites went to Bethel and asked God, “Which tribe should go first to attack the people of Benjamin?”

The Lord answered, “Judah is to go first.”

19 So the Israelites left early the next morning and camped near Gibeah. 20 Then they advanced toward Gibeah to attack the men of Benjamin. 21 But Benjamin’s warriors, who were defending the town, came out and killed 22,000 Israelites on the battlefield that day.

22 But the Israelites encouraged each other and took their positions again at the same place they had fought the previous day. 23 For they had gone up to Bethel and wept in the presence of the Lord until evening. They had asked the Lord, “Should we fight against our relatives from Benjamin again?”

And the Lord had said, “Go out and fight against them.”

24 So the next day they went out again to fight against the men of Benjamin, 25 but the men of Benjamin killed another 18,000 Israelites, all of whom were experienced with the sword.

26 Then all the Israelites went up to Bethel and wept in the presence of the Lord and fasted until evening. They also brought burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord. 27 The Israelites went up seeking direction from the Lord. (In those days the Ark of the Covenant of God was in Bethel, 28 and Phinehas son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron was the priest.) The Israelites asked the Lord, “Should we fight against our relatives from Benjamin again, or should we stop?”

The Lord said, “Go! Tomorrow I will hand them over to you.”

29 So the Israelites set an ambush all around Gibeah. 30 They went out on the third day and took their positions at the same place as before. 31 When the men of Benjamin came out to attack, they were drawn away from the town. And as they had done before, they began to kill the Israelites. About thirty Israelites died in the open fields and along the roads, one leading to Bethel and the other leading back to Gibeah.

32 Then the warriors of Benjamin shouted, “We’re defeating them as we did before!” But the Israelites had planned in advance to run away so that the men of Benjamin would chase them along the roads and be drawn away from the town.

33 When the main group of Israelite warriors reached Baal-tamar, they turned and took up their positions. Meanwhile, the Israelites hiding in ambush to the west[c] of Gibeah jumped up to fight. 34 There were 10,000 elite Israelite troops who advanced against Gibeah. The fighting was so heavy that Benjamin didn’t realize the impending disaster. 35 So the Lord helped Israel defeat Benjamin, and that day the Israelites killed 25,100 of Benjamin’s warriors, all of whom were experienced swordsmen. 36 Then the men of Benjamin saw that they were beaten.

The Israelites had retreated from Benjamin’s warriors in order to give those hiding in ambush more room to maneuver against Gibeah. 37 Then those who were hiding rushed in from all sides and killed everyone in the town. 38 They had arranged to send up a large cloud of smoke from the town as a signal. 39 When the Israelites saw the smoke, they turned and attacked Benjamin’s warriors.

By that time Benjamin’s warriors had killed about thirty Israelites, and they shouted, “We’re defeating them as we did in the first battle!” 40 But when the warriors of Benjamin looked behind them and saw the smoke rising into the sky from every part of the town, 41 the men of Israel turned and attacked. At this point the men of Benjamin became terrified, because they realized disaster was close at hand. 42 So they turned around and fled before the Israelites toward the wilderness. But they couldn’t escape the battle, and the people who came out of the nearby towns were also killed.[d] 43 The Israelites surrounded the men of Benjamin and chased them relentlessly, finally overtaking them east of Gibeah.[e] 44 That day 18,000 of Benjamin’s strongest warriors died in battle. 45 The survivors fled into the wilderness toward the rock of Rimmon, but Israel killed 5,000 of them along the road. They continued the chase until they had killed another 2,000 near Gidom.

46 So that day the tribe of Benjamin lost 25,000 strong warriors armed with swords, 47 leaving only 600 men who escaped to the rock of Rimmon, where they lived for four months. 48 And the Israelites returned and slaughtered every living thing in all the towns—the people, the livestock, and everything they found. They also burned down all the towns they came to.

Here in this passage, we see that, in the reporting of the events in Gibeah, the Levite man conveniently left out the fact that he had handed over his concubine or mistress to satisfy the mob’s demands. He wanted justice fo the threats made against him rather than placing any value on the woman’s life or holding himself partially responsible for her death. How easy it is for us sometimes to twist the truth of a situation to remove our own culpability when we are seeking to shift blame to someone else. The incident reveals the depths of perversion, violence, and lies that develop when a culture abandons God’s ways.

My exwife shifted blame to save her own skin as a modern example. What happened after her spin of the events to her own advantage is a script for made-for-TV movie (think The Betty Broderick Story that starred Meredith Baxter Birney and Stephen Collins from 1992 and you will get a taste for what it was like). I was not a saint for sure and I don’t want to give that impression. My life is a story of redemption from the depths of self-indulgence and worshiping things other than god for many, many years. I clung to the belief that I was basically a good person and all roads lead to heaven kind of thing until my Damascus Road-type experience in December 2001 when I accepted Christ as my Savior. Even now, I still struggle with pride and other sins that condemn me in the absence of Jesus Christ and that grieve that Holy Spirit that lives within me. The Holy Spirit still has a lot of work to do in me. So, please don’t read this as some angry tome against my exwife and making myself a saint in the process. Nothing could be farther from what I intend here. I use the experience from my own life, my first divorce, to demonstrate a point. I have long since forgiven my exwife and it pained me to see how her continuing hatred for me had consumed her life. It was just sad to watch.

The point that I am making with using that experience from 1993-1994 is that it is an example of how we spin the truth to our advantage regardless of what the subsequent consequences will be. When we start making the truth what we want it to be, it is the essence of pride. It is the essence of thumbing our nose at God and making ourselves the purveyor and definer of truth. It is an example of the society in which we live now. Truth is how you spin it. There is no absolute truth now because we have all degenerated into seeing the world through our own eyes instead of the eyes of God. We make the truth what we want it to be. Our nation has strayed from God just as Israel did here in the book of Judges. Israel did what was right in their own eyes. We are the same way today. Let us pray that it does not take a Babylonian exile of sorts for America to return to God.

As individuals, let us resolve to seek the truth even when it is going to make us look bad. If we have our value in God and not in the image that we want others to see, then, it really doesn’t matter if the truth makes us look bad. When we confess that we have made a mistake, committed a sin, we are showing people that as a Christian we would rather please God than preserve our self-image that we project to others. When we are honest about our faults and failures and shortcomings, that is the beginning of humility. In humility, we find that we need God more than ever. In humility, the Holy Spirit can change us. The Holy Spirit can mold us into greater and greater Christlikeness. When we are honest about who we are, we find greater and greater dependence on God. When we are honest about who we are, we can begin to change. When we subject ourselves to the absolute truths of God, we find rest and peace. When we are not trying to project an image to the world, it is a whole lot less work. When we are honest about ourselves, God has us where He wants us – a child of God who is ready to be obedient and ready to give Him glory rather than ourselves.

Amen and amen.

Judges 20:1-48 (Part 1 of 2)
Israel’s War with Benjamin

Wow! Israel has sunk to a new low in this passage. They have a bloody civil war on their hands and nobody seems to care. At that point, a foreign power could have swooped in and destroyed them while they were busy seeking vengeance against their one of their own tribes or being that tribe defending itself against the rest of their own countrymen. It is a sad day for the people of God’s history.

The thing that struck me is that how similar to our own nation right now this whole episode is. We were once a nation (where simply by the nature of the way our government was constructed by the founding fathers) of reasoned compromise. Nobody ever got what they wanted in their own perfect ideal of things. However, in the interest of getting most of what they wanted, they would give up on certain points to get the majority of what they wanted. The founding fathers believed that the conflict of ideals and sometimes of extremely opposite ideas would produce the conflict of those ideas in the congress and drive everything toward the center and toward what in general was the best for the country. It was a grand idea that worked well for our country all the way up until the turn of the 20th century. From the grand compromise that was our form of government, competing ideas generating friction to the point of creating a compromise that was by far the best thing in general for our country. In other countries, we have seen over just the past 241 years of our countries existence where one group takes the government by force and then forces their ideology on the rest of the country. This extremism has produced violence, civil wars, and international wars time and again just in the 241 our nation has been a player on the stage. Our centrist government with checks and balances has survived it all and continued to thrive. There has been in the past no one ideology that has been able to dominate over another and that is why our country has been so internally stable. Everybody’s idealogy getting enough of what it needs but not all of what it wants. That’s how our government is supposed to work and had worked all the way up to recent history.

