|THERE WAS NO KING
Series: Conquest and Chaos - Part Four
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
July 9, 2017
This morning we are going through the entire book of Judges. Hang on to something. If all goes well we should be out of her by about 3:30 or so.
The first and last verses of the book summarize what Judges is all about. If we get these, we get Judges and what God may have for us to take away this morning.
Judges chapter 1:1 tells us: After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel inquired of the Lord, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?”
Joshua dies at the age of… 110. In those 110 years - this warrior and leader of God’s people - he had seen so much. The slavery of Egypt. The wilderness wandering. God and Moses up close. The conquest of Canaan. In obedience to God - the settling of the Promised Land - dividing it among the Twelve Tribes. Joshua is this great man of steadfast faith who had lived so close to God.
As Joshua is dying he calls God’s people together - calls together the leaders of the nation - and he challenges them with these familiar words: “Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
Our cliff hanger last Sunday. As we were looking at the end of Joshua - we saw God’s people hearing that challenge and they were all in - agreeing and committing and praising God: “We’re with you Joshua. We’re going to do it. We’re going to stay faithful and obedient to God. Yahweh! Yahweh! He’s our God!”
The sad reality is that when Joshua died - and as those who had known him - others from his generation - as they all died out - what we see unfolding here in Judges - what verse 1 opens up to us - was that there really was no one who stepped up to take Joshua’s place
Judges 1:1 tells us - when Joshua died there was no one to “go up first” - no one ready to step up to lead the fight against their enemies - to guard the nation - to set the standard of faithful obedience to the sovereign God - to lead the nation in following after God.
The bottom line of all that is that after all of the astounding ways that God had delivered His people and provided for them and established His people on the land that He’d promised them - after the conquest God’s people compromised. Judges records their descent from conquest to chaos.
Before we come to the last verse of the book - and how all this ends up and out takeaways - we have a short video to help us with an overview of what all that descent from conquest to chaos looks like.
Video: Judges (1)
That’s a great video. Isn’t it? The complete chart is available in the Foyer on the table where Message Notes are along with the URL if you want to check out their other videos.
To make sure we’re all on the same page with what we just saw we have a quick pop quiz:
In contrast to Joshua, which emphasizes the victory of faith (Trust self get creamed. Trust God get victory. God is always worthy of Trust), in contrast to Joshua - Judges emphasizes…
a. The failure of compromise
b. The failure of poor planning
c. The failure of bad irrigation
d. The failure of corruption.
Answer is A.
The Book of Judges covers a period of about 330 years. During that time there are 6 main judges and these cycles of sin. What’s up there on the chart - beginning in chapter 2 - lower left side: Sin leading to oppression leading to repentance leading to deliverance leading to peace leading to sin.
Which - if we’re putting our name in there instead Israel - all that comes out way too familiar.
Steve does evil in God’s sight. God hits Steve over the head with a 2X4 to get my attention. Steve cries out to God. God delivers Steve working through all the issues and consequences. Then Steve goes on living close to God until Steve chooses to again compromise with sin.
There are parts of Judges that resonate too close to home. Yes?
Question number two: The book of Judges teaches us that God’s purpose is not frustrated by…
a. Poor leadership
b. Our failure
c. An ungodly society
d. All of the above.
Answer is D.
God is at work in history - working to save mankind. God chooses to work with these judges - these tribal military political leaders. Judges who through these cycles of sin - as we move through the book of Judges - these judges digress from being pretty good judges to being worse judges.
God chooses to work with these judges to accomplish His purposes. Which isn’t an endorsement of their sin but a demonstration of how God works to accomplish what He’s been working to accomplish since Genesis. Which is the salvation of His people - even us.
Which is hugely reassuring for us. Whatever the chaos God is always on task. God saves us. God loves us. God doesn’t give up on us. God chooses to work in us and through us.
Hold on to that. Whatever the chaos God is on task.
Which brings us to the “Very Disturbing” part of the Judges [the lower far right hand corner] and how the book of Judges lurches to it’s very disturbing end in 21:25.
