People did what was right in their own eyes

People eyes

Wednesday 03/11/20

Series: Thru the Bible

Message – People did what was right in their own eyes

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Thru the Bible: Judges 17-21

People did what was right in their own eyes

Judges 17-21

Now this is a set of uncomfortable and difficult chapters.

Uncomfortable because of the lack of decency and morality within them which go from the sketchy to down right abominable.

Difficult because we again, encounter a method of writing which is always a little off-putting in that chronology is thrown to the wind. A great modern example most people are familiar with is Star Wars which begins with episode 4 and doesn’t get around to the first part of the story until after episode 6…thoroughly confusing.

The value of these chapters, in my opinion, is LARGELY found in how they reveal how our individual actions can have HUGE repercussions and bring back on our heads results which are both devastating and deadly.

Now, in regards to these last 5 chapters of Judges, some things in the beginning of the text just seemed a little “off” to me…like they just don’t quite belong there in the flow of the other chapters of this book. 

Then you run into a name which hints that this is actually a time period PRIOR to everything that takes place in the book of Judges. 

This is later confirmed as absolute when you get to chapter 20 when Phinehas, Aaron’s grandson, is seen as still alive. 

So…with all of that as a prelude, let’s dive in and I’ll attempt to offer input for clarification as we go. Just know that what we are about to read actually takes place between the last chapter of Joshua and the 1st chapter of Judges and we have it on the authority of the beginning of Judges that following the death of Joshua (as well as those who led Israel at that time), men began to do evil in the sight of the Lord. So this entire time, is a time of progressive sin in Israel – as such the chapters are bookmarked by the phrase, In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever was right in his own eyes”

So, let’s begin by reading the last verses in Joshua,

Joshua 24:29-33,“(29) After these things, the LORD’s servant, Joshua son of Nun, died at the age of 110.  (30) They buried him in his allotted territory at Timnath-serah, in the hill country of Ephraim north of Mount Gaash.  (31) Israel worshiped the LORD throughout Joshua’s lifetime and during the lifetimes of the elders who outlived Joshua, and who had experienced all the works the LORD had done for Israel.  (32) Joseph’s bones, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem in the parcel of land Jacob had purchased from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for 100 pieces of silver. It was an inheritance for Joseph’s descendants.  (33) And Eleazar son of Aaron died, and they buried him at Gibeah, which had been given to his son Phinehas in the hill country of Ephraim.”

Judges 17:1-13,

“(1) There was a man from the hill country of Ephraim named Micah.”

While it SHOULD be obvious due to the character of this man, I will tell you that this is NOT the Prophet Micah whose biblical book bears his name. THAT Micah was alive during the days of the kings Jotham. Ahaz & Hezekiah between 737 to 696BC. What we are reading is nearly 600 years before him in about 1250BC.

“(2)  He said to his mother, “The 1,100 pieces of silver taken from you, and that I heard you utter a curse about–here, I have the silver with me. I took it. So now I return it to you.” Then his mother said, “My son, you are blessed by the LORD!”  (3) He returned the 1,100 pieces of silver to his mother, and his mother said, “I personally consecrate the silver to the LORD for my son’s benefit to make a carved image overlaid with silver.”  

(4)  So he returned the silver to his mother, and she took five pounds of silver and gave it to a silversmith. He made it into a carved image overlaid with silver, and it was in Micah’s house.  (5) This man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and household idols, and installed one of his sons to be his priest.  

(6)  In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever he wanted.  (7)  There was a young man, a Levite, from Bethlehem in Judah, who resided within the clan of Judah.  (8) The man left the town of Bethlehem in Judah to settle wherever he could find a place. On his way he came to Micah’s home in the hill country of Ephraim.  (9) “Where do you come from?” Micah asked him. He answered him, “I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, and I’m going to settle wherever I can find a place. (10)  Micah replied, “Stay with me and be my father and priest, and I will give you four ounces of silver a year, along with your clothing and provisions.” So the Levite went in  (11) and agreed to stay with the man, and the young man became like one of his sons. (12) Micah consecrated the Levite, and the young man became his priest and lived in Micah’s house.  (13) Then Micah said, “Now I know that the LORD will be good to me, because a Levite has become my priest.”