However, with the last two Presidents our country has become polarized. Obama will his extremely liberal agenda polarized America into conservatives against the liberals, blacks against whites (again!), and the government ground to a halt. Now, we have similarity with Trump. Contrary to Trump’s own egoism, he was not elected by conservatives because he was a man of great substance and vision but rather because he was the only choice other than Hillary Clinton. We didn’t elect Trump as much we defeated Hillary. But because of Trump’s own inability to get his own ego out of the way, the chasm between conservatives and liberals has widened from a gulf to an ocean. Just as conservatives used to whine and complain about Obama being the anti-Christ so too now do the liberals play the part of Chicken Little where the sky is falling (with every word that Trump speaks or any idea he tries to espouse). And would somebody declare it illegal for the sitting president to have a social media account!?!?.

Instead of us conservatives admitting that we have made a mistake by making Trump the candidate from our party, we have circled around and defend everything he says even if it completely idiotic. Meanwhile, the liberals think Trump is the anti-Christ and refuse to compromise on anything coming out of the White House. The vitriol that the liberals have now for the conservative ideology is bordering of fanaticism. I truly fear for the future of our country, not because of Trump or Obama directly but we have become a nation that no longer compromises – the very thing that made our country great and powerful and an economic giant was the stability of our government.

But now we no longer compromise. We are of extreme ideologies and refuse to give in. We are a nation where we never admit our mistakes. We are a nation that would rather take our ideologies to the grave than compromise for what is best for our country. We simply want what we want and will go to our rooms and pout rather than compromise with our brother. Maybe it is because my generation and the generation after it have become so me-centered in our own lives. We are a self-centered people in our personal lives. Could the present generations do what our grandparent’s generation (the greatest generation) did? Come together and lift a country out of a economic collapse and then band together and sacrifice to end tyranny in two hemispheres. Can we be a generation that hunkers down together to defeat a world threat like they did? I am not so sure.

That is what I thought of this morning is how Israel had degenerated into a divided country where a civil war was the result. It reminds me of how our country is right at the moment. Let’s keep that in mind as we read through this passage for the first of two times:

20 Then all the Israelites were united as one man, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, including those from across the Jordan in the land of Gilead. The entire community assembled in the presence of the Lord at Mizpah. 2 The leaders of all the people and all the tribes of Israel—400,000 warriors armed with swords—took their positions in the assembly of the people of God. 3 (Word soon reached the land of Benjamin that the other tribes had gone up to Mizpah.) The Israelites then asked how this terrible crime had happened.

4 The Levite, the husband of the woman who had been murdered, said, “My concubine and I came to spend the night in Gibeah, a town that belongs to the people of Benjamin. 5 That night some of the leading citizens of Gibeah surrounded the house, planning to kill me, and they raped my concubine until she was dead. 6 So I cut her body into twelve pieces and sent the pieces throughout the territory assigned to Israel, for these men have committed a terrible and shameful crime. 7 Now then, all of you—the entire community of Israel—must decide here and now what should be done about this!”

8 And all the people rose to their feet in unison and declared, “None of us will return home! No, not even one of us! 9 Instead, this is what we will do to Gibeah; we will draw lots to decide who will attack it. 10 One-tenth of the men[a] from each tribe will be chosen to supply the warriors with food, and the rest of us will take revenge on Gibeah[b] of Benjamin for this shameful thing they have done in Israel.” 11 So all the Israelites were completely united, and they gathered together to attack the town.

12 The Israelites sent messengers to the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What a terrible thing has been done among you! 13 Give up those evil men, those troublemakers from Gibeah, so we can execute them and purge Israel of this evil.”

But the people of Benjamin would not listen. 14 Instead, they came from their towns and gathered at Gibeah to fight the Israelites. 15 In all, 26,000 of their warriors armed with swords arrived in Gibeah to join the 700 elite troops who lived there. 16 Among Benjamin’s elite troops, 700 were left-handed, and each of them could sling a rock and hit a target within a hairsbreadth without missing. 17 Israel had 400,000 experienced soldiers armed with swords, not counting Benjamin’s warriors.

18 Before the battle the Israelites went to Bethel and asked God, “Which tribe should go first to attack the people of Benjamin?”

The Lord answered, “Judah is to go first.”

19 So the Israelites left early the next morning and camped near Gibeah. 20 Then they advanced toward Gibeah to attack the men of Benjamin. 21 But Benjamin’s warriors, who were defending the town, came out and killed 22,000 Israelites on the battlefield that day.

22 But the Israelites encouraged each other and took their positions again at the same place they had fought the previous day. 23 For they had gone up to Bethel and wept in the presence of the Lord until evening. They had asked the Lord, “Should we fight against our relatives from Benjamin again?”

And the Lord had said, “Go out and fight against them.”

24 So the next day they went out again to fight against the men of Benjamin, 25 but the men of Benjamin killed another 18,000 Israelites, all of whom were experienced with the sword.

26 Then all the Israelites went up to Bethel and wept in the presence of the Lord and fasted until evening. They also brought burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord. 27 The Israelites went up seeking direction from the Lord. (In those days the Ark of the Covenant of God was in Bethel, 28 and Phinehas son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron was the priest.) The Israelites asked the Lord, “Should we fight against our relatives from Benjamin again, or should we stop?”

The Lord said, “Go! Tomorrow I will hand them over to you.”

29 So the Israelites set an ambush all around Gibeah. 30 They went out on the third day and took their positions at the same place as before. 31 When the men of Benjamin came out to attack, they were drawn away from the town. And as they had done before, they began to kill the Israelites. About thirty Israelites died in the open fields and along the roads, one leading to Bethel and the other leading back to Gibeah.

32 Then the warriors of Benjamin shouted, “We’re defeating them as we did before!” But the Israelites had planned in advance to run away so that the men of Benjamin would chase them along the roads and be drawn away from the town.

33 When the main group of Israelite warriors reached Baal-tamar, they turned and took up their positions. Meanwhile, the Israelites hiding in ambush to the west[c] of Gibeah jumped up to fight. 34 There were 10,000 elite Israelite troops who advanced against Gibeah. The fighting was so heavy that Benjamin didn’t realize the impending disaster. 35 So the Lord helped Israel defeat Benjamin, and that day the Israelites killed 25,100 of Benjamin’s warriors, all of whom were experienced swordsmen. 36 Then the men of Benjamin saw that they were beaten.

The Israelites had retreated from Benjamin’s warriors in order to give those hiding in ambush more room to maneuver against Gibeah. 37 Then those who were hiding rushed in from all sides and killed everyone in the town. 38 They had arranged to send up a large cloud of smoke from the town as a signal. 39 When the Israelites saw the smoke, they turned and attacked Benjamin’s warriors.

By that time Benjamin’s warriors had killed about thirty Israelites, and they shouted, “We’re defeating them as we did in the first battle!” 40 But when the warriors of Benjamin looked behind them and saw the smoke rising into the sky from every part of the town, 41 the men of Israel turned and attacked. At this point the men of Benjamin became terrified, because they realized disaster was close at hand. 42 So they turned around and fled before the Israelites toward the wilderness. But they couldn’t escape the battle, and the people who came out of the nearby towns were also killed.[d] 43 The Israelites surrounded the men of Benjamin and chased them relentlessly, finally overtaking them east of Gibeah.[e] 44 That day 18,000 of Benjamin’s strongest warriors died in battle. 45 The survivors fled into the wilderness toward the rock of Rimmon, but Israel killed 5,000 of them along the road. They continued the chase until they had killed another 2,000 near Gidom.

