JUDGES 19:1 – 21:25 and LUKE 11:1–32
Once again we see the mention of Israel not having a king. Perhaps the condition of the land and events as we shall see in this and other chapters is paving the way for an understanding of why a righteous king is needed. We see another Levite who had a wife that was unfaithful to him. He pursues after her and spends time with her in the house of her father. After several days the Levite leaves with his wife and servant and stops in Gibeah where they are taken in by an old man of that region (vs 16-21). What happens next is a scene that is highly reminiscent of what took place at Sodom with Lot (Gen 19).
The sin of Sodom is very much prominent in these men of Belial who come knocking at this old man’s door. Is it any wonder that lust and lawlessness is at a zenith due to the condition of the land? It seems that when lawlessness is at its peak you will find the sin of Sodom in its fullness. This is what is so concerning regarding our day. This spirit is not content with working within the framework of common law but rather has to dominate and have its way. It is an insatiable appetite that drives this agenda and it will not be denied. This spirit seeks to barge through common sense laws and will do battle with anyone that holds a contrary opinion.
The churches of these last days better beware. If the men of Sodom can come knocking at the door of Lot in the middle of the night and threaten harm what then will it be like when churches seek to hold their ground and standard? If this man of Gibeah has his door knocked upon at night by these men of Belial what makes us think that it will be any different in these last days? The militancy of this movement is plunging forward and no common sense law of man will stand in its way unless the standards of God are revived and upheld. Sad to say this is not happening; in fact just the opposite as many denominational churches are falling like dominoes in lock step with these militants.
Lot had the advantage of angelic hosts being with him so that his daughters would be spared from these deviants. The daughter of the old man and the concubine of the Levite were not as fortunate. The women were given as sacrificial lambs so that they themselves would be spared the wicked intents of these men of Belial. Is it possible that this Levite is a representation of many in the church today? He should have denied his daughter, trusted in God and be willing to give his life if required. How is it that man can come to a place of such debasement?
We have reflected before on the digression as seen in Romans 1. The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; it is a progression as we go forward in our Christian walk (Rom 1:17). The following verse gives the warning of what happens when the Word of God is held in unrighteousness. It starts with unthankfulness which hardens the heart which allows for the truth of God being turned into a lie. Taken further it eventually will lead to God giving over a people to another spirit to do things which are not natural. The fullest expression of rebellion against God culminates in the sin of homosexuality (Rom 1:24-28). The condition of the land as seen in this account does not just happen overnight. The tribes were not faithful in executing God’s commandments when they went into Canaan. Their allowance and tolerance of these enemies in the land of their inheritance contributed to what is now taking place. How could a Levite, a supposed priest allow his wife and daughter of the old man to be given to these men? There are alarming appeasements being seen in today’s world, many through the church which resembles this horrid scene. As priests, we must carefully and zealously guard our doctrines in what we teach. The danger begins with seemingly harmless compromises. A compromise of any size provides an opening. Once he (the enemy) gains entrance he will continue to make demands. It then becomes increasingly hard to refortify the doors once they are broken. I am shuddering in the reading and commenting on this chapter. The church doors are the next ones in line for these men of Belial. How will we respond? I personally feel that God will uphold and honor those who uphold His ways and Laws. May God help us to be like Nehemiah who posted Beams, Bars and Locks at the door to the gates around the restored city (Neh 3).
The report of the atrocity is sounded throughout the tribes and immediate retribution is sought. The Levite gives his explanation; essentially that there was nothing they could do to resist these aggressors. They mobilise as one and set out towards Gibeah which was in the land of the Benjamites, their brethren. Israel demands of the Benjamites that they deliver the culprits into their hands but they refuse to do so. Why would they do this when the evidence of the crimes of these men was plain for all to see? There must have been a pride or inner resentment within Benjamin in the way Israel has come against them. Still, in their refusal to give up these men they were in effect giving sanction to what they did. There had to be offenses or issues that went beyond this matter that would allow for such defiance.