Several notes…

This young man appears to have no father and a strong willed mother.

He clearly has a son of his own but nothing is said of his wife.

This is clearly a time of spiritual darkness and ignorance, since it is clear that this young man thought what he was doing was good and would gain the favor of God.

Micah, doesn’t seem to see any inconsistency between having idols, a personal ephod, designating his own son (an Ephraimite) as priest all in the name of worshiping the God of Israel. We know that is WHO he had in view since one of the objects of worship included an ephod AND the name the mother used and that which Micah used were NOT for gods in general, but for the God of Israel specifically – namely Yahweh.

This is an example of how partial knowledge of biblical truth can be more damaging in some ways than no knowledge at all! Another reason why God commanded that His children NOT forsake the local assembly. They need shepherds with proven character and advanced knowledge of the scriptures to lead and feed the flock. Time and people don’t change. This has ALWAYS been and always will be a reality.

This was one man’s sin (and I use the word sin lightly, but on some level correctly) for even though he most certainly did not know his actions were wrong, neither did he seek to consult anyone to find out. Again PLEASE REMEMBER that this was a time when men were doing what was right in their own which can be seen that they “thought” it really WAS right!

Judges 18:1-31, “(1) In those days, there was no king in Israel, and the Danite tribe was looking for territory to occupy. Up to that time no territory had been captured by them among the tribes of Israel.”

This phrase does not mean they had not received ANY land in the settlement of the Promised land, but as you may remember in Joshua 19 it tells us that the territory allotted to the Danites slipped out of their control, they went and fought against Lesham (otherwise known as Laish), captured it, struck it down, took possession of it and renamed it after their ancestor Dan. This is, as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story.”

“(2)  So the Danites sent out five brave men from all their clans, from Zorah and Eshtaol, to spy out the land and explore it. They told them, “Go and explore the land.” They came to the hill country of Ephraim as far as the home of Micah and spent the night there.  (3) While they were near Micah’s home, they recognized the speech of the young Levite. So they went over to him and asked, “Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? What is keeping you here?” (4) He told them what Micah had for him and that he had hired him as his priest.  (5) Then they said to him, “Please inquire of God so we will know if we will have a successful journey.” (6) The priest told them, “Go in peace. The LORD is watching over the journey you are going on.” (7) The five men left and came to Laish. They saw that the people who were there were living securely, in the same way as the Sidonians, quiet and unsuspecting. There was nothing lacking in the land and no oppressive ruler. They were far from the Sidonians, having no alliance with anyone.  (8) When the men went back to their clans at Zorah and Eshtaol, their people asked them, “What did you find out?” (9) They answered, “Come on, let’s go up against them, for we have seen the land, and it is very good. Why wait? Don’t hesitate to go and invade and take possession of the land! (10) When you get there, you will come to an unsuspecting people and a wide-open land, for God has handed it over to you. It is a place where nothing on earth is lacking.” (11) Six hundred Danites departed from Zorah and Eshtaol armed with weapons of war.  (12) They went up and camped at Kiriath-jearim in Judah. This is why the place is called the Camp of Dan to this day; it is west of Kiriath-jearim. (13) From there they traveled to the hill country of Ephraim and arrived at Micah’s house. (14) The five men who had gone to spy out the land of Laish told their brothers, “Did you know that there are an ephod, household gods, and a carved image overlaid with silver in these houses? Now think about what you should do.” (15) So they detoured there and went to the house of the young Levite at the home of Micah and greeted him.  (16) The 600 Danite men were standing by the entrance of the gate, armed with their weapons of war. (17) Then the five men who had gone to spy out the land went in and took the carved image overlaid with silver, the ephod, and the household idols, while the priest was standing by the entrance of the gate with the 600 men armed with weapons of war. (18) When they entered Micah’s house and took the carved image overlaid with silver, the ephod, and the household idols, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?” (19) They told him, “Be quiet. Keep your mouth shut. Come with us and be a father and a priest to us. Is it better for you to be a priest for the house of one person or for you to be a priest for a tribe and family in Israel?”  (20) So the priest was pleased and took his ephod, household idols, and carved image, and went with the people. (21) They prepared to leave, putting their small children, livestock, and possessions in front of them. (22) After they were some distance from Micah’s house, the men who were in the houses near it mobilized and caught up with the Danites. (23) They called to the Danites, who turned to face them, and said to Micah, “What’s the matter with you that you mobilized the men?” (24) He said, “You took the gods I had made and the priest, and went away. What do I have left? How can you say to me, ‘What’s the matter with you?'” (25) The Danites said to him, “Don’t raise your voice against us, or angry men will attack you, and you and your family will lose your lives.”  (26) The Danites went on their way, and Micah turned to go back home, because he saw that they were stronger than he was. (27) After they had taken the gods Micah had made and the priest that belonged to him, they went to Laish, to a quiet and unsuspecting people. They killed them with their swords and burned down the city. (28) There was no one to save them, because it was far from Sidon and they had no alliance with anyone. It was in a valley that belonged to Beth-rehob. They rebuilt the city and lived in it. (29) They named the city Dan, after the name of their ancestor Dan, who was born to Israel. The city was formerly named Laish. (30) The Danites set up the carved image for themselves. Jonathan son of Gershom, son of Moses, and his sons were priests for the Danite tribe until the time of the exile from the land.  (31) So they set up for themselves Micah’s carved image that he had made, and it was there as long as the house of God was in Shiloh.”