46 So that day the tribe of Benjamin lost 25,000 strong warriors armed with swords, 47 leaving only 600 men who escaped to the rock of Rimmon, where they lived for four months. 48 And the Israelites returned and slaughtered every living thing in all the towns—the people, the livestock, and everything they found. They also burned down all the towns they came to.

Here in this passage, we see that perhaps the tribe of Benjamin had been possibly given distorted facts about the crime that had been committed or perhaps they were just too proud to admit that some of their people had stooped so low. In either case, they would not listen to the rest of Israel and hand over the accused criminals. They were more loyal to their ideals than they were to the good of the nation. They were more loyal to their tribe than the were to moral laws of God. By covering for their kinsmen, the entire tribe was defending an immoral act than now made them as low as the criminals themselves. Through this act, we get a glimpse of how thoroughly the nation’s moral fabric had unraveled. The time period of the judges is drawing to a close with a bloody civil war. The effects of this horrible rape and murder should have never been felt outside of the community in which it occurred. Those local people should have brought the criminals to justice and corrected the lawlessness that allowed the crime to happen. Instead the town and then the whole tribe/region defended the wickedness – even going to war over it.

Do you not see the path that our country is on in this story? We are just the same. We do not care if we are wrong. We just defend our position even if it is wrong. Why does this play out on the national stage? Because that is the way our nation is, in general, on an individual level. We are a nation that has grown up getting whatever we want handed to us. We are now generations of people that never had to sacrifice for anything. We are a nation of spoiled little rich kids by comparison to previous generations. We want what we want and we want it now. My ideas are better than yours and I will refuse to participate if you don’t see things my way. Just look at how we change wives and husbands when we don’t get our way. Look at how we no longer make things that improve society. We make toys that entertain ME now. While our nation’s infrasturture crumbles around us, we have more thought about the next iPhone than we do about the crumbling bridges we drive over in our self-contained entertainment devices that we call cars.

May we as a nation learn to compromise again. May we become a nation that respects each other’s idea. May we become a nation that no longer worships itself. May we be a nation that worships God! May we see the evil in ourselves and turn from it and return to the Lord. May we see ourselves in ancient Israel and be disgusted by it and return to God.

Amen and Amen.

Judges 19:1-30 (Part 3 of 3)
The Levite and His Concubine

One of the things that struck me as I read through this passage was the fact that (1) why did the Levite wait so long to go retrieve his mistress/concubine and (2) why did the passage go into detail about the amount of time it took for the Levite to leave the house of the father of this girl that was his mistress. So much time in this passage is devoted to these two things, there’s got to be something there out which there is a biblical nugget to be mined. What I came up with is the party lifestyle and the pride that goes with it.

First off, even though there are references to multiple references in the Bible of many have multiple wives and or mistresses. It never turns out good. Because God’s design is for one man and one woman to be in a relationship of fidelity and intimacy. The clearest evidence that monogamy is God’s ideal is from Christ’s teaching on marriage in Matthew 19:3–6. In this passage, He cited the Genesis creation account, in particular Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, saying “the two will become one flesh”, not more than two. Another important biblical teaching is the parallel of husband and wife with Christ and the Church in Ephesians 5:22–33, which makes sense only with monogamy—Jesus will not have multiple brides, only one bride and it His church. The 10th Commandment “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife [singular] … ” (Exodus 20:17) also presupposes the ideal that there is only one wife. Polygamy is expressly forbidden for church elders (1 Timothy 3:2). And this is not just for elders, because Paul also wrote: “each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). Paul goes on to explain marital responsibilities in terms that make sense only with one husband to one wife.

It is very important to remember that not everything recorded in the Bible is approved in the Bible. Consider where polygamy originated—first in the line of the murderer Cain, not the line of Seth. The first recorded polygamist was the murderer Lamech (Genesis 4:23–24). Then Esau, who despised his birthright, also caused much grief to his parents by marrying two pagan wives (Genesis 26:34). God put a number of obligations on the husband towards the additional wives (it was another of those regulations that God put in place to regulate a bad situation that already existed such as his rules about divorce – the hardened heart regulations), which would discourage polygamy.

God also forbade the kings of Israel to have “many wives” (Deuteronomy 17:17). Look at the trouble when Israel’s kings disobeyed, including deadly sibling rivalry between David’s sons from his different wives (2 Samuel 13, 1 Kings 2); and Solomon’s hundreds of wives helped lead Solomon to idolatry (1 Kings 11:1–3). In view of the problems it causes, it is no wonder that polygamy was unknown among the Jews after the Babylonian exile, and monogamy was the rule even among the Greeks and Romans by New Testament times.

Since she is called a concubine, it means that she was almost a wife. She was probably a gift to the Levite from a family that could not meet their obligations to him in some way or as a way to seal an alliance between families. For her not to be a full-fledged wife may presupposed that the Levite already had a primary wife, the legal wife according to God’s law. Therefore, it seems to me with my 21st century sensabilities that this Levite was not opposed to wheeling and dealing and playing loose with the interpretation of God’s law. It may have been more important to him to (1) seal a political alliance that gave him more influence in his region of the country or increased his access to wealth or both or (2) have access to additional sexual opportunities without it being frowned upon. If he had two women in his home, it would double the opportunity, ya know.

So we have a guy here that is supposed to be an example of God’s higher standard for His people. He is a Levite after all. But he is no better than the normal Israelites at this point and he is no better than the pagan cultures surrounding Israel. He plays footloose with the standards set by God.

Second, even though we have established that having multiple sex partners at the same time was not God’s intention for the marital home. But having said that, this woman who was part of his home life should have been someone he cared about and took care of. However, the dude waits like four months to even go after her. She got mad at him and left him to go back home to her dad’s house. Yet, the Levite just sits back at home. He must have been like go ahead girl I don’t care. You’ll see. You’ll miss me. You’ll come crawling back to me. It must have been a big deal to the girl because she was not coming back. How prideful this guy must have been to let a woman he cared for to be gone for 4 months without as much of care to go look for her. He must have been a selfish guy with I can replace her very easily attitude.

Third, we see the passage spends a good many words about the hospitality shown him by his mistress’ dad. The Levite was ready to go but he was easily convinced to stay another two days. It was a party I guess. It says that had another two days of feasting. Seems like this guy was easily dissuaded from what he knew he needed to do by the party. He must have had a party attitude about life. Everything can be suspended or forgotten for a party. He probably was the kind who lived his life waiting for the next party. You know, where you can let your hair down. Get blasted. Do wild things. Do things that you wouldn’t normally do. Yep. Fits in with the profile that we are building here. He was a guy who bent God’s commands to suit his lifestyle. He was arrogant. He was self-centered. He was a party boy.

With that in mind, let us read through Judges 19 now with an eye toward the treatment of the concubine in this passage/chapter. We may condemn the Levite for his treatment of her but before we get all morally outraged, let’s then think about our modern-day ways that we treat life in the same way:

19 Now in those days Israel had no king. There was a man from the tribe of Levi living in a remote area of the hill country of Ephraim. One day he brought home a woman from Bethlehem in Judah to be his concubine. 2 But she became angry with him[a] and returned to her father’s home in Bethlehem.

After about four months, 3 her husband set out for Bethlehem to speak personally to her and persuade her to come back. He took with him a servant and a pair of donkeys. When he arrived at[b] her father’s house, her father saw him and welcomed him. 4 Her father urged him to stay awhile, so he stayed three days, eating, drinking, and sleeping there.

5 On the fourth day the man was up early, ready to leave, but the woman’s father said to his son-in-law, “Have something to eat before you go.” 6 So the two men sat down together and had something to eat and drink. Then the woman’s father said, “Please stay another night and enjoy yourself.” 7 The man got up to leave, but his father-in-law kept urging him to stay, so he finally gave in and stayed the night.

8 On the morning of the fifth day he was up early again, ready to leave, and again the woman’s father said, “Have something to eat; then you can leave later this afternoon.” So they had another day of feasting. 9 Later, as the man and his concubine and servant were preparing to leave, his father-in-law said, “Look, it’s almost evening. Stay the night and enjoy yourself. Tomorrow you can get up early and be on your way.”

