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Feb 11, 2015

90 Day Challenge – Day 42

Sarah Christmyer

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Bible Time Period: Conquest and Judges

You led Israel triumphantly into the Promised Land.  They failed to teach their children, and instead did what was right in their own eyes: Help me to keep my eyes on you and teach others what is truly right.


The rest of Judges forms an epilogue that describes two incidents that most likely took place toward the start of the period.  Take note of the phrase that flanks this section (17:6 and 21:25).

We will not be reading the book of Ruth during this 90-day challenge, but if you are familiar with the love story you might be interested to know that it is set during this time in Israel’s history.  It provides a welcome counterpoint to the closing chapters of Judges as it shows a Moabite woman forsaking the gods of Moab to faithfully serve Yahweh, God of Israel.  Ruth appears in the genealogy of Jesus.  She is in many ways what Israel was called to be.

Today’s Reading

Judges 17-21

Today’s Question

Did going their own way lead to freedom for Israel, or to something else? What is the cost of doing “what is right in your own eyes”?

Join the discussion below!

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  • Going their own way lead the Israelites away from God. The cost of doing “what is right in your own eyes” is death and destruction. I have seen this happen in little ways in my own life. When I do what I think is right and not what I know God’s commands tell us, I am led into trouble, confusion, and disruption, and sin. It is only when I turn back to God and reconcile by making a good Act of Contrition and by receiving the Sacrament of Penance do I make things right with God. That is why it is necessary for me to pray, meditate on the Word of God, receive the Sacraments, and lead the best life I can that I notice the signs of God being with me around me. The thing I noticed particularly in this section was that it kept saying the people had no one to lead them. Thank God, God the Father had mercy on us and sent us His Son, Jesus to be Savior for the world. We can have peace beyond understanding, we can be reconciled with God without fighting and killing and cleansing and purifying those around us. Jesus has done that for us, once and for all. What a good way to begin to prepare for the Holy Season of Lent that is fast approaching us. Let us take time to thank God for the gift of His Son, and for the bloodless purification process before us-Lent.

    • Thank you for pointing out the phrase, “the people had no one to lead them”; how that must have grieved God, He was to be their leader, their King. Help me Lord to recognize my true leader!

  • “Doing what was right in their own eyes” did not lead to freedom but rather destruction. I’m sure they did not think they were doing the wrong thing and it wasn’t until they had almost obliterated one of the tribes that they realized what they were doing and somewhat came to their senses. It illustrates how one mans’ sin (the Levite who took for himself a concubine from Bethlehem of Judah) multiplied into the situation that caused the Benjamites to be almost wiped out. For sure, there were many other sins committed, who were these men from Gibeah that they would act so wickedly? And why did the Benjamites not take them to task for their behavior. The term chaos rules come to my mind or as the Bible put it “everyone did as he thought best”. Sin is not committed in isolation but affects the entire community!

  • “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 21:25. This phrase resonates throughout these final chapters as if a song of lament is being sung before or after each chapter. in earlier times, the people only needed God’s Word through His covenant and commandments. What happened? How did this type of thinking get to this extreme? Perhaps, God was teaching the people a lesson about how not to think on their own when it came to their spiritual wellbeing.
    If we are left to our whiles, smugness and self righteousness will creep into the folds of this false mantle and justify all that we do is right. For instance, I can cause a car wreck and look upon that as “it’s not my fault!”; let someone else take the blame!
    We need God plain and simple. We need His commandments and covenant, we need Him.
    The devil will work his way like a boll weevil that can utterly destroy cotton crop from within. I experienced that while reading these last pages of the Book of Judges. This is war!!! You hear that, Satan? God protect me with my battles that I fight in order to be with You..

    • Ephesians 6:10–12
      The Whole Armor of God
      10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

      We can put on this Armor through trying to root out sinful patterns in our own lives. And praying before the cross intercessory prayers for others and ourselves. Then leading the best life we can according to our ability.

      • Here is a good Warfare Prayer putting on the Whole Armor of God:
        Dear Lord,
        I put the helmet of salvation on my head and I ask you to protect my mind from anxiety, depression and stress.
        I put the breastplate of righteousness on my heart and I ask you to protect my spiritual heart and my physical heart from all harmful feelings entering in.
        I put the belt of truth around my waist and I ask you to help me to know your Word and to hide it in my heart.
        I put the Gospel of peace on my feet and I ask you to help me to bring the Gospel of peace wherever I would go this day.
        I lift up the shield of faith against the fiery darts that the evil one would try to bring against me.
        I lift up the sword of the Word and I use your Word against all the forces of evil in my life.
        I put on the armor and I live and I pray in complete dependence upon you. You are the God of all hope. You have proven your power by resurrecting Jesus Christ from the dead and I claim in every way this victory over all of the satanic forces of evil in my life and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ with thanksgiving and I cover myself with the precious blood of Jesus.