David Guzik says, “We can suppose that Micah had no idea how far-reaching the effects of his sin would become. This was the beginning of established idolatry in Israel in the Promised Land. There was individual idolatry in Israel long before this, but this is official idolatry. Micah’s personal idolatry became the idolatry of an entire tribe, setting up a rival center of worship to the house of God . . . in Shiloh.”

Now these last 3 chapters make my stomach a little uneasy. Women are treated as little more than property and their abuse and misuse is sickening. That having been said, it is important to realize some things.

  1. God does NOT remove delegated authority every time people misuse or abuse their power. It is in times like these that we wished He’d step-in and play the referee but, life is more wild than our religious minds are often comfortable with and try as we might we will never “tame” God. God has HIS purposes in view and PART of that purpose is to illustrate the free worship of man without God’s interfering hand manipulating the outcome in His favor. He will never act against His purposes which are greater than all of mankind put together! In terms of eternal value – the economy of spiritual things does not seem fair from man’s vantage point. But in reality, the merest desire of God is infinitely more important and of far more eternal value than every human life put together! God does not step into the story and control it, He guides it, He maneuvers it and influences it to His overall desired outcome, but He rarely (if ever) seizes control of any one part of the story in human history. This story is one of many, which mentally file in a folder labeled, “Aslon” due to the much loved quote from the C.S.Lewis novel, The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe, “They say Aslan is on the move — perhaps already landed…He’s the King. He’s the Lord of the whole wood, but not often here, you understand. Never in my time or my father’s time. But the word has reached us that he has come back. He is in Narnia at this moment.” Then Lucy (one of the children of earth) asks Mr. Beaver, “Is Alsan a man?” “Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the woods and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion — the Lion, the great Lion.”  “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
  2. God’s purpose being SO MUCH GREATER than all of mankind, is why ANY ONE SINGLE act of sin (which is a breaking of the Divine will) is worthy of eternal death. As such, while it MANY times appears that justice is either over or under done – in truth, nothing short of eternal exile from the presence of God and all the miseries that accompany that state could even come close to being “too much”.
  3. Contrary to modern spins of their meaning, concubines in Israel were not only legal, but were actual marriages. They were considered wives, though of a lesser rank than ones primary wife. The terms husband, father-in-law and such make clear the real and marital nature of the relationship.
  4. In this account of Israel’s history, a wife of a Levite, abandoned her husband and returned to her father’s house. As such, this woman forsook her covenant with her husband, turning her back on their union.  However, since no adultery had accompanied this act of treason, it was able to be overlooked…and this man, rather than disowning her, pursued her. 
  5. The problem occurs when he treats her as if she were just property and allows her to be abused. It is both sick and unthinkable! Sadly there was no specific law against this, though as we will see, what happened to her was held in contempt by all of Israel. 

