Friday, August 15, 2008


by John D Ramsey
Today I was reading in Judges. I did not read very far before my imagination wandered from the pages and into the drama of the events.

After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, “Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?”

The LORD answered, “Judah is to go; I have given the land into their hands.”

Then the men of Judah said to the Simeonites their brothers, “Come up with us into the territory allotted to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours.” So the Simeonites went with them.

When Judah attacked, the LORD gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek. It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaanites and Perizzites. Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes.

Then Adoni-Bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.” They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.

Judges 1:1-7 (NIV)

A few things in this short passage captivated my imagination. Firstly, the king Israel pursued was named, Adoni-Bezek. Adonai is a Hebrew name for God meaning, Lord. Adoni-Bezek means “Lord of Bezek.” Bezek was the city or region over which this king ruled. Nevertheless, Adoni seems a presumptive title. I noticed also that Adoni-Bezek was a conqueror. He said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table.”

God conquered the conqueror, Adoni-Bezek. When his army was routed, Adoni-Bezek fled from the armies of Judah and Simeon. When they captured him, they cut off his big toes and his thumbs. What intrigued me the most about Adoni-Bezek is that after he was partially dismembered, he immediately confessed the justice of it, saying, “God has paid me back for what I did.”

The Canaanites were a wicked people who were under God’s judgment. God had told Abraham nearly 500 years earlier, “In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” Genesis 15:16 (NIV) According to Genesis 10:16, the Amorites were among the tribes of Canaan. “Fourth generation” may refer to the great-grandchildren of the Exodus, or the children who were born in Sinai. Nevertheless, God would not give Abraham’s descendants a possession in Canaan until the sin of the inhabitants was ripe for judgment.

God destroyed the Canaanites for their sin. Previously, God had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah by raining fire and brimstone upon the cities, but now God was judging the Canaanites by the hand of Israel. In this way, God’s judgment against Canaan also served as a warning to Israel. They saw firsthand the justice of God because they executed his judgment with their swords, spears, and bows. They knew that God would punish evil because he used them to do it.

When Israel cut off the big toes and thumbs of Adoni-Bezek, he recognized it as God’s justice. God forced him to suffer what he had inflicted upon others. What is our impulse? Do we pity Adoni-Bezek? This man knew who God (Elohim) was; he had seen and heard of the conquests of Joshua. Seeing all this, Adoni-Bezek did not repent. Rather, he inflicted injury upon the kings of the cities he conquered. When God’s justice caught up with him, he could do nothing other than to give God glory. Yet, remorse does not equal repentance. Such is God’s justice that the judged do not quarrel with God. Adoni-Bezek testified of God’s justice only when it was too late. Paul tells us in Romans 2 that at the final judgment the sinner’s conscience will accuse him and everyone will be without excuse.

Paul wrote to the Philippians regarding Christ’s exalted state, saying,

At the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:10, 11 (NIV)

Eventually, we will all come to the same conclusion. Before the throne of Jesus, hubris will melt into humility, and we all will glorify God. While God’s justice is sure, his tender mercy reaches out to intervene. Jesus endured the justice of God in his body upon the cross. He did not suffer for his own sin, but rather “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)

What must we do to claim mercy instead of justice? Peter in Acts 2 and Paul in Romans 10 quote the prophet Joel, saying, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Sounds simple, yet it will change your life. Paul concludes his argument against salvation by human effort saying,

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.

Galatians 6:-14-16 (NIV)

While God’s justice will be confirmed by the law he has written upon our hearts, his mercy comes to us by a new law:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

Romans 8:1-4 (NIV)

Israel executed God’s judgment against the Canaanites only to see God’s judgment executed against them when they turned away from God. In our natural state, we too are incapable of measuring up; nevertheless, Jesus Christ extends to us his mercy by having carried our sins upon the cross. Will we call upon his name?

1 comment:

  1. I'm so grateful for God's mercy. I need to remember this when I'm feeling like "life is not fair"- I would really rather cry out for mercy than justice! (How many times have I tried to explain this to the kids?)