WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO SHOCK GOD’S PEOPLE INTO OUTRAGE OVER DEPRAVED WICKEDNESS?
Today’s text reads like an X rated Hollywood script. Unfortunately we have been exposed to so much depravity in our culture that it is difficult to shock us anymore. That is a sad reality for the people of God. We have far too much in common today with the children of Israel back in the days when there was no king. That explains why God goes to such great lengths in this surprising text to shock us out of our moral lethargy. Somebody needs to take a stand for the cause of righteousness. Somebody needs to speak against the evil of our day. Somebody needs to cry out that Moral Depravity must be checked. Our society has fallen and we can’t seem to get up.
Chapters 17-18 spoke of religious decline in the nation of Israel. They tried to combine the worship of God with elements of idolatry from the pagans who lived with them in the Promised Land – the sad consequence of failing to obey God’s directive to fully conquer the land and drive out their enemies. They adopted a man-made, counterfeit system of worship where they set up regional shrines and high places and ordained their own priests. Inevitably religious decline is linked to moral decline in a society – that is what we will see in these concluding chapters 19-21.
Inrig: Illustration: Up until April 3, 1977, few people knew anything about a place called Tenerife. In fact, most of us probably were not very sure of the location of the Canary Islands. But, on that day, at a little airport, two 747s collided on the runway. That accident left 575 people dead, thousands mourning, and Tenerife at the focal point of world attention.
There are some questions about that tragedy which will never be answered, although the chief facts are clear. . . It was a foggy day, and the two pilots could not see one another, but, for some inexplicable reason the Dutch pilot began his takeoff without clearance from the control tower. Obviously, he thought he was doing the right thing, but he was not. The other plane was in the way, and he was unable to avoid it. As a result, hundreds of people were killed.
Every pilot is taught one very basic lesson at the beginning of his training. In an air traffic control zone, you do not do what seems best in your eyes: you do what the control tower tells you to do. That is always true, but it is especially true when the visibility is bad. The reason is, of course, very simple. The controller knows things that you do not know. He has better information and a better perspective to guide a pilot safely to his destination. To act on your own causes disasters.
That is an obvious principle of aviation, but it is also an important principle of life. We live at a time when a thick moral fog has settled upon our society. The old moral landmarks have been obliterated, and no one seems to know the difference between right and wrong. Ethically and morally, the visibility is nil, and people are groping for anything that will help them find their directions. It is very tempting, at such a time to fly by the seat of your pants, living by your own standards, doing whatever is right in your own eyes. The passage of Scripture we are going to study gives us a vivid picture of what happens when we follow that method.
The other alternative is to be guided by Someone who can see what we cannot see and who knows what we do not know. The great promise of god’s Word is that, if we commit ourselves to doing what is right in God’s eyes, we will be directed safely through the moral fog. The Lord is not a controller who makes mistakes. He is the omniscient, loving Father who wants only the best for His children.
FOUR SHOCK WAVES TO WAKE GOD’S PEOPLE FROM THEIR MORAL LETHARGY
I. (:1-9) SHOCKING LIASON WITH A CONCUBINE BY A LEVITE –
COMPROMISE PAVES THE WAY FOR MORAL DECAY
A. (:1-2) Seesawing Relationship – Up and Down Roller Coaster
1. (:1) Hooking Up With a Concubine
“Now it came about in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite staying in the remote part of the hill country of Ephraim, who took a concubine for himself from Bethlehem in Judah.”
PreceptAustin: This event appears to have occurred early in the period of the judges, because Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, was still ministering as high priest (Jdg 20:28; cf. Nu 25:7, 11)
Block: Because Israel refuses to acknowledge Yahweh as king, the nation lacks a theological reason for not sinking to the ethical level of the Canaanites at the personal, tribal, and national levels.
Levites should be the spiritual leaders of the nation; what was this Levite doing living in some remote outpost? Out of place; not connected with any sense of mission; not fulfilling his divine calling; rudderless
You hear about big name pastors who fall into some type of outrageous sexual sin; you must understand that decay happens slowly over time; there were a lot of little compromises that went unseen that led up to the more public, attention-grabbing transgression
“Slow Fade” – Casting Crowns
It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
Daddies never crumble in a day
Families never crumble in a day
2. (:2) Harlotry Creates Separation
“But his concubine played the harlot against him, and she went away from him to her father’s house in Bethlehem in Judah, and was there for a period of four months.”
Context of unfaithfulness is not surprising in the overall climate of moral degradation
She probably feared how her husband/master would react to her unfaithfulness and fled for refuge back to her father’s house
Four months is a long period of separation; husband was waiting, expecting her to possibly return
B. (:3) Seeking Reconciliation
“Then her husband arose and went after her to speak tenderly to her in order to bring her back, taking with him his servant and a pair of donkeys. So she brought him into her father’s house, and when the girl’s father saw him, he was glad to meet him.”
