Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Identity & the Gospel for the Judges 19 Woman (He was Torn for the 12 Tribes)

Identity and the Gospel Message for the Judges 19 Woman

Whenever the passage in Judges 19 is read, pastors and speakers alike typically take great care to caution their hearers about horrific events told concerning the concubine, her suffering, and her unredeemed disposition. Additionally most studies do well placing Judges 19 within the larger context of the book of Judges and bringing out the doctrine of the depravity of man whereby everyone did right in their own eyes, because in those days there was no king to rule.

Yet, the story of the Judges 19 woman requires more than a magnifying glass on her sinful condition and the sinfulness of others in the culture around her. Yes, absolutely, the wages of sin is death, and Judges 19 does graphically depict this for us. But it is my continued hope that women (and men alike) see how Christ redeems the hopeless state of the Judges 19 woman by bringing the Gospel message to bear even in those utterly hard and dark passages.

We might first start by thinking about the covenantal concept of identity. To this end, I found it quite interesting to note that none of the characters in Judges 19 are named. They are all anonymous entities, which is likely intended to achieve several different things, as many commentators believe. A common view is that the Levite, the stranger, and the concubine are representatives, like the literary “everyman” that ties us back to the point at the time of the Judges, everyone did what was right in their own eyes. In this way, the concubine is meant to represent the people of Israel as a whole who had been enslaved by sin, given over to wickedness by the very leaders who were responsible for their well-being. But there are some other layers of meaning here concerning the anonymity of the concubine. For instance, concubines who were barren or who did not provide a male heir to their masters were generally not named in the Hebrew Scriptures. A concubine would only derive a unique identity from fulfilling the particular role of heir-bearing and otherwise would typically not be remembered within the historical covenant. Interestingly, today when we think of women who are enslaved by sexual sin or who have been given over to the illicit and dehumanizing acts of sexual abuse, they become objectified and defined by their sinful acts. The shame they bear, both spiritually and culturally, often causes them to go underground, becoming anonymous entities whose lives matter little either to their new masters or the culture around them.

Even these deep issues of identity are redeemed by Jesus who is our true King,and, yes, even in a land where everyone only does what is right in their own eyes. And He is the true and better Israel. He is the perfect husband, who protects his bride. Jesus doesn't give his bride over to the enemy to have his way with her and abuse her. Instead King Jesus leaves His Father's house and offers his own body going in the bride’s stead to be torn apart for the twelve tribes. Instead of giving us over, without hope or any possibility for rescue, Jesus gives himself up on the Cross. His battered body is the sign to his people that he is our true King and Redeemer and Husband.

So, on the practical end, perhaps we should ask ourselves whether we are training folks in the church to be like the Levite who orders the woman on his doorstep to “Get Up”, even though she is dead (or nearly dead)? “Be a Biblical Woman by doing X and Y and Z or fulfilling such and such role.” Or are we equipping women to point these Judges 19 women to the true Savior and true King who redeemed us out of slavery? Unfortunately, too often the great temptation as we know it in women’s ministry is get to the imperatives too fast -- to be prescriptive far too soon -- because of our emphasis on women’s roles and what women are supposed to do, rather than who we are in Christ first and foremost. Identity.

The prophet Hosea looks back in Chapter 9 and 10 and warns Ephraim that they are behaving as those in Gibeah from the days of the Judges by going after false gods and idols and forget who they are; Whose they are; Who they belong to. They were forgetting their husband, over and over and over. Do we remind each other that we are His Bride and that he has redeemed us as the prophet Hosea was called to redeem his bride, Gomer? That at one time we were not a people (Hosea 1:10), but we too were delivered out of an Egypt, out of slavery (Exodus 20:2) and the kingdom of death and darkness (Col. 1:13), by the One who took our place and who has called us by name?

We are all prone to wander and forget our True King and Redeemer. Our savior Jesus, who has written our names on His hands, who has rescued us from the kingdom darkness described in Judges 19, and who has adopted us children of the Living God who will never leave us or forsake us!

Finally, I believe it it may be helpful for to consider the words of Paul written to the Galatian church regarding the contrast between Abraham’s concubine, Hagar (representing life in the flesh and slavery to sin), and Abraham’s wife, Sarah (representing the freedom of the new covenant in Christ). 
“Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia;  she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.  For it is written,
“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;

    break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
    than those of the one who has a husband.” ” (Galatians 4:25-27, ESV)

Now we know that we were all once the concubine, sold as slaves under the law, powerless to save ourselves from the kingdom of darkness, but God because of His great mercy, saved us by the blood of Christ, who gave Himself for us when we were nothing, so that we could be His very own treasured possession - His Bride .. That He called us by name and has written our names on His very hands so that we could have eternal life with Him .. Does this -- should this -- help change how we look at and minister to the Judges 19 woman? And to women in general? Just some food for thought.

To be continued...

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