Judges 19-21, Psalm 76
Revenge is often done in a state of rage. It's intent is usually more than retribution, usually being more along the lines of teaching a lesson or making a statement. When I was a medical student, in 1987, apparently surgery was done on someone in the hospital that I was doing my rotation in, and the individual died during surgery (I don't remember the specific facts behind the surgery). The family member, in anger, walked into the office of the chief of surgery with a shotgun and killed him immediately with a gunshot wound to the chest. The chief of surgery was not the surgeon involved, and had nothing to do with the specific case. He was a husband and father of two who died because of an act of blind revenge. In 1992 there were 5 days of rioting in Los Angeles in which more than 50 people died and more than 2000 injured, due to the acquittal of four white L.A.P.D. officer who were acquitted in their trial of beating black motorist Rodney King. Many businesses were also destroyed. The victims of these riots had nothing to do with the beating or the acquittal. In Exodus 21:23-24, we read, "But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth...". The purpose of this was payback and was not to be excessive or in rage but to repay exactly what was taken. Paul wrote in Romans 12:19-21, "Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay", says the Lord. Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
We read in Judges 21:25, "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes." The events at the end of this book show just how low a society can go when everyone chooses to act outside of the sphere of God. We read in Judges 19:25, "But the men would not heed him. So the man took his concubine and brought her out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until morning; and when the day began to break, they let her go." This act resulted in the rape and murder of the Levite's concubine. In anger, we next read in 19:29, "When he entered his house he took a knife, laid hold of his concubine, and divided her into twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel." We can see how things are spiraling out of control. We see when the tribes assemble to payback Benjamin for their sin, the intent of their heart in Judges 20:10, "...that when they come to Gibeah in Benjamin, they may repay all the vileness that they have done in Israel." We see that this revenge on the part of Israel gets out of control in 20:48, "And the men of Israel turned back against the children of Benjamin, and struck them down with the edge of the sword-from every city, men and beasts, all who were found. They also set fire to all the cities they came to." In chapter 21, still in anger, they make a rash vow not to allow any of their daughters to marry a Benjamite. Once their anger cools, they realize that this would mean the end to one of Israel's tribes. So again, continuing in their decline, they realize that the town of Jabesh Gilead did not join them in the fight. So they go on to murder the entire town as a result (their own brethren) and take their virgin daughters to give to the men of Benjamin. When people ask why God would do such a thing or allow such a thing, they fail to realize that they never sought God's counsel, and God will not override people's free will.
When it appears that they actually do seek God, their requests go wrong. Realize their mistake in 20:18, "Then the children of Israel arose and went up to the house of God to inquire of God. They said, "Which of us shall go up first to battle against the children of Benjamin?" We often make a mistake when we give God multiple-choice questions. The better question would have been, "Lord, what would you have us do?" We see this same mistake in the first chapter of Acts, when the disciples give God two options to replace Judas as one of the twelve. When we seek God's counsel, we must truly desire His counsel. When we have been wronged, we should take some time in prayer and not allow rage to cloud our thoughts and more importantly render us unable to hear the counsel of God. We can all justify in the moment our actions in a fit of rage, but once cooled down it should and would bother our conscience and be evident for the incorrect and rash action that it was.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: