Today’s reading: Judg 20:1–21:25, Phil 4:21–23, Ps 72:1–20
Today’s theme: Relativism leads to depravity
Today we read the very dark and sad ending to the book of Judges where sin, deception and moral relativism open the flood gates to death, rape and destruction. We should thank God for the grace He has extended to us and by it seek that the earth is filled with His glory rather than the depravity and darkness wrought by man’s own brand of righteousness (moral relativism).
Our responsibility to investigate
And the Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered and said, “I came to Gibeah that belongs to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to spend the night. And the leaders of Gibeah rose against me and surrounded the house against me by night. They meant to kill me, and they violated my concubine, and she is dead. Judges 20:4–5 (ESV)
This wicked, self centred and callous Levite now lies, bringing a false witness before all Israel. He incites them to a frenzied state with a bloodlust to avenge the claimed wrong.
The Levite does not tell the full story of how he came to Gibeah. He claims the leaders wanted to kill him and then “took” his concubine to rape and kill her when in fact he had given her to the lowlife mob (not leaders) to save his own neck. The awful truth is that these men wanted to rape the Levite.
The people of Israel have forgotten the wisdom and spirit of the law which instructs us that it is in the mouth of two or three witnesses that every word should be established (Deuteronomy 19:15). Jesus reminds us of this when speaking of church discipline in Matthew 18:16.
We must not leave ourselves open to manipulation by men with their own agenda or bias. We must not neglect our responsibility to investigate the truth. See 2 Corinthians 13:1.
Respond to sin biblically
and we will take ten men of a hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and a hundred of a thousand, and a thousand of ten thousand, to bring provisions for the people, that when they come they may repay Gibeah of Benjamin, for all the outrage that they have committed in Israel.” Judges 20:10 (ESV)
The children of Israel have an unbalanced response to this sin. It is hypocritical because they did nothing against Micah and the tribe of Dan for their evil actions which were grievous sins before God.
We have a tendency to treat some sins as far more serious than others and so react differently based on our own value system rather than God’s. We often react most aggressively to sins perpetrated on innocent human victims yet we treat crimes aimed directly at God as less important by our response. Heresy and bad doctrine is actually a terrible sin but we do not respond to it in the same way we do to sexual sins for example.
We need to ask for God’s help to respond to sin in a consistent way. We must apply the same weighting on sins that the world may see as non issues, sins such as blasphemy.
A new testament example of this is the woman caught in the act of adultery. The lopsided view of this sin is dealt with by Jesus in John 8:3-11.
Don’t take God’s name in vain
The people of Israel arose and went up to Bethel and inquired of God, “Who shall go up first for us to fight against the people of Benjamin?” And the LORD said, “Judah shall go up first.” Judges 20:18 (ESV)
God’s name is used to legitimise what they have already decided to do. God sometimes answers in order to bring discipline and judgement. God shows His disapproval of the children of Israel’s methods for dealing with this outrage by allowing them to be defeated in the first two battles.
God cannot be manipulated to validate our human schemes. We must not take His name in vain, invoking the Lord’s name when we are living in hypocrisy can lead to our own undoing.
In the end the tribe of Benjamin who did not give up the men who committed the crime do receive their judgement as well.
A rash vow
Yet we cannot give them wives from our daughters.” For the people of Israel had sworn, “Cursed be he who gives a wife to Benjamin.” Judges 21:18 (ESV)
God made provision for a rash vow in Leviticus 5:4-6 so this rash oath was not the final word. If the Israelites had confessed their sin and sacrificed a sin offering, there would have been atonement made for the rash vow.
There was no need for them to consider their oath as unbreakable and resort to such extreme measures as to pronounce the herem (devotion to destruction) of some of their own people. They did this in order to violently take the virgins and in a wicked and underhanded way offer them as a sacrifice to the tribe of Benjamin.
They end up being guilty of the same crime as the wicked men of Gibeah by murdering all the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead except the virgins and the later sanctioned rape of the daughters of Shiloh.
Jesus warns us against the horrible trap of making rash vows in Matthew 5:33-37. We should speak simply and honestly knowing that the Lord forgives our foolish words if we humble ourselves and repent.
Ridiculous, parasitical legalism
and watch. If the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and snatch each man his wife from the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. Judges 21:21 (ESV)
Judges does not end in a positive way. We see the tragic narrative of ridiculous, parasitical legalism which sees the law interpreted in such an absurd way that the response to the rape and murder of one woman culminates in the rape of 400 virgins from Jabesh Gilead and 200 women dancers at a festival that was meant to be dedicated to the Lord.
Jesus taught us that we should avoid this sort of foolish and prideful interpretation of the law. Instead we should interpret and live the law in the spirit of the law not in the deadness of the actual words on the page. See Matthew 5:27-28 and 2 Corinthians 3:6.
Relativism leads to depravity
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 21:25 (ESV)
This is a terrible ending to this book, relativism has prevailed. As God’s people, we can be our own worst enemy, the world around us with its temptations only amplifies the sin that is in our own souls. We need to submit to Jesus as our king and live according to his word or we will fall into the same moral darkness.
Grace be with you
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Philippians 4:23 (ESV)
Thank God for His grace. We should desire for God’s grace to be with all our bothers and sisters in the Lord today.
Filled with God’s glory
Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen! Psalm 72:19 (ESV)
This is our great goal, the mission of the church. Let’s strive to see the whole earth filled with the Lord’s glory through His saints.
Most of the above post is a copy of the original notes from the same date in 2014.
The Gospel Coalition on Philippians 4