Read Judges 20
It was civil war at its worst. An entire tribe of Israel seceded from the nation, and twenty-five thousand men died in just one day of fighting.
The troubled Levite who lost his concubine the night they stayed in Gibeah had called his countrymen to battle. He did it by cutting up her body and sending its pieces all over Israel. It worked. They had his back.
A most extreme, horribly perverse wake-up call to God’s people for the sin and evil that had pervaded them. It was time to purge and turn back to the One True God. “(A)nd the congregation stood as one man to the LORD at Mizpah” (v. 1).
They met, made a plan then went to the culprits of the wretched crime to call them out of the Gibeah. But the townsfolk wouldn’t give the men up. Instead they fought for them, wicked as they were. They called for the help of their one little tribe, Benjamin, and then they fought a three-day battle. To fight against justice and protect their own wicked men.
But the rest of Israel rose to battle too. As one, they went before the Lord and asked, “Who of us is to go up first?” God called Judah to the front lines, and Israel lost so many men on that first day of battle that they had to ask God about the next day of battle. “Shall we go up again . . .” (v. 23)?
And God responded. Go!
The second day went much like the first, however, and still the people of God, the ones who fought for justice against the people who had committed such evil, needed to know . . . “Shall we go up again to fight against the Benjamites, our fellow Israelites, or not” (v. 28)? I guess they felt unsure about attacking their own people.
This time, though, God gave them a promise. “(T)omorrow I will give them into your hands” (v. 28).
Now, if I were an Israelite with God on my side and His promise of victory, I would have expected this battle to be in the bag. As my daughter used to say, easy peasy pumpkin squeezy. After all, He’d given His Word.
But the Israelites had to fight hard that third day. (See v. 34.) And they still lost a bunch of men. Even with the promise. Even after His Word.
I wonder if God wanted to make sure they knew the severity of the sin His people were fighting against. Maybe they needed to fight hard so they could later remember how serious depravity is.
Perhaps its a call to us as well.