Speaking of sordid stories—the current headlines have nothing on the final chapters of the book of Judges which I read recently with growing loathing. The “disclaimer” says, “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” (17:6 & 21:25) Since they had already turned away from God in favor of pagan gods, these are the sorts of things that seemed “right” to them:
Abimelech killed 69 of his half-brothers and convinced the people of Shechem to make him their king solely on the grounds that he was their relative. The whistle-blower went unheeded. After three years, the citizens finally caught on that they’d made a poor choice. Abimelech cared only for himself and for power, not for them. But when they resisted, Abimelech slaughtered them all and demolished their city. (He met his end when a woman dropped a big stone on his head.) (Judges chapter 9)
Micah stole 1100 pieces of silver from his mom. When she found out, she blessed him (!) and dedicated that silver to be made into an idol for him to worship! He made other religious trapping to go with it and even hired his own priest to serve his manmade religion—concluding that the Lord would bless him for it. (Chapter 17)
An unnamed man went to retrieve his runaway concubine. On the way back home, they overnighted in the territory of Benjamin. That night they were thronged by a gang of perverts who gang-raped the woman and left her dead. The man rounded up an army from all over Israel to take revenge on the Benjaminites, who refused to hand over the culprits. After three bloody battles, 40,000 of the Israelites were dead and 25,100 of the Benjaminites—all but 600 of them. Then, feeling sorry for their “cousins” whom they had almost wiped out, the Israelites sat down and wept and then took more drastic measures to procure wives for them. (Chapters 19-21)
That’s enough! Enough to make one sick! These are the kinds of things that happen when people do what they think is right. Are we any different today? Should we be surprised at how low society stoops when they have turned their backs on God?
One more story, though. After all the sordid stories of Judges, I turned the page and breathed a sigh of relief! There is Ruth, a bright spot of faithfulness and hope in the midst of all that darkness. God was still at work, preparing the way for the Savior who would be Ruth’s descendant. Interestingly, it was a foreigner (she was a Moabite) who showed this unfaithful nation the faithfulness of God.