September 16

Our Plans and God’s, Part 1

Judges 20:14-28 “…the children of Benjamin gathered together from their cities to Gibeah, to go to battle against the children of Israel. Then the children of Israel arose and went up to the house of God to inquire of God. They said, “Which of us shall go up first to battle against the children of Benjamin?” The LORD said, “Judah first!”

Then the children of Benjamin [defeated them].…Then the children of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until evening, and asked counsel of the LORD, saying, “Shall I again draw near for battle against the children of my brother Benjamin?” And the LORD said, “Go up against him.” And Benjamin went out against them from Gibeah on the second day, and cut down to the ground eighteen thousand more of the children of Israel….

Then all the children of Israel… went up and came to the house of God and wept. They sat there before the LORD and fasted that day until evening; and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. So the children of Israel inquired of the LORD…saying, “Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of my brother Benjamin, or shall I cease?” And the LORD said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hand.”

Some men of Gibeah from the tribe of Benjamin had committed a horrific crime (Judges 19). For the first time in a long time, the rest of Israel was united, even though their unity was in revenge. At first, they went up “to enquire” of God about how to wage war against their brother tribe. He told them that the battle they had decided to undertake (on their own, not initiated by God) should be led by the tribe of Judah.

Of course they should have sought God about going into battle in the first place; their only question here was which tribe should go first. After being defeated, they “went up and wept before the Lord until evening, and asked counsel of the Lord.” This was a simple “Should we go?” The Lord said yes. Yet again, they were defeated.

The third time they went before the Lord, they “sat…before the Lord and fasted and prayed that day until evening; and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord.” This time when they enquired about going forward, the Lord said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hand,” the first promise of victory.

Can you see how God used even depravity and self-willed efforts to draw His people to Himself? The book of Judges is known primarily for revealing the depth of depravity that the nation of Israel had sunken into. But since Israel “gave Him an inch,” God took a mile. He met them in the middle of their self-initiated, revenge-driven activities, and began to work with them where they were. Happily and perhaps surprisingly, they continued to seek the Lord (as He continued to draw them) until they got the result they were seeking.

God got the results He was seeking, too. Israel learned to press into their God, moving from prayer for a quick answer to fasting, worship, and spending real time with the Lord.

Our God is a God of covenant, and will use whatever He can to draw us to Himself. He made a covenant with Israel, and He was being faithful to it. He has made a similar covenant with us, and we just need to keep turning to Him in the middle of our struggles and questions, and let Him direct us from there. No matter what our goals might be, His always includes drawing us closer.

Prayer: Father, thank You for meeting me even when I’m being selfish and self-centered. Thank You for taking me from faith to faith and glory to glory when I turn to You, and working to do the same thing even when I don’t.

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