10 But this time the man was determined to leave. So he took his two saddled donkeys and his concubine and headed in the direction of Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). 11 It was late in the day when they neared Jebus, and the man’s servant said to him, “Let’s stop at this Jebusite town and spend the night there.”

12 “No,” his master said, “we can’t stay in this foreign town where there are no Israelites. Instead, we will go on to Gibeah. 13 Come on, let’s try to get as far as Gibeah or Ramah, and we’ll spend the night in one of those towns.” 14 So they went on. The sun was setting as they came to Gibeah, a town in the land of Benjamin, 15 so they stopped there to spend the night. They rested in the town square, but no one took them in for the night.

16 That evening an old man came home from his work in the fields. He was from the hill country of Ephraim, but he was living in Gibeah, where the people were from the tribe of Benjamin. 17 When he saw the travelers sitting in the town square, he asked them where they were from and where they were going.

18 “We have been in Bethlehem in Judah,” the man replied. “We are on our way to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim, which is my home. I traveled to Bethlehem, and now I’m returning home.[c] But no one has taken us in for the night, 19 even though we have everything we need. We have straw and feed for our donkeys and plenty of bread and wine for ourselves.”

20 “You are welcome to stay with me,” the old man said. “I will give you anything you might need. But whatever you do, don’t spend the night in the square.” 21 So he took them home with him and fed the donkeys. After they washed their feet, they ate and drank together.

22 While they were enjoying themselves, a crowd of troublemakers from the town surrounded the house. They began beating at the door and shouting to the old man, “Bring out the man who is staying with you so we can have sex with him.”

23 The old man stepped outside to talk to them. “No, my brothers, don’t do such an evil thing. For this man is a guest in my house, and such a thing would be shameful. 24 Here, take my virgin daughter and this man’s concubine. I will bring them out to you, and you can abuse them and do whatever you like. But don’t do such a shameful thing to this man.”

25 But they wouldn’t listen to him. So the Levite took hold of his concubine and pushed her out the door. The men of the town abused her all night, taking turns raping her until morning. Finally, at dawn they let her go. 26 At daybreak the woman returned to the house where her husband was staying. She collapsed at the door of the house and lay there until it was light.

27 When her husband opened the door to leave, there lay his concubine with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said, “Get up! Let’s go!” But there was no answer.[d] So he put her body on his donkey and took her home.

29 When he got home, he took a knife and cut his concubine’s body into twelve pieces. Then he sent one piece to each tribe throughout all the territory of Israel.

30 Everyone who saw it said, “Such a horrible crime has not been committed in all the time since Israel left Egypt. Think about it! What are we going to do? Who’s going to speak up?”

In this passage, when viewed from a personality profile perspective, we see that…well…for a great number of us, we see ourselves in the Levite. We pride, arrogance, self-centeredness. We see a person who was once probably idealistic about loving God but never to the point of accepting God as Lord. He may have been one of us who started down the slope of oh, this sin is OK and oh, that sin is OK. I am still a Levite. It is ok for me to act like the pagans do by having multiple sex partners in my home. Kind of like how we do in modern times of that it is ok to have sex while single because (1) it feels good and (2) it is OK because I care about this person and (3) God just wants me to be happy. God will make an exception to His rules, just this one time. Here we see a guy that cast the mistress aside for 4 months because of a disagreement of some sort. Apparnetly, he didn’t care. He wanted to win the fight. He was right. She was wrong. Don’t let the screen door hit where the good Lord split, I bet he might have said (if they had had screen doors in the 1100’s BC. How many times have you and I split up with a girl or guy that we have been dating and been having sex with outside the marriage covenant and for pride’s sake and to win at all cost, we toss the relationship aside for pride. Here we see a guy that was a party animal too. It took him two days to leave his mistress’ dad’s house because of the party. How many times, have you and I in the past lived that party girl or party boy lifestyle where you forget your morality and do stuff that you will regret later but at the time it seemed OK? How we lower our moral standards and do stuff that we would normally not do when we live the party girl or party boy lifestyle. Our moral standards lie in a pile beside our clothes near the bed of whomever we went home with.

Then, you add to that the conclusion of this story that we talked about in my last blog. This guy just had gotten so self-centered that he through his woman to the dogs as if she were a piece of meat, a piece of property. How often, in the past, did you and I treat people that way. Use ‘em for what we want and then throw ‘em away when that don’t fit into our plans anymore or there’s a better offer that just walked by. That is how many of us lived our lives before we came to the cross. The self-centered, arrogant, party boy or party girl lifestyle never ends well. We will find our rock bottom one day.

Are you sick and tired of living life in this manner? Are you tired of searching for meaning in life but never finding it? Are tired of seeking value in sexual relationships but always feeling like there’s something missing? Are you tired of ending up alone in your soul and trying to fill it up with parties?

That hole in your soul is designed to be there. That hole in your soul is designed to be filled by Jesus Christ. You know that everything else that you have tried has come up empty and wanting. That is by design. Only God is to fulfill us. Come to the altar now and admit to the Lord that you have turned your back on Him. Admit that you ran from Him because you thought your party lifestyle was better. Admit to Him that you were wrong. Beg for forgiveness and ask Him to come into your heart and make you fulfilled, and new, and vibrant once again. He is slow to anger and He is quick to forgive your sins. Once you accept Christ as Your Savior, it’s not about do and don’ts. It’s about a fulfilling new relationship that changes you from the inside out and changes your perspective. He is the one that fills the hole in our soul.

Amen and Amen.

Judges 19:1-30 (Part 2 of 3)
The Levite and His Concubine

When I read through this passage, I was struck by the fact that this concubine was a real person but yet she was treated like a piece of property. She was just, and excuse my crudeness, another piece of ass to the Levite man. She was just something to have sex with. She was not really a woman to him. She was a blow-up doll with no mind and no rights. Just a hole. He was willing to toss her out to the dogs to save his own skin from the degradation of homosexual rape. He just threw out the door because she was just sex hole anyway. He represents the ugly side of us. We condemn him for treating her like a piece of meat, or a piece of property that could be tossed away with impunity. She could be tossed away to her violent death because she was just sex to him and she had no rights.

Does this sound familiar? It is the view that I have of the whole abortion debate. It smacks of the same attitude. In order to support abortion as a choice, we must have this Levite’s attitude. We must treat an unborn fetus the same as this concubine. We must treat the fetus with the same as property. Thus, the fetus is comparable to a slave in the old South. Bear with me a minute before you start picketing in front of my house. Let’s logically walk through the argument.

Several months ago, I re-watched for like the third time, the powerful movie, Twelve Years A Slave. In that movie, the repeated phrase of the plantation owner was that a slave was property. That right of property superseded any human rights of a slave. The slave was seen as no better than a barn or the nails that it held it together. No better than the crops from the field. There were laws throughout the South that treated blacks as nothing less than property.

According to theories of John Locke, the great political theorist of the Renaissance, man has a right to enjoy the rights of life and liberty and property and this right is not granted by government but by the nature of universe. Lockean theory was the backbone of the cry for revolutions in Europe and the revolution here in the US. Black slaves were seen as property and slave owners fully believed that they had an inalienable right to use their own property as they saw fit. This position was so pervasive that it was an issue in drafting the Constitution of the country. Laws and court cases upheld the theory of property all throughout the South and it made its way all to the Supreme Court. In the infamous Dred Scott Supreme Court ruling of 1857. Dred Scott was a slave who escaped into a slave-free state (Illinois) and who subsequently sued for his freedom.