Judges 19:1-30, “(1) In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a Levite living in a remote part of the hill country of Ephraim acquired a woman from Bethlehem in Judah as his concubine.  (2) But she was unfaithful to him and left him for her father’s house in Bethlehem in Judah. She was there for a period of four months. (3) Then her husband got up and went after her to speak kindly to her and bring her back. His servant and a couple of donkeys were with him. So she brought him to her father’s house, and when the girl’s father saw him, he gladly welcomed him.  (4) His father-in-law, the girl’s father, detained him, and he stayed with him for three days. They ate, drank, and spent the nights there. (5) On the fourth day, they got up early in the morning and prepared to go, but the girl’s father said to his son-in-law, “Have something to eat to keep up your strength and then you can go.” (6) So they sat down and the two of them ate and drank together. Then the girl’s father said to the man, “Please agree to stay overnight and enjoy yourself.”  (7) The man got up to go, but his father-in-law persuaded him, so he stayed and spent the night there again. (8) He got up early in the morning of the fifth day to leave, but the girl’s father said to him, “Please keep up your strength.” So they waited until late afternoon and the two of them ate. (9) The man got up to go with his concubine and his servant, when his father-in-law, the girl’s father, said to him, “Look, night is coming. Please spend the night. See, the day is almost over. Spend the night here, enjoy yourself, then you can get up early tomorrow for your journey and go home.”  (10) But the man was unwilling to spend the night. He got up, departed, and arrived opposite Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). The man had his two saddled donkeys and his concubine with him. (11) When they were near Jebus and the day was almost gone, the servant said to his master, “Please, why not let us stop at this Jebusite city and spend the night here?” (12) But his master replied to him, “We will not stop at a foreign city where there are no Israelites. Let’s move on to Gibeah.” (13) “Come on,” he said, “let’s try to reach one of these places and spend the night in Gibeah or Ramah.” (14) So they continued on their journey, and the sun set as they neared Gibeah in Benjamin.  (15) They stopped to go in and spend the night in Gibeah. The Levite went in and sat down in the city square, but no one took them into their home to spend the night. (16) In the evening, an old man came in from his work in the field. He was from the hill country of Ephraim but was residing in Gibeah, and the men of that place were Benjaminites. (17) When he looked up and saw the traveler in the city square, the old man asked, “Where are you going, and where do you come from?” (18) He answered him, “We’re traveling from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote hill country of Ephraim, where I am from. I went to Bethlehem in Judah, and now I’m going to the house of the LORD. No one has taken me into his home,  (19) although we have both straw and feed for our donkeys, and bread and wine for me, your female servant, and the young man with your servant. There is nothing we lack.” (20) “Peace to you,” said the old man. “I’ll take care of everything you need. Only don’t spend the night in the square.” (21) So he brought him to his house and fed the donkeys. Then they washed their feet and ate and drank. (22) While they were enjoying themselves, all of a sudden, perverted men of the city surrounded the house and beat on the door. They said to the old man who was the owner of the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him!” (23) The owner of the house went out and said to them, “No, don’t do this evil, my brothers. After all, this man has come into my house. Don’t do this horrible thing.  (24) Here, let me bring out my virgin daughter and the man’s concubine now. Use them and do whatever you want to them. But don’t do this horrible thing to this man.” (25) But the men would not listen to him, so the man seized his concubine and took her outside to them. They raped her and abused her all night until morning. At daybreak they let her go. (26) Early that morning, the woman made her way back, and as it was getting light, she collapsed at the doorway of the man’s house where her master was. (27) When her master got up in the morning, opened the doors of the house, and went out to leave on his journey, there was the woman, his concubine, collapsed near the doorway of the house with her hands on the threshold. (28) “Get up,” he told her. “Let’s go.” But there was no response. So the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.”

This of course boils my blood! He does not show any compassion or concern in his statement. It is hard to imagine that she was wearing anything more than some loose and torn remains of the cloths she’d had on the night before. She had to have been covered in sweat, dirt and body fluids and all he can say is “get up”. It makes me wish I could go back in time and do something heinous to this guy BEFORE he returned to her father’s house to retrieve her…but that is not very Christian of me.

