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Judges 21:1-4 • Weeping for the Guilty

“Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpah, saying, ‘None of us shall give his daughter to Benjamin in marriage.’ So the people came to Bethel and sat there before God until evening, and lifted up their voices and wept bitterly. They said, ‘Why, O Lord, God of Israel, has this come about in Israel, so that one tribe should be missing today in Israel?’ It came about the next day that the people arose early and built an altar there and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.”
    —Judges 21:1-4 (NASB)

I truly wish I could categorically state my empathy with Israel’s follow-up to carrying out God’s judgment on Benjamin, but such is not the case. There is no gray area regarding the sin committed by Benjamin nor the judgment brought on them as the result of the rest of Israel taking action based on God’s response to their specific inquiries. Benjamin is the undisputed, absolutely, without-a-doubt guilty party deserving of everything they received. And yet, at the end of the event, it wasn’t Benjamin that rushed to God’s feet to seek reconciliation, but the innocent—the rest of Israel.

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
    —Matthew 5:44-45 (NASB)

I would have to admit that my first reaction is to see the act of judgment as a signal that the ordeal is over. There was conflict, perhaps even prayer and conciliatory gestures offered on the other’s behalf, but when they finally reap God’s judgment for the sin and choices they sowed, I tend to close the chapter at that point. But this is the difference between “judgment” and “Final Judgment”, that the latter is a very unique, one-time closing of the door that is yet to come, and in the mean time all interim judgments provide the opportunity for a greater work of reconciliation that will negate the effects of “Final Judgment”.

Lord, that I would bear the burden for others beyond the timing of Your judgment to seek their reconciliation to You in the wake of the greater work of judgment, and not let it end there.