Wednesday, March 29, 2006

"Everyone did what was right in his own eyes"

We wind up a study of Joshua and Judges tonight, so that's where my thoughts are today. You may remember this quote from the last chapters of Judges, "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes." I believe could be called the theme of the book and helps explain some of the things that are recorded in it--Jephthah's daughter, near extermination of Benjamin, etc. In a lawless time, there is a real tendency for everyone to do just what they want to do.

The last incident recorded in Judges is grisly, to say the lost. A stranger is accosted by the men of Gibeah to have homosexual relations with them (which is bad enough), but instead he gives them his concubine to abuse, which they do all night long, to the point that she dies as morning breaks (don't worry, it gets worse.) He then goes home, cuts her body into 12 pieces and sends a piece to each tribe. In their zeal to avenge this wickedness when Benjamin refuses to surrender the guilty men they battle Benjamin, leaving only 600 men who escaped alive--they kill everybody else. Afterwards they come to the realization that they have sworn to have no relation with Benjamin, so there are no wives for the 600 who are left. In order to partially remedy the situation they kill the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead, who hadn't come up to the "summit meeting" and found 400 young women so they advise the men of Benjamin to kidnap the other 200 they need. Quite a pretty store, isn't it?

We might ask how they got into this situation. It is plainly stated they didn't consult God until after they had made their plans. They accomplished the punishment of wickedness, but at what cost? How would things have turned out if they had consulted God first, then acted? But are we any different? How often do we make our plans, especially moving for a job, and once it's all settled we see if there's a church there? Should we be surprised that such decisions don't "work out"?

There is also the same tendency today for "everyone did what was right in his own eyes". When a society loses respect for God and His laws, disrespect of man and his laws cannot be far behind. The long term answer to crime is not more jails, but rather more Gospel preaching and teaching--the Gospel changes lives, jails usually don't.


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