JUDGES 21: WHY IS GOD SO PATIENT WITH US?
GRACE GREATER THAN ALL OUR SIN
The mood of Judges 20 oozes with anger, judgment and revenge. Civil war has ripped the nation. If the story ended at Judges 20, it would seem like the Israelites were happy they defeated and punished the tribe of Benjamin. But, the mood of Judges 21 is different; it’s one of deep sorrow as Israel wakes up to realize that except for 600 Benjamites who survive, they have almost completely destroyed one of their twelve tribes. In this catastrophic civil war, practically all the Benjamite women have been killed.
As if that is not tragic enough, the problem is worsened because of a foolish vow the Israelites made before going to war: “Not one of us will give his daughter in marriage to a Benjamite” (v. 1). The Law of Moses did not permit the surviving Benjamites to marry Gentiles (Exodus. 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3). Since the survivors could not take a wife from the other tribes of Israel because of the vow, where could they find wives to perpetuate their tribe?
Amazing that one day the Israelites are trying to exterminate the Benjamites, but the next day, when it looks like they almost had, they tearfully scramble to figure out a way to save them! The rest of the chapter records the ingenious, but savage ways they solve the problem. As much as I’d like to rehash those details, there are a couple more important things to consider in this last chapter of Judges.
The most important point in this chapter comes in the last verse of the book: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit” (v.25; see also Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1). I wrote about this verse in the blog for Judges 19, but it’s vitally important that we see it again because it summarizes so much of what the book of Judges is about.
The sins the Israelites committed and the consequences they suffered resulted from the false standard on which they based their decisions about how to live, about what was right and wrong. Instead of grounding their spiritual and moral behaviors on the Word of God, every man based his behaviors on what seemed right “in his own eyes.” When people ignore God’s Word and do as they see fit, they essentially become their own god.
If the book of Judges teaches us anything, it teaches us that living that way leads to disfunction, sin and disaster. The most amazing thing about Judges is that God didn’t annihilate those wayward, stubborn people who repeatedly turned their backs on Him. Yet, through all the cycles of rebellion, punishment, repentance, and restoration, God never turned His back on them. At the slightest sign of genuine repentance (and at times, even when they didn’t repent), God was there to rescue them.
How can we explain a God who shows such longsuffering patience and love for such an ornery people? It’s God’s amazing, unfathomable grace and mercy. Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 6:1-2 that Christians must not intentionally sin to get more of God’s grace. Christians are called to make every effort to live godly lives, not look for excuses to sin. But, no matter how good we are and how hard we try, we cannot be good enough to merit God’s saving grace that comes only through our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. We, like the people who lived during the period of the Judges, are sinners, prone to go our own way instead of walking on God’s path.
Why doesn’t our holy God wipe us out because of our sin? Because of his love and grace, and because His Son, Jesus, has paid the price for our sins. Unlike the Israelites described in Judges 21:25, you and I have a King who rules over us. Not a king who dominates and crushes us, but One who serves us and loves us so much that he died so that we might live. Let the book of Judges enable you to see that you have a King who reigns in righteousness—His name is JESUS!
Gracious Father, my heart overflows with gratitude knowing that you extend your marvelous grace to me. I do not deserve your love, yet I bask in the knowledge that you loved me so much that you sent Jesus to live and die for me and for everyone who trust in him. I praise you that Jesus is King of my life, and I pray that you will help me serve him faithfully all my days. In Jesus' name. Amen!
Dr. Dan Dozier
Dan Dozier preaches for the Rural Hill Church of Christ in Antioch, TN. Dr. Dozier holds degrees from Lipscomb University, Harding School of Theology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate from Abilene Christian University. He has been married to his high school sweetheart, JaneLee, since 1972. They have three married children and eight grandchildren.