It’s Complicated…(Part 3)

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280All of Israel is now up in arms (literally) and ready to rumble against…whom?

NOT against the man who pushed his partner/concubine out the door to be serial-raped by the townsmen to save his own skin.  Nope.  She was merely his property, and this shameful injustice was done to the man, not to the woman.

Eh-hem…

As I mentioned earlier, some unknowing folks might consider this an argument for an estrogen-hating God of the Bible, which is terribly unfortunate, as well as simply unfair and untrue, as (to quote Paul Harvey) “the rest of the story” bears out:

 “Then all the Israelites were united as one man…The entire community assembled in the presence of the Lord at Mizpah…The Israelites then asked how this terrible crime had happened.”

Credit to them for attempting to go the source information, but unfortunately the victim was decidedly unavailable for comment.

“The Levite, the husband of the woman who had been murdered, said, ‘My concubine and I came to spend the night in Gibeah, a town that belongs to the people of Benjamin. That night some of the leading citizens of Gibeah surrounded the house, planning to kill me, and they raped my concubine until she was dead.” 

How convenient that he left out the part about him pushing her out the door to save himself.  This brave soul continues:

“So I cut her body into twelve pieces and sent the pieces throughout the territory assigned to Israel, for these men have committed a terrible and shameful crime.

Now then, all of you—the entire community of Israel—must decide here and now what should be done about this!”

Granted, that’s one way to get their attention, and whip emotions into a frenzy (because that always has a positive outcome).

The men of Israel went to the people of Benjamin (one of the tribes of Israel) and ordered them to give up the men responsible for punishment, but they were refused.  It was decided that rest of the men of Israel would attacked the tribe of Benjamin in retaliation, but beforehand, thought it wise to consult God.

This is where it gets quite interesting.

“Before the battle the Israelites went to Bethel and asked God, “Which tribe should go first to attack the people of Benjamin?”

I love this—“before the battle”.  War and bloodshed were a given in their play book.  Swords were already sharpened and helmets were in place when they went to God.  No humility, no “hey, guys, maybe God’s got a different plan…?  What if we’re not seeing the whole story….??” 

God’s answer is brilliant.  Harrowing, but brilliant.

The Lord answered, “Judah is to go first.”

So…God was in this.  Somewhere, somehow, He was in this orchestrating…something.  Understand also that Judah was the tribe of kings.  King David was from Judah.  Jesus Himself came from Judah.  So for God to put the tribe of Judah in front of a battle was not a mistake.  He was about to make a very big point.  Check it out:

“But Benjamin’s warriors, who were defending the town, came out and killed 22,000 Israelites on the battlefield that day.”

Twenty-two THOUSAND Israelis were slaughtered, Judah at the front!  After God, Himself, told them to go up!  Can we grasp what God was trying to say here??

“They had asked the Lord, “Should we fight against our relatives from Benjamin again?”

And the Lord had said, “Go out and fight against them.”

And what does Take 2 get them:

“So the next day they went out again to fight against the men of Benjamin, but the men of Benjamin killed another 18,000 Israelites, all of whom were experienced with the sword.”

Third time:

“The Israelites asked the Lord, ‘Should we fight against our relatives from Benjamin again, or should we stop?’”

“The Lord said, ‘Go! Tomorrow I will hand them over to you.’”

(Maybe they should have clarified that point the first time?)

And now, they defeated the Benjaminites, leaving only 600 men, and—

 “…the Israelites returned and slaughtered every living thing in all the towns—the people, the livestock, and everything they found. They also burned down all the towns they came to.”

Basically, a whole tribe of Israel was wiped off the face of the planet, along with tens of thousands of other Hebrew men. In painful hind site, you can hear their lament:

“ O LORD, God of Israel,” they cried out, “why has this happened in Israel? Now one of our tribes is missing from Israel!”

That was not a solution.  That was not even the justice they were looking for.  (Although I doubt not that it was part of God’s!  No one can tell me He wasn’t angry about that poor woman!)

What a pathetic waste.

Which is exactly what we get ourselves into when we, the church, start going down the road of “doing our own thing” and mixing our devotion to God with anything else, (which then ceases to be devotion to God). 

We may think this whole scenario began with someone thinking it was okay to use someone else to save himself which ended up destroying an entire tribe of God’s people. 

But, no, it actually started back in a Garden with listening to a slithering enemy whisper, “Did God really say that?”

