Unexpected

Judges 20:21-28

21The Benjamites came out of Gibeah and cut down 22,000 Israelites on the battlefield that day. 22But the Israelites encouraged one another and again took up their positions where they had stationed themselves the 1st day. 23The Israelites went up and wept before the Lord until evening, and they inquired of the Lord. They said, “Shall we go up again to fight against the Benjamites, our fellow Israelites?” The Lord answered, “Go up against them.”

24Then the Israelites drew near to Benjamin the 2nd day. 25This time, when the Benjamites came out from Gibeah to oppose them, they cut down another 18,000 Israelites, all of them armed with swords.

26Then all the Israelites, the whole army, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before the Lord. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the Lord. 27And the Israelites inquired of the Lord. (In those days the ark of the covenant of God was there, 28with Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, ministering before it.) They asked, “Shall we go up again to fight against the Benjamites, our fellow Israelites, or not?” The Lord responded, “Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands.”

Scared to Speak?

When God grants our prayer request, He also wants us to see His mighty power and His glory. If God won’t grant our prayer request, He may have a design or plan which could be much better than what we prayed or wished for.

Have you ever desired something that you may have wished to avoid or evade from and then you realized that God did the opposite thing in your life?

I tried to avoid standing before an audience but God called me to preach before His church. I tried to avoid speaking English but now, I’m doing otherwise. Things I wished I can avoid, God did the exact opposite, why? He wanted me to clearly recognize His plans are better than what I think. Praise belongs to God!

When the 400,000 Israelite swordsmen assemble, did they assume that they can easily overpower the Benjamites? Did they assume that God will grant them quick victory? Unexpectedly, they were defeated by the Benjamites initially.

Before the first attack, they inquired of God. It says in Judges 20:18-20,

18“Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Benjamites?” The Lord replied, “Judah shall go first.” 19The next morning the Israelites got up and pitched camp near Gibeah. 20The Israelites went out to fight the Benjamites and took up battle positions against them at Gibeah.

The prayer requests of the Israelites can be interpreted as if they were very confident of victory. They just needed to know who should initiate the attack. But, they may have been shocked when they were defeated in their first strike. When they asked if they attack again, was the plan to attack came from God?

1. Request

21The Benjamites came out of Gibeah and cut down 22,000 Israelites on the battlefield that day. 22But the Israelites encouraged one another and again took up their positions where they had stationed themselves the 1st day. 23The Israelites went up and wept before the Lord until evening, and they inquired of the Lord. They said, “Shall we go up again to fight against the Benjamites, our fellow Israelites?” The Lord answered, “Go up against them.”

24Then the Israelites drew near to Benjamin the 2nd day. 25This time, when the Benjamites came out from Gibeah to oppose them, they cut down another 18,000 Israelites, all of them armed with swords.

The Israelites may have been terrified when they were defeated at their initial attack against the Bejamites. For sure, they knew that the Benjamites were expert warriors. That could be the reason why they gathered 400,000 swordsmen to be sure they have enough manpower to overpower the Benjamites. After they were defeated, their prayer request implies that they were hesitant to attack.

The asked if they would go up again to fight the Benjamites, and the Lord told them to attack but gave no assurance of victory just yet. So, why did the Lord let them attack the Benjamites again when He did not help them win the battle?

The Israelites have already decided what to do and assumed that they will be victorious. Their prayer request implied that they just want God’s confirmation. They didn’t ask for help. It’s like asking, “Lord, can you put Your signature, seal or thumb mark on our blue print?” They have already figured out what to do.

Most often, we approach to life and ministry according to our expertise, experiences, or assumptions. And, when we pray, we just need God’s stamp to make it official that what we do in life or ministry has been prayed for. But, we don’t necessarily require God to do something. We just need Him to sign it.

The Lord Jesus revealed how God respond to prayers in Matthew 6:8-10, 8Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Even before we can utter a word of prayer, God knows already what we would pray for. Don’t ask: “So, why do we need to pray if God knows already what we would pray for?” Prayer is an expression of faith. We don’t control how God respond to prayers. Our part is to pray for what God has prepared to give us. Pray that God reveals the thing He wants us to pray for or request.

The Lord’s model prayer starts with God’s will. The term “hallowed” is properly interpreted as to “purify,” “make holy,” “consecrate,” or “sanctify.”

First and foremost, our prayer should promote ‘holiness and purity’ and not to bring pollution, contamination or dirt to His name. Next: We may understand that when we declare, “Your kingdom come,” we express our desire that God’s authority, His righteousness prevails in us, as oppose to sinfulness.

If it’s possible, evaluate our prayer request. Does it pollute the name of God? Am I asking God for help our just want His signature? The Lord would respond to prayer request that would bring praise and gratitude in our hearts.

2. Respond

26Then all the Israelites, the whole army, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before the Lord. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the Lord. 27And the Israelites inquired of the Lord. (In those days the ark of the covenant of God was there, 28with Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, ministering before it.) They asked, “Shall we go up again to fight against the Benjamites, our fellow Israelites, or not?” The Lord responded, “Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands.”

Twice, the Israelites were defeated by the Benjamites. There were 40,000 Israelite swordsmen who died during their attack. Why did God let them die?

Probably, God wanted the Israelites to feel so bad and angry about their defeat so that they would strike to the hardest because the Benjamites were unwilling to repent for their wickedness. God may have used the Benjamites as object lesson of His desire for the Israelites to stop their wickedness.

Moses told the Israelites in Deuteronomy 4:5-8, 5See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 7What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?

God has chosen the Israelites as living testimony of His righteousness. God’s instructions are guidelines for their lifestyle. If they follow them, it exhibits wisdom and understanding. The Israelites served as exhibit for other nations to see, observe, believe and eventually follow the Lord’s commands.

At first, when the Israelites asked God who would initiate the attack, it implies that that they were hesitant to fight their fellow Israelites, the Benjamites. When they asked God, if they would go up again to attack, it implies uncertainty if their plan was God’s will. Their 3rd inquiry, “Shall we go up again to fight or not?” implies that they admitted that they did not know if God wanted them to attack the Benjamites or not, and that they wanted God to decide for them.

King Solomon

When we pray, we can imitate King Solomon when he asked the Lord for wisdom. And, the Lord responded in 1 Kings 3:11-14. 11So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.”

King Solomon acknowledged that God made him king, and his first prayer was wisdom on how to be responsible as king, not long, not wealth.

Like Solomon, God placed us in a situation (at work, home, school, church) in which we need His wisdom to be responsible. Pray for wisdom, and the Lord may even grant unexpected things we need even if we don’t ask for them.

May God be praise and glorified in our life!

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