There are dark pages in any nation’s history. Unfortunately for Israel some of her darkest are written down for everyone else to read. And one of the darker stories is found in Judges 19. If you need more recap read last week’s blog.
(total disclosure – Bryan and I did a message years ago on the book of Judges. There’s a lot more that could be stated both about this book and this story so if you’d like to learn it – you could study it yourself or invite us to come teach 🙂 )
We ended with Samson. The final and worst Judge there was. A man with no morals and only in his death did he actually do some good. Which is a sad epitaph for anyone.
You would think Israel had fallen as low as she could get. Remember that drain? The water is circling and the end is getting nearer, but it hasn’t been hit… yet.
The book of Judges doesn’t end with a story of just another judge. Instead, it ends like it begins with two ending stories. Read the beginning of the book and you will see that the book of Judges opens with two different intros. Almost like a book sealed into two envelopes. The ending fits the opening. The first end story reveals the depths of Israel’s apostasy as she worships idols, sets up pagan altars, and everyone does what was right in their own eyes…
The second story reveals the depths of Israel’s social and moral decline.
And it is a horrible story. One which caused me to constantly question God as to why it was even in there. Then I studied it for myself and lo and behold! God has a reason why it’s there. The story actually does have a purpose.
And we will get to that, but first I have a question? Have you ever felt like you’ve read this story before? Does the story in Judges 19 remind you of any other story in the Bible?
The story of the Levite and his concubine should actually feel very similar to the reader. Because the truth is, we have heard this story before. Genesis 19 tells the story of two angelic visitors to the city of Sodom. Just like in our current story, the two visitors start by spending the night in the village square, Lot (not a native to the city) invites them in, shows them hospitality, but then the men of the city surround the house and demand that the visitors be turned over to them for their “pleasure.” Lot tries to pacify his neighbors but to no avail. So the angels intervene and blind everyone outside. Lot and his two daughters escape and the angels destroy everyone and everything including the surrounding area having seen first hand the complete wickedness of the people living in the city.
In the English the details are similar enough, but in the Hebrew the similarities are inescapable as the exact same Hebrew words are used in the same places in both stories. The repetition of events and words can leave the reader in no doubt, you could simply replace Canaanite with Israelite in Genesis 19 and get the same outcome. In other words, by the end of the book of Judges Israel is as evil as the very people she was sent to destroy.
Israel has become Sodom.
Now the nation has hit rock bottom. She can truly sink no lower. And this is why this appalling story is in the Bible. The depravity of it reveals the horrific descent of God’s people. The nation that God chose to be His own out of every other nation on earth, God’s firstborn and bride, the people that saw God’s miracles, that He led for forty years in the wilderness, the people who covenanted and told God “all that You have said we will do” are acting just as pagan as the nations they were meant to punish.
Israel has become Sodom.
That should blow our minds.
But wait! Israel’s fate is different than Sodom’s. She isn’t completely obliterated, wiped out in a shower of fire from heaven. In fact, Israel has continued to this day. Why?
Because Israel’s God is faith-ful even when His people are faith-less.
Does Israel deserve to be destroyed at this moment? Yes she does. And God does discipline her strongly as the tribe of Benjamin is almost completely wiped out in the civil war that ensues. But they aren’t. Just like the nation itself Benjamin survives. In fact, the famous Apostle Paul comes from this sordid tribe.
God made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that would continue on to their descendants. Then God entered into another covenant with the nation of Israel itself at Mt. Sinai. He would be their God and they would be His people. And due to the Covenant with Abraham, nothing can change that.
Not even Israel.
God has a plan for the nation of Israel and God Himself will make sure that His plan comes to pass. No matter what, God’s promises are sure and His Word is guaranteed. So Israel has to survive or God becomes a liar.
The book of Judges reveals how low the nation of Israel is able to get. And the last story is meant to be a terrible ending that fills the reader with complete disgust but you can’t stop there because the story isn’t over yet. The rest of Scripture continues the story of God, Israel, and the nations, revealing the depth of God’s mercy and grace, and the amazing wisdom of God’s plan.
So Good News! You are not supposed to like the story! And just so you know, you’re not supposed to like any of the men in the story either. The narrator views them all with disgust. phew
But the ultimate point is not how low Israel is able to get, the ultimate point is how faithful is Israel’s God. No matter how far they fall, no matter how faithless and weak, He is still able. He is still faithful. And He still guarantees His plan. His Word and His promises are sure.
So rest in peace, believer. Each of us sin. Each of us struggle, and each of us fall. But we serve the same God Israel did. By the faithfulness of Jesus, we have been grafted in to this covenant between God and Israel. And as God is faithful to them, He will also be faithful to us.
What can we take away from this horrible story: Our God is faith-ful even when we are faith-less.
But there are more lessons to be learned. Join with me next week as we look at lesson number two.