In the Supreme Court’s decision, the choice to own slaves was an individual decision, a private matter for each citizen to struggle with apart from interference by the state. If a person, in an act of conscience, chose not to keep slaves, that was his own decision, but he could not force that choice on others. Every person had a private right to choose. Dred Scott, as a slave, was declared chattel–human property. He was a possession of his owner, and the owner had a right to do whatever he wanted with his assets. Three of the justices held that even a Negro who had descended from slaves had no rights as an American citizen and thus no standing in the court. It took an amendment to the constitution, ratified by the majority of states in December 1865, that finally gave black slaves equal standing under the law. It is now commonly accepted that all men and women, regardless of color, have a natural right to freedom and it is not subject to laws or governments. It is an inalienable right. It’s taken 100s of years, a civil war, a civil rights movement, and civil rights law to guarantee that we all know this – that no man is property, no man should be seen as subhuman, no man should have his right to life be contingent upon another’s view of that life, that no man should have his right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness abridged. It is a natural human right.

That was the profound thing that struck me this morning in watching this powerful movie for a second time in my life. Watching this movie for a second time (saw it first on DVD about a year ago) was kind of like reading a Bible passage that you have read a thousand times and glossed over it but this 1001st time, it hits you like a brick to the head. That was the thing that I felt like a ton of bricks watching this movie today. It just came to me. It was one of those Holy Spirit things, I guess.

The ton of bricks was the archaic view of blacks as property is seen as an aberration now but we are perpetuating the view with the current legality of abortion as supported by a Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade in 1972. I know some who might read this and say, how can you compare slavery and abortion…but hear me out, please. In that Supreme Court case, part of its justification for the legality of abortion was that the Court established that the word “person” as used in the due process clause and in other provisions of the Constitution did not include the unborn, and therefore the unborn lacked federal constitutional protection. The court stated that the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action” includes “a right of personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy” and that “[t]his right of privacy . . . is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”

What it boils down to is that which is not life is property. When life is considered property then you can do with it what you please. We have the right to enjoy property as we wish. If a person is not considered a person, then what are they? Our nation once saw negroes as not better than the swing on your front porch – to do with what you pleased. As property they had no rights. No more than a lamppost has rights in the court of law. Under Roe v. Wade, a fetus has no legal standing in the court of law. A fetus is not considered a person who has the whole avail of privileges guaranteed citizens under the laws and constitution of our country. Fetuses have the same lack of constitutional rights as negroes prior to the long history of constitutional amendments and laws that won their rightful place beside other persons of our country. Under the reckoning of Roe v. Wade, it had the same impact of the Dred Scott decision of the same court, the Supreme Court of our land.

If it is not life, then it must be property. Roe v. Wade hinged on the issue of viability. In the court’s eyes, a fetus is not viable as an independent human life until after the first trimester of pregnancy. However, like with slavery, because something is legally defined as right, it does not make it a universal truth (the old legal vs. moral issue). If we do not define a human life as viable life, it is then, in a legal sense, property to do with as you please. We once saw negroes as property to do with as we pleased. It was guaranteed by the Supreme Court of the land. That did not make it universally and morally right. In fact that it was so morally wrong that ultimately the law of the land was changed and an amendment to the Constitution was added to guarantee the rights of all citizens to be seen as equal to and have the same rights as all other citizens.

It comes down to what is not considered life is and must be considered property. Under Roe v. Wade, a fetus has to be considered the property of the mother who carries the fetus in her womb. The Christian view is that life begins at conception. That point at which an egg is fertilized and it amazingly begins the reproductive process. Saying that life does begins at a later point under the argument of viability is just mincing words and timeliness. Regardless of whether a fetus is viable, it is life. It is multiplying. It is growing. Unless we stop it growing through abortion, it will become viable. That’s why the courts had to establish the point of viability arbitrarily to allow abortion to be legal. In order for abortion to be legal, there be room to consider a fetus property and thus strip away any constitutional rights guaranteed to all that which is not considered property.

Let us read through Judges 19 now with an eye toward the treatment of the concubine in this passage/chapter. We may condemn the Levite for his treatment of her but before we get all morally outraged, let’s then think about our modern day ways that we treat life in the same way:

19 Now in those days Israel had no king. There was a man from the tribe of Levi living in a remote area of the hill country of Ephraim. One day he brought home a woman from Bethlehem in Judah to be his concubine. 2 But she became angry with him[a] and returned to her father’s home in Bethlehem.

After about four months, 3 her husband set out for Bethlehem to speak personally to her and persuade her to come back. He took with him a servant and a pair of donkeys. When he arrived at[b] her father’s house, her father saw him and welcomed him. 4 Her father urged him to stay awhile, so he stayed three days, eating, drinking, and sleeping there.

5 On the fourth day the man was up early, ready to leave, but the woman’s father said to his son-in-law, “Have something to eat before you go.” 6 So the two men sat down together and had something to eat and drink. Then the woman’s father said, “Please stay another night and enjoy yourself.” 7 The man got up to leave, but his father-in-law kept urging him to stay, so he finally gave in and stayed the night.

8 On the morning of the fifth day he was up early again, ready to leave, and again the woman’s father said, “Have something to eat; then you can leave later this afternoon.” So they had another day of feasting. 9 Later, as the man and his concubine and servant were preparing to leave, his father-in-law said, “Look, it’s almost evening. Stay the night and enjoy yourself. Tomorrow you can get up early and be on your way.”

10 But this time the man was determined to leave. So he took his two saddled donkeys and his concubine and headed in the direction of Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). 11 It was late in the day when they neared Jebus, and the man’s servant said to him, “Let’s stop at this Jebusite town and spend the night there.”

12 “No,” his master said, “we can’t stay in this foreign town where there are no Israelites. Instead, we will go on to Gibeah. 13 Come on, let’s try to get as far as Gibeah or Ramah, and we’ll spend the night in one of those towns.” 14 So they went on. The sun was setting as they came to Gibeah, a town in the land of Benjamin, 15 so they stopped there to spend the night. They rested in the town square, but no one took them in for the night.

16 That evening an old man came home from his work in the fields. He was from the hill country of Ephraim, but he was living in Gibeah, where the people were from the tribe of Benjamin. 17 When he saw the travelers sitting in the town square, he asked them where they were from and where they were going.

18 “We have been in Bethlehem in Judah,” the man replied. “We are on our way to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim, which is my home. I traveled to Bethlehem, and now I’m returning home.[c] But no one has taken us in for the night, 19 even though we have everything we need. We have straw and feed for our donkeys and plenty of bread and wine for ourselves.”

20 “You are welcome to stay with me,” the old man said. “I will give you anything you might need. But whatever you do, don’t spend the night in the square.” 21 So he took them home with him and fed the donkeys. After they washed their feet, they ate and drank together.

22 While they were enjoying themselves, a crowd of troublemakers from the town surrounded the house. They began beating at the door and shouting to the old man, “Bring out the man who is staying with you so we can have sex with him.”

23 The old man stepped outside to talk to them. “No, my brothers, don’t do such an evil thing. For this man is a guest in my house, and such a thing would be shameful. 24 Here, take my virgin daughter and this man’s concubine. I will bring them out to you, and you can abuse them and do whatever you like. But don’t do such a shameful thing to this man.”

25 But they wouldn’t listen to him. So the Levite took hold of his concubine and pushed her out the door. The men of the town abused her all night, taking turns raping her until morning. Finally, at dawn they let her go. 26 At daybreak the woman returned to the house where her husband was staying. She collapsed at the door of the house and lay there until it was light.

27 When her husband opened the door to leave, there lay his concubine with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said, “Get up! Let’s go!” But there was no answer.[d] So he put her body on his donkey and took her home.

29 When he got home, he took a knife and cut his concubine’s body into twelve pieces. Then he sent one piece to each tribe throughout all the territory of Israel.

30 Everyone who saw it said, “Such a horrible crime has not been committed in all the time since Israel left Egypt. Think about it! What are we going to do? Who’s going to speak up?”

In this passage, we see that having a concubine was an accepted part of Israelite society although it is clearly not what God intended (see Genesis 2:24). A concubine had most of the duties but only some of the privileges of a wife. Although she was legally attached to one man, she had her children usually did not have the inheritance rights of the legal wife and legitimate children. Her primary purpose was, of course, was giving the man sexual pleasure as well as bearing additional children for the man and contributing more help to the household or estate. Concubines were often foreign prison, but they could also be Israelites, as was probably the case in this story.