Benjamin was clearly outnumbered nonetheless they were able to withstand two separate attacks of Israel. Why was Israel losing a battle when they appeared to have the moral high ground? Why were they losing a battle where they had far superior numbers? Perhaps the approach the Lord took with Gideon would provide some insight. God would not bring them to war with a number of 32,000 men. He brought them to war with 300 so that man would not take credit for the victory (Jud 7:2). This is something we need to be very clear on. God does not tolerate pride. Man’s self-reliance is a direct enemy to the sovereignty of God. It is seen over and over throughout scripture. It is true that Israel sought God as to who would go up against Benjamin and God answered. It seems however that they were still asking out of their presumption. Israel was humbled after two failed encounters with Benjamin. After these two failures we see a deep repentance among the people. We also see a time of fasting and seeking after the presence of the Lord seeing that the Ark was being enquired of. We also see a reference to Phineas the priest who at a similar time made enquiry before the Lord (Num 25:7-13). The first two incidents seemed to be void of priestly functions making clear once again the importance of the true priestly ministry. There was not just the sanction of the Lord to go to battle but there was also a battle plan. This is similar to how David sought the Lord in his battles against the enemy.
2Sa 5:23 And when David enquired of the LORD, he said, Thou shalt not go up; but fetch a compass behind them, and come upon them over against the mulberry trees.
2Sa 5:24 And let it be, when thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt bestir thyself: for then shall the LORD go out before thee, to smite the host of the Philistines.
It is important to realize that God does not always move in the same way. It may be that God will say yes to an initiative but the means of its implementation may still need to be sought for. This will help in keeping us reliant upon God which helps in not taking His presence for granted. When one searches the scriptures and observes the tendencies of His people you will find this to be a common problem. We may end up putting trust in methods and things that worked before. The Lord Himself did many of His miracles differently. Taking spittle and mixing it with dirt does not sound like a common healing for blindness (Joh 9:6). We must always walk circumspectly before God even when the cause we are advocating is overwhelmingly proper and just.
This account is a sad one for many reasons. First, the horrible act committed by these men of Gibeah is unconscionable. Yet, we are hearing of atrocities in our own day which equal or exceed this heightened evil. Secondly, the willingness of the Levite and the old man to sacrifice their daughter and wife to these beasts is hard to comprehend. It is true that this was forced upon them but one would have expected a more valiant response. Third, the fact that the Benjamites would not give up these men to be judged for these horrible crimes is concerning. They should not have covered these men due to offenses or grudges that they may have had against their brethren.
This is something that is clearly seen in American politics today. A president can be convicted of impeachable offenses and yet a respective political party will cover such a crime by not standing for what is right. Political expediency is the order of the day and this is what is seen here. It is no different. Finally, all of this resulted in a massive loss of life as well as a division amongst people who should be united as one. These men were brethren yet the infighting caused irreparable harm. If we give pause to all of this we can easily see parallels to our day. The kind of bestial behaviour witnessed in chapter 19 is finding cover by way of newly enacted laws. These newly enacted laws are originating from countries that once held firm on godly standards and foundations. Unfortunately I am referring to my own country. We may respond with abhorrence to what we have read in the previous chapters but it is happening today and there is responsibility on part of the church. The Levite did not initiate the crime nor did he go along with it but could he possibly have taken a stand
We will later see another high priest who did not participate in the sins of his sons. He warned his sons that what they did was wrong but he did not stop them (1 Sam 3:13). In the end his house was judged and removed from the line of priests. It was after this episode that the Ark of the Covenant was removed and brought into enemy hands. Why? It was due to the taking of the presence of the Lord for granted. This is why it is imperative that we always seek to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God (Mic 6:8).