        • Thank you, Rosi…your timing is perfect…with just the prayer I need at this moment. Thanks be to God!!

          • A friend of mine gave it to me. I believe she composed it. I have handed out many, many copies over the years. Thank-you. We certainly need St Michael defending us and we need especially to put on our armor each day!

          • Well I’ll be handing it out too! I pray to St. Michael daily. Do you mind if I post it on the Catholic Professionals group on LinkedIn?

          • I would be happy if you did that! The more people praying and spiritually armored the less power satan has! We are all in this battle together. I am not very computer literate….have no idea how LinkedIn works……so, please…if it can get out to more people, feel free to do it. Thank-you and God bless you!!!

          • I also shared this prayer with my bible study group at Immaculate Conception Parish in Somerville, NJ. BTW, we are all eagerly awaiting the arrival of Jeff Cavins this Saturday, Feb 21… Timeline in a Day…

          • Thank you for sharing the prayer. Wish I could join you for the Timeline in a Day. Unfortunately it is to far away. I live in Salem, Oregon.

          • Well I lift up in prayer all my wonderful fellow travelers on this 90 Day journey.

  • “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in their own sight.” Going their own way brought just the opposite of freedom to Israel. It turned it into a chaotic land of lawlessness in which everyone became a prisoner to each other. The blind leading the blind into a vicious cycle of sin and disorder is not freedom. Freedom is not being free to do whatever you choose without regard for others…but rather a commitment to a society that promotes individual choice while abiding by a mutual set of legal and ethical principles.

    May we all continue to live in a land that promotes freedom of choice while at the same time never losing sight of the mutual legal, ethical, and spiritual rules that bind our society. May we all also continue to do right through the eyes of our God rather than in our own sight as well. For this is the way, the only way, that we will live in peace and harmony together. This is the only way we will truly be free.

  • Everyone did what was right in their own eyes. They were clearly lost because they not know God. I can only imagine the chaotic lives they lived. In my own life, when I loose focus on God I become confused.

  • Several years ago, it was at this point in the Bible Timeline study that a woman slammed her Bible shut and said, “That’s enough! This is too violent and I don’t want to participate any more.” No amount of encouragement could change her mind. I’ve always regretted the attrition that occurs, for various reasons, during the course of these disciplined studies. In the case of this woman, I wish she had been open to the exegetical methods the Catholic Church lays out in the Catechism.
    I have come to understand that the very lives of some of these people, particularly prophets and judges, are outward manifestations of interior realities: spiritual corruption, slavery to sin, etc. In the case of the concubine, I see it as a terrible example of how degenerate people become, to the point of destroying not just the individual but the collective soul of society, when we choose to go our own ways/do what is right in our own eyes.
    The First Letter of John 3:17, answers Cain’s question (Gen. 4:1-10), “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Yes; yes we are called to be our brothers keepers. We are called to serve each other, support and protect each other, love each other. When every person does what is right in their own eyes, the value and dignity of life is diminished.

    • What a difference a few years makes. I am takeing the Bible Timeline study and the reaction was “I fear for our country” I too have said this is too violent. I don’t want to participate anymore then I canceled my cable. Perhaps both of us are wrong. I find these chapters of the Bible easier to read than the daily news.

      • I used to think the Old Testament had too many horrible bits and
        cherry-picked the bits I liked. Following this study has helped my
        focus in that because there is a point of discussion, I tend to stop and
        think, instead of tut tutting or saying eek. Thanks to the Holy
        Spirit, each time I hit a horrible bit, my mind immediately leaps to
        similar things that still happen today. It is sad to reflect that the
        things I judged too horrible in the Old Testament, are the same, or not
        as bad as what happens in the world today. What the Old Testament does
        (that our media cannot do) is give us hope in a merciful God.

      • I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, pinkyB4. I recite the prayer to St. Michael every day to keep my mind and thoughts focused on God. God bless you.

        • That’s a very good prayer to keep in our spiritual arsenal. We always pray to St Michael at our Cursillo meetings.

    • Very well said, Kerry.

      I am also one who has struggled through reading the OT because of all the violence.

      But the deeper my faith has become, the easier time I am having. Because interspersed amidst the violence are such awesome pearls of wisdom and insights that if you skim through these books too quickly, you can miss out on so much rich material! The themes of trusting God, He is with us always, and all the beautiful blessings, just to name a few. I also become more aware of the fact that (unfortunately) human nature hasn’t changed very much in the past couple millennia. But then, God hasn’t changed either. He is still loving, faithful and forgiving. In general, humans haven’t learned from their mistakes. But the bible and the history within are timeless. And therefore, we, God’s chosen ones, whose eyes are opened by the Spirit of Truth, CAN learn. Which makes us better disciples.