As you can see in this story, the Levite saw the concubine as a piece of property do with whatever he pleased. In his eyes, she was his property so if he wanted to use her for cannon fodder with no regard to her rights, that was his right. That idea that a life can be considered property is not the intention of God. We were created in his own image. Nobody knows what that spark of life is that creates an existence (when a sperm fertilizes an egg) but there is a miracle of creation at that moment that science cannot truly explain. Life begins multiplying as cells at a compounded exponential rate at that moment. Science can explain how it happens but not why. God is in that moment. He creates life in that moment. And He holds each life in high regard. We are the apex of creation whether we are rich or poor, whether we are black or white, whether we are in the uterus or out of it.

So from this story, we see that man has not changed a lot over the millenia. Man has the amazing capability to desensitize himself to the value of human life so as to get a desired result. The similarities of how this man treated his concubine to how we treated slaves in the Old South and now on to the so called modern world with how we treat life in utero.

There is a great similarity between the basis for legalized slavery (my property to do with as I wish) and the basis for legalized abortion (my body my choice). We must blind ourselves to blacks being human beings with a right to life and liberty to make slavery legal. We must also blind ourselves to what life is and when it starts. Saying it starts at specified date is just legal definition. It does not change the fact that at that date cells are multiplying and if left alone will grow into a baby that would be born and live a life outside the uterus. Legal definition does not always match moral definition.

In this less well known story from the Bible, it is clearly evident that the Levite has the same view of his concubine as slave holders had of their slaves and that abortion activists have of fetus developing in a mother’s womb. It’s just property. Property that I have an inalienable right to do with as I please – even to the point of destroying the property. It’s my property. You can’t tell me what to do with my property. A concubine, a slave in the Old South, a fetus – it’s all property. Right?

That which is not life must therefore be considered property. When will we come to realize that we have been as wrong about when life begins as we were about whether a human being can be considered property and not really a valid human life. Can we quit the legal dancing just as we did in the days of slavery and as we are doing now with abortion and see life as life? Not a choice. Not a piece of property.

Life is life and it deserve liberty and to be considered a person under the eyes of the law, just as God sees us as persons from the moment of conception, the unique individuals that we all are, and just as God sees all of us as children no matter the color of our skin or what position we hold in society. We are each a glorious creation of the miracle of life given to us by God each with a unique purpose in God’s grand plan for the universe started at Genesis and to be completed in Revelation. Life is not property in God’s eyes!

Can I get an…

Amen and Amen!

Judges 18:1-31 (Part 3 of 3)
Idolatry in the Tribe of Dan

Often, we hear people say things like, “got my bonus today. Feeling blessed.” Or “Just got back from my mission trip and realizing how blessed we are in the United States compared to Haiti.” Or “just got our new car and man are we so blessed by God.” Or “Finally closed on our new house today. Feeling blessed!” Why is it that we equate material things with the blessings of God? On the surface, the phrase seems harmless. Faithful even. Why wouldn’t I want to give God the glory for everything I have? Isn’t that the right thing to do? Doesn’t God bless those who are faithful to Him? Not that it isn’t God’s sovereign prerogative to bestow earthly financial blessings upon His children but it is not because there is causal relationship between my earthly financial wealth and my obedience to my Lord and Savior.

When we equate the two, we are saying several things. First, we are saying that God is in the behavior modification business. If we do “x”, then God will reward us with “y” from an earthly storehouse. It is similar to the way that we will most likely reward my 14 month old granddaughter here in a year or so from now when she successfully poops in the potty rather than in her pants. God does not work that way. He does not want us to only obey him because we are going to get some kind of reward from it. Second, to say material wealth is an indication of our blessed state from God is just downright offensive to a Christians around the world who get by on wages for a month that we earn in one or two hours at work here in the United States. Does the fact that the average American earns $50k per year mean that we are innately more blessed than some Haitian Christian who works hard to feed his family on the equivalent of $100 per month. Are we more blessed by God than him? He may in fact be more in love with God than you or I but by our measure of blessing we are saying that he is less blessed than you or me. Third, what if I am living like hell and being hypocritical (going to church on Sunday but living unethically and unlike Christ the rest of the week), but yet I have a successful business or a successful career, is my success an indication of approval from God? And finally, if I am suffering and am not being financially blessed, am I hiding some unconfessed sin? That sentiment is an affront to Christians in countries such as North Korea, China, or any predominantly Muslim country. They are often more obedient to the Father’s will and more in love with Jesus Christ than the average American Christian but yet many languish in prison for refusing to renounce their Savior. But yet by the standards of “feeling blessed” because of some financial gain that has happened to us, they by this measure must be doing something wrong. The evidence of God’s blessing is our earthly success, right? We have the same mentality about our nation and it trickles down to us individually. We think that we are in God’s favor as a nation because we have been so richly blessed collectively with a standard of living that far exceeds 95% of the rest of the world. We must being doing something right in God’s eyes, right? Otherwise, we would not be receiving the payback that we are getting in earthly riches compared to the rest of the planet, right? We can allow ourselves to start thinking that as individuals as well.

That’s the thing that I thought of today when I read through Judges 18 for the third of three reads through it today. Here, we see that the Danites were successful in conquering the lush and wealthy town of Laish. The question that you must raise when you read this passage is, though they were successful in conquering the region and town of Laish, does it make it evidence of God’s blessing? Let’s think about that as we read this passage:

18 Now in those days Israel had no king. And the tribe of Dan was trying to find a place where they could settle, for they had not yet moved into the land assigned to them when the land was divided among the tribes of Israel. 2 So the men of Dan chose from their clans five capable warriors from the towns of Zorah and Eshtaol to scout out a land for them to settle in.

When these warriors arrived in the hill country of Ephraim, they came to Micah’s house and spent the night there. 3 While at Micah’s house, they recognized the young Levite’s accent, so they went over and asked him, “Who brought you here, and what are you doing in this place? Why are you here?” 4 He told them about his agreement with Micah and that he had been hired as Micah’s personal priest.

5 Then they said, “Ask God whether or not our journey will be successful.”

6 “Go in peace,” the priest replied. “For the Lord is watching over your journey.”

7 So the five men went on to the town of Laish, where they noticed the people living carefree lives, like the Sidonians; they were peaceful and secure.[a] The people were also wealthy because their land was very fertile. And they lived a great distance from Sidon and had no allies nearby.

8 When the men returned to Zorah and Eshtaol, their relatives asked them, “What did you find?”

9 The men replied, “Come on, let’s attack them! We have seen the land, and it is very good. What are you waiting for? Don’t hesitate to go and take possession of it. 10 When you get there, you will find the people living carefree lives. God has given us a spacious and fertile land, lacking in nothing!”

11 So 600 men from the tribe of Dan, armed with weapons of war, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol. 12 They camped at a place west of Kiriath-jearim in Judah, which is called Mahaneh-dan[b] to this day. 13 Then they went on from there into the hill country of Ephraim and came to the house of Micah.

14 The five men who had scouted out the land around Laish explained to the others, “These buildings contain a sacred ephod, as well as some household idols, a carved image, and a cast idol. What do you think you should do?” 15 Then the five men turned off the road and went over to Micah’s house, where the young Levite lived, and greeted him kindly. 16 As the 600 armed warriors from the tribe of Dan stood at the entrance of the gate, 17 the five scouts entered the shrine and removed the carved image, the sacred ephod, the household idols, and the cast idol. Meanwhile, the priest was standing at the gate with the 600 armed warriors.

18 When the priest saw the men carrying all the sacred objects out of Micah’s shrine, he said, “What are you doing?”

19 “Be quiet and come with us,” they said. “Be a father and priest to all of us. Isn’t it better to be a priest for an entire tribe and clan of Israel than for the household of just one man?”

20 The young priest was quite happy to go with them, so he took along the sacred ephod, the household idols, and the carved image. 21 They turned and started on their way again, placing their children, livestock, and possessions in front of them.

