Message: Yesterday we read the very difficult chapter in Judges 19 and today we continue on to see how it was handled. Where we left off reading, the Levite man had taken his concubine’s raped, abused and unresponsive body home, slaughtered her into 12 pieces and sent a piece to each of the tribes of Israel. This was a call to action and according to the footnotes in my bible this resembled another incident in 1 Samuel where Saul cut up a pair of oxen and distributed them to the 12 tribes. This act may have implied some sort of curse for those who failed to respond. The response was unified and they said “Nothing like this has ever happened or been seen…think it over, discuss it and speak up!” Their leaders and warriors assembled as one united army and asked the Levite man what happened. His version of the story was very carefully worded and made him sound like the victim. He told them that the men of the city “ganged up” on him and surrounded the house he was staying in. He told the tribes that the men took his concubine and raped her and killed her, but he didn’t tell them that he was the one who gave her to these men and that he went to bed while she suffered this abuse all night. He told them that he cut her into pieces because “they committed a horrible shame” and he wanted their judgment and verdict immediately.
Israel responded by saying nobody will return to their tents until they handle the situation appropriately so they went as a united army to confront the entire tribe of Benjamin and demand that they hand over the guilty men that committed the crime. All they had to do was hand over the guilty men from that one city, but they chose to stand with their guilty brothers and fight it out instead. It was a difficult battle and even though the tribes of Israel prayed and asked God for direction they suffered heavy losses for several days until the Lord finally told them he was giving them over to them. They defeated the tribe of Benjamin and burned down the city. The only survivors were those who had run away and hid in the wilderness. As I read this I thought about the spiritual battle in a fight like this. It broke my heart that so much loss occurred but it made me angry that the Levite maintained his innocence, acted like a victim and refused to take responsibility for handing over his concubine to these evil men in order to protect himself. It also made me angry that the tribe of Benjamin protected their guilty brothers instead of demanding repentance. I believe there is a very significant message in this story to the men and leaders of the church (both locally and as a whole), but I also have to take this story and see where it applies in my own life. There are situations I have been in where I definitely felt victimized, but I also had a responsibility to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves. I have failed miserably and I have also succeeded in situations like this. We are all vulnerable in certain situations and we are all responsible for someone vulnerable even in our own vulnerability. If we get caught up in our own victim mentality, we will find ourselves in self-preservation mode and we will refuse to take responsibility for protecting someone vulnerable right in front of us or under our care. Sometimes we find ourselves protecting a perpetrator over a victim because we have deep relationship ties and incredible loyalty. In some cases it may even be fear due to an unhealthy relationship. We fight an internal battle of wanting the best for someone we care about while being tempted to turn a blind eye to their sin and destruction. Taking responsibility means we have to either step out of the victim role so that we don’t sacrifice someone else to save ourselves, or we have to confront someone we deeply care about for their sin against someone else. Our situations may not be as extreme as the rape and torture of this woman, but we all face something. My challenge to myself is to ask God to open my eyes to situations I have either been ignoring or actively covering in my own life or in someone I care about. I also feel a burden to pray for the church at large because the fight against sexual sin is enormous and we can’t sleep peacefully, or sit quietly and ignore the torture and abuse going on around us without taking responsibility for what we know.