Judges 20 Commentary
400,000 men armed with weapons of war assembled at Mizpah. Mission? Punish the perpetrators of extreme wickedness of chapter 19 at Gibeah. Everyone is in apart from Benjamin, who actually refuses to surrender the wicked men of Gibeah. Civil war ensues.
This type of wickedness deserved the kind is punishment that Israel meted out on Gibeah, according to the law. But the punishment quickly transitioned into a civil war as Benjamin was well equipped and excellently trained for warfare. Wickedness has a way of fighting back. Many believers think wickedness will politely surrender its position. As we have seen, there is no red carpet for righteousness.
The massively outnumbered Benjamites should be defeated easily. But it doesn’t happen. The message is simple: The battle against wickedness can only be won when man seeks the face of the LORD. Yes, we need unity of purpose, and the number up against this level of wickedness is quite impressive. But the power for victory lies with the LORD. This chapter speaks to the times when we feel like our strong resolve is good enough to fight wickedness. These lines here are emphatic in stressing the point that neither good intentions nor intellectual prowess is good enough.
Every adult Christian knows there are two types of miracles. The first one happens when the LORD takes over the battle. We have seen this kind with just about every Judge that the LORD used. You achieve everything with very little or nothing at all. The second one is what we are looking at in this chapter. You achieve nothing with everything. You fail where no one else fails. When you fail when failure is nearly impossible, then you know there is a miracle.
You want to stop and reflect. Fasting and prayer help man to focus his attention on the LORD. They help draw out an understanding that the battle against wickedness isn’t one to be won on man’s physical strength. Yes, the effort is required from us. We also need strategy but the power to overcome is from above.
In reality, prayer and fasting isn’t a power bank for the saint, rather it is a humility bank. Humility demands an understanding that we cannot do it all by ourselves. Emphasis is on the grace of the LORD. It is this picture that chapter 20 wants us to see clearly. It is the first time in Judges that Israel is heading into battle with a hugely massive advantage over the enemy. They lose the battle, save for God’s intervention. The contrast is important.
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