In 2013, shortly before taking her last breath, raped Bredasdorp teenager, Anene Booysen, said she was tired and was going to go to sleep.
Anene’s biological mother had died when she was very young and she was taken in by another family who raised her as their own, despite serious financial problems. Anene had to leave school in Grade 7 to help support the family. One Friday night, Anene had gone to a pub, about six blocks from her home.
The next morning, she was found at a building site brutally raped, and abused and injured. Anene’s fingers and legs were broken, and besides other heinous injuries, she was disemboweled. A horrific crime.
Gender-based violence is a huge scourge in our country, especially considering that men are called to respect, love, care for and protect women, not rape, abuse, neglect and kill them.
There are no doubt sociological factors that contribute to these horrific crimes, but there are more than sociological factors involved. There is an abandonment of the God of the Bible and lack of godly leadership. And where a society abandons God and lacks godly leaders, it leads to crime, abuse, sin and evil.
This was true in Israel, during the time of the Judges:
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)
The King in Israel would ideally be a godly king who ruled God’s way over God’s people. As there was no king and thus no centralized leadership, each person did what he saw fit. The lack of leadership created an environment where sin and evil abounded.
In Ch.19-21 we read of gang rape, the abuse and murder of women, dishonour, lying, revenge, kidnapping and the mass-slaughter of innocents.
One can scarcely believe these chapters are in the Bible.
What caused this moral bankruptcy?
Israel had largely abandoned the One True God and adopted the practices and worldview of the Canaanites. There was no godly king to lead them God’s way.
When a society abandons God and his Word, democracy determines morality. What most people think is best, wins the day – even if it dishonours God.
What did Israel need? God.
Israel needed God to rule over them through a king.
Many years later, Israel got that king and King David was probably their best king. But even King David messed up. He himself committed adultery and murder. He did what was right in his own eyes.
What Israel (and we) needed was an even better king. A perfect king. A king who can deal with people’s sin. A king who will always live under God’s rule.
A king who can change our hearts.
The good news of the Bible is that such a king has come.
Jesus lived a perfect life and died for sin, so that we may be forgiven, cleansed and renewed. Through Jesus, God gives us new hearts and God’s Law is now written on our hearts.
If we’re Christians, we discover that we want to obey God’s Law and that we hate sin and evil.
However, in the absence of a king in the time of the Judges, everyone did what was right in their own eyes.
You may not necessarily be a mass-murderer, or a rapist, or an abuser of women (you may be, but you may not be); either way, you and I have failed morally at one time or another.
The miracle at the end of the book of Judges is that Israel still exists, despite all her failures and faithlessness.
Israel exists because God perseveres in forgiveness and grace.
This is a great encouragement!
Perhaps, you’re a Christian and you’ve messed up morally? There is forgiveness and grace at the cross of Christ.
Perhaps, you’re not a Christian. You’ve never experienced God’s forgiveness and grace and you still bear the burden and shame of moral failure? There is forgiveness and grace at the cross of Christ.
In a world where six billion people do what’s right in their own eyes, it leads to all manner of evil, sin and horrific crime; Christians, on the other hand, seek to do what’s right in God’s eyes.
Jesus is our King and we live to honour him, not ourselves. When we do mess up, like Israel, like King David, we know there is forgiveness and grace at the cross.