PreceptAustin: A priest was not allowed to marry a harlot…
“A widow, or a divorced woman, or one who is profaned by harlotry, these he (the priest) may not take; but rather he is to marry a virgin of his own people” (Lev 21:14)
Clearly this Levite’s ministry was greatly compromised from the beginning. Not surprisingly (especially as you read the following lines) that he made little of her sin and separation and sought her back sympathetically as explained in the next verse.
Taking sin way too casually – not dealing with things according to God’s revelation
Why was the father so glad to see the Levite? His daughter would live in isolation and disgrace if she could not be accepted back into the family relationship with her estranged husband; would cause shame to fall on the entire household
C. (:4-9) Sidetracked by Excessive Partying
1. (:5-7) Delayed for Three Days
“And his father-in-law, the girl’s father, detained him; and he remained with him three days. So they ate and drank and lodged there.”
Must understand the Oriental mindset here – life does not run according to a strictly programmed timetable of appointments where one must hurry from one commitment to another; they gave priority to hospitality and times of feasting and celebration; they were able to set aside the normal responsibilities of the day and spend time enjoying each other’s company
2. (:5-7) Delayed on the Fourth Day
“Now it came about on the fourth day that they got up early in the morning, and he prepared to go; and the girl’s father said to his son-in-law, ‘Sustain yourself with a piece of bread, and afterward you may go.’ So both of them sat down and ate and drank together; and the girl’s father said to the man, ‘Please be willing to spend the night, and let your heart be merry.’ Then the man arose to go, but his father-in-law urged him so that he spent the night there again.”
It is significant that the Levite lives without any sense of divine mission – such a carefree existence that fit into the culture around them of almost a party-type atmosphere
3. (:8-9) Delayed on the Fifth Day
“And on the fifth day he arose to go early in the morning, and the girl’s father said, ‘Please sustain yourself, and wait until afternoon’; so both of them ate. When the man arose to go along with his concubine and servant, his father-in-law, the girl’s father, said to him, ‘Behold now, the day has drawn to a close; please spend the night. Lo, the day is coming to an end; spend the night here that your heart may be merry. Then tomorrow you may arise early for your journey so that you may go home.’”
Providence has directed that the Levite has now put his travelling party in a precarious state
II. (:10-21) SHOCKING LACK OF HOSPITALITY –
COMMON COURTESY DISAPPEARS AS SOCIETY DEGENERATES
A. (:10-15) Hospitality Denied
1. (:10) Departure at Last
“But the man was not willing to spend the night, so he arose and departed and came to a place opposite Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). And there were with him a pair of saddled donkeys; his concubine also was with him.”
Block: In this chapter timing is everything, and it is the unfortunate timing of the Levite’s departure from his father-in-law’s house that precipitates the crisis that follows.
Departure late in the day was more dangerous – especially as it became dusk
2. (:11-13) Distinction Between Foreigners and Countrymen
“When they were near Jebus, the day was almost gone; and the servant said to his master, ‘Please come, and let us turn aside into this city of the Jebusites and spend the night in it.’ However, his master said to him, ‘We will not turn aside into the city of foreigners who are not of the sons of Israel; but we will go on as far as Gibeah.’ And he said to his servant, ‘Come and let us approach one of these places; and we will spend the night in Gibeah or Ramah.’”
They had travelled about 6 miles late in the day and now would proceed further north another 6 miles to an Israelite occupied city where they would spend the night and expect to receive hospitality and safe refuge
Motyer: not until the early days of the monarchy that David finally took possession of it, and it became Jerusalem, “the city of the great king.”
3. (:14-15) Disappointing Rejection by Men of Gibeah
“So they passed along and went their way, and the sun set on them near Gibeah which belongs to Benjamin. And they turned aside there in order to enter and lodge in Gibeah. When they entered, they sat down in the open square of the city, for no one took them into his house to spend the night.”
What a contrast to the overflowing hospitality that the Levite had experienced at his father-in-law-s house; they set themselves up just inside the city gates in the open square where people returning from their daily work would be sure to see them
Significance of Obligation of Hospitality:
“When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” (Lv19:33-34)
Heb. 13:2; Rom. 12:13; requirement for elders – are we living as stewards or possessors of God’s gifts?
B. (:16-21) Hospitality Offered
1. (:16) Identification of the Hospitable Old Man – Point of Commonality
“Then behold, an old man was coming out of the field from his work at evening. Now the man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he was staying in Gibeah, but the men of the place were Benjamites.”
2. (:17-19) Introductions – Provisions are not the Issue
“And he lifted up his eyes and saw the traveler in the open square of the city; and the old man said, ‘Where are you going, and where do you come from?’ And he said to him, ‘We are passing from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote part of the hill country of Ephraim, for I am from there, and I went to Bethlehem in Judah. But I am now going to my house, and no man will take me into his house. Yet there is both straw and fodder for our donkeys, and also bread and wine for me, your maidservant, and the young man who is with your servants; there is no lack of anything.’”
Block: With his comment the Levite verbalizes the social malignancy in Israel. The mores of the nation have been infected at the most fundamental level – the people of one tribe sense no obligation to the members of another. There is no sense of community.
