**Resistance to repentance. The concubine was gone for four months before the Levite went after her. He even tarried five days in her father's house. Still, the concubine and her father resisted him.
As a result, the woman ended up in Gibeah with disastrous results. For some, to suggest that Christ (represented by the Levite) would turn His bride over to marauders is heresy, and certainly our application must proceed with caution.
However, our Westernized view of "full coverage" grace tends to pervert our understanding of God's judgment. The Bible clearly states that God uses both mercy and judgment to refine the bride of Christ. We can understand this only when we realize how passionate He is to prepare a wholehearted lover for His Son.
Simply stated, God will not tolerate unfaithful concubines forever. He wants a wife, and He will employ extreme measures, if necessary, to get her attention and pluck her from the morass of divided loyalties and substandard living embedding her in the world.
What a shame that it took a gruesome act to arouse the indignation of the Israelites and reunite them! Only in crisis were they willing to confront their nation's moral and religious decline, their destructive tribal preferences and their loss of corporate identity (see Judg. 20-21).
The warnings of Judges apply to us today. What will it take for us to respond?
WHOLEHEARTED COMMITMENT We can take heart that after the book of Judges comes the book of Ruth, which begins: "In the days when the judges ruled." This phrase establishes firmly that even in the midst of national ambivalence, God continued working.
Through the characters of Ruth and Naomi, God defines the bridal heart He is seeking. Moreover, He provides distinct initiatives for obtaining that path--the path of restoration, romance and revival for the body of Christ.
During the time of Judges, people sought deliverance through charismatic, and largely human, leadership. For a while, they would remember the Lord and their unique relationship to Him.
However, as evidenced by their repeated decline into idolatry, the people never fully embraced this covenant for themselves. Despite the judges' leadership, the people never really changed.
When we face division or compromise--whether at home, work or church--we must recognize that new leadership is not the answer. In such situations, it is tempting to think: Things would be different if we had a better preacher...if my husband were a better spiritual leader of our family...if our nation had more godly leaders.
As is often the case, the real problem in God's eyes lies with us. Until individuals, families, churches and the nation wholeheartedly commit to following the Lord, lasting change will not occur. The bottom line is: Divided hearts yield divided results.
Before his death, Joshua challenged the people of Israel, saying: "Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve....But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord" (Josh. 24:15).
God is looking for a covenant people who will embrace Him wholeheartedly, who will say with abandonment as Ruth did: "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God" (Ruth 1:16).
In her devastation, Ruth determined to follow God, not knowing if or how her life would ever improve. Her situation was grave, but unlike Naomi, Ruth was full of faith.
Whatever happened, Ruth was determined to go forward with God. As a result, she became the great-grandmother of King David and an ancestor of Christ.
If you're experiencing the effects of a divided heart, draw near to God. You may not be able to change the circumstances surrounding you, but you can commit yourself to: (1) dealing with the idols and distractions of your own heart and (2) dedicating yourself wholly to God.
Like Ruth, you can humble yourself and go to work, when and where you're allowed to affect change. Change comes slowly, over seasons of planting and harvesting.
The important thing is to set our hearts on single-minded service--first to the Lord and then to those He may bring across our paths. With humility and perseverance, we can "conquer the land" and enter into the fullness of our bridal inheritance.
Julie Wilson is the author of Bible studies including Women at the Well: Restoring the Spiritual Heritage of Christian Women and A Woman Fully Clothed: God's Plan to Recover the Church.
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