What follows is both gruesome and confusing. Nothing about the passage suggests insincerity, but one has to wonder how incredulous could he really be? I mean, he all but held this poor woman down to allow it to happen! Why the moral outrage now?! To mean it smacks of the deepest insincerity, but in their society there would have been no investigation into her death so it isn’t likely that he did it in order to take the heat off of himself. It is simply a troubling passage which you have to be very careful NOT to read into it things it does NOT say.

Nothing in this passage indicates God’s disinterest or approval of these events. The only things which could be passed off as approval is His being with those who sought vengeance, but even this could be read into the wrong way!  

“ (29)  When he entered his house, he picked up a knife, took hold of his concubine, cut her into 12 pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout the territory of Israel.  (30) Everyone who saw it said, “Nothing like this has ever happened or been seen since the day the Israelites came out of the land of Egypt to this day. Think it over, discuss it, and speak up!”

Judges 20:1-48, “(1) All the Israelites from Dan to Beer-sheba and from the land of Gilead came out, and the community assembled as one body before the LORD at Mizpah.  (2) The leaders of all the people and of all the tribes of Israel presented themselves in the assembly of God’s people: 400,000 armed foot soldiers. (3)  The Benjaminites heard that the Israelites had gone up to Mizpah. The Israelites asked, “Tell us, how did this outrage occur?” (4) The Levite, the husband of the murdered woman, answered: “I went to Gibeah in Benjamin with my concubine to spend the night.  (5) Citizens of Gibeah ganged up on me and surrounded the house at night. They intended to kill me, but they raped my concubine, and she died. (6) Then I took my concubine and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout Israel’s territory, because they committed a horrible shame in Israel.  (7) Look, all of you are Israelites. Give your judgment and verdict here and now.”  

This is where we as humans want to ask, “God…where are You in all of this? Why don’t you come down here and make known the WHOLE truth! This man is JUST as much to blame as the men of Benjamin!” yet, God doesn’t appear to say anything. He let’s the man continue with his “half-truth”.

“(8)  Then all the people stood united and said, “None of us will go to his tent or return to his house.  (9) Now this is what we will do to Gibeah: we will go against it by lot. (10) We will take 10 men out of every 100 from all the tribes of Israel, and 100 out of every 1,000, and 1,000 out of every 10,000 to get provisions for the people when they go to Gibeah in Benjamin to punish them for all the horror they did in Israel.”  (11) So all the men of Israel gathered united against the city. (12) Then the tribes of Israel sent men throughout the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What is this outrage that has occurred among you? (13) Hand over the perverted men in Gibeah so we can put them to death and eradicate evil from Israel.” But the Benjaminites would not obey their fellow Israelites.  (14) Instead, the Benjaminites gathered together from their cities to Gibeah to go out and fight against the Israelites. (15) On that day the Benjaminites rallied 26,000 armed men from their cities, besides 700 choice men rallied by the inhabitants of Gibeah. (16) There were 700 choice men who were left-handed among all these people; all could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.  (17) The Israelites, apart from Benjamin, rallied 400,000 armed men, every one an experienced warrior. (18) They set out, went to Bethel, and inquired of God. The Israelites asked, “Who is to go first to fight for us against the Benjaminites?” And the LORD answered, “Judah will be first.”  

So here we have the first words of God on the subject. He simply tells them who is to go first to fight against Benjamin. In so doing He is showing His approval of the attack..but then something odd happens.

“(19)  In the morning, the Israelites set out and camped near Gibeah.  (20) The men of Israel went out to fight against Benjamin and took their battle positions against Gibeah.  (21) The Benjaminites came out of Gibeah and slaughtered 22,000 men of Israel on the field that day. (22) But the Israelite army rallied and again took their battle positions in the same place where they positioned themselves on the first day.  (23) They went up, wept before the LORD until evening, and inquired of Him: “Should we again fight against our brothers the Benjaminites?” And the LORD answered: “Fight against them.”  

