There’s another story I find interesting too, about when things don’t go the way we think they should. I am reminded of a story where the nation of Israel had to pass a severe judgment on one of their relative tribes….
The story is in the book of
1 Kings 13 Judges, chapters 19 and 20. A little backstory…a priest went to get his concubine who had left him. We don’t know if he was a mean man or not, but as you will see in a bit, one might wonder. At least I do. The concubine was living at her father’s house and the priest went there to pick her up. They get on their way back home and pass into a land inhabited by the Benjamites. Benjamin was one of the 12 sons of Jacob, so these were cousins. But some of the Benjamites had sunk to a very sinful low place. The priest and his concubine were invited to spend the night in a man’s house. That night, a group of Benjamites started pounding on the door demanding that the owner of the house give them the male visitor. The host was so horrified that they would demand that of him, he offered his own daughter to them. The visitor priest then pushed his concubine out there instead to the men and they had their way with her all night. There are no details given on this, but it was not good. Apparently, she found her way back to the house sometime in the night, but died on the doorstep of the home. When the priest opened the door in the morning, he found her there and tried to waken her, but she was dead. He was so horrified that they killed his concubine, he cut her into 12 pieces and sent a piece to each tribe, asking for justice. (I am not going to discuss his actions however, because that is not the main point of what I’m pointing out here, but I do question his behavior too.)
So the tribes of Israel convened; they knew they had to do something. This was a sin so grievous, it had to be dealt with. My guess is they may have known it was happening all along and let it go on and on, until this event happened and they could no longer ignore it. There just comes a time…The priest was demanding justice. The first thing they did was ask the Benjamites to hand over the ones who had done this horrible thing. But as can be customary in families, the whole tribe refused to turn over their relatives. Even if they were a group of criminals, they would be protected from the consequences of their deeds. What could have been punishment for just a few ended up becoming a judgment on the whole tribe.
The cousin tribes prayed, and God told them to go after the Benjamites. They did and lost 22,000 of their own men in the first engagement. That’s a lot of men! So they went back to God and again He said, go after them. They did and lost 18,000 more the next day. Following God’s instructions didn’t seem to be working out very well…
They went back to God again, this time in fasting and weeping for the losses they had taken. They were truly broken. And God once again told them to go after the Benjamites, and this time, He told them they would win. And they did win. In the process, the eleven other tribes wiped out all but 600 men of the tribe of Benjamin. The whole tribe was gone except for them. This grieved the cousin tribes a great deal, but they had taken great losses also. Dealing with sin brings grief to all involved, and especially if it’s in your own family.
This story reminds me of how sometimes, we try and try again, and we fail. After awhile, we don’t want to try anymore, because by then, we are conditioned that we most likely will fail. We desperately need a word and a promise from God to continue on! We need to know that our cause is righteous. We need to know that He is with us.
The nation knew they were supposed to do this, but failure kept happening and lives were being lost in this massive battle against sin. Fasting seems to be the added element in this story that brought the needed victory. (In the New Testament, we see Jesus adding fasting to a situation also when he said “This kind doesn’t come out except for prayer and fasting,” when his disciples were unable to cast out a demon.) There are times that we must keep persevering in a matter until we see the victory. We need to pay attention to what God will speak to us. He knows how we can get the victory.
The Israelites could have given up after the first 36,000 were killed. They could have given up after the second day of battle when thousands more of their own died. Remember that both days, God had told them to go into battle. Just because God leads us to do something may not mean we see an instant win; we may suffer hurt. In my early days of becoming a Christ follower, there were battles I did not think I could win. My spiritual enemy was very strong, but God kept encouraging me through His word and I eventually saw victory in a major sin area of my life.
The Benjamites must have have been ferocious warriors to inflict this kind of damage. Of course we know they wanted to protect their relatives, but whether they knew it or not, they were also protecting a lifestyle of sin; perhaps they even had some agreement with it. (I would submit that demonic powers can make people stronger than they would normally be. I have heard stories of great strength in unlikely people that may only be explained in that way.)
Be encouraged; whatever God has called you to do, He has also equipped you to do. He will provide everything you need to get through it. There is always resistance to whatever God is calling us to. We must keep the faith! And I personally am grateful I don’t have to go out and whack people with a sword, praise the Lord!