Psalm 106:1–5; Judges 20:32–21:25; Luke 22:63–71

Psalm 106:1–5: The introduction—or invocation—to this lengthy historical psalm opens on a note of worship: “Acclaim the Lord, for He is good,/ for His kindness is forever.” (1) Even though we may concentrate our entire being on the act of worship, there is no way that we can fully express all that God is and does for us: “Who can utter the Lord’s mighty acts,/ can make heard all His praise.” (2) Unlike many worship songs we hear today, these verses are exclusively about God and his all-surpassing greatness; there are no phrases about how this makes us feel better—reminding us that worship is directed upward, not to ourselves.

Rather, the psalmist asserts that our happiness arises from our right actions in community: “Happy those who keep justice,/ who do righteousness at all times.” (3) Of course this is ultimately an impossible mission and it is only through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit dwelling within us that we find true joy.

Our psalmist hints that God’s people and he are in a dark situation, suggesting that this psalm was written while Israel was in exile: “Recall me, O Lord, when You favor Your people,/ mark me for Your rescue.” (4) It appears that unlike the previous psalm, this one deals with Israel’s manifold sins as he writes pleadingly that God will “see the good of Your chosen ones,” (5a) and that God will again reflect the joy of the people whom he has chosen: “to rejoice in the joy of Your nation,/ to revel with Your estate.” (5b) One senses that a confession is coming…

Judges 20:32–21:25: Having experienced two days of victory, on the third day the “Benjaminites thought, “They are being routed before us, as previously.” (20:32) Ten thousand armed Israelites approach Gibeah but in their pride, “the Benjaminites did not realize that disaster was close upon them.” (34) More skirmishes result in the attack on Gibeah itself and the Israelites “in ambush” set fire to the city. Realizing they have been defeated, the Benjamites flee toward the wilderness but are overtaken, resulting in the death of 18,000 Benjamite warriors, “all of them courageous fighters.” (44) Another 5,000 “were cut down on the main roads” (45) and then another 2,000 Benjamite warriors are slain. A mere 600 Benjamites escape and hide for months in the rock of Rimmon. But Gibeah and its inhabitants are destroyed.

Prior to commencing this civil war, “the Israelites had sworn at Mizpah, “No one of us shall give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin.” (21:1) But they come to regret this vow and after offering a sacrifice of well-being, “the Israelites had compassion for Benjamin their kin, and said, “One tribe is cut off from Israel this day.” (21:6) Because of this vow, they realize the tribe of Benjamin will die out and they decide, “There must be heirs for the survivors of Benjamin, in order that a tribe may not be blotted out from Israel.” (20:17) It’s late in the game, but at least they come to their senses.

In a bizarre turn, they realize that one portion of a tribe, Jabesh-gilead, did not come to fight the Benjamites. Another vow had been taken earlier that any tribe that did not show up for the war against Benjamin would be put to the sword with the exception of its virgin women. So, a portion of the israeli army then puts Jabesh-gilead to the sword, killing everyone, and brings 400 virgins back to camp. They attempt to hand over the virgins to the 600 remaining Benjamite warriors, whoin their wounded pride refuse the offer.

So, Israel comes up with an alternative plan that certainly seems egregious. They instruct the 600mBenjaminites to lie in wait outside a festival in Shiloh and to kidnap the dancing girls, which they proceed to do. A lame excuse has concocted by Israel: “Then if their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Be generous and allow us to have them; because we did not capture in battle a wife for each man. But neither did you incur guilt by giving your daughters to them.’” (22)

The story ends here as everyone returns home. Why is this story here and told in such detail? I think it’s to remind Israel of its past sins and the consequences of ignoring God or worse, using God as an excuse for evil actions. The last verse in the reading says it all, IMO: “In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.” (21:25)

Doing what is right in our own eyes—just as society does today—leads to dire consequences as evil stacks up upon evil. Yes, what happened to the Levite in Gibeah was evil, but Israel’s response to commit genocide before realizing its implications is also evil. And the “solution” of kidnapping virgins from Shiloh to ensure the tribe of Benjamin doesn’t die out is certainly is not what would have happened had all the tribes, including Benjamin, been following God rather than the evil of their own hearts. There’s a serious lesson for us here.

Luke 22:63–71: Now in captivity, Jesus is subjected to humiliation for the remainder of the night as “the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?”” (63, 64)

Early Friday morning, Jesus is brought before the temple authorities who demand, “If you are the Messiah, tell us.” (67) Jesus replies that if he told them they wouldn’t believe him anyway, but then goes on to assert, “from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” (69) The authorities ask, “Are you, then, the Son of God?” (69). Jesus turns their words back on them in his famous reply, “You say that I am.” (70) Thus, he has sealed his fate, as his interrogators exclaim,“What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!” (71).

Of course, as Luke makes clear, Jesus didn’t actually say “I am the Son of Man” at all. He simply made the theological point that the Son of Man would sit on the throne next to God, which is exactly what the Hebrew scriptures taught. Luke makes it crystal clear that Jesus’ interrogators had already concluded he was claiming to be the Son of Man by the mere action of bringing him up on the charge of blasphemy. In short, this was no interrogation to find the actual truth; it was the preordained conclusion of a kangaroo court.

Even today we see preordained conclusions all around us about what Jesus says or means—from Christians as much as those who are not. We’d much rather make our own judgmental conclusions about Jesus rather than actually listening to him.

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