A godless world (Judges 19) – part one

Last week, we looked at one of the most difficult-to-come-to-terms-with stories of the Old Testament. This week, we continue in the same vein. Possibly the worst story in the Bible. I think just about everyone would find it shocking and distasteful. One to avoid, really. I mean, who wants to pick up their Bibles and read a story about sexual abuse, violence, and corpse dismemberment? (That’s what TV is for.) When you settle down with Scripture, I’m sure for most of us we’d find the Psalms more appealing. Or a nice story about Jesus healing someone. Or the apostle Paul at his eloquent best.

And yet here we are with (I hope) this stubborn insistence that all Scripture is inspired by God, and is somehow useful for us today. So this week, we’re going to put that belief to the test. We’ll be looking at this story in Judges 19 full of horrific attitudes and gruesome deeds. To find out what on earth this has to do with us. 

(If you’re squeamish, or dealing with issues of sexual abuse, it might be good to sit this week out.)

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A godless world (Judges 19) – part two

(Warning: If you’re squeamish, or dealing with issues of sexual abuse, it might be good to sit this week out.)

Yesterday, we read the disturbing, stomach-turning story found Judges 19. We noticed how it was part of a section of the book of Judges describing a people who had essentially abandoned God as their king: a picture of a world without God. Today and tomorrow, we’ll be looking more closely at the details of the story – in the hope of finding some kind of relevance for us today. In particular, we’re going to take note of how this story fits into this wider, “godless” picture, pointing out everything that’s not as it should be.

It starts off in verse 1 introducing a Levite living ‘in a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim’. Already something’s wrong. He’s a Levite, the tribe of priests. He’s not living where he should be, in one of the cities allotted to the Levite, doing what priests should do. It may well be that he was trying to sell his services as a priest-for-hire like the young Levite in the previous chapter. (You can read that story later if you like.)

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A godless world (Judges 19) – part three

(Warning: If you’re squeamish, or dealing with issues of sexual abuse, it might be good to sit this week out.)

This week, we’re working through the truly horrible story found in Judges 19 (if you’re just joining us, you’ll need to read it further to catch up). The Levite and his concubine are travelling back to their home and have chosen to stay the night in Gibeah. Yesterday, we saw how the town wasn’t initially all that hospitable, but eventually an old man took them in for the night. But this only caused a gang of locals to surround the house demanding to have sex with the man. And we were left wondering – what kind of crazy custom is this? Why would they do this.

Now before we go any further, I’ll warn you that we’re going to hear some pretty offensive things. About a pretty messed-up worldview. These views are in the Bible, but let’s be clear that the Bible doesn’t condone them. Some people have issues with the fact that the Biblical narrator doesn’t seem to explicitly condemn some aspects of it – particularly the way this culture treated women. Now firstly let’s realise that the narrator is not God. And the narrator is a member of this patriarchal, chauvinistic society. But as we’ll see in a minute, the way the story is constructed is more condemning of what’s going on than is immediately apparent.

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A godless world (Judges 19) – part four

(Warning: If you’re squeamish, or dealing with issues of sexual abuse, it might be good to sit this week out.)

This week, we’re working through the truly horrible story found in Judges 19 (if you’re just joining us, you’ll need to read it further to catch up). The Levite and his concubine are in the Israelite town of Gibeah, but instead of receiving hospitality from their fellow countrymen, they receive firstly neglect (no-one offers them accommodation) and then abuse. A gang of local men want to rape the man, as a way of asserting their dominance over him and dishonouring this stranger who dared to come to their town. When that doesn’t happen, they settle for raping and killing his concubine – a woman under his protection, and therefore also dishonouring to him. The next day, the Levite is outraged, and cuts up her body, sending it throughout the land of Israel as a rallying-cry. Israel responds, and almost wipes out the tribe of Benjamin in response, in a bloody holy war.

And again, we’re left asking the question: how is this part of Scripture useful for anything?

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A godless world (Judges 19) – part five

(Warning: If you’re squeamish, or dealing with issues of sexual abuse, it might be good to sit this week out.)

This week, we’ve looked at Judges 19, wondering what on earth it might have to say to us. Yesterday, we looked at how it’s a picture of a world without God – a world into which Jesus stepped in order to put it right. But is that the only way it’s relevant to us?

One thing we haven’t looked at yet is the connection between this story, and an earlier one in the Bible. A slightly more famous story, found in Genesis 19. Abraham’s nephew, Lot, is living in Sodom. But the city has become utterly evil, and God’s about to destroy it. But Abraham begs God to spare the city if he can find 50 righteous people in it. Or even 45. Or 40. How about 30. Maybe 20. What if there were only 10? (Funnily enough, that’s about the size of Lot’s family.) So God agrees to spare Sodom if he can find ten righteous people there. And immediately God dispatches a pair of angels, disguised as humans, on a fact-finding mission to Sodom. Here’s where we pick up the story.

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