One of the most confusing books in the Bible, to me, is the book of Judges in the Old Testament. The book of Judges is a group of stories of how certain leaders were raised up to lead all of Israel, because it was a country of hot-headed people who kept doing what they weren’t supposed to do and getting themselves into trouble; and by trouble, I mean having their land invaded and being taken into slavery.
Judges is not a complicated book. It’s simply a collection of stories, each story giving us an overview of what the people of Israel did to mess up, and how God used the judge / leader to bring Israel back. Most of the stories are stories of war and quite easy to understand.
While I am a fan of the stories, I have difficulty in getting my mind around the messed up happenings that occur in the book. I’m not talking about the miracles – not the visitation of angels, or how a man with long hair killed a thousand men using only the jawbone of a donkey.
What gets to me are the horrible things that the Israelites – the people of God – did.
Jepthah, one of the judges swore to God that if he had victory over his enemies, he would sacrifice the first thing that he saw coming out of his house; and as he returned home, the first person to come greet him was his daughter.
And yes, he killed her and offered her as a sacrifice.
A man gave up his wife to the Benjaminites because they were trying to rape him, and they raped her several times till she died, after which he cut up her body into pieces, sending a piece to each leader of the tribes of Israel.
These are just two of the horrible things that take place in the book, and while I wonder how God’s people could do this, what hits me more is that these were the judges raised by God Himself.
And if these leaders were leaders called by God, I have wondered how God could let these things happen.
I have beaten my head trying to understand this, until I found a verse in the book that kept repeating itself.
“In those days, Israel had no king. Everyone did just as they pleased.”
You find this verse in the book atleast ten times.
Everyone did just as they pleased. They did what they thought was right; and even if they didn’t think it was right, they did it anyway. Why? Because they believed they had no one to answer to.
They had no king. They refused to recognize their king – God.
It’s why they kept messing up in the first place. They did not believe they were accountable.
God hadn’t asked Jepthah to make any vow, and He hadn’t commanded him to keep any such vow. The Benjaminites did what they did without answering to anyone.
In those days, Israel had no king. Everyone did just as they pleased.
This is relevant, even today. We live in a day and age where everything within us seems to scream, “don’t tell me what to do. Let me live my life.”
We want to be our own kings – our own gods.
Over and over again, the Bible (and history) gives us more than sufficient evidence that this is a terrible idea.
We’re not as wise as we think we are. We don’t know what we want.
I mean, come on. If God exists, and He is infinite, and we’re just 20, 30, 40 or 50 year olds, are we really going to assume that we know more than Him? Are we really going to believe that there’s not going to be some things that we don’t agree on, and that we know better?
That line stands out in the book of Judges, as it stands out in our lives today. And yet, like the Israelites, we have a choice. We can choose to say –
Today, we have no king. We will do as we please.
It’s what the devil wants us to believe – that we have no king, that we are not accountable.
And if that’s you, I just want you to ask yourself – how well has that worked out for you? Do you, like the Israelites, keep finding that you’ve become a slave to something?
Or we can choose to give ourselves up, and surrender and realize that we do have a King – THE King. And He’s good.
We don’t get to do as we please. He won’t let us, no! Because His love is too great to let Him watch us destroy ourselves.
We get to recognize His goodness, His authority, and say – “Today, He is my King I will do as He pleases.”