So the Israelites are clearly a little confused. Why did God tell us to go and fight only to allow us to be beaten? Is not justice on our side and is not this a righteous cause?

“(24)  On the second day the Israelites advanced against the Benjaminites.  (25) That same day the Benjaminites came out from Gibeah to meet them and slaughtered an additional 18,000 Israelites on the field; all were armed men.  (26) The whole Israelite army went to Bethel where they wept and sat before the LORD. They fasted that day until evening and offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the LORD.  (27) Then the Israelites inquired of the LORD. In those days, the ark of the covenant of God was there, (28) and Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, was serving before it. The Israelites asked: “Should we again fight against our brothers the Benjaminites or should we stop?” The LORD answered: “Fight, because I will hand them over to you tomorrow.”  

So now we have two major things happen. First is, we have a time period confirmed for this whole series of stories. This is the time between Joshua and Judges.

Secondly, we have God add to His former statement of “fight” that He would hand them over to them tomorrow…something he had NOT said up until now.

Again, this is an argument from silence, but in times past, when God said “Go” but He was not with them, He would NOT tell them that He had given their enemies into their hands. So, it at least appears as though God saw injustice on both parts. Both on the Benjamites for their awful sin, but also on the part of the rest of Israel for not consulting God concerning the story of the Levite, whose wife had been killed. They joined themselves to a cause that was only partially verified. As we have seen throughout Israel’s history, the sin on one man affects all! Again, it is an argument from silence – but only the silence of this particular story. NOT the silence of scripture all together. Before attacking they should have asked the Lord to confirm the words of the Levite or at very least ask if they were supposed to fight. All they really asked was “who is to go into the fight FIRST” NOT “are we to fight at all?”

It is MY OPINION – that by allying themselves with this Levite, they took share in his sin and that is why the men of Israel suffered so many casualties before final victory.

“(29)  So Israel set up an ambush around Gibeah.  (30) On the third day the Israelites fought against the Benjaminites and took their battle positions against Gibeah as before.  (31) Then the Benjaminites came out against the people and were drawn away from the city. They began to attack the people as before, killing about 30 men of Israel on the highways, one of which goes up to Bethel and the other to Gibeah through the open country.  (32) The Benjaminites said, “We are defeating them as before.” But the Israelites said, “Let’s flee and draw them away from the city to the highways.” (33) So all the men of Israel got up from their places and took their battle positions at Baal-tamar, while the Israelites in ambush charged out of their places west of Geba.  (34) Then 10,000 choice men from all Israel made a frontal assault against Gibeah, and the battle was fierce, but the Benjaminites did not know that disaster was about to strike them. (35) The LORD defeated Benjamin in the presence of Israel, and on that day the Israelites slaughtered 25,100 men of Benjamin; all were armed men.  (36) Then the Benjaminites realized they had been defeated. The men of Israel had retreated before Benjamin, because they were confident in the ambush they had set against Gibeah. (37) The men in ambush had rushed quickly against Gibeah; they advanced and put the whole city to the sword. (38) The men of Israel had a prearranged signal with the men in ambush: when they sent up a great cloud of smoke from the city,  (39) the men of Israel would return to the battle. When Benjamin had begun to strike them down, killing about 30 men of Israel, they said, “They’re defeated before us, just as they were in the first battle.” (40) But when the column of smoke began to go up from the city, Benjamin looked behind them, and the whole city was going up in smoke. (41) Then the men of Israel returned, and the men of Benjamin were terrified when they realized that disaster had struck them.  (42) They retreated before the men of Israel toward the wilderness, but the battle overtook them, and those who came out of the cities slaughtered those between them. (43) They surrounded the Benjaminites, pursued them, and easily overtook them near Gibeah toward the east. (44) There were 18,000 men who died from Benjamin; all were warriors. (45) Then Benjamin turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, and Israel killed 5,000 men on the highways. They overtook them at Gidom and struck 2,000 more dead.  (46) All the Benjaminites who died that day were 25,000 armed men; all were warriors. (47) But 600 men escaped into the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon and stayed there four months. (48) The men of Israel turned back against the other Benjaminites and killed them with their swords–the entire city, the animals, and everything that remained. They also burned down all the cities that remained.”

