“In those days Israel had no king, so the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.”
– Judges 21:25 (New Living Translation)
“At that time there was no king in Israel. People did whatever they felt like doing.”
– Judges 21:25 (The Message)
Every time I come to this verse, I’m almost overwhelmed with sadness.
If it was the beginning of a story, I could accept that. It would set the stage for redemption, for realization and repentance. It would offer hope that things could be changed.
It’d be a Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come moment for sure – hoping that these shadows might yet be changed, that there is hope.
But kids, this is the last verse of the book, and that makes me so sad. The journey from Egypt, the failures, the longing, the waiting for a whole generation to pass on. The promise finally realized, entering the land, taking the land, and no one able to stand against them because the LORD was with them.
Joshua dies. And it all erodes away.
So begins the cycles of the Judges. Up, down, up, down, repeat over and over. Are they just thick? A little too much time in the desert sun? Their elevators don’t go all the way to the upper room?
How does this become their story over and over and over again?
And WHY would God long for their return over and over and over again? Why does He continue to pursue? Why doesn’t He leave them to be lost, to vanish, to come to the end they seem to desire with their actions over and over and over again?
What a bunch of boneheads…
And this is where my Father picks up the Celestial 2×4 to gently whomp a little understanding into His kiddo, Calbert.
If you line my story up with the story of Judges, are they all that different? Or do they both look like a roller coaster designed by someone who should never have been given a pencil?
How many times do I forget, do I do what is right in my own eyes, do I walk away and betray Him? How often do I forget that the story of Judges is not “their” story, it’s MY story. My heart is no different, my actions and thoughts are no different. Bring the culture, the habits, the behaviors into contemporary life, and you can put my name anyplace in the narrative and I’m right there staring back, blind to my own ignorance.
Does Cal have no King, so he does whatever is right in his own eyes?
There’s an interesting contrast between the two versions quoted above, that gives me a couple of angles to consider the question from:
Sometimes I do “what seems right in my own eyes,” ’cause hey – I have such a great grasp on the nuances of right and wrong that really, my middle name should be Solomon…
Said nobody about me, ever.
Sometimes I do “whatever I feel like doing.” Whatever it may be. Because since we’re all basically good people, we’ll choose the good and right thing, right?
Yeah. Right. I always do. Yup.
I got to go collate something now…
I must admit, I are a bonehead too. I’m as guilty of doing the “follow God, turn away, follow God, turn away” thing as anybody from one of the 12 tribes.
OK – but at least I’m aware of it, I admit it, and I’ll learn from these lessons and do better today and everyday, right?
Not so much.
How quickly after typing these words, putting the iPad and keyboard back in my bag, and walking out the coffeehouse door, will I forget them? How short of a time down the road will pass before I’m on to the next thing and leave this lesson behind, neglected and unlearned, until I happen to stumble over it while looking through the journal?
How many times does He lovingly plead for me to return to Him, instead of leaving me to the end I seem to desire, to perish, to vanish, to have a terrible end to the tale?
The end I deserve?
WHY doesn’t He just leave me to sink away?
I have no way to process it. There is no human lens that can bring it into focus. It’s a story of our constant unfaithfulness, not limited to one book but all through the Bible, and all through history right into our own backyards…
Where it sits in the comfy lounger, takes a sip from a big ol’ iced tea, and says,”Yup. I’m here for a l-o-n-g stay!”
Fortunately, the Book that tells me of this sad story and mirrors it into my own story, also tells me the rest of the story: the passionate pursuit by the Lover of my soul. The provision of mercy and grace that I simply can’t understand. The tender heart of God, who says again and again, “Return to Me – I will be your God, you will be My people.”
After every failure, after every forgetting, after every betrayal. Every time.
I have no words; I have no way to process it, and I have nothing to offer. Thanks don’t even seem to begin to be enough. Not even a drop in the bucket.
I do the Job maneuver – putting my hand over my mouth.
“What language shall I borrow, to thank Thee, dearest friend, For this, Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end? Oh make me Thine forever, And should I fainting be, Lord let me never, never outlive my love for Thee!”
– O Sacred Head Now Wounded – J.W. Alexander