The disaster of man-defined morality

Bible readings

  • Romans 1:18-31
  • Judges 19:16-31


Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ, today is the second instalment of our series “The king is dead; long love the King.” Last week’s sermon came from Judges 17-18; the topic was “Man-made religion”.  We followed the stories of Micah with his own private priest, which he lost to the tribe of Dan, who had their own man-made religion, worshipping the idols Micah thought belonged to him. This abomination even happened under the oversight of Jonathan, the grandson of Moses.

The next two chapters involve the son of Aaron, Phinehas, and what transpired here is no less gruesome and horrible.

Anyone who argues that the Bible is purely a human book telling about a god in which immature people want to believe to escape reality and insecurity will have to think again when they get to these two chapters in Judges.  It records horrible things done by the people of God, which—if it was the choice of human writers—would have been omitted, even if it was just for the sake of decency.  These chapters are an embarrassment to people who love the Lord. But the Holy Spirit of God allowed these heinous episodes to be recorded.

Selective morality

Chapter 19 records the history of a Levite who went after his concubine.  She became disgruntled with him and went to her father’s home.

One major principle we need to understand from the Bible is that because something is in the Bible it must be right.  So, polygamy must be right because men in those days had more than one wife.  You only need to remember the history of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samuel’s father, David, Solomon and may others to work out that was no God’s design for marriage.  There was envy, bitterness and even hatred between the wives.  So, this Levite, although he did what others did be taken more than one wife, was in the wrong before God.

After much merriment which spanned over several days at her father’s house, they made their way back home.  Something interesting happened which reveals something of selectivity—to obey God when it fits—with the Levite:  No sleeping in Jesus (which later became Jerusalem) because they were heathens, but it was another principle when it came to marriage.

They pressed on the Gibeah, as city in the tribe of Benjamin, but they couldn’t find hospitality until an elderly man who temporarily lived there—he himself was from the region where the Levite was from—took them in and care from them.

Then, hammering on the door—we’re back in Sodom!  The men of the city demanded to have sexual intercourse with the old man’s visitor—the Bible calls them sons of Belial, worthless evildoers with no principles. Their host resisted, most probably he thought it a very sinful thing to give a Levite to be raped by homosexuals.

Once again selective application of Biblical principles:  rightly was shameful homosexuality considered “disgraceful”, but rape within the context of heterosexuality seemed a better option! You may do whatever you like with my daughter and the Levite’s concubine—who according to law was nothing but his wife!  To save his own skin the Levite offered no resistance and let her go.  They raped her all night while he and his slave were safe inside the old fellow’s house, and when he woke the next morning he found her on the doorstep.  What a sad sight to see her almost crying out for help with outstretched hand over the threshold.  The best her husband could do was to tell her, “Get up, let’s go!” No sympathy, no sorrow, nothing!  She’s dead!

What did he do?  He draped her over a donkey, took her Hom and chopped her up in twelve piece, which he then sent all through Israel.  He disgraced her, he defiled himself by handling a corpse, and showed more concern for the fact that the men of Gilead were guilty of homosexual acts!

What do we learn from all of this?  We can not define our own morality by being selective about things we like in the Bible and things we prefer not to do.

The Church of Scotland—our mother church—this week decided to accept roe commendations of a report which changes the Churches definition of marriage to include same sex marriages and to apologise to gay people for their previous understanding. Rev David Robertson of the Free Church writes:

“Unlike the previous six reports it makes no pretence to either balance or to assess what the bible actually says. [The report] …spoke of being ‘guided by the Spirit of God, as we try to apply Scripture to the concrete messiness of living’.

“…In fact, they usually believe the bits of the Bible with which they agree and amazingly enough discover that the ‘Spirit’ is guiding them to reject those bits with which they disagree.   In this new version of guidance… that denies that the Spirit inspired the Bible…This is not the church being the pillar and foundation of the truth – it is the church being the poisoner and underminer of the truth.”

Who was guilty in the story of the Levite and the men of Gibeah? Both! Yes the men were way off the mark and rightly the Bible calls them sons of Belial; but the Levite could not play victim.  While he was calling the twelve tribes to “Think about! Consider it! Tell us what to do!” (19:30), he exonerated himself from all wrongdoing by being selective in obedience to God’s Word.

