The Upper Room Devotion for Monday, June 12, 2023, was written by Kayla Reay of Victoria Australia.
18 The Israelites proceeded to go up to Bethel, where they inquired of God, "Which of us shall go up first to battle against the Benjaminite’s?" And the Lord answered, "Judah shall go up first." 19 Then the Israelites got up in the morning, and encamped against Gibeah. 20 The Israelites went out to battle against Benjamin; and the Israelites drew up the battle line against them at Gibeah. 21 The Benjaminite’s came out of Gibeah, and struck down on that day twenty-two thousand of the Israelites. 22 The Israelites took courage, and again formed the battle line in the same place where they had formed it on the first day. 23 The Israelites went up and wept before the Lord until the evening; and they inquired of the Lord, "Shall we again draw near to battle against our kinsfolk the Benjaminite’s?" And the Lord said, "Go up against them." 24 So the Israelites advanced against the Benjaminite’s the second day. 25 Benjamin moved out against them from Gibeah the second day, and struck down eighteen thousand of the Israelites, all of them armed men. 26 Then all the Israelites, the whole army, went back to Bethel and wept, sitting there before the Lord; they fasted that day until evening. Then they offered burnt offerings and sacrifices of well-being before the Lord. 27 And the Israelites inquired of the Lord (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, 28 and Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, ministered before it in those days), saying, "Shall we go out once more to battle against our kinsfolk the Benjaminite’s, or shall we desist?" The Lord answered, "Go up, for tomorrow I will give them into your hand."
Judges 20:18-28 NRSV
WHEN FAILURE IS VICTORY
The story in Judges 20:18-48 used to confuse me. The Israelites asked God for counsel on whether to go to battle. God told them to fight. The Israelites listened, and they lost suffering 22, 000 casualties. The Israelites went back to God to ask for counsel, and the reply was the same. They lost again, suffering another 18,000 casualties. A third time, the Israelites went before God and asked for counsel. God answered, “Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands.” Finally, Israelites won.
As I read this story, I wondered, Why would God clearly guide the Israelites and then allow them to fail? It didn’t make sense to me. But this past year, when I faced by own apparent failure after following God’s will for me, I saw this beautiful truth: God’s ways are not our ways and God’s thoughts are not ours. In each battle, the Israelites were learning the best strategies to prepare them for future battles. And most important, they were learning to have complete faith and dependence on God despite the circumstances. God sees victory even in our apparent defeat because God knows the important lessons we are learning along the way.
Today’s reflection and scripture reading challenge the viewpoint that following God’s direction will always keep us from harm. Yes, God’s ways are not our ways, nor are we able to fully comprehend God’s divine purpose. However, I do not ascribe to the idea that God deliberately sends us through hardships to teach us lessons. Sometimes, even when following God’s guidance, trials come our way to test our resolve and commitment to following God’s direction. Yet, the tests are not initiated by God but by our adversary, whom seeks to plant seeds of doubt and discouragement. God is good and can be fully trusted even, and especially, when things around us seem bleak. The sign of maturing faith is the ability to, like the three Hebrews boys in Daniel, to trust in God even when hardships come.
Heavenly Father, may our strength in you never falter. And may you continue to finish your perfect work in us. Amen. - Kayla Reay