        • Well, if you knew my story… I can attest firsthand to the God of Hope.

          And for those of us who cringe and struggle through the violence, please take the time to read the story of Ruth. Four little chapters sandwiched in between the end of Judges and the beginning of 1 Samuel. It is a refreshing reprieve and represents that which gives me Hope.

          • I love the story of Ruth – and it brings to mind how faithful so many women are despite, or maybe because of, the struggles they endured through a culture hostile toward them. Another story I love, which we will probably touch in during the Exile period, is that of Esther. “For such a time as this….”

          • Yes, the stories of women of faith in the bible are very inspirational, so evident in their strength, courage, faith and devotion to the Lord.

  • I noticed that the first story showed corruption of the religious leaders. The story of Micah shows that Levites instead of teaching and leading from their cities located within the territory each tribe, they are selling themselves to the highest bidder. Instead of reprimanding Micah. the Levite joins him in corruption for a nice living. By the end of the Chapter the Israelites are on their way to Gehenna in a handbasket. They are quarreling among them selves.
    This brings to mind the dissention we have today among Catholics. Vatican II brought about a breed of Catholics known as “Cafeteria Catholics” who took from Vatican II just what they wanted and twisted it to their own advantage. I frankly see little difference in the people of today and the Israelites of old.

    • Respectfully, Barbara, I don’t accuse the Second Vatican Council of breeding “Cafeteria Catholics” – this phenomenon is due, I believe, to the prevailing culture – specifically the rise of individualism in the U.S., among other notions in the post-modern world.
      The Second Vatican Council has been largely misunderstood, and yes, people in the Church – the clerics and the laity – have misinterpreted, misrepresented and ignored the initiatives meant to strengthen the Church, bring about fuller worship, and educate, empower and encourage the laity toward more fruitful discipleship.

      • I am not accusing of breeding “Cafeteria Catholics” they were there all along. What I am saying is that “Cafeteria Catholics” both in the laity and Clergy deliberately mislead many Catholics they were aided and abetted by the media. Had we not had the strong leadership of Blessed Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict) I don’t know what would have happened. I do not accredit this to individualism but lack of it. We just want to go along with the rest of society.

        • Sorry – I misunderstood what you meant when you wrote “Vatican II brought about a breed of Catholics….” I certainly agree with what you say about Popes JPII and Benedict. To my point: individualism is a product of the larger society, though, in its most negative form. I am not referring to each disciple using his/her gifts and talents to advance the Kingdom….

  • Hello,making the wrong choices obviously led them off track, jumping forward to my life and the choices I made, hindsight is a wonderful thing. Am doing the GA James study now and notice the correlation in the Bible of words spoken that led great consequences for Israel. So too have I greatly erred. Choices-good-bad,right-wrong–evil, before making the choice I should have asked for Gods help to make the correct choice.

      • I am assuming Jerry means the Great Adventure Bible study by Jeff Cavins & Sarah Christmyer, “James: Pearls for Wise Living”. I particularly love the wisdom of “taming the tongue” found in Chapter 3… imagine… blessings and curses from the same mouth… Our words are so powerful (for better or for worse). And keep in mind that God’s Word is the MOST powerful…

      • The Great Adventure bible study by Jeff Cavins and Sarah Christmyer. We are in session 5 , being given in our parish in Shakoppee MN. It is great,thanks

  • I agree with all the our insightful comments. What I particularly noticed was that some of the Israelites who remained faithful, started on a course of action without consulting God first. They decided to fight, before the 1st battle they asked for God’s help to do what they wanted. At the 3rd battle they gained their victory (which does show steadfastness) but after the battle they all took an oath without consulting God and then Chap 21:15 it says “The people had regrets about Benjamin because the LORD had made a breach among the tribes of Israel.” Talk about not examining consciences! We have Israelites unfaithful to God, including His chosen priesthood and the faithful, forgetting to put everything in the hands of God and then blaming God for the decision they made without Him!

    As for the above, as others have said it still happens today. I know that doing what is right in my own eyes simply doesn’t work. My problem seems to be working out, whose eyes am I doing right in, so I often discover that I am doing right in my eyes and not in God’s. Sometimes I think I am rushing around in ever decreasing circles wearing myself out, whilst God is gently shaking His head and saying “Here we go again, I never asked her to do that” or “Why is she fretting, I won’t ask her to do that” or “I asked her to move a pebble, so why is she pushing at a boulder?” Fortunately the message that God is divinely patient, merciful and loving seems to be a constant thread in the Bible and in the lives and writings of the saints.

