Judges 20 contains a peculiar story. I don’t want to give the impression that I have the answers to all the ins and outs of this passage. I will merely pass on those things I saw while reading. Judges 19 is the context and gives the background for why eleven tribes of Israel are warring the Benjamin tribe.
What stood out to me as I read chapter 20 was how the Israelites inquired God three times about how to defeat the Benjamins. Even though they followed the Lord’s instructions the two first attacks on the enemy were a total failure and the Israelites wept before the Lord because of it. Okay, so we believe we have heard the Lord speak to us about something and we follow up on His word only to see defeat in the visible. Not few questions are formed in our minds when the situation turns to the worse.
The story indeed became a reminder about the different faith battles in which we all stand. Often we give up because we don’t see anything happen, but for the Israelites the situation was even more desperate because they saw defeat. It wasn’t a standstill. It was two steps back. No wonder they wept before the Lord. However, they saw the breakthrough on their third attempt to defeat their foes.
The third attempt most likely represents the third day – the resurrection. They saw death twice (two days) before their fight was crowned with glory. What was conveyed to me as I read was: Never give up, never say that the Lord hasn’t spoken, hold on, keep on believing.
There is more here, because we often say that appearances are against us. But the thing is that those defeats or whatever we face that are manifested as appearances that seemingly seem to contradict our word or action are a part of the manifestation. In a sense they prepare the ground for what is coming. Hold on! Hold on! And not least these obstacles are meant to test the faith of the Son and by that take us to new levels of faith and patience by recognizing Christ as our life in all things.
The staggering truth is that God meant for the Israelites to be defeated in the two first skirmishes. They went out obediently following God’s instructions and then they faced two severe setbacks. Haven’t we done the same thing? We have said our word of faith and taken our faith action and then everything literally goes to hell. Inexorably we ask ourselves the inevitable question: Was I somehow mistaken? It Is James who says we are to count it all joy when we face a various trials. That doesn’t necessarily mean that our emotions will be joyous. But, to know that our setbacks or defeats are meant and are a part of a greater manifestation we can find comfort for our souls.
Confused and shaken by two defeats the Israelites ask God on the third day: “Shall we go out once more to battle against our brothers, the people of Benjamin, or shall we cease?” How often haven’t I asked the Lord the same question in my own confusion and sense of defeat: “Perhaps I should give up, God. This seems like a lost case. Perhaps this merely is something from my imagination.” God’s answer is the same today as it was then: “Go up, for tomorrow I will give them into your hand.”