In those days Israel had no king, everyone did as they saw fit

I feel like I’m coming out of a wilderness. Do you know the feeling when you don’t want to talk and can’t find the space to listen? Can’t make sense enough to write and can’t remember what you’ve read? When action is purposeless, a circling around, mindless time filling, busy busy?
I’ve been like that for weeks.
But it is coming to an end.
How do I know?
What have all these self-centred words got to do with Judges?

Take three stories – Gideon and his conversations with God, Samson and the Levite in Gibeah

Gideon and his conversations with God

This morning’s first reading was Abraham and his conversation with God by the oaks of Mamre (Genesis 18, 20-32) where he argued, “Shall not the Judge of all earth do what is just?” and reasoned with God to spare Sodom.
Abraham argued for forgiveness.
Not Gideon. He asked for evidence THREE times that he was talking to God before leading an army to slaughter his neighbours.
The theme of justification for slaughter runs through Judges.
Years of peace are covered in a sentence. Stories of disproportionate revenge make up the rest.

Samson

His strength was fuelled by anger, his purpose fuelled by lust.
Reading about Samson is like watching a horror film and saying, “No, don’t. Don’t open the door.” over and over again.
He saw a woman he wanted. Testosterone fuelled he had to prove he was better than thirty. Drawn back to the woman, he was thwarted and so set fire to a people’s crops. For which she was killed, giving him further excuse for revenge.
And what is the thing with the gates of the city, when he was not attacked?
And then Delilah, the story from my Sunday School Days, when she was the baddy and he was the hero. Now I’m a grown-up he seems much less of a hero.
It is explained why Delilah asked him for the secret of his strength. It is not explained why he lied to her or, when her first trap was discovered and defeated, he kept going back and told her the truth.
We all do stupid things. Is that the lesson? We all keep falling in the same trap.
Samson talked to God. He did not ask for help to overcome this blindness to his own folly, he asked for help to kill those who injured him, and about 3,000 more.
“Out of the strong, something sweet”
– it’s a pity he didn’t listen to himself. It’s a pity I don’t listen to myself.

The Levite in Gibeah

Maciejowski_leaf_LeviteThis is another story that harks back to Genesis. In Genesis 19, just after Abraham has asked for Sodom to be spared, Lot put up two strangers in his house for the night. In the same way in Judges, the Levite and his concubine were taken in by a resident. Lot and the Levite’s host attempted to defend their guest from would be rapists by offering up their own daughter. Lot’s guests came to their host’s aid and the household was saved.
Not the Levite. He sent out his concubine to be raped and killed.
And then used that to fuel an attack that killed thousands.

What can I learn?

Given that I have not been sacrificed, used as an excuse for war, or been instrumental in getting 3,000 to a party to have them killed, how is my state of mind like Judges?
Both Judges and my personal wilderness are:
full of pointless action,
driven by a sense of grievance,
dwelling on bad times , skipping over good times,
asking the wrong questions,
not listening for answers,
pathless,
prayerless,

And done.

Today’s collect contained the words:
‘open our hearts to the riches of your grace, that we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit in love and joy and peace;’

About Judtih Murton