Thursday, November 1, 2018
Judges 20:19 – 23 (NIV) 19The next morning the Israelites got up and pitched camp near Gibeah. 20The men of Israel went out to fight the Benjamites and took up battle positions against them at Gibeah. 21The Benjamites came out of Gibeah and cut down twenty-two thousand Israelites on the battlefield that day. 22But the men of Israel encouraged one another and again took up their positions where they had stationed themselves the first day. (Emphasis mine)
I’m sure you have heard the old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” I heard it a lot when I was growing up. I think it’s what motivates me to get up in the early morning day after day and go out to the woods to hunt deer. This morning was one of those mornings when I wondered why I was even trying. Every day brings hope that this could be the day. It’s especially nice when my son or grandson want to go out with me. Without the encouragement of another person, I fear I would soon stop trying.
If you want to fully understand the impact of today’s Scripture verse you will have to read the entire 20th chapter of Judges from your Old Testament. In it you will discover that the tribe of Benjamin has joined forces with the people of Gibeah to fight against the rest of the tribes of Israel. Israel wants to destroy Gibeah because of the rape of a woman in their land. The Israelites have an army of 400,000 swordsmen, while the tribe of Benjamin has 26,000. It doesn’t seem like a fair fight. But God is about to teach a couple of incredible lessons to everyone involved. Let’s highlight them and then I’ll let the Holy Spirit magnify them in your heart as you read the whole story.
- Israel asked God which tribe should go up first to fight the Benjamites. In other words, the nation was so over-confident of an easy win that they determined only one tribe should fight for them at a time. God uses this opportunity to teach them a lesson in pride. The tribe of Judah goes up and 22,000 of them are killed and the Benjamites win the day. The lesson: whenever we go out to fight the enemy, go with all your strength and don’t take the enemy for granted.
- The next day Israel asks God if they should go up and fight again, but this time there is no mention of dividing the duties between the tribes. They were willing to go fight again with all their strength, but they were still going in their own strength, depending on their numbers rather than their strategies. Notice that they took up the same positions that had led to defeat the day before. They may have had more strength, but they were not using God’s wisdom. This time 18,000 Israelites were killed and the Benjamites won the day again.
- The third day the tribes of Israel spend time in worship to God before they ask for permission to go and fight. They did not assume victory, and they did not rely on their own strength to fight. They turned in worship to God and gave the battle to Him. God promises to fight for them and give them the victory. God gives them a plan, they submit to the plan and the plan works to perfection. 25,000 Benjamite soldiers are killed and the city of Gibeah is wiped out.
The battles we fight against our enemy Satan can only be won if they are fought in the strength of the Lord. Every situation in which we are involved is an opportunity to worship God and let Him give us a plan for victory. Every circumstance of our lives is designed by God to test our faith and our resolve to turn to Him rather than to our own strength and wisdom. The failures we experience are only true failures if we quit. They are stepping stones to success if we let God teach us to trust Him and listen to Him.
Tucked away in the middle of this story is a verse that challenges us with our role to encourage others who have just experienced failure. Following a huge loss that should have been a win, the men of Israel encouraged one another and again took up their positions where they had stationed themselves the first day. Even those who had experienced the failure understood the importance of encouraging others. The very soldiers that had survived tragic defeat were the ones who did not give up. They knew their cause was just. They knew they represented the Lord. They were not going to let one or two losses keep them from trying again. They knew they had another chance to win, and they encouraged each other to go for it. They went right back to the point of defeat and took up their positions again.
That’s not how we would usually respond. We may be encouraged to try again, but only if we can start fresh in a new place. But God wants us to go back to the point of failure and start there.
When I go out to the woods to bow hunt, and I don’t see any deer that day, I am usually tempted to try a different location the next day. But I also can see the evidence that the deer are using the area I was in, and it’s just a matter of timing and not location. Failure tells me to move on. Wisdom encourages me to try again.
There may have been failures in your life that have made you run, seeking to start over in a new location. Don’t let it happen again. Go back to the point of failure, take up your position, and do it right this time. Be encouraged to do it because this time might be the time God gives the enemy over into your hands. And if it’s not this time, then try again until you learn everything God wants you to learn to be a complete soldier of Christ.
Be encouraged – God gives us the victory through our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.