April 7; Manipulation

Judges 21; I Chronicles 6:4-15; Ruth 1-2

They probably shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Sure, there were hard times in the Promised Land, a famine, food shortage. But it would appear Elimelech took the easy way out, picked up his family, and relocated to Moab, an unclean land where people worshiped idols. And God had made it clear His people were not to live with idolators.

But they had food.

Elimelech took care of the physical and placed the spiritual in jeopardy. His sons married Moabite women, something God said should never happen.

But they had food.

In the last chapter of Judges we see what happened after the Israelites nearly wiped out one of their own tribes, the Benjamites, for refusing to repent of a horrible sin. The dust settled, and the other eleven tribes began to feel guilty. There were so few Benjamite men left alive, and not enough Benjamite women to marry them and have Benjamite babies. Would that tribe disappear because of what they had done?

To complicate the matter, the eleven tribes had made a vow, in an emotional response to the blatant sin in Benjamin, that they – none of them – would ever give their daughters in marriage to any Benjamite man. Not ever.

Now that things had calmed down some, the eleven tribes began to think they’d gone too far. So they came up with a plan. If the Benjamin boys “took” some of their daughters for wives, it wouldn’t be like they “gave” them to them. They’d have wives, and the eleven tribes wouldn’t technically be breaking their vow.

Win. Win.

So the Israelite authorities devised a plan for them and the Benjamites to both get what they wanted without losing face.

I see a similarity in both stories, and something God is laying on my heart. The word “manipulation” comes to mind.

Maybe Elimelech looked like some great husband and father to his neighbors. After all, he gave up everything to take care of his family, leaving his home and taking them to places unknown for their own good. Did those neighbors tell each other what a great man Elimelech was because he’d do ANYTHING for his family?

But if you cut away all the dressing, the truth is Elimelech simply did not trust God in the bad times. He took matters in his own hands, maybe justified his choice to disobey God for the good of his family. Noble.

Is it okay for a person to sin for the right reasons?

The Israelites plan to repopulate the tribe of Benjamin involved kidnapping and rape.

Do the ends justify the means?

Can God be manipulated? (Is that even a real question?) I don’t ever want to live on the edge of obedience, or commit a sin while telling myself it’s for a good cause. God is not a fool.

I shouldn’t be, either.

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