   …that it’s not okay to treat people like property?                                                                                           

   …that using any gift (including sex) outside of God’s design is a bad idea?                                                                              

   …that the Creator of the Universe doesn’t need my help in rethinking His solutions?

   …that that He, alone, is God, and I should spend my life learning just what that means.

Here, then, are the dangers of syncretism, compromise, and not knowing our Source Document. Of believing in what seems right in our own eyes, even (especially!) within the church.

The church has a King, but the church in America doesn’t generally act like it.  We are under a Government, but we squabble like Congress, getting precious little done, then decide to go on vacation, prepared to leave God’s people bankrupt—bereft of true love, setting up in place our own idols of pride and ephods of offenses.  We consider it more important to be right than righteous, and a dying world sees the Church as pathetic and petty instead of priceless.traveler-1611614_1920

No wonder our own culture sends us into exile.

Judges 20, Judges 21:1 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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What color is your cheese? (and I can’t even find my parachute…)

Dawncartoon[1] (1)The past decade or so I’ve read a few books that have touched on the idea of following your heart, professional choices, changing careers, all that, (although, not the ones alluded to in the title, but their titles are rather clever.) Since I work in a middle school, I also see similar encouragements  for the kids.  I love that, because I think it’s just so very important for that age group to start evaluating and exploring and looking at life and the future in those terms, and how their choices now effect their horizons later. 

From where I stand, 58 years down my own path, I guess I should know…

I don’t recall ever having those kinds of tests or questions or books to read back in the 70’s.  The reason I chose nursing was (at least in part) because it looked exciting on TV and I thought Star Trek’s Dr. McCoy was pretty cool.  So there it is.  Such a well informed decision of a 17-year-old would surely have nothing but successful results.

Needless to say, the Continue reading “What color is your cheese? (and I can’t even find my parachute…)”

Cramped quarters

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280The story of the Old Testament prophet, Jonah, is an intriguing one, and is not without a mild undercurrent of a Providential sense of humor.  Not to poke fun at Jonah’s dire straits, but he did, after all, open himself wide to at least some form of discipline.  Interestingly, as the story unfolds, Jonah never denies that he worships the God of the Hebrew people; he just persistently argues with Him, at least concerning God’s intended task for His wayward prophet.  I have to wonder what brought the man to this extreme—maybe someone from Nineveh had harmed his family somehow, causing a hatred so intense that it created a prejudice toward the whole town (along the lines of the comment about Jesus: “can anything good come out of Nazareth”.)  Maybe Jonah considered God to be unjust in His patient treatment of anyone “not Jewish”. 

Or maybe he was just having a bad day…?

Regardless, a massive storm blows up to buffet the ship carrying Continue reading “Cramped quarters”

Not to be out-skunked.

wood 2

Bob and I were enjoying a nice, quiet summer night walk through the neighbor one evening.  Our older street doesn’t have the best lighting so naturally it was dark as we picked our way along some of the crumbing sidewalks.  Suddenly I stopped when I say something moving slowly in the grass as we passed, and thinking it was a wounded animal or bird, we looked at it a little more intently.  As our pupils dilated to let in more light, the image that pounded through the retina and hit the brain was something black with a white stripe down its back.

The brain then gave definite directions.

Unfortunately, we didn’t move quite fast enough, and even more so, we both shouted out in fear

“SKUNK!”

“RUN!”

The brain did not fail us.  It gave us the correct information; we were just not prepared to know what to do with that information.

Unlike this guy.  You gotta admire him on some level:

I’m challenged by this attitude.  I’m sorry to admit that I tend to be more on the panic side (as the fragrance on my shoes could attest!) rather than the calm stoic side; that is, learning the (life) discipline of standing firm, being very still, until the threat passes. And I definitely see that here:

“Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whom You discipline and instruct, O Lord, and teach out of Your law, that You may give him power to keep himself calm in the days of adversity, until the [inevitable] pit of corruption is dug for the wicked.”

I’m long on information.  I need more than information; I need wisdom, and the power to put that wisdom into practice.  It’s so easy for me to panic about so many things—family, health, finances, world situations, _________.  The problem is that when I panic, I tend to do stupid pretty well, which can get quite stinky not only for me, but for those around me.  The atmosphere is not conducive to others wanting to be around me.  (Especially when I track it into my house, if I can extend the metaphor a bit!)

The psalmist here gives me hope, that the discipline God places on me grants me firm footing when (not if) difficult and scary situations arise, since “the valley of the shadow” is not something we are told to circumvent, but to go through…

…albeit not alone.

Psalm 94:12,13  Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)  Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation