Everyone Did What Was Right in Their Own Eyes

This past week, those of us journeying through the Bible in a year with Daily Audio Bible completed our trudge through the book of Judges. This book represents a dark period in the history of God’s chosen people. And in plain language, I think the author, inspired by the Holy Spirit, explains why. There’s a phrase woven throughout the book–in fact, they are the final words of the book: everyone did what was right in their own eyes.

The book of Judges is difficult to read (or listen to). It has some very strange and disturbing stories that result from the degraded moral condition of Israel during the period between Joshua’s death and the establishment of the monarchy. Throughout this time, the Israelites continuously fell into idolatry and sin, leading to periods of oppression and suffering at the hands of their enemies.

And it was all because everyone did what was right in their own eyes.

Doing what is right in your own eyes means making decisions based on what you want, and your own definition of right and wrong. This means that everyone can have their own definition of truth. It is a self-centered way of living that disregards God’s laws and His will for each of our lives. It leads to moral decay and chaos.

Sound familiar?

Unpleasant Examples

In one challenging example, described in Judges 17-18, there’s a story about Micah. He created his own shrine, complete with an idol, and hired a Levite to be his personal priest. This behavior was a clear violation of God’s commandments, yet Micah saw nothing wrong with it. He had made up his own religion, which he believed was right in his eyes.

The most disturbing and disgusting story in Judges (and maybe the whole Bible) is told in Judges 19. A Levite traveling through Gibeah was offered hospitality by an old man, but during the night, a mob of men from the city came and demanded that the Levite be handed over to them so that they could sexually assault him. The old man offered his own daughter and the Levite’s concubine to the mob instead, and the Levite’s concubine was brutally raped and murdered.

The behavior of the men from Gibeah was a clear violation of God’s commandments, but they saw nothing wrong with it. They were doing what was right in their own eyes, and their actions led to unimaginable suffering and violence.

Not How It Was Supposed to Be

Yuck. This isn’t how it was supposed to be.

So, why do I bring this up? Why focus on such a challenging book in the Bible?

For two reasons. First, to point out that this is not the way God intended things to be. He created us to live in close relationship with Him, not so He could watch us like a mean overlord, making sure we didn’t have any fun. Quite the opposite, actually. He wanted us to live close to Him so that what happened in the book of Judges doesn’t happen to us. This is the reason He gave us His laws–He wants us to enjoy life unfettered by anything that will lead to our destruction.

I wonder how it came to be that our culture seems to believe the contrarian lie from the evil one that God is against us, that He condemns us, that He doesn’t really care all that much for us.

It’s not easy–in fact, it’s impossible–for us to live 100% according to God’s law. But that’s OK. God wants us to depend on Him to help us live the way He wants us to. But when we screw up and try to become our own gods, He will accept us back with open arms if we only repent for our ridiculous behavior.

The Light of God’s Redemptive Power

That leads to my second reason for discussing this strange book of the Bible–in the midst of chaos and sin shines the light of God’s redemptive power. I’ve already mentioned the benefit of this to each of us personally, that God forgives us when we repent of trying to be our own little gods. He receives us and restores us, thanks be to God.

But the seed of redemption on a broader scale is also planted in the awful story that takes place in Gibeah. The actions described led to a civil war within Isreal, one in which the tribe of Benjamin is nearly eradicated. And yet, many years later, when Israel begged God to give them a king and God allowed it, He selected Saul as the first person to fill that role. Saul came from the smallest of Israel’s tribes–the tribe of Benjamin.

Would you like to take a guess where Saul was from? Gibeah.

This is not because God condoned what had taken place there many years earlier. No, I think it could be God’s way of assuring us that no matter what filthy, disgusting things we have done before, He can redeem us. Nothing is too far gone for Him to reach us.

How It Was Supposed to Be

All we have to do is recognize the mercy–not judgment–in His eyes and reach out our hands to grasp the one He has already extended to us. He pulls us out of the dumpster fire of our past. He grabs some ashes while He’s at it and paints a beautiful picture of the people He intended us to be. And He helps us try to live into that.

He wants us, after all, to walk with Him in the garden in the cool of the day, the way things were meant to be.

About Writing & Photography by David K. Carpenter

Photographer of Light and Life, Writer of Life as it finds me
This entry was posted in Christian, Faith and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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