In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes. Judges 21:25
The book of Judges climaxes with a story of self-styled faith. Micah, deeply religious, hungry for the spiritual, secures a priest for his own house. It sounds noble. But it is a microcosm of an age (21:25) when each person chose their own values. The book climaxes with two tragic stories. The first, in chapters 17–18, is the story of Micah’s development of a paganized place of worship. The end result is the corruption of the entire tribe of Dan who abandon their allotted territory while adopting Micah’s corrupted religion. The second story in chapters 19–21, is the sad experience of sexual assault (19:22-30) resulting the disciplinary removal of the tribe of Benjamin.
Here is idolatry and sexual sin, juxtaposed against one another. The climax of the evil seems to shock the nation, “Nothing like this has ever happened or been seen from the day when the sons of Israel came up from the land of Egypt to this day. Consider it, take counsel and speak up!” (19:30).
A tribe that lacks spiritual-moral boundaries threatens the whole nation – civil war break out (Judges 20:27f), and amazingly, Benjamin wins. The people’s mourn and pray following their defeat by the tribe of Benjamin (Judges 21:2f). But the defeat and the seeming triumph of evil may be traceable to the character of the prayer.
The book of Judges shows us sieges of crisis praying. What sadly characterizes the book is the absence of healthy and consistent prayer throughout, and it is this lack of genuine communion with God that is devastating to the nation. Two tribes are essentially gone. Their national security and spiritual identity are consistently threatened by self-styled faith. Ties of blood are placed above loyalty to the Lord. In the end, the resultant gross morality and idolatry cannot be defended. And ‘crisis prayer’ is not enough to feed the soul of the nation.
O God, how could we see the pattern of Israel’s apostasy so clearly, such neon signs everywhere in Scripture – abundant warnings. And yet, we follow headlong down the same path. Save us, O God. Save us, for your name sake.