The reason chapters 19 to 21 are labeled “Very Disturbing” is because they’re... “Very Disturbing.” What’s here is a warning for us - a warning that comes out of real disturbing things that happened to real people in real times - ungodly chaos - as a result of really bad decisions to compromise.
Still hanging on to something? I encourage you to go back and read these chapters for yourself. But - in an effort to get us out of here by 3:30 please let me walk us through these chapters and bring us to 21:25 and what we can takeaway with us this morning.
Chapter 19 tells us about The Levite & His Concubine.
In chapter 19 a Levite - someone from the tribe of Levi - is living in the remote hill country of the tribe of Ephraim. Which you can see about where that is on the map. Notice that Ephraim is the tribe just north of the tribe of Benjamin. And north of the tribe of Judah. Meaning that to get to Bethlehem in Judah from Ephraim you have to go through Benjamin. We’re together?
When the Levite gets to Bethlehem the concubine’s father welcomes him, and invites him to stay for 3 days. Which ends up becoming 4 days and then 5 days. Because every time the Levite gets ready to leave, the father throws a meal. Middle Eastern hospitality being what it is it would be rude to leave. So the Levite stays and stays. But finally - late in the afternoon on day 5 - the Levite takes his concubine [slash] wife and his servant and heads north towards home.
They get as far as Gibeah [on the map there] which belongs to which tribe? Benjamin.
They arrive in Gibeah of Benjamin just as it’s getting to late in the day to travel farther safely on the road. And also they arrive in Gibeah too late to get a place to stay in the town. So they start to set up camp in the town square. Where an old man finds them. Is concerned for their safety and invites them to spend the night with him. He even takes care of their animals.
Nice guy. Things are going good. Yes?
What happens next is like what happened in Sodom and Gomorrah to the angels that went to warn Lot and the men who showed up wanting to have sex with the angels. These men from Gibeah show up at the old man’s door with perverse intent.
In what may seem strange to us - but Middle Eastern hospitality being what it is - rather than letting the Levite and his servant be abused - the old man offers the men his virgin daughter and the concubine. The men choose the concubine - whom we’re told - they abused all night. Things have gotten that evil in Gibeah.
In the morning her husband finds her laying there on the doorstep. He tells her to get up because they need to go. But, when she isn’t able to do that - presumably because she’s dead or close to it - he throws her over the donkey and takes her back home. When they get there he takes a knife - cuts her - his concubine [slash] wife - cuts here up into 12 pieces - and sends one of his wife’s body parts to each of the 12 tribes.
That’s chapter 19. Disturbing. Yes?
Chapter 20 is The Civil War - or what comes down to everybody against the tribe of Benjamin - fratricide on a national scale.
In chapter 20 - the whole nation of Israel - from Dan in the north to Beersheeba in the south - all the tribes come together at Mizpah [on the map]. Gathered at Mizpah are the leaders of the people and about 400,000 armed to the teeth foot soldiers - from all the different tribes.
Chapter 20 verse 1 tells us that they were “as one man.” For the first time in a long time all the tribes are together on the same page with each other - very disturbed and very ticked off at the very same thing.
They ask the Levite what’s up with the body parts. “How did this evil thing happen?” And the Levite explains in horrific detail what he did and why. Which just disturbs and ticks off everyone even more.
The tribes decide to deal with the sin. To punish those involved. They get themselves organized and head down to Gibeah to demand that the men who’ve done this horrendously evil thing be brought out and punished.
When they get to Gibeah - which is in… Benjamin - rather than turning over these perverse men - the town comes together and refuses to give them up. Which says volumes about the depravity of the people of Gibeah. What would have been a quick punitive action now ends up degrading into a full-scale civil war.
The Benjaminites put together an army of about 26,000 men and go up against their 400,000 armed to the teeth siblings.
The battle on day one goes in favor of Benjamin that takes out about 22,000 of their siblings. Day two also goes to Benjamin who slaughter 18,000 more of their siblings.
At the end of Day Two - having lost 40,000 men - the tribes decide to hold a worship service to ask God if they should go out for Day Three. Phinehas - son of Eleazar - son of Aaron - brother of Moses - Phinehas who was the priest in those days - Phinehas tells them that God will give them the victory.
