A Nation's Response To Terror

Leslie M. Grant

Please read Judges 19 and 20

A case occurred within Israel, in the town of Gibeah in Benjamin, of men coming at night to take a visiting woman from the house of an old man who had befriended her, and horribly abusing her all night long, which resulted in her death. This was reported to all the tribes of Israel, who quickly gathered together to learn what had actually happened. When the facts were established, the nation was scandalized and united in their purpose to punish the perpetrators of this dreadful crime (ch. 20:1).

Surely they ought to have sought the guidance of the Lord as to how to deal with this whole matter, for our viewpoint of such a thing is not to be fully trusted, for we shall find God's viewpoint to differ from ours in various respects. However, it was right enough that they appealed to the tribe of Benjamin to deliver up the guilty men for trial and judgement. But Benjamin refused to do this, thereby putting themselves on the side of the criminals (ch. 20:14). How solemn this is, for those who harbour criminals expose themselves to the same judgement that should be meted out to the guilty.

Then Israel inquired of the Lord as to which tribe should be first to go against Benjamin. The Lord answered, "Judah first!" Judah means "praise," and this certainly implied that God's honour is always the foremost consideration when evil must be faced and judged. Thus, there was no doubt that God intended Israel to attack Benjamin, yet in spite of this, Israel decidedly lost the first battle, with 20,000 of their number being killed by Benjamin! (ch. 20:21). Why did they lose? Because they had forgotten to judge themselves first, for we are in no condition to judge evil if we do not first judge ourselves as in the eyes of God. They had not even considered what should be their attitude at this time. Should it be an attitude merely of anger and righteous indignation? Oh no! The very fact of evil in the nation should have humbled them before the Lord.

At least now, they weep before the Lord, and apparently wonder if perhaps it was a mistake to have attacked their brethren, so that they ask now, "Shall I again draw near for battle against the children of my brother Benjamin?" (v.23), and the Lord told them, "Go up against him." God had not changed His mind as regards the seriousness of the evil. Judgement must be executed. But once again Israel suffered humiliating defeat before Benjamin, with 18,000 of their number being killed. This was another dreadful shock. Was such a defeat necessary? Yes, it was. God was dealing, not only with Benjamin, but with all of Israel, and they needed to learn that judging evil is no light matter. Let us never think it is our right to judge evil in others. Rather, it was Israel's responsibility to judge, but to judge for God according to His principles. The day is coming when believers will judge the world, but this will be only after the judgement seat of Christ, where we shall have learned to fully judge ourselves, then to be linked with Christ in His judgement of the world.

Again Israel wept before the Lord. But this time they fasted and also offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord (v. 26). Fasting is a sign of self-judgement, but the offering of sacrifices is a reminder to us of the fact that the sacrifice of Christ is the one great criterion of the judgement of sin. In that sacrifice alone we find sin fully judged. This is certainly humbling, but God was bringing Israel to this low point of bowing to His judgement (as seen in the cross) before they can judge Benjamin. In our being set to judge, we must remember that we are sinners too, and dependent on the value of the sacrifice of Christ to take away our own sins.

This time the victory was gained, but not without serious damage, in fact, 25,000 men of Benjamin being killed. Who could ever rejoice in a victory like that? We can surely safely say that in war nobody really wins.

Can Nations banish war?

Since the results of war are always tragic, there are those, even Christians, who say our nation should not go to war. Some say we should apply the Christian principle of turning the other cheek. But whether we like it or not, the Lord Jesus tells us, "You will hear of wars and rumours of wars" (Mt. 24:6). In fact, our nation is not Christian, and therefore we cannot expect it to act on Christian principles. Christians personally should show in response to bad treatment, but for instance a judge would have no right to order a person who had been swindled out of $10,000, to show grace to the swindler by giving him another like amount! God expected Israel to attack Benjamin, not to pass over the awful crime as being nothing.

If our nation retaliates against criminal activity, the believer is to submit to the authorities, as Romans 13:1 teaches us, not to mount a protest against what the government does. Also believers are told to thank God for and pray for those in authority, as is seen in 1 Timothy 2:1-2. In fact, we are not only to thank God and pray for authorities in our own nation, but "for kings and all that are in authority," so that it includes authorities in other nations also. For it is God who "rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses" (Dan 4:32). Popular vote does not decide this matter, for God has already decided what the popular vote will be, and He is concerned about all nations, certainly not only nations that agree with our nation. Yet we may well pray that our own nation may act righteously, for while it is grace that exalts believers personally; "righteousness exalts a nation" (Prov. 14:34), not grace.

Therefore a believer would find it extremely difficult to act consistently as a Christian if he takes a place of authority in any nation. In fact, the Lord is allowing terrible circumstances to try mankind today, and the United States should realize that God has something serious to tell us when He allows such infliction as terrorists have used to cause unprecedented suffering and horror. Does it not bring to our attention the low moral condition of our country that has caused many accusations by those in mid-east countries? - things that we may be sure God will not lightly pass over. May this be realized by many who will be concerned enough to turn to the Lord Jesus to find at least forgiveness of their own sins.

Christians cannot remedy the many evils that intrude themselves into the midst of every day life, though they are tested by them; but their trust is in the living Lord of glory, who will very soon transfer His people into His own presence, and will eventually banish evil and make wars to cease.