22 When the people from the tribe of Dan were quite a distance from Micah’s house, the people who lived near Micah came chasing after them. 23 They were shouting as they caught up with them. The men of Dan turned around and said to Micah, “What’s the matter? Why have you called these men together and chased after us like this?”

24 “What do you mean, ‘What’s the matter?’” Micah replied. “You’ve taken away all the gods I have made, and my priest, and I have nothing left!”

25 The men of Dan said, “Watch what you say! There are some short-tempered men around here who might get angry and kill you and your family.” 26 So the men of Dan continued on their way. When Micah saw that there were too many of them for him to attack, he turned around and went home.

27 Then, with Micah’s idols and his priest, the men of Dan came to the town of Laish, whose people were peaceful and secure. They attacked with swords and burned the town to the ground. 28 There was no one to rescue the people, for they lived a great distance from Sidon and had no allies nearby. This happened in the valley near Beth-rehob.

Then the people of the tribe of Dan rebuilt the town and lived there. 29 They renamed the town Dan after their ancestor, Israel’s son, but it had originally been called Laish.

30 Then they set up the carved image, and they appointed Jonathan son of Gershom, son of Moses,[c] as their priest. This family continued as priests for the tribe of Dan until the Exile. 31 So Micah’s carved image was worshiped by the tribe of Dan as long as the Tabernacle of God remained at Shiloh.

Here, in this passage, we see that just because the Danites successfully defeated Laish doesn’t mean their actions were right. Their idolatry showed that God was not guiding them. Today, many justify their wrong actions by outward signs of success. They think that wealth, popularity, or the lack of suffering is an indication of God’s blessing. However, many stories in the Bible indicate that evil and earthly success go hand in hand. Success does not indicate God’s approval. We should not allow any personal success that we have to become the measuring rod of whether or not we are pleasing God. We should always compare our actions to the commands of Scripture (whether we receive an earthly blessing from it or not) to help determine whether we are doing what is pleasing in God’s sight or not. Regardless of whether there is an earthly blessing or not, we are laying up treasures in heaven when we lovingly obey our Lord’s commands.

I don’t think that it says anywhere in the Bible that there is a direct correlation between our earthly comforts and financial windfalls and obedience to God. There is no direct correlation between earthly success and being a faithful Christ follower. Nowhere in the Bible does it say, “Blessed are those who receive earthly comforts”, “Blessed are those who own a beach home at Ocean Lakes”, “Blessed are those who have incomes in excess of $100k per year.”, “Blessed are those who have the ability to buy a Lexus”. Quite the opposite is true. The Beatitudes do not promise us earthly blessing. Jesus promised us the kingdom of heaven if we live in a manner consistent with God and not live in a manner by which we measure blessing by earthly standards.

Certainly, God may well give us resources in this life that are far beyond what we deserve or imagine but never should we equate the two – blessing and earthly wealth. If God does give us earthly wealth as Christ followers, it is because He expects us to use our wealth to bless others and use our wealth to be generous in a manner that brings glory to Him not ourselves. With wealth, we have the opportunity not to demonstrate how righteous and holy we are but to use our resources generously to help the less fortunate, the widows and the orphans and so on, and to give Him glory by the eternal things that we invest in with our wealth. We must use our wealth to invest in things of eternal value rather that the temporary trappings of this life that will be gone within a few generations.

So, let’s take a moment to disassociate being blessed financially here on earth as an indication of God’s favor. The Bible clearly demonstrates that mostly the opposite is true. If earthly blessings were the calling card of God, everybody would be Christ followers. However, we are citizens of heaven as Christ followers and our principal idea of blessing should be to please God and trust Him to provide for us here, what we need and not necessarily our wants and earthly desires, on earth but richly bless us in heaven.

Amen and Amen.

Judges 18:1-31 (Part 2 of 3)
Idolatry in the Tribe of Dan

Right now, I am working on a research paper for my D.Min. degree and the premise that I was assigned was “what does theology have to do with the everyday life of a Christian?” In that paper, I decided to approach it from the point of view, of course, that theology has everything to do with the everyday life of a Christian. After working with a few ideas, I decided to entitle my paper, “Let’s Bring Hell Back! (And Other Basic Doctrines of the Christian Faith)”. The title is intended for shock value and to get the readers of my paper to actually pick it up and read it. The shock value is that there is so much truth in that statement. In this post-modern world in which we live, the doctrine of hell is a forgotten but essential one. It is wrapped up and tied up with the doctrine of man. With these two doctrines of the Christian faith, it creates the basic difference between it and the rest of the religions, which are all man-made, of the world.

From the Bible we learn of these doctrines throughout. We come to learn from Genesis to Revelation that man has inherited its sin nature from Adam almost immediately from the creation of man. Christianity forces us to take an honest look at ourselves. We are sinful creatures just by our very nature. On the other hand, God is full of purity, justice and love. He has no sin in him. Sin cannot exist in his presence. He is truth, and light, and justice, and agape love. The sin nature that we have is a time bomb that goes off quickly. Just think of your two year old child or two year old niece or nephew or the 2 year old child of a friend. We learn quickly from birth to preserve ourselves. We learn to throw others under the bus to save our own skin at an early age. We learn to lie at any early age to preserve our rights to the things that we want and desire. We will be mean to our siblings at a very early age to get what we want at their expense. So, to think that man is ever in a pure state or that he can achieve it through a lifetime of effort is a laughable and unrealistic notion. Have you ever tried to go through a day without having a sinful thought – of anger, of lust, of greed, of theft, of … you name the sin. Even if we do not carry out our sins in a physical sense, we commit sins by the hour in our heart and mind. According to Jesus, our thoughts are sinful just as much as our actions are. That which has any tinge of sin in it cannot exist in the presence of God. Just one sin, even if it is a sinful thought, convicts us before the Righteous and Pure Judge that is God. That’s all it takes. Just one sin. No more. One sin committed in a lifetime taints us just as one little drop of ink in a glass of pure water permanently changes the water. It is no longer pure. It is now tainted with the ink. And there is nothing that we can do to remove the ink from the water. The water has been permanently changed. Add to that we keep dropping ink into our water every day with each additional sin that we commit after the first one. Our water is so black with the ink of sin that you no longer can see through. Our water is so black with the ink of sin that it no longer resembles water but rather the ink that was dropped into it.

For our lifetime of sins, we are right to be judged by God to be condemned to hell. Scripture tells us that hell is as the following:

Revelation 14:11 “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”

II Thessalonians 1:9 “And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”

Revelation 21:8 “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

Matthew 25:41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Mark 9:47-48 “”And if your eye causes you to stumble, cast it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”

Revelation 20:10 “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

Matthew 13:41-42 “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Scripture is very clear that hell is where we will be conscious of our eternal torment forever is what we deserve on our own merits. Just think about that even our evil thoughts taint us from being in the presence of a pure and almighty God in heaven. Hell is what we deserve for our first sin much less the lifetime of sins that we commit. We deserve hell. We deserve eternal punishment. God does not sentence us to hell. He does not send us to hell. We do it to ourselves and that is what we deserve. Hell is what we deserve.

That my friends is why Jesus is so important. He is first and foremost above anything else our Savior. He saves us from what we deserve. He saves us from our just and correct sentence. A good judge in a courtroom today is considered a good judge because he carries out the punishment that we decide as a society that is fit and right for the crime committed. We would think that any judge who lets criminals off easy or did uphold the just punishment for a crime to be a lax judge and we would call for him to be removed from the bench if he did not execute the punishment that we as a society have deemed as appropriate. So, it is with God, He has commands that we must obey because He knows what is just and right and He is Justice And Rightness. So, we stand accused of violating God’s commands and that is called sin and we deserve the full weight of justice against us for our sins. However, even though God’s justice is there, He is also a loving God who expresses Himself in three ways, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit.

He loves us so much that He sent the Son to come to earth to live the perfectly sinless life and to complete the Old Testament sacrificial system by becoming the sinless lamb that was to be slain for our sins. He took the punishment that we deserve for our lifetimes of sin – in deed and in thought. He makes us clean. He makes our glass of water pure again. He makes it so that we can exist in the presence of God in heaven by cleansing us of the tainted ink of our sin. We are clear and pure through Him. We cannot do any effort on our own to earn our salvation because of our tainted glass of water. Without Jesus, we deserve the sentence of a habitual sin criminal. We deserve hell. Hell is what we deserve.

