Day 75: Judges 19-21; Ending the Judges, continuing the Cycle.

“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

That line is really the essence of the last 5 chapters of the book of Judges… or maybe the whole darn book.  We didn’t talk about the other stories that were contained in yesterday’s reading, and they go right along with today’s reading.  All are a bit strange, somewhat difficult to think about.  What do we do with some of this information.  Some folks set up an idol as their god and then it gets taken and set up in a city and stuff.  What do we even do with that?

A guy allows his already unfaithful concubine to get raped to death by the leaders of an Israelite town and then cuts her to pieces and sends her to all the different tribes of Israel?  The result of which winds up with a conflict resulting in the death of over 65,000 Israelites and then bringing about a peace in which the remaining people of Benjamin are allowed to choose their wives by kidnapping them from a festival?  What the heck?

Seriously… what do we do about passages in Scripture like this?

Honestly, I think that we often try to put things uncomfortable passages out of our minds.  These are not things we hear in sermons in church.  I certainly didn’t hear these stories in Sunday School as a child.  And yet, they are still a part of the Bible.  Which makes us ask the question, why?  What can we learn from this?  How do even read this?

Maybe the point isn’t to draw out some sort of moralistic teaching that makes us feel better.  We don’t have to just say, “well, don’t do these things and you’ll be a better person/Christian or something.”  We are quick to glean some sort of “try harder,” moral living lesson as a way of coping with our own uncomfortableness.

Perhaps narratives like this are simply meant to point us toward the fact that the world is still a very broken place.  We see this cycle time and again of disobedience leading to disaster leading to repentance leading to rest and then back to disobedience… and we realize that, though God is working towards restoration, sin is still present in the world.  It is a painful, uncomfortable reality, one that we don’t often want to face.  But in light of it, we also see, plainly illuminated before us, the work of God in the world!  Like the mercy that the people have on the decimated tribe of Benjamin, God provides for His creation working and restoring all that He has made.  There is hope at the end of this, even in the midst of the people of God just doing what they want.  It is clear, even in this strange way of kidnapping a girl to be their wife, that God is faithfully providing for the tribe of Benjamin, a people that is just as much a part of God’s promise as the rest of Israel.  He will not abandon them because of their sin, however horrid and awful it may be.  Because God is not one who is quick to condemn or quick to destroy, but is always gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding is steadfast love, faithfulness and forgiveness.