Acts 19:1-20; Judges 10:1-11:33; Job 39
You’ve probably heard this quote – attributed to George Orwell – before. “We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” If you know people who have served in the military during a time of war, and you haven’t, they probably won’t talk much about what they did. War is a messy business and it involves rough business, violence, that for many soldiers, is out of character. Yet these rough men are ready to do what is necessary to save their buddies, themselves, and protect their families. When the war is over and they come home, they live with those memories, protecting their loved ones still by not sharing them, only opening up with others who have gone through the hell of war.
Often, those who are protected don’t show the proper gratitude and will criticize those warriors who did the violence to protect them. Some have taunted and attacked these men not realizing that if they were really as bad as the taunters were making them out to be, the taunters may not have survived the response. Rough men have been around for a long time. Israel was groaning under oppression from the Ammonites. They had been following the false gods of the land, instead of the one, true God. The oppression caused them to turn back to God, and they sought a champion to deliver them. The man who was ready to go, Jephthah, had been run out of town because of his parentage. When Israel needed a rough man, though, they turned to Jephthah. “So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the land of Tob, where a gang of scoundrels gathered around him and followed him.” (Judges 11:3)
Jephthah and his brothers had the same father, but Jephthah’s mother was a prostitute, not his father’s wife. The brothers ran him out of town because of that. He was apparently a natural leader, because even in a strange land, people flocked to him. His followers weren’t much better than he was: they were called a gang of scoundrels. Yet, when looking for a leader to take on the Ammonites, the people of Gilead not only turned to Jephthah, they promised him the role of leader should he be successful. Interestingly enough, Jephthah began by seeking a peaceful solution, reminding the Ammonites of the history of the land they were oppressing. True warriors crave peace more than politicians and those standing on the sidelines. While his attempt at peace was rebuffed, no one else had made that attempt. Jephthah made rash promises, one that he would later regret, but as rough as he was, you could trust him to keep his word when he gave it.
Following God is a rough, and dangerous business. In the story in Acts there was an incident where people who were not Christians sought to use God’s power and were overwhelmed by the demonic response. Those under the leadership of Jesus would have been protected. If we are really following God we will be dealing with people at their worst, dealing with people who are going through difficult times, often blaming God for what happened. When they’re blaming God, those who follow God will be the easiest targets to attack. We will have to deal with spiritual violence, so to speak, and the weapons that God has given us may seem inadequate at first: forgiveness, grace, love, mercy. The genius of God is that in dealing with someone who’s hurting, a hug is a stronger weapon against the hurt than most words; unconditional love overcomes all of the hurt and anxiety. Let it be known that in the spiritual warfare we face, God uses gentle people, led by His Spirit, to overcome the darkness through His mercy, grace, forgiveness, and love.
Father God, in a world of darkness, the only hope is the light of Your love. Help me to share that love.