This week I read something horrible in the bible. At the End of the book of Judges is the story of A Levite and his Concubine. Judges Chapters 19, 20 and 21 is an awful, terrible, tragic story. If, like me, you don’t know or remember it, here is the basic plot.
The Levite has a concubine (so many questions already!!) and she is unfaithful (why?). So she left him and went home to her parents. After 4 months he pursued her and persuaded her (or maybe just her parents) that she should come back to live with him. He stayed for a while with her family in a prolonged state of almost leaving that I don’t really understand. Then they left, but it is late in the day and they don’t make it all the way home to Jebsus (Jerusalem). Instead they decide to stay over night in Gibeah, a Benjamite town. They stop in the square and eventually someone invites them to stay overnight as is the custom.
There is a prelude to the danger when they briefly suggest they have enough provisions to stay in the square and their new host says,
“…….Only don’t spend the night in the square.”
Unfortunately going to the host’s house is not enough. During the night,
Some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.”
Horrible, but it gets worse! The host offers his own virgin daughter or the concubine instead.
“I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But as for this man, don’t do such an outrageous thing.”
I shudder. In the end it is only the concubine who goes out and not by choice.
“So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go.”
When the master got up to go in the morning and opened the door of the house ready to leave for home she was dead on the doorstep. Onto his donkey he loaded the body and carried her home where he cut her body into 12 pieces. The 12 pieces he sent to the 12 tribes of Israel as his way of saying, “What are you going to do about this?”
The 12 tribes of Israel had an assembly before the Lord and decided to march on the city where the murder took place. A united Israelite army marched on Gibeah. They sent messengers saying,
“Now turn those wicked men of Gibeah over to us so that we may put them to death and purge the evil from Israel.”
But the town and their tribe of Benjamin would not listen instead they prepared for battle.
On the first day 22,000 Israelites were cut down in battle. On the second day the Benjamites cut down another 18,000 Israelites. On the third and last day of battle 30 Israelites and 25,100 Benjimites lost their lives. Then the victorious men of Israel went back to the rest of Benjamin and put all the towns to the sword, including the animals, women and children.
“All the towns they came across they set on fire.”
Then the Israelites took an oath not to let their own daughters marry Benjamites. But then they took pity on the surviving Benjamin men. One town of Jabesh Gilead of the tribe of Gad had not shown up to be part of the united army or the assembly before the Lord so the Israelites killed everyone in that town apart from 400 virgins who they magnanimously ‘gave’ to the men of Benjamin.
Finally in one final act of supreme benevolence the Israelites contrived an opportunity for the Benjamites to steal an Israelite wife!! They encouraged the left over Benjamite men to steal a wife at the festival of Shiloh. That way none of the other tribes would actually break their oath by “giving” a wife to a Benjamin but the Benjamin tribe would continue and there would still be 12 tribes of Israel.
So they instructed the Benjamites, saying, “Go hide in the vineyard and watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing, rush from the vineyards and each of you seize one of them to be your wife.
Collateral damage to the max. This story is the biggest line of dominoes I have ever seen. The line just gets longer and longer and more and more people fall. What began with one man being unable to let his concubine go lead to the death of more than sixty thousand people in one week and the decimation of a tribe. All of which lead ironically back to the condoning of hundreds, perhaps thousands more forced marriages. Simply a multiplication of the original problem.
To me this story screamed out one message. When we hold on to our sexual sin there is massive collateral damage.
The man couldn’t let go of his concubine, the woman couldn’t let go of her affair, the wicked men couldn’t let go of their lust, Gibeah couldn’t let go of it’s wicked men, Benjamin couldn’t let go of its wicked town, Israel couldn’t let go of it’s wicked tribe. Everybody made excuses for themselves and found a way around what God wanted without letting go of their sin.
When we hold tightly to our sin, we cannot receive purity from God. It gets in the way of our relationships, it wrecks our marriages, our families, our communities, our countries, our world and then we repeat again.
Throughout the story I felt grieved for everyone involved. My heart bled for the man, for his wife wherever she was, for the concubine, for the virgin daughter, even for the rapists, for Gilead, for Israel, for Jabesh Gilead, for Benjamin, for the women of Shiloh for the next generation and my heart bled for our generation as I recognised that we are their descendants.
I know from experience the collateral damage of sexual sin. I know first hand what it is to be these people but I have also seen the power of God in my damaged sex life. One of the most transformative things I’ve ever done is invite God himself into the damage; right in to the middle of it, not in a theoretical sense but in a very pragmatic, sweaty and grunty and vulnerable sense. God came in as the General on the front line and with God as the General on the front line I have seen massive, domino-like collateral healing.
I want to encourage you today to look at what you are holding on to that may be getting in the way of you receiving what God has for you, particularly in the area of sex. I want to ask you, what have you been pursuing instead of God himself. Are you asking God to help you win costly battles instead of asking him to transform your heart to be more like his?
I encourage you, invite the Holy Spirit to show you where you need to repent and let go in order to receive the good that God has planned for you. I can assure you God is not surprised by any sexual sin, they are as common and as old as man, and there is healing for you if you will open your hands to receive his grace.
God bless you, cover you with his grace and restore you with his collateral healing.