The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight,
but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness.
How does the gymnast on the balance beam keep her balance? For one thing she keeps her head straight and eyes focused. To stay on the straight path, we must keep our head straight, following the righteous laws and commands of Scripture. Such laws steady us and keep us on the right track.
Even so, the very laws and commands of Scripture can be unnerving if we depend upon them to make us blameless. Indeed, they expose our wickedness. Whereas, we may have walked confidently in our illusion of self-righteousness, they unsettle us and tip us off the beam.
Our help, then, is found in Christ, our Righteousness. Stay focused on him. Keep your eyes upon him, upon the work he has already done for you in laying the path and placing you on it. Look to him now as he intercedes for you, as his Spirit steadies you. Look to the final destination where he will stand ready to bring you into glory. The wicked have only their own wits to help them navigate a treacherous world. The righteous have Christ, the Son of God, who is Lord over all to take them through the dangers of this world and bring them safely to glory. Keep focused.
18 In those days Israel had no king.
And in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking a place of their own where they might settle, because they had not yet come into an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. 2 So the Danites sent five of their leading men from Zorah and Eshtaol to spy out the land and explore it. These men represented all the Danites. They told them, ‘Go, explore the land.’
So they entered the hill country of Ephraim and came to the house of Micah, where they spent the night. 3 When they were near Micah’s house, they recognised the voice of the young Levite; so they turned in there and asked him, ‘Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? Why are you here?’
4 He told them what Micah had done for him, and said, ‘He has hired me and I am his priest.’
5 Then they said to him, ‘Please enquire of God to learn whether our journey will be successful.’
6 The priest answered them, ‘Go in peace. Your journey has the Lord’s approval.’
7 So the five men left and came to Laish, where they saw that the people were living in safety, like the Sidonians, at peace and secure. And since their land lacked nothing, they were prosperous. Also, they lived a long way from the Sidonians and had no relationship with anyone else.
8 When they returned to Zorah and Eshtaol, their fellow Danites asked them, ‘How did you find things?’
9 They answered, ‘Come on, let’s attack them! We have seen the land, and it is very good. Aren’t you going to do something? Don’t hesitate to go there and take it over. 10 When you get there, you will find an unsuspecting people and a spacious land that God has put into your hands, a land that lacks nothing whatever.’
11 Then six hundred men of the Danites, armed for battle, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol. 12 On their way they set up camp near Kiriath Jearim in Judah. This is why the place west of Kiriath Jearim is called Mahaneh Dan to this day. 13 From there they went on to the hill country of Ephraim and came to Micah’s house.
14 Then the five men who had spied out the land of Laish said to their fellow Danites, ‘Do you know that one of these houses has an ephod, some household gods and an image overlaid with silver? Now you know what to do.’ 15 So they turned in there and went to the house of the young Levite at Micah’s place and greeted him. 16 The six hundred Danites, armed for battle, stood at the entrance of the gate. 17 The five men who had spied out the land went inside and took the idol, the ephod and the household gods while the priest and the six hundred armed men stood at the entrance of the gate.
18 When the five men went into Micah’s house and took the idol, the ephod and the household gods, the priest said to them, ‘What are you doing?’
19 They answered him, ‘Be quiet! Don’t say a word. Come with us, and be our father and priest. Isn’t it better that you serve a tribe and clan in Israel as priest rather than just one man’s household?’ 20 The priest was very pleased. He took the ephod, the household gods and the idol and went along with the people. 21 Putting their little children, their livestock and their possessions in front of them, they turned away and left.
22 When they had gone some distance from Micah’s house, the men who lived near Micah were called together and overtook the Danites. 23 As they shouted after them, the Danites turned and said to Micah, ‘What’s the matter with you that you called out your men to fight?’
24 He replied, ‘You took the gods I made, and my priest, and went away. What else do I have? How can you ask, “What’s the matter with you?”’
25 The Danites answered, ‘Don’t argue with us, or some of the men may get angry and attack you, and you and your family will lose your lives.’ 26 So the Danites went their way, and Micah, seeing that they were too strong for him, turned round and went back home.
27 Then they took what Micah had made, and his priest, and went on to Laish, against a people at peace and secure. They attacked them with the sword and burned down their city. 28 There was no one to rescue them because they lived a long way from Sidon and had no relationship with anyone else. The city was in a valley near Beth Rehob.
The Danites rebuilt the city and settled there. 29 They named it Dan after their ancestor Dan, who was born to Israel – though the city used to be called Laish. 30 There the Danites set up for themselves the idol, and Jonathan son of Gershom, the son of Moses, and his sons were priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the captivity of the land. 31 They continued to use the idol Micah had made, all the time the house of God was in Shiloh.
A Levite and his concubine
19 In those days Israel had no king.
Now a Levite who lived in a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. 2 But she was unfaithful to him. She left him and went back to her parents’ home in Bethlehem, Judah. After she had been there for four months, 3 her husband went to her to persuade her to return. He had with him his servant and two donkeys. She took him into her parents’ home, and when her father saw him, he gladly welcomed him. 4 His father-in-law, the woman’s father, prevailed on him to stay; so he remained with him three days, eating and drinking, and sleeping there.
5 On the fourth day they got up early and he prepared to leave, but the woman’s father said to his son-in-law, ‘Refresh yourself with something to eat; then you can go.’ 6 So the two of them sat down to eat and drink together. Afterwards the woman’s father said, ‘Please stay tonight and enjoy yourself.’ 7 And when the man got up to go, his father-in-law persuaded him, so he stayed there that night. 8 On the morning of the fifth day, when he rose to go, the woman’s father said, ‘Refresh yourself. Wait till afternoon!’ So the two of them ate together.
9 Then when the man, with his concubine and his servant, got up to leave, his father-in-law, the woman’s father, said, ‘Now look, it’s almost evening. Spend the night here; the day is nearly over. Stay and enjoy yourself. Early tomorrow morning you can get up and be on your way home.’ 10 But, unwilling to stay another night, the man left and went towards Jebus (that is, Jerusalem), with his two saddled donkeys and his concubine.
11 When they were near Jebus and the day was almost gone, the servant said to his master, ‘Come, let’s stop at this city of the Jebusites and spend the night.’
12 His master replied, ‘No. We won’t go into any city whose people are not Israelites. We will go on to Gibeah.’ 13 He added, ‘Come, let’s try to reach Gibeah or Ramah and spend the night in one of those places.’ 14 So they went on, and the sun set as they neared Gibeah in Benjamin. 15 There they stopped to spend the night. They went and sat in the city square, but no one took them in for the night.
16 That evening an old man from the hill country of Ephraim, who was living in Gibeah (the inhabitants of the place were Benjaminites), came in from his work in the fields. 17 When he looked and saw the traveller in the city square, the old man asked, ‘Where are you going? Where did you come from?’
18 He answered, ‘We are on our way from Bethlehem in Judah to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim where I live. I have been to Bethlehem in Judah and now I am going to the house of the Lord. No one has taken me in for the night. 19 We have both straw and fodder for our donkeys and bread and wine for ourselves your servants – me, the woman and the young man with us. We don’t need anything.’
20 ‘You are welcome at my house,’ the old man said. ‘Let me supply whatever you need. Only don’t spend the night in the square.’ 21 So he took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After they had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink.
22 While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, ‘Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.’
23 The owner of the house went outside and said to them, ‘No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this outrageous thing. 24 Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But as for this man, don’t do such an outrageous thing.’
25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. 26 At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.
27 When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, ‘Get up; let’s go.’ But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.
29 When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. 30 Everyone who saw it was saying to one another, ‘Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Just imagine! We must do something! So speak up!’