Driven be man-defined morality

All of Israel was gobsmacked by what they saw and heard.  They expressed their horror putting Israel on equal footing with the Canaanites who occupied the land before they got it as a gift from God (19:30).

The right thing is to eradicate this evil.  In their thousands they gathered at Mizpah, where Phinehas the grandson of Aaron was ministering.  The leaders of the tribes called the Levite to give testimony about how the atrocity took place.  Although they had called the Benjaminites to give their side of the story, they did not show. And consequently only the word of the Levite was taken as truth, while the Law stated that as least two witnesses were needed.

The crowd was enraged and made oaths:  they will not return home; they will go after Benjamin, and they will never have one of their daughter ever marry into the tribe of Benjamin—they were too holy for that to happen!  When the tribe of Benjamin did not cooperate, they made the decision to wipe the whole tribe out.

What is interesting up to this point is that the crime seems to be looked upon something with political implications, rather than spiritual.  Phinehas did not feature in the first part.

Self-righteously they gathered in Bethel to enquire of the Lord, not if they should wipe out Benjamin, but what tribe should first attack. It’s to say, “Lord we’ve decided to wipe out Benjamin and you better give us your blessing!” If they regarded the deed of Benjamin as a spiritual matter, they would have included the principles and procedure set down in the Mosaic Law.  Head over heals they dived in.  Who did they take as partners in this battle?  Just in the previous chapter we read about the Danites who worshipped idols!  Now they were partners to save Israel from appearing like other surrounding nations.

What should give us about our modern day disaster man-defining morality?  National pride, family dignity, the honour of our reputation—or the glory of our Lord?  What should drive us to take action?  Only when the holiness of God is trampled on!  That should stir us! What is our strategy?  Political or spiritual measures?  We are not Christian jihadists; we are not in the business of violence.  Our defence lies in true repentance, trusting the Lord, in humble prayer and obedience to his holy Word.

But then we cannot be selective; we cannot defile the church of the Lord Jesus Christ by rejecting parts of the Bible we don’t like.  We cannot even begin to try and define morality which fits our tastes and situations—that’s idolatry.

The story plays itself out in Israel losing the first two battles miserably; they lost 22,000 men on the first day and 18,000 on the second. God gave them over in delusion, and all up they lost more men than Benjamin.

At this point in time they involved the priest.  Burnt offerings and fellowship offerings followed—but strangely, no sin offerings.  A third attack was successful and Benjamin was routed.

But self-motivated ambition and man-defined morality always end up in disaster. Sorrow is always too late.  That sinking reality of “What have we done?”

“Lord, God of Israel,” they cried, “why has this happened to Israel? Why should one tribe be missing from Israel today?” (Judges 21:3, NIV)

But despite their offerings they continued with they man-made religion:  based on an oath they defined, they coerced all survivors to appear—as they put it—“before the Lord” in Bethel.  They found out Jabesh and his tribe was not before the Lord in Bethel and went after them.

They killed everyone, women and children, but selectively they spared the young virgin girls which could be passed on to the 600 surviving Benjaminites.  They only found 400 girls.

Then hypocrisy in the highest degree:  they had made an oath to not give their daughters as wives to the men of Benjamin.  But they devised a plan to have their daughters stolen.  They helped the 200 wifeless men to grab young girls from them when they came out dancing—and that after they had attended a feast of the Lord!  And if the fathers of the girls complained they would just say:

Do us the favour of helping them, because we did not get wives for them during the war. You will not be guilty of breaking your oath because you did not give your daughters to them.’ ” (Judges 21:22, NIV)

The reason for the war was desecration of the marriage as God planned it.  And now those who started it all become part of stealing girls from their families!


What a mess!  The Book of Judges ends with the people of God being morally as corrupt as the Canaanites who occupied the land before them.  What makes the situation worse is that Israel acted as if they were serving the living God.

The book ends with this verse:

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit. (Judges 21:25, NIV)

Was the problem a political one that a king be the solution?  That’s apparently what they thought.  Is the solution to our modern-day rotten morality more laws and more politicians?

The end of the book of Ruth gives the answer:  through Ruth and Boaz David would be king, and along that line, our King Jesus was born.  Of Him Peter declared:

Seeing what was to come, he (David) spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that He was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. (Acts 2:31–32, NIV)

Therefore, as Peter preached:

“Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38, NIV)

The king is dead; love live the King.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 28 May 2017

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