This morning in my devotions I read what has to be the most frustrating, violent, graphic, and disgusting part of the Bible: Judges 16-21.
First, you have the erratic and murderously violent life of Samson, one of Israel's last judges, who was more led by beautiful women and a volatile temper than was a leader himself.
Then you have the horrible and unwarranted slaughter of an innocent and unprotected town (Laish) by a group of bloodthirsty Danites looking for good land.
And finally, you have the brutally graphic sexual violence in the town of Gibeah.
These stories are awful and haunting and definitely not G-rated. They are sickening and infuriating. They tell of murder, rape, deceit, exploitation, envy, greed, abuse. They are not fun to read.
The final chapter of Judges ends with two sentences that sum up the horror of these chapters (and most of the book of Judges, frankly). With laser-sharp narrative omniscience, the author writes:
"In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25).
There was no king (little "k") and to most of Israel, there was no King (big "K"). The people did not submit themselves to the authority of God, seek his guidance, or abide by his law. Instead, they did whatever they thought was right. They lived by the law of individual autonomy, and as a result, everything was basically horrible.
We know that every word in the Bible is God-breathed and has a purpose, so there are lots of lessons we could take from these chapters (e.g., the human heart is depraved; we need God's truth; we need God's leadership; etc.)
Yet the biggest one that stands out to me is simply that sin is evil.
The events that take place in the final chapters of Judges are so despicable, they make me want to cry — with both frustration and fury, and plain old grief. Sin is nothing to laugh at. It ruins lives and destroys everything good. It pollutes, it terminates, it cuts, it breaks, it blinds, it hurts, without healing, helping, restoring, purifying, or reconciling. It takes and it takes and it takes until everything is gone.
Sin is the biggest problem humanity faces. And it is totally worthy of death.
Which makes salvation so tremendously, magnificently wild. God stooping down and taking on flesh to save sinners is so merciful, it's almost incomprehensible. It's incredible.
Yet this salvation is not an excuse for us to indulge in wickedness. It's a motivation to hate and fight sin more than ever.
But it also gives us hope, hope that one day sin will be more. No more death. No more deceit. No more violence. No more school shootings. No more abortion. No more war. No more sexual abuse. No more bad. Only good.
So in some way, the terrible end of Judges gives me hope for tomorrow and next week and the next time the weight and result of sin hit me like a truck. Hope that we are not without a King. We have a King who stooped low and took the punishment for our sin so that he could save us. And I have hope that he will come again and remove all sin forever.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus.