In those days, when there was no king in Israel… (Judges 19:1)
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)
In the final chapters of Judges we see a level of depravity in Israel that is shocking. The whole book, really, shows a decline in covenant living. Even the judges that rise to rescue Israel from their enemies are more and more depraved. Samson, the last Judge described in this book (Samuel comes later in the book named after him), while set apart to the Lord as a Nazarite, is as self-absorbed as they come, pursuing any and every lustful appetite it seems. But in these final chapters things have gotten even worse. It begins with a man and his concubine who come to a city in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin (one of the twelve tribes of Israel) and stay with an old man. That night, the men of the city come and demand the old man send out the visiting man so that they might “know” him (i.e. rape him). But the old man refuses and, as a way of placating them, offers his virgin daughter and the visitors concubine. When the worthless men refuse the offer, the visitor shoves his own concubine out and the men rape her all night long. When they finish she crawls back to the door of the old man and lies there waiting to be aided. But no aid comes. In the morning the visitor tells her to get up only to discover she is dead. When he gets back home he cuts her body up into pieces and sends the pieces all across Israel, as a way of calling them together and tell the awful thing that the worthless men of Benjamin did. Civil war breaks out and one of the tribes of Israel is nearly destroyed. Afterward there is deep regret and a crazy scheme to make sure the tribe survives. All of this craziness illustrates the depraved state of a people without a king. This is the direction that our sinful nature, with little restraint, takes us.
What’s the answer? The answer is a king! We see this provided by God through common and special grace. By common grace, I mean grace that is common to all men, regardless of whether they belong to God or not. Just about every society on earth has some form of governing structure and laws. That is God’s provision and is given to restrain this direction of societal decay. In Romans Paul explains, “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. (Rom 13:1-3)” By way of special grace, God provides us Jesus, his own Son, as king over us. This is special but Jesus is only king for those that belong to God. He rules not with the sword to merely restrain evil, but replace the depraved heart with a new one that loves the Lord. While God’s people remain in this world, this new heart battles the old as we wrestle with our own depraved desires of the flesh. In this battle we are not alone as Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to help us, and established the church to nurture and shepherd us.
Lord, grant us repentance and faith to walk in the footsteps of our king!