Stepping Out of the Muck

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Photo credit to Alexander Routhier.

 

“They have deeply corrupted themselves, as in the days of Gibeah…” Hosea 9:9

 

How about a pleasant word to start off with? Well, maybe we need to skip the pleasantries until we handle what really needs to be handled. My daughter has horses and those horses have stalls but if those stalls are left without being handled, there won’t be much pleasantry. The more muck collects in the stalls, the deeper and more unpleasant it gets. Get the muck out and the whole atmosphere changes. Maybe that’s what Hosea is telling Israel and warning us. Maybe we need to focus on getting the muck out of our lives.
Hosea tells Israel, don’t be rejoicing now. You’ve got a problem you need to deal with. You have gone astray from your God. You’ve filled your life with muck instead. You don’t even know who you are.

 

It wasn’t always that way. God had seen Israel in the wilderness so to speak. He had seen Israel in this man named Abraham, a man like every other man, only Abraham was looking for something more than what man was showing him. And God saw that and saw the fruit that Abraham could bear from trusting Him. It was like grapes in the wilderness. Abraham wasn’t a grape but in God’s hands and in God’s will He was like food to the hungry. He would be like food to those in a dry place. And so God set apart a people for Himself from Abraham, and God saw their potential in Him, like the first-ripe fruit in the fig-tree at her first season. They were a fig-tree full of potentially good fruit fit to feed many. A people filled with potential from God. A people that God saw great potential in. But what happened? Where did that potential go?

 

This people that was separated unto God, chose to separate themselves unto shameful things like other gods instead of their true God. They chose to become detestable like the thing they loved. Here was a God who loved them and saw beautiful and good things coming from them in Him, but they chose to follow gods who did not love and who had no vision for them so that they could choose their own vision and their own future and their own present. They followed their hearts and their love and their desire instead of following the God whose heart was for them, whose love was over them, and whose desires were for them.

 

It’s sad. Because somehow we go after these things and become that detestable thing we hated once. Yet we don’t even realize how detestable we have become. If you don’t think that’s true, let’s go back and see what it looks like to go our own way without the God who made us for a greater purpose. Let’s see what it looks like to not hearken to God and to become a wanderer with no roots.

 

Hosea tells us that Israel corrupted themselves, as in the days of Gibeah, so let’s look at the days of Gibeah. Before we get to Gibeah, let’s understand the times. Go back a chapter before Gibeah and we see that there was no king in Israel in these days. What that lead to was people deciding on their own what they felt was right. Like in Judges 18 where a man named Micah had set up a Levite in his house and had made an ephod, a seraphim, a graven image, and a molten image. This Levite was supposed to be a man following God yet here he was leading others in worshiping false images. According to Jewish tradition his role was to be teacher and spiritual example and therefore to “lead and accompany others back to their spiritual purpose.” But things were so corrupt here that the tribe of Dan was deciding to conquer another city and thought it a good idea to have a token priest, so they took Micah’s Levite and the religious items for their own upon threat and went and conquered a people who was quiet and secure. The Levite was delighted to be sought after by a whole tribe, Micah went back in fear, and the tribe of Dan slaughtered for their own advancement. So that’s the introduction.

 

But in looking at Gibeah, the introduction continues. Again, we’re reminded that there was no king in Israel, and here we have a story of another Levite. Remember, these Levites are supposed to be leading people in God’s ways, but are they? Here is this Levite who takes a concubine out of Beth-Lehem. Levites and concubines? Does that go together? It was an accepted practice by man, but what did God think about it? It’s like having a second-rate wife, lower in status than the first. Maybe she felt that way and that’s why she played the harlot. Maybe she just liked playing the harlot. Maybe she just felt like one. I don’t know. But this Levite goes back to her dad’s house to take her back. So the woman’s father and the Levite stay and eat, drink, and be merry at the house. But finally the Levite decides to leave late in the day.

 

Leaving late in the day really wasn’t a safe idea in those days. And the servant suggested they turn in at a city of the Jebusites. But the Levite wouldn’t because they were not his people. So they travelled to Gibeah, to people of Israel, the tribe of Benjamin. And there they went but no one would offer them lodging as was custom. So I suppose, sitting in the town center all alone was this Levite and his entourage and an old man coming home from working his field sees them and invites them in to his home.

 

Now, what we hear sounds like a rehashing of Sodom and Gomorrah without all the fire raining from heaven. Men gather around the house, beating the door and asking for the man that came in so they “may know him.” Now that’s a sexual kind of knowing. But the man of the house knew that was not right and resisted them, yet he offered his virgin daughter and the Levite’s concubine. But the men didn’t want that either. So the Levite takes hold of his concubine and puts her out the door where she was sexually abused all night long until they let her go in the morning. She fell down at the door of the house she was taken from. And that’s where he found her.

 

Do you know what he says? “Up, and let us be going.” But there was no answer. That’s it, “Get up, let’s go.” That’s it! I don’t know if she was dead at that point. Fell down could mean that. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know. But where was sorrow? Where was caring? In these stories, where was compassion? Where was concern for one’s fellow human being? And everyone takes it as though she definitely was dead, totally dead. But I don’t even know that.