Mercy and provision (My anger lasts but for a moment, but My favor for a lifetime)

Judges 21:1-25, “(1) The men of Israel had sworn an oath at Mizpah: “None of us will give his daughter to a Benjaminite in marriage.”  (2) So the people went to Bethel and sat there before God until evening. They wept loudly and bitterly, (3) and cried out, “Why, LORD God of Israel, has it occurred that one tribe is missing in Israel today?”  (4) The next day the people got up early, built an altar there, and offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. (5) The Israelites asked, “Who of all the tribes of Israel didn’t come to the LORD with the assembly?” For a great oath had been taken that anyone who had not come to the LORD at Mizpah would certainly be put to death.  (6) But the Israelites had compassion on their brothers, the Benjaminites, and said, “Today a tribe has been cut off from Israel. (7) What should we do about wives for the survivors? We’ve sworn to the LORD not to give them any of our daughters as wives.” (8) They asked, “Which city among the tribes of Israel didn’t come to the LORD at Mizpah?” It turned out that no one from Jabesh-gilead had come to the camp and the assembly.  (9) For when the people were counted, no one was there from the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead. (10) The congregation sent 12,000 brave warriors there and commanded them: “Go and kill the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the sword, including women and children. (11) This is what you should do: Completely destroy every male, as well as every female who has slept with a man.” (12) They found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead 400 young virgins, who had not had sexual relations with a man, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.  (13) The whole congregation sent a message of peace to the Benjaminites who were at the rock of Rimmon. (14) Benjamin returned at that time, and Israel gave them the women they had kept alive from Jabesh-gilead. But there were not enough for them. (15) The people had compassion on Benjamin, because the LORD had made this gap in the tribes of Israel. (16) The elders of the congregation said, “What should we do about wives for those who are left, since the women of Benjamin have been destroyed?” (17) They said, “There must be heirs for the survivors of Benjamin, so that a tribe of Israel will not be wiped out.  (18) But we can’t give them our daughters as wives.” For the Israelites had sworn: “Anyone who gives a wife to a Benjaminite is cursed.” (19) They also said, “Look, there’s an annual festival to the LORD in Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.” (20) Then they commanded the Benjaminites: “Go and hide in the vineyards. (21) Watch, and when you see the young women of Shiloh come out to perform the dances, each of you leave the vineyards and catch a wife for yourself from the young women of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. (22) When their fathers or brothers come to us and protest, we will tell them, ‘Show favor to them, since we did not get enough wives for each of them in the battle. You didn’t actually give the women to them, so you are not guilty of breaking your oath.'”  (23) The Benjaminites did this and took the number of women they needed from the dancers they caught. They went back to their own inheritance, rebuilt their cities, and lived in them. (24) At that time, each of the Israelites returned from there to his own tribe and family. Each returned from there to his own inheritance. (25)  In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever he wanted.

While studying for these chapters tonight a song continued to rise up in my heart that I love quite a bit, by an artist I’ve mentioned several times in here named Chris Rice. The song is titled Naive, and it goes like this…


I hope this message will bless you richly…not because I taught it, but because it reveals Christ. He alone is our blessing and if in any way – whether big or small, 100% accurate or even just partially so – I have revealed our great God and Savior to you in a relationally knowable way, then this was time well spent on both our parts.

We at Living Grace Fellowship encourage you to place your trust in Jesus Christ, deliberately choosing Him and bowing the knee to Him as your Master and Lord, so as to come to realize Him as your Savior.

You have a special place in God’s family & kingdom. The fact that you exist… that you are His creation, says you were in His heart, you are His delight!

If you do not know Him, please reach out to us. Give us a call at the number located on every page of this website or use our ‘Contact Us‘ page. We would be deeply honored, if you gave us the privilege of introducing you to the Lord. Neither money nor attendance at our church will EVER be mentioned.

If you HAVE been spiritually fed by this ministry and WANT to give, we truly appreciate that and you may do so here, but please understand that all the outreaches of this ministry are FREE for you and anyone to enjoy at no cost.


Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keeps authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provide teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!