3. (:20-21) Invitation to Lodge – Peace instead of Danger
“And the old man said, ‘Peace to you. Only let me take care of all your needs; however, do not spend the night in the open square.’ So he took him into his house and gave the donkeys fodder, and they washed their feet and ate and drank.”
This seemingly private story about one man and his party’s journey back to his home in the remote hill country of Ephraim is now going to explode into an incident of national significance; when all is said and done, the tribe of Benjamin will almost be totally wiped out – only 600 men and no women to marry them will remain after the devastation is over
III. (:22-26) SHOCKING LUSTFUL SEXUAL ATTACK –
CALLOUSNESS DEVELOPS IN THE CONTEXT OF UNRESTRAINED DEPRAVITY
(cf. Gen. 19:4-8 story of depravity at Sodom and Gomorrah)
A. (:22) Brazen Demand
“While they were making merry, behold, the men of the city, certain worthless fellows, surrounded the house, pounding the door; and they spoke to the owner of the house, the old man, saying, ‘Bring out the man who came into your house that we may have relations with him.’”
B. (:23-24) Bargaining Attempt / Bizarre Offer
“Then the man, the owner of the house, went out to them and said to them, ‘No, my fellows, please do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not commit this act of folly. Here is my virgin daughter and his concubine. Please let me bring them out that you may ravish them and do to them whatever you wish. But do not commit such an act of folly against this man.’”
PreceptAustin: “Where there is no vision (word from God), the people are unrestrained (run wild as we see in Judges 19), but happy is he who keeps the law.” (Pr 29:18)
C. (:25a) Barbaric Act of Cowardice and Self Preservation
“But the men would not listen to him, so the man seized his concubine and brought her out to them.”
D. (:25b) Brutal Attack
“And they raped her and abused her all night until morning, then let her go at the approach of dawn.”
E. (:26) Beaten Corpse
“As the day began to dawn, the woman came and fell down at the doorway of the man’s house where her master was, until full daylight.”
Why no names in this account??
– Universal nature of the conduct – this depraved conduct could be experienced by anyone; prevalent throughout the nation
Block: Anonymity is a deliberate literary device adopted to reflect the universality of Israel’s Canaanization.
– Dehumanization of the individual in a completely worldly society
IV. (:27-30) SHOCKING LESSON/LETTER OF DISMEMBERMENT —
COMMUNICATION INTENSIFIES IN ITS GRAPHIC EXPRESSION IN ORDER TO CAPTURE THE ATTENTION OF A CALLOUSED CULTURE
A. (:27) Depravity Cannot Be Overlooked
“When her master arose in the morning and opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, then behold, his concubine was lying at the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold.”
Often we prefer to look the other way and just go about our business; we would prefer to be oblivious to the dark side of our own culture; but we are called to hate evil and to take a stand against unrighteousness
B. (:28) Disdain and Disinterest Reveal a Lack of Sensitivity and Tenderness
“And he said to her, ‘Get up and let us go,’ but there was no answer. Then he placed her on the donkey; and the man arose and went to his home.”
What a contrast to the Levite’s approach to try to reconcile with his concubine with words of tenderness
C. (:29) Dismemberment is Offensive but Gets People’s Attention
“When he entered his house, he took a knife and laid hold of his concubine and cut her in twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout the territory of Israel.”
Cf. 1 Sam. 11:7 Saul cut the yoke of oxen in sections and sent throughout the land to muster troops for the battle
D. (:30) Demand for Action Arises From the Moral Outrage Over This Incident
“And it came about that all who saw it said, ‘Nothing like this has ever happened or been seen from the day when the sons of Israel came up from the land of Egypt to this day. Consider it, take counsel and speak up!’”
How can you say that private morality has no public consequences
Block: what looks at first like nothing more than a personal crisis in a private household escalates into a citywide problem, then becomes a crisis for an entire tribe and ultimately jeopardizes the integrity of the entire nation of Israel itself.
F. B. Meyer: However, this method of raising righteous indignation in Israel was successful. All who received this kind of information accompanied by part of a dead body, were greatly incensed against the perpetrators of the crime (Jdg 19:30). Does this mean it was right to do it this way. No, indeed! The case ought to have been addressed more locally, and settled in the courts without becoming a national scandal. But where were the local authorities to be appealed to? Thus is illustrated the great weakness of Israel at the time.
Hopefully you were shocked today by the depths of depravity exhibited in a society that has lost its moral compass.
‘“Righteousness exalts a nation; but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Pr14:34).
Hosea 9:9 – this event became infamous in the history of Israel as an example of her unrestrained depravity: “They have gone deep in depravity as in the days of Gibeah”
– Compromise always paves the way for moral decline
– Common Courtesy reflected in biblical mandates like Hospitality and how we treat others must be restored
– We cannot become Calloused to the wickedness around us
– The graphic nature of Communications has intensified greatly in our media driven culture
How does God want us to live in such a culture?
Phil. 2:15 “as children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life”
We cannot afford to choose to do whatever seems right in our own eyes; we must be focused in on the instructions from our control tower since God has the best perspective to guide our lives and protect us from moral catastrophe.