We have all seen the gruesome pictures or heard the staggering reports of what happens on a battlefield. It seems like every day, one nation somewhere is at war with another nation. Death abounds. Suffering persists. Peace is nowhere in sight.
We pick up today in Judges 20, where another battle is about to take place. After the rape and murder of a Levite’s concubine in the previous chapter, 400,000 armed men from the tribes of Israel (except for the tribe of Benjamin) were commissioned to exact revenge and justice on her oppressors, men from the Benjaminite city of Gibeah. A civil war was at hand between the unrepentant tribe of Benjamin and the other tribes of Israel. After two costly battles for the combined Israelite forces, they continued to call on the Lord for help.
The Lord told them to go back into battle and promised to give them victory the next day. His hand alone is mightier than every sword wielded by their foes.
It’s easy to focus here on the battle itself. We ask, “Why would God allow so many people to die? Why does the Bible condone war if death is the enemy? Why doesn’t He just fix everything right now?” We don’t have all the answers to these questions. There is a mystery to God’s work that we couldn’t understand, even if it were explained to us (Romans 11:33–36). That said, the Bible is not entirely silent on this issue, either.
The Bible records human history, so we should not be surprised to see sin and death and war in its pages and in our world. Indeed, God would be lying to us if He didn’t show us in Scripture how badly sin has affected us. But we also know for sure that He will make all things new. This is clear throughout the Old Testament (Genesis 3:15; Ezekiel 36) and into the New Testament (Revelation 21–22). Our passage today gives us a glimpse of this. On the one hand, rape and murder and war are the result of life in a fallen world. On the other hand, we see God as a good Judge, dispensing justice for the oppressed and marginalized. In a perfect world, God does not need to judge evil; in a broken world, He would be a monster not to.
Praise be to God that through Christ His wrath toward evil has been absorbed for us. Jesus went to the cross so we don’t have to. He took on the rightful judgment of God toward sin, bearing it all as a sacrifice for us. And by the Spirit, we can now walk in the newness of life, working every day to join God in His mission of redeeming all things for His glory and our good.