Think about how much more we would value our salvation if we really thought about the truth and reality of hell. What if we brought hell back to our pulpits.

However in today’s world, we preach less and less about hell. We talk less and less about hell because it is offensive to our senses as post-modernists. We have a fear of preaching and teaching the truth of hell and what we deserve. We would rather preach and teach a gospel where there is no mention of hell. Jesus just saves us from ourselves. Jesus without hell is our self-help guru. Things going bad in your life. Jesus is the answer. Not having luck in your life. Jesus is the answer. Feeling bad about yourself. Jesus is the answer. Without hell, Jesus is our buddy that helps us live a better life. Without hell, Jesus doesn’t save us from all that much other than our bad mistakes in life.

We preach and teach nothing of hell these days because we like to think that if we do enough of the right things that it will outweigh the bad. We do not think of ourselves as inherent sinners. We think of ourselves as good people that occasionally do bad things. We think that if we do enough good things, read the right books, hang out with the right people, that we can compensate for the occasional bad things that we do. We also equate God’s blessings with how good we are doing in this life. We teach and often preach a prosperity gospel that if we do enough of the right things that we will be blessed and highly favored in this life and if we are not we must have some hidden sins that we must get rid of by reading the right books, doing enough public service at churchwide events, and hanging out with right people. This is not the truth and reality of God’s Word but it sells. Because we don’t like to hear that we are destined to hell on our own merits. We would rather hear about God’s love only and not His justice. Skipping over God’s justice is how you make a megachurch today.

That idea of creating a soft religion that suits our needs is what I thought about today when I read this passage once again. My thoughts were directed at the priest in this passage. He sold out to keep food on his table. He developed a religion personally designed by Micah that met Micah’s needs. The priest was his own personal priest so the religion was set Micah not by God. Real faith in God would have required Micah to change, to admit that he was not the center of the universe. The priest created a soft religion for Micah that would soothe his soul instead of teach Him of his real nature in the presence of God.

That’s the thing that I thought of today when I read through Judges 18 for the second of three reads today. Here, we see:

18 Now in those days Israel had no king. And the tribe of Dan was trying to find a place where they could settle, for they had not yet moved into the land assigned to them when the land was divided among the tribes of Israel. 2 So the men of Dan chose from their clans five capable warriors from the towns of Zorah and Eshtaol to scout out a land for them to settle in.

When these warriors arrived in the hill country of Ephraim, they came to Micah’s house and spent the night there. 3 While at Micah’s house, they recognized the young Levite’s accent, so they went over and asked him, “Who brought you here, and what are you doing in this place? Why are you here?” 4 He told them about his agreement with Micah and that he had been hired as Micah’s personal priest.

5 Then they said, “Ask God whether or not our journey will be successful.”

6 “Go in peace,” the priest replied. “For the Lord is watching over your journey.”

7 So the five men went on to the town of Laish, where they noticed the people living carefree lives, like the Sidonians; they were peaceful and secure.[a] The people were also wealthy because their land was very fertile. And they lived a great distance from Sidon and had no allies nearby.

8 When the men returned to Zorah and Eshtaol, their relatives asked them, “What did you find?”

9 The men replied, “Come on, let’s attack them! We have seen the land, and it is very good. What are you waiting for? Don’t hesitate to go and take possession of it. 10 When you get there, you will find the people living carefree lives. God has given us a spacious and fertile land, lacking in nothing!”

11 So 600 men from the tribe of Dan, armed with weapons of war, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol. 12 They camped at a place west of Kiriath-jearim in Judah, which is called Mahaneh-dan[b] to this day. 13 Then they went on from there into the hill country of Ephraim and came to the house of Micah.

14 The five men who had scouted out the land around Laish explained to the others, “These buildings contain a sacred ephod, as well as some household idols, a carved image, and a cast idol. What do you think you should do?” 15 Then the five men turned off the road and went over to Micah’s house, where the young Levite lived, and greeted him kindly. 16 As the 600 armed warriors from the tribe of Dan stood at the entrance of the gate, 17 the five scouts entered the shrine and removed the carved image, the sacred ephod, the household idols, and the cast idol. Meanwhile, the priest was standing at the gate with the 600 armed warriors.

18 When the priest saw the men carrying all the sacred objects out of Micah’s shrine, he said, “What are you doing?”

19 “Be quiet and come with us,” they said. “Be a father and priest to all of us. Isn’t it better to be a priest for an entire tribe and clan of Israel than for the household of just one man?”

20 The young priest was quite happy to go with them, so he took along the sacred ephod, the household idols, and the carved image. 21 They turned and started on their way again, placing their children, livestock, and possessions in front of them.

22 When the people from the tribe of Dan were quite a distance from Micah’s house, the people who lived near Micah came chasing after them. 23 They were shouting as they caught up with them. The men of Dan turned around and said to Micah, “What’s the matter? Why have you called these men together and chased after us like this?”

24 “What do you mean, ‘What’s the matter?’” Micah replied. “You’ve taken away all the gods I have made, and my priest, and I have nothing left!”

25 The men of Dan said, “Watch what you say! There are some short-tempered men around here who might get angry and kill you and your family.” 26 So the men of Dan continued on their way. When Micah saw that there were too many of them for him to attack, he turned around and went home.

27 Then, with Micah’s idols and his priest, the men of Dan came to the town of Laish, whose people were peaceful and secure. They attacked with swords and burned the town to the ground. 28 There was no one to rescue the people, for they lived a great distance from Sidon and had no allies nearby. This happened in the valley near Beth-rehob.

Then the people of the tribe of Dan rebuilt the town and lived there. 29 They renamed the town Dan after their ancestor, Israel’s son, but it had originally been called Laish.

30 Then they set up the carved image, and they appointed Jonathan son of Gershom, son of Moses,[c] as their priest. This family continued as priests for the tribe of Dan until the Exile. 31 So Micah’s carved image was worshiped by the tribe of Dan as long as the Tabernacle of God remained at Shiloh.

Here, in this passage, we see that Israel’s moral decay affected even the priests and the Levites. This man accepted money, idols, and position in a way that was inconsistent with God’s laws. He compromised the man that he was supposed to be so that he could have money and position. He gladly set aside his beliefs as a man of God to get what he wanted. Instead of preaching and teaching about the truths of God, he created a religion that suited Micah’s tastes. Are we not doing that today as Christian leaders, teachers, preachers, and witnesses?

Sure, a street corner preacher with a sign saying “You’re going to hell!” has never saved but a few souls, but we have forgotten the basic truth that we are sinners who cannot wrestle ourselves out of our just and right sentence which is, indeed, hell. We need to bring hell back to the conversation. We need to bring our sin nature that condemns us to hell in the absence of Jesus. We need to make Jesus essential to us again not just our self-help buddy. We must see ourselves as totally dependent on the grace of Jesus Christ again. When we take away hell, we might make our faith more palatable to the non-believer and even to ourselves, but when we do we cheapen grace. Grace is of such great value to us because exactly of the reality of hell. That is what Jesus saves us from when we submit our lives to His authority. He saves us from hell where there is gnashing of teeth and the burning of flesh…forever. That’s the reality of the doctrines of our faith that come from God’s Word. That’s the reality. Even if we quit talking about it, that’s the reality. If it were not for hell, Jesus becomes less of a Savior and more of good buddy. When I think of hell and know, know, know that’s what I deserve, it makes me so so so thankful to God for giving me the grace He has given me through Jesus Christ. In the light of hell, I see the wondrous glory of Jesus Christ. In the light of hell, I see the amazing love that He has for me. In the light of hell, I find it impossible to fathom the great love that He has for me. I don’t deserve it but I got it and that makes me giddy beyond belief. Thank God that Jesus saved me from hell!!!

Amen and Amen.