April 7 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” ~Judges 21:25

Did you notice one-line refrain about a self-centered, kingless society that is repeated throughout Judges 17-21? It’s the key to understanding today’s reading. Judges was evidently written sometime after the establishment of the monarchy in order to look back on a period of moral chaos in Israel’s history. Taken as a whole, the book is an indictment of the spirit of the times. The people were so rebellious they would not have stood for a king! They did what was right in their own eyes because they wanted to.

In today’s reading, it’s clear that the people’s rebellious spirit has not entirely degraded their moral bearings, but they’re certainly off-kilter. Israel musters an army to deal with the depravity in Gibeon. They seek the Lord’s advice and persevere in the face of great opposition. However, when faced with a new dilemma, the extinction of one of their own tribes because all the Benjamite women and children have been put to the sword, the people hatch a dubious plan. Israel goes to war with Jabesh Gilead because its men failed to aid in the battle against Benjamin. The virgin daughters of Jabesh Gilead are the spoils of war, new brides for the Benjamite survivors. When there aren’t enough women from that campaign, the Benjamites receive “permission” to snatch women from Shiloh as they dance at an annual festival to the Lord.

Each new decision sinks the Israelites deeper into a moral quagmire. This entire section reminds readers that when there is no leader and no law, when everyone does what is right in his own eyes, chaos reigns. Left to themselves with no leaders to point them in the right direction, the mob does whatever it wants. Even when the people occasionally want to do what is right, the outcome is mired in murky moral dilemmas. The conclusion to the book of Judges is a sad commentary on the devastation wrought on people when a spirit of anarchy rules the land.

Authority is God’s design for peace, order, and function in a land (Rom. 13:1-7). Even when authority figures are flawed (and all of them are), they protect the community from chaos. Have you ever been in a situation where no one was in charge? Even a small group with no leader can become a big, frustrating mess! This is why nations need kings or presidents, states need governors, cities need mayors, churches need pastors, schools need principals, crews need foremen, and so on. As God-followers, we should passionately promote the God-created idea of authority. That includes being both submissive to authority ourselves and supportive of those in positions of leadership. Living under authority isn’t always easy, and the person in charge doesn’t always get it right. We may have to find creative ways to approach authority figures, but we should not join in with the rebellious (Prov. 25:15, Ecc. 8:2-6). May God help us to be like Jesus, who was submissive to the Father and learned to be obedient in every way (Heb. 5:8, 1 Cor. 11:3).

Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.