So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, united together as one man. Judges 20:11
An Incensed Israel
What got Israel so fired up? In the previous chapter, a woman was horribly abused and killed at the hands of the Benjamites, a tribe of Israel—the account is one of the most bizarre stories in the Old Testament. It was seen as an act of terrorism against the nation of Israel as a whole; a wake-up call of sorts. The men of Israel mobilized in order that they could mete-out revenge for the travesty. And a travesty it was; in the first battle Israel would lose twenty-two thousand men; in the second battle, eighteen thousand—a full ten percent of their righteous army was wiped out by these Benjamite terrorists. How could this be?
God is on Our Side!
God unquestionably was on Israel’s side; the problem was that Israel was not on His side. The very last sentence of the Book of Judges sums up precisely where Israel’s priorities were, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes,” Judges 21:25. What seemed right to Israel (in those days) was revenge; fueled by hatred and they chose to rally around vengeance rather than God.
Israel Figures it Out
Then all the children of Israel, that is, all the people, went up and came to the house of God and wept. They sat there before the Lord and fasted that day until evening; and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. So the children of Israel inquired of the Lord (the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days), saying, “Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of my brother Benjamin, or shall I cease?” And the Lord said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hand.” Judges 20:26-28
Israel repents. Her sin was having become united in a cause, a mission, and a ministry, rather then being submitted to the God who guides us in all these things. Why is it so tragic and sinful to rally around a cause? Because when a cause is our motivator, after it is realized, any harmony that had developed as a result of it will ultimately break down. Don’t believe that to be true? Consider where the United States of America was as a nation in the days, weeks, and months subsequent to September 11 and where we are now almost ten years later.
A Look Back
As a nation our zeal was for retaliation and rightly so! We gathered together as ancient Israel did before the Lord and asked Him not of His plans, but that He would bless our plans as we sought our vengeance. I submit to you that when we proceeded with our agenda, God was indeed on our side, but we were not on His. Consider when was ancient Israel given the victory–after they fully humbled themselves and repented of their wicked ways. That godly principle has not changed one iota. Terrorism, earthquakes, tsunamis all serve to awake and unify nations, but when they do we would be well to remember to rally around the King and not the cause.
If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14