 

And then the Levite takes her back on the donkey to his house and cuts her into multiple pieces and sends a piece to each tribe. I thought Israel respected the dead?  I thought that was a way of respecting life? Do you wonder why the people of Israel responded “Such a thing has not happened nor been seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt”?   And Israel was rightly angry about that and came to Gibeah and to the Levite and the Benjamites to hear why this atrocity was done. The Levite explained, “the men of Gibeah rose against me, and beset the house round about upon me by night; me they thought to have slain, and my concubine they forced, and she is dead. And I took my concubine, and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel; for they have committed lewdness and wantonness in Israel.”

 

Lewdness and wantonness, abomination and outrage, lewdness and folly, shame, something terrible, perverted and godless thing, committed a vile and stupid outrage, these are all descriptions of what took place. But does it only describe the attitude and actions of the men of Gibeah, the Benjaminites? Doesn’t it describe the attitude and actions of both the Levites? Doesn’t it describe the people of Dan? or Micah? What about an attitude of a man who was supposed to protect and provide for his concubine and yet, to save his own hide he thrusts her out to be raped instead? What of a father who offers his daughter?

 

Maybe you ask, “What of God who offered His own Son?” But God was not offering Jesus to save His own hide. Like Isaac, Jesus knew the outcome, and that it was for life and the glory of God and the saving of His people. All these people we just read about, they were so busy saving themselves that they had no thought for anyone else. Maybe the sin of Gibeah is bigger than homosexuality or inhospitality. Maybe the sin around Gibeah is perversion of purpose and perversion of our design. Maybe we can get so twisted that we don’t even realize how disgustingly abhorrent and hateful we’ve become.

 

Have we read these chapters before and passed on without them churning our stomachs? Do we walk on in life and hear of women and children being raped and mistreated violently and we do nothing? Isn’t that like pushing them out the door so we can remain comfortable? Do we go along with what society does just because or even follow the comfort and ease of comfortable Christianity because it’s not dangerous?

 

Here’s the thing, God is a consuming fire. He is dangerous. Deuteronomy 4:24 tells us, “For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.” Deuteronomy 9:3 continues, “Understand therefore this day, that the LORD your God is He which goes over before you; as a consuming fire He shall destroy them, and He shall bring them down before your face: so shall you drive them out, and destroy them quickly, as the LORD said unto you.” And Paul reaffirms this in Hebrews 12:29, “For our God is a consuming fire.” He has called us unto Him as priests and a holy nation as teachers and spiritual examples to lead others back to their spiritual purpose. Do we think He takes that lightly and will overlook when we mislead?

 

Here we have a God who is a consuming fire. He has the power to consume us but He chooses to burn away the chaff, to get rid of the muck, and to bring us forth as gold. He chooses to refine and redefine instead of destroy. But He can destroy and He will and must destroy that which refuses to be refined and redefined into it’s original design. So we can be protected and guided and led by this Consuming Fire. Or we can be consume by Him. This is each man’s choice.

 

But if my God is this consuming fire who goes before me and consumes that which stands against Him, then why didn’t the Levite stand up for that woman? Why didn’t that first Levite stand up for God and refuse his position because it was a false position over false idols? Why didn’t Benjamin care any more? Why didn’t Dan get it? They had so corrupted themselves, they were so full of muck, they didn’t even know it anymore. And what about us? Have we so corrupted our lives from Your original purpose for us? Are our minds and attitudes and lives so filled with muck that we miss it all?

 

To this date in the U.S. there have been 1,080 abortions today alone and it’s only 8:41 AM. Worldwide this year there have been 26, 760,972 and rising. And what about human trafficking? Around the world, “800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year. That is 2,200 each day- over 91 people each hour!” Why? Why is this happening?

 

Because there was no king in the world. Oh, I’m not talking about one world order here. I’m talking about a King who rules men’s hearts and minds by giving them His mind and His heart. I’m talking about a King who takes away our hearts of stones that would ignore another’s need or deem ourselves as more worthy, and who would give us a heart of flesh instead. I’m talking about a King who would give His only Son for His Son’s good, and His good, and our good. I’m talking about a King who is selfless and not selfish, a King who has every right to us, a King who has created us for a glorious purpose in Him. I’m talking about a King who cares and loves and saves and stands up and fights for what is right and good and pure and true. I’m talking about a King who is no pansy, but is a consuming fire, and who is inviting us to stand with Him against all that is corrupt in this world and to not be afraid.

 

Paul wasn’t afraid to live out what those Levites should have been living. He knew that His God was a consuming fire and that His God was for Him. “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:20-21) What if the Levites had believed that? What about Dan or Benjamin? What if I lived like that? What if my deepest expectation and desire and hope was that I would stand for You in all boldness and allow You to be magnified in me whether it cost my life or not? Maybe then, and only then, I would have the kind of faith that saves. I guess we all have a choice to make. Will I stay in my own muck or will I step into the fire? I want to step into the fire no matter the cost. Your choice is your own. Make it wisely.

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