Let’s be careful. God is enabling what they’re doing so long as it’s in accord with what God is doing - judgment and punishment and purification of sin. God working in and through the lives of His people according to His plan and for His glory. God is not endorsing their sin - or the extent of the coming slaughter.
So - Day Three - Israel heads out one more time - does one of these classic sucker the main army out of the town by demonstrating supposed weakness and defeat while sneaking up from the rear and surprising the defenders of the town end run moves and they end up taking out 25,000 plus Gibeahnites. Followed by the traditional burning of the town to the ground and killing everyone and basically anything that moved.
Then Israel just pours it on tearing up the rest of Benjamin. Systematically and methodically taking out whatever else is the rest of the blue area there on the map. Killing the men. Killing the cattle. Killing anything that moves. Burning the towns. Leaving waste and devastation behind them.
What goes way beyond what God had enabled His people to accomplish. It’s payback for the 40,000 men Benjamin slaughtered. It’s horrendous. It’s pure evil on a rampage of retribution.
Chapter 20 ends by telling us, that in the midst of that fratricide, 600 men from Benjamin fled to the rock of Rimmon. The Rock of Rimmon is a limestone hill about 4 miles east of Bethel that has lots of caves to hide out in. So the survivors of Benjamin dig in at Rimmon for 4 months.
Chapter 21 is The Offer - or 400 Brides for 600 Brothers.
After the slaughter the men of Israel come together at Bethel and they realize they’ve got a problem. They’ve gone too far. Often happens when we’re out of control being driven by our flesh in anger. The problem is that they’ve all but eliminated their brother tribe.
Back when they were at Mizpah - planning all this out - they’d taken an oath swearing that none of them would every give a daughter to be married to one of “those” evil Benjaminites. Problem is, on the other side of the slaughter - after 4 months and tempers have cooled down - they’re realizing that unless brides can be found the tribe of Benjamin is history. Meaning there’s 600 brothers and no brides.
So they ask: “Were there any tribes of Israel that weren’t at Mizpah that would be free from the oath?”
Answer: Pulling back a little. No one came from Jabesh-gilead. Jabesh-gilead is a town about 2 miles east of the Jordan River in the territory of the ½ tribe of Manasseh.
Solution: They send 12,000 of their bravest men to take out Jabesh-gilead - all the men, women, and children - except for the virgins. Of which there are 400 left over after the slaughter. 400 hundred young girls - who’s families they’ve slaughtered - and that they haul back with them to Shiloh.
Shiloh was where Joshua had set up the Tabernacle as a center of worship for God’s people. And it is here at Shiloh where God’s people work out a deal with the men of Benjamin. How to transfer possession of the young girls to the men of Benjamin without actually giving them to the men of Benjamin and without the men of Benjamin having to pay a dowry. Because money is also an important consideration here.
At Shiloh - being a center of worship - there’s a festival which comes at the end of the harvest. Which was an opportunity to acknowledge God’s blessings and to give thanks to God. Which - in chapter 21 - as they’re planning this wife swap - God isn’t mentioned and the festival is only a religious shaded opportunity to gather.
During that festival the young girls are sent into the vineyards to dance and while the men in Shiloh [wink wink] look the other way while the men of Benjamin ambush and abduct them - drag them back to Benjamin - and use them to repopulate their tribe and towns.
And that is how the book of Judges lurches to its very disturbing end. A descent into chaos that’s summarized by Judges 21:25: In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
God’s people - living in sexual perversity - abusing women - making a mockery of marriage. Murdering each other in God’s name. God’s people not knowing God. Worshiping Him and acknowledging His blessings are just religious formalities - cultural events. For the most part there is no difference between God’s people and any other people.
God’s people have gone from conquest - the victory given to them by God - the blessings of relationship with God - fallen into total corruption - chaos. Israel has hit bottom.
Processing all that…
Judges can be a very depressing book. Going from conquest to chaos in 21 chapters. And yet this book is about hope.
Takeaway number one is this: While there was no king in Israel one day there will be.
Judges sets the stage for what comes next. What it means to be the king of God’s people. The origins of the Davidic line of kings - leading through David - to Jesus the Messiah. Judges sets the stage for the kingdom that is realized and yet is coming. That each of us in Christ is a citizen of - now and forever.
