The final chapter of the book of Judges does not redeem Israel. Instead of a happy ending we are witness to Israel going their own way once more. But tonight’s study does not dwell on negativity. In fact there are some very inspirational lessons to be learned from the poor example exhibited by Israel.
The disgraced tribe of Benjamin has been shunned by the rest of Israel. After their participation in the actions of the previous chapters, the other tribes have refused to allow any of their daughters to marry into the tribe of Benjamin. This leaves Benjamin at a great disadvantage for they need to be able to have children so that the tribe can continue.
To help Benjamin, the other tribes of Israel make plans to provide wives for the Benjamites. They accomplish this by killing the inhabitants of Jabeth Gilead except for the virgin girls, which they give to Benjamin. These virgins were chosen because people from Jabeth Gilead did not attend an assembly planned by the other tribes.
But the wives provided from Jabeth Gilead are not enough for the tribe and Israel makes arrangements for Benjamin to steal women from Shiloh. With these, the Benjamites have enough wives.
Israel’s methods of providing wives to Benjamin are arbitrary and foolhardy. First, they denied wives from among their own people. This forced them to find wives elsewhere for the tribe. The conflicted nature of Israel is apparent when we realize that Israel is judgmental of Benjamin enough to withhold intermarrying, yet still feels responsible enough for a fellow tribe to make sure they have wives. Israel should have repented of their sins, made sacrifices in accordance with the law, and prayed to God to help them deal with the Benjamites. Instead they make a bad situation worse with more killing (Jabeth Gilead) and employing strange logic to provide wives. Surely this is not how God would have directed the outcome?
An honest appraisal of this chapter can begin with its’ending; verse 25 says: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” The children of Israel are trying to do what is right in this chapter, yet they are doing so without keeping God at the center of their plans.
It reminds us of ourselves, when we drift away from Him: I can convince myself that I don’t need God for every situation in my life. I can certainly handle a few things on my own. After all, I have been a Christian for a number of years now, so if I forget to pray today, I will still be able to make wise choices. Right? Ultimately I will end up doing what I think is the right thing and saying what I think is the right thing if I think like this.
This independence of thought is a temptation of sorts, is it not? It is an allure of independence that tells me that I do not need God in every case. And temptation is a lie that takes effort to refute. In fact I do need Him to help me. Every day I need to operate with the assumption that I do not always know what is best for myself. As Paul wrote in Romans 7:16: “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.”
So does this mean that I am paralyzed from action? Should I be afraid to make decisions or take actions? As Paul would say, “Certainly not!” Rather, a meditative and prayerful knowledge of God’s will and His presence ought to always be in the back of my mind. If my conscience is a building, God is the architect. When I weigh the pros and cons of a tough decision, God holds the scales. If He is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, how could I not consult Him? Revelation 22:12-13: ““And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”” God knows all!
I retain confidence in my ability to live life as life comes, but I do so relying on the strength and wisdom provided by almighty God.
In closing of tonight’s study and this wonderful book of Judges, we will look at three short verses that will serve as an explanation on how to live with God directing your steps. First consider Jeremiah 10:23: “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.”
We know that we need help from God in living our life. Left up to me, selfishness, petty actions, jealousies, gossip and ill will abound soon enough. So then, I need to invite God to help me live and rely on His strength to stay away from sin: “Direct my steps by Your word, And let no iniquity have dominion over me.” Psalms 119:13
When I make a conscious effort to have God play that role in my life, He will guide me to all the success I could ever want: “A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9