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May 16, Day #137 – I Rest My Case

Today we come to the last two chapters of Judges. The whole book of Judges reads like a completely decadent, post-modern novel that emphasizes the personal striving after one’s own desires. The book reveals the depth of depravity and the level of violence contained in the human heart – full of brutality, the finality of taking life, and the bitter consequences of regret. Yesterday, we saw how chapter 19 ended with the Levite’s concubine: “Everyone who saw it said, “Such a thing has never been seen or done …” (verse 30). Chapter 20 opens with all the Israelites assembled “as one man” to punish by death the men of Gibeah who were being harbored by the Benjamites. The Benjamites refused to surrender the murderers, and a fierce civil war followed. Thousands of Israelites lost their lives, and the entire tribe of Benjamin was almost wiped out (verses 17-48). The people’s decisions are so irrational and their follow-up actions so sordid as to be beyond belief. As we said yesterday, their decisions, actions, and resultant problems just continued to multiply and grow worse. Chapter 21 opens with regret: “O LORD, why has this happened to Israel? Why should one tribe be missing from Israel today?” (verse 3). And, after almost decimating that one whole tribe, the Israelites make another foolish oath – “Not one of us will give his daughter in marriage to a Benjamite” (verse 1). The Israelites come up with a scheme to repopulate the tribe of Benjamin with wives from Jabesh Gilead, though the number was insufficient (verse 14). Again and again, we have seen that the people only consulted the LORD after the fact – if at all. The book ends with God’s summarized assessment of Israel during the entire period of the Judges - “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit” (verse 25). This book reveals the results of living and behaving without God and how sin increases exponentially.

The English words of Psalm 61 have been set to music in a popular Christian praise song that we often hear, and this song helps us to remember the truth of Psalm 61. God “hears our cry, and He desires to lead us to the Rock that is higher than I” (verses 1-2). He “is a strong Tower against our enemies;” He has given us the heritage of His saints and places us under the shelter of His wings” (verses 3-5). I am so thankful for God’s tender care - that He remembers me! Twice this Psalm refers to “vows” (verses 5 and 8), which, as we have seen in the book of Judges, seem to be a root cause for so much foolishness and chaos in Israel prior to the establishment of the kingdom. God is concerned about our “vows and oaths” (i.e., promises); He wants us to keep them. For this reason, we need to think them through carefully. Ecclesiastes warns us about making vows (cf., Ecclesiastes 5:5), and in Judges, we see why. God takes them seriously because He keeps His Word, and He expects us to live up to His standard.

In John 8:31-59, we see the pride of “Abraham’s descendants” (verse 39), who were “never slaves of anyone” (verse 33). Yesterday, we recalled that the Israelites were, in fact, slaves of the Egyptians in the time of Moses, and as another matter of fact, they were actually enslaved by the Roman occupation at the time of this assertion. Jesus pointed out that “everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (verse 34). Were these Pharisees exempt from sin? If so, on what basis? In Romans 6, Paul taught the same thing – “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one you obey?” (verse 16). Jesus corrected their false thinking by pointing out who their father really was: “You belong to your father the devil; he was a murderer from the beginning” (verse 44). As the Jews “picked up stones to stone Him” (verse 59), their own words and actions convicted them. Notice, in verse 41, Jesus said to them, “You are doing the things your own father does.” Jesus might just as well have said, “I rest My case.” Today’s readings amaze us with the truth that God not only tolerates us, but also He loves us!

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