Israel is now coming to terms with all that has taken place. The tribe of Benjamin was decimated after this recent incident. They are repentant for how all of this turned out. It is true that that the act against the women had to be avenged however they had no idea that it would have escalated to such an extent. Once again, this is the danger of not seeking the Lord in a prudent manner. If they would have enquired of the Lord as to when to go up against them and how to go about it could have minimised the loss of life. Each subsequent battle further emboldened both sides. The men of Israel now contemplate as to how best to preserve the tribe. In order to do so they had to search out virgins from around Shiloh since the women of Benjamin were destroyed (vs 17). They swore that they would not give to them daughters from any of the other tribes (vs 1).
We see that that an arrangement was made and followed through in verse 23. From here every man went to their allotted inheritance. As the Book of the Judges concludes we again see the following term: “In those days there were no kings in Israel” We also see it quickly followed by another familiar verse. “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” What a sorry condition and testimony. The stage is being set for a new order of leader to emerge. We will soon see a new order of priest and the introduction of the first king of Israel. We also see a man emerge who will be used of God to help facilitate this transition. At the end of Judges we see that man is doing what is right in his eyes. In the days to come we will be introduced to men who will do according to that which is in God’s heart. What a contrast! It is a similarly based contrast we see playing out before us today. What we are seeing is two very different streams in the church. In the end, which of the two streams will we flow in?
In verses 1-13 we have two different events but perhaps there is a link between the two that will help to give greater perspective. The first event is the Lord teaching His disciples how to pray. This prayer is also covered in Math 6:9-15. The prayer that the Lord teaches is more a model in how one should pray as opposed to a prayer itself. Let’s attempt to paraphrase the prayer.
As we begin to pray we are coming before the God of the universe, who is sovereign and high above any potential problem that any man could have; He is holy, a God to be revered and respected, never to be approached presumptuously; He is looking to establish His kingdom on earth in a way that reflects His pattern in heaven, it is in accordance to His design, not man’s; He is able to provide our daily needs especially when we are in alignment with His purpose and plan; He is able to forgive us of our sins however the measure of forgiveness we receive is proportional in how we forgive and treat others; He is able to keep us from temptation and able to deliver us from evil for the glory and honor of His kingdom.
I personally feel we should look at the Lord’s Prayer as a step by step model to a truly effective prayer life. If we by-pass the first few components of the prayer and jump into the part “give us this day our daily bread” it could then tend to be self-serving. We merely call upon the Lord whenever we have a need. If however we approach God as Sovereign and above all things, recognizing that He is a Holy and awesome God it will change our overall approach. We recognize that His kingdom is what needs to be established, not ours. Looking at the Lord’s Prayer in this context will help to develop a more effective prayer life. We will have awareness that we are approaching a God who is in heaven, far above all things. Suddenly, the issue in our life will not seem so impossible in light of the greatness of God. Such an approach will allow faith to arise. Such a person will not presume upon God because he or she recognizes God as being holy. The problem with many of our prayers is we jump right into the part of the prayer which says, “Give us this day..”.
The second event is the teaching the Lord gives on importunity. The Lord is teaching on the need to be persistent in prayer, knocking, seeking and pressing in. He is a God who loves to give good gifts to His children. The question though is what are we seeking after? Is the Lord going to respond to just any prayer or request that we might have? The key, in my mind is that we learn to pray in accordance to His will and pleasure. In implementing the components of the Lord’s Prayer we help to ensure that our requests are in alignment with God. We also see that the heavenly Father desires to give the ultimate gift of the Holy Spirit. If we learn to pray in the Spirit we will be sure to be in alignment with heaven.
The problems that are often seen in prayer is when they become misguided or outside the parameters of the kingdom. God is sought after only when in a time of need. This was on clear display during our study through the reign of the Judges. If Israel would have prayed in alignment with the instructions God gave to Moses they would not have had those tragic experiences. Their prayer became reflexive as a consequence of their disobedience. God still answered many of their prayers but how different it could have been. May the Lord’s Prayer be seen as a step by step approach to a truly effective prayer life.