We live in a country that condones the murder of children. That allows women and children to be enslaved. That champions moral depravity. That wages war for our own economic and political benefit. Where justice is by common consensus - meaning right can be wrong and wrong can be right. Where violence and fear are becoming ways of life. Where our society and culture are unraveling at the seams and the future is deeply concerning.
That chaos is global and it’s local and it’s personal. We experience the reality of that chaos in our hearts and in our homes.
The more things change the more they... stay the same.
Judges is a sobering reality check of where we live our lives. It is a sobering explanation of the human condition and our desperate need for God’s grace and the King who has come and is coming.
Sometimes we loose touch with the desperation we’re in and how desperate we are for God. Each of us - before God - each of us is totally corrupt in every part of our nature. We live in sin and there’s nothing within us that’s worthy of God’s approval. That’s who we are individually and as a race since Adam fell.
Takeaway number one is to see behind the chaos to God at work. In the chaos of your life look for God. In the chaos of the society we live in - the world we live in - look for God. Because He is there and He is always on task. God has been on task since before creation was creation. Since Genesis through the cross through Revelation and beyond.
These days how is that going for you? Are focusing on the chaos or the King?
Takeaway number two is the danger of doing what is right in our own eyes.
When everyone does whatever is right in their own eyes then whatever anyone does is right in their own eyes. Another way of saying that is: If you believe it then it’s truth for you. Whatever works for you is okay. Meaning truth can be a lie and lie can be a truth. Righteousness and evil are just shades of our own perception of the world.
Today - we live in the blurring of reality and virtual - the overstimulating Yosemite Falls like cascade of information and images and entertainment and events and opportunities - a universe at our finger tips. When we’re able to travel pretty much where we want - when we want - to purchase or to experience or to do pretty much whatever we want. Whether that’s in our own personal bubble world car - self-driving - going to the mall or browsing the net - and having drones drop stuff off at our house.
In many ways we are more blessed than any civilization in history - than any peoples on the planet today. And we are in great danger from all of that.
Because virtual or real it doesn’t matter. The bottom line is that it’s about us. We live in a culture of overindulgence - immediate gratification - and an economic system that enables it. That enables our own self-destruction. Welcome to the Promised Land.
Judges reminds us that it is very easy - even for God’s people - way too easy for us to become self-focused in all of that and loose touch with what is foundational to life - meaning the truth of Who God is and what it means to live trusting Him.
Each of us is a collection of atoms created and held together by God for His purposes and for His glory. Virtual isn’t - unless God wills it to be so. Life is about God not us.
James writes: What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?
Which is a great question. Isn’t it? Everyone one of us experiences this. Quarrels and conflicts touches every human relationship - from nations down to communities - our neighbors - to relationships at work or school or in the church - to families and marriages - parents and kids. Volumes have been written about how to resolve quarrels and conflicts. Because we all struggle with this.
James goes for the bottom line: What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this [read it with me] that your passions are at war within you? (James 4:1)
Almost sounds like Judges. “We’ve met the enemy and he is… us.” Our own self-serving attitudes and desires. Whatever is right for us. Apart from God we are the creators of our own chaos.
The answer is Jesus.
In John 17 - Jesus prayed for us. He prayed that we would experience oneness with the Son and with the Father. He prayed that we would experience the same quality of oneness that Jesus experiences with the Father. (John 17:20-26)
We have no clue what that means but don’t you long for it? Here? In our homes? In our hearts?
Chaos is being against each other. Oneness is being together in Christ. That only comes as we get our eyes off of us - what is right in our own eyes and get our eyes onto Jesus - what is right in His eyes - not ours.
This morning how’s that going for you? In your life, who gets to be God?
In our own personal chaos God gives to each of us the opportunity to turn from our sin and to turn towards God to welcome by faith what He, by His grace, has done for us in Jesus. We need to live in that humility each day of our lives - crying out to God to grab hold of us and make us to be who He’s created us to be for His glory alone. And to trust that He is and He will.
1. Judges video: https://thebibleproject.com/all-videos/?page=4
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.