  • I was horrified when I read “… he entered his house, he took a knife, and laying hold of his concubine he divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel.” So he ‘sent her throughout the land,’ it was as if he were treating her as if she were still alive! He wanted to deliver a message to all the other tribes – and that he did! He certainly did by managing to stir up all the Israelites into going against one of their tribes and attacking the Benjaminites. Had he gone about things differently by asking God what he should do, maybe things would have taken a different course altogether. In our lives today, we must remember how we deliver our stories to others. How we speak to other people may be said in a very gentle manner or may be said in a very angry manner that may provoke and stir up our loved ones to sin by committing a sinful act. We must take the time to stop, reflect, and pray. Amen

  • The readings for today remind me that we need God, our Father is our lives more than ever.
    The stories from these chapters can fit in quite nicely in today’s world. Without spiritual guidance our lives would be off balance. God’s Word grounds us to stay on the straight and narrow.

    These chapters demonstrate the work of the devil burrowing deeply in one’s idle mind. Can the tribes of Israel do it on their own? Can we do it on our own? No. We need Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.

  • Thank you for all of you for the comments. I have learned a lot by just reading it. As for today’s reading, I fell we are very fortunate that we have this bible study to get to know what is consequence if we do “what is right in your own eyes” without God’s guidance.

  • February 12 St. Apollonia pray for us! (d. 249)
    Emperor Philip was emperor during the time of the persecutions of the Christians in Alexandria. Metrius, an old man was tortured and stoned to death. Quinta, a Christian woman, refused to worship their false idols. She was stoned to death. Most Christians fled the city, leaving their worldly possessions behind. Apollonia was taken into captivity. The crowds beat her. They knocked out all of her teeth. They lit a large fire and told her to curse God and threatened to throw her in it. She jumped into it and became a martyr. She is patroness of dentists and people suffering from toothaches and other dental diseases. St. Augustine tells us that her voluntary martyrdom is a special inspiration of the Holy Spirit since no one is allowed to cause his or her own death.

  • By going their own way and leaving the kinship of Yahweh they lost all they had and continued the downward cycle for themselves. A person, people or nation can follow personal moral or cultural codes of morality, but that concept loses it’s objectivity if God is not present. If a good person lives a good life it is to be commended. But it would be better to do it in the way God wishes, rather than in your, their or our own way. Without God Goodness can be relative to a person or society- there are many evil people that think highly of themselves, so morality can’t come from the individual and it must transcend society as well. So if we believe there is a standard for what a good person is that transcends time, place and culture, then logically that would have to be a supremely good or perfect person that transcends time place and culture or what we (and they) would call God. There are objective moral truths that only God can account for. You cannot appeal to your own life as proof, but must find out how Christ describes His church, and then look for that church.

  • The sandwich phrase, “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” tells us that something is coming that is noteworthy (a future king) and that there is no central worship or obedience to one deity – the Lord God – and that it chaos had ensued as everyone did what they felt was right to themselves. This splintered allegiance causes trouble over time.

    • I think of what the Bible says–(Hebrews 3: 15) “If today you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Ephesians 4:14—“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” (1 Corinthians 2:9) ” However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him–”

      1 John 4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

      1 John 3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

      Proverbs 8:17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.

      Psalm 136:26 Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.

      Hebrews 12:28-29 Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.

  • Yes I agree these are violent stories where everyone is a law to himself instead of following God. The corruption begins with witchcraft that puts satan above God. Judges reminds me of Sodom and Gomorrah when Lot was giving hospitality to an angel and the men of the city wanted him and Lot said take my daughters instead of doing this vile thing. The Benjamites sound like the Sodomites. How blind man becomes without God. The devil’s work is to put blinders on peoples eyes. He is the father of lies.

  • I began to learn the corruption of this society with Micah, who stole pieces f silver from his mother, confessed, then witnessed his mother turn the silver into an idol for them to worship. I seem to understand, that this is an example how several households at this time lost their direction from God’s laws and did “what they thought was right.” As time passes children learn from their parents, who pass it on to their children. If there are no teachings of the Lord’s way, a society may inevitably self-implode. Finally, when it appeared that an entire tribe was wiped out, society scrambled to see what could be done. The Benjaminites struggled to be saved from extinction, and as the final statement concludes; Ch.21:25. “In those days there was no king in Israel, every man did what was right in his own eyes.” Like children, who are abandoned by their parents, they will struggle the best way they can, because to them it is right in their own eyes.”

    • Like you said, I have heard that we would be surprised to know how closely children watch what we do and learn to imitate what we do.

  • Going their own way was not a problem; It’s when false gods (leaders) lead from the human side of things and not through the Lord that lead them to sin (killing), which they found as being powerful. We are there today, but in difference ways seeking power and a name. It is still an all about “me” life rather than opening our hearts to God.

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