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In Case You Missed It -- Judges 20-21, Psalm 147

Consider just how differently we feel about our Revolutionary War against Britain and our Civil War. We celebrate our independence yearly on the fourth of July with ice cream, watermelon, and fireworks. At the same time, our Civil War and the reasons for that division still contribute to our great shame. At the beginning of Judges, Israel enjoyed a clear purpose: to gain land and freedom for themselves. Israel ends Judges by waging a massive civil war, treating one another without regard for their common ancestry and kinship. In Judges 20, the people react with righteous anger to the sins of Gibeah in raping the Levite’s concubine. However, they wrongly fail to seek a just trial. When the rest of Israel goes to the tribe of Benjamin without seeking a trial, the people of Benjamin fail to punish the wicked men in their midst for rape and murder. This lapse of justice eventually leads to a civil war, causing thousands and thousands of deaths on both sides. Thankfully, in our reading some tribes seek God’s insight into waging war against Benjamin. Like in the rest of Judges, this spiritual insight does not last. Instead of seeking God’s wisdom for how to preserve the tribe of Benjamin, Israel leans on their own wisdom and strikes the people of Jabesh Gilead for not showing up to their appointed assembly. Sadly, Israel attempts to solve the problem through more civil war and strategic rape (Judges 21:20-24). The tragic summary that ends the book stands as an exclamation point. It invites us to reflect on what happens when we do what seems right to us instead of what God commands. Truly, God’s rule leads to freedom, but our will leads to bondage. God wanted freedom for Israel; they chose civil war.

Jeremiah Vaught