In verses 14-26 we have the account where Jesus casts a devil out of a man and is then accused of doing it through Beelzebub, chief of the devils (vs 14-15). Jesus makes the response as to why would Satan divide against himself or cast out one of his own. Let’s say you are a pastor of a church and you give an invitation for people to get saved. Many respond and become faithful members of the church. Are you now going to cast them out after they become faithful members? A church would not last long under such folly. Jesus then goes on to give instruction as to what takes place when praying for deliverance. Jesus came to a man who was bound with a devil. The Lord had much more power and authority than this devil and was able to command him to vacate this man. This is seen in verses 20-22. The kingdom of God has come to this man and it has come to this area through Christ and His disciples.
This is a follow up to what we saw in Luke 10. The kingdom of God is advancing and with it comes deliverances as well as other signs and wonders. Jesus also goes on to make the point that once a deliverance takes place the potential exists for this devil to return with more spirits more powerful than himself to try and reclaim his lost possession. This can also be tied into the Lord’s prayer since we are talking about the establishing of God’s kingdom on earth and in people.
Luk 17:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
The Lord now turns his attention towards the Pharisees in verses 37-44 making clear their hypocrisy. This dialogue came as a result of Jesus sitting down to eat without first washing His hands. A Pharisee took issue with this since it was a violation of principle. This was a perfect opportunity for the Lord to address their hypocrisy. They (the Pharisees) put on a good show outwardly but inwardly they were corrupt. Jesus did not mince words as seen in his description of them as “walking graves” (vs 44) and “whited sepulchres”(Math 23:27). This is a picture of shallow Christianity, a form and appearance of being spiritual. This type of Christianity flourishes and does well when the probing sword of the Word is kept at bay. Jesus is taking the sword and applying it directly to the core. This is what the Word of God can and should do (Heb 4:12). It cuts through the veneer and gets to the root. Jesus is effectively wielding the sword to those who have positioned themselves to be the spiritual guide of the people. Remember, Jesus spoke about bringing a sword to separate and divide before bringing peace (Mat 10:35-40).
There was a lawyer who was privy to this conversation who felt pricked in his conscience by His Words rightly thinking that Jesus was also indicting them. It appears that they saw themselves as immune to the rebukes of the Lord but now His Words are hitting close to home. The Lord did not relent; in fact he now speaks to the lawyers. The summary of His rebuke is seen in the following verse:
Luk 11:52 Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.
Is God against all lawyers? Absolutely not but it is a profession that is highly indicted by God. Why is this the case? Let’s quickly go back to the beginning in the garden. God gave his first commandment and law to man in Gen 2:16-17.
Gen 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
Gen 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
This law is clear, it is absolute and it conveys strong consequences for disobedience to it. Let us now take note of the very first words that the serpent makes to Eve in the garden.
Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
The very first words to man is a direct challenge to the One Law and Commandment God gave to man. It signifies the threat that the law of God brings to the kingdom of darkness. In the next few verses we see the serpent cleverly redefining and altering the One Law that God gave. We are still suffering under the consequence of that initial disobedience to this very day. The lawyer profession is an honourable one to those who love justice, equity and fairness. There are many godly lawyers who seek to utilize their skills and gifting’s to promote Godly values in their respective arena of influence. As God’s laws begin to be redefined, diminished and removed a vacuum develops that enables this profession to take on a new role of its own system of justice. It helps to empower and give credence to secular vices that are at variance with kingdom values. The profession becomes self-serving making sure that laws become enacted that empower and preserve the new elites. The tactics that Satan used in the garden are being employed today. The true indictment comes upon the priests who are there to represent, teach and uphold God’s laws. Their failure to do so paves the way for compromises that then opens the door for what is being seen today. This is why Jesus is able to link the Pharisees and lawyers as one in His indictment against them. The same link exists today.
It is time to wake up and to be warned as to the consequences of allowing God’s Laws and standards to be altered.
Isa 24:5 The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.
Isa 24:19 The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly.
Isa 24:20 The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.
I am heartened that in Singapore there are many godly men and women in the lawyer’s profession who love God and seek to be a standard and example. May the church and its priests learn to link together to counter the Pharisees and lawyers (types) that we see in Luke 11:39-54.