Oh the high cost of sin! One of the truths of the Bible is that God will judge sin. God hates sin. He is holy and righteous, and will not tolerate sin in his people. He hates how sin ruins the human heart. He hates how sin breaks relationship between people. He hates how sin leads to horrible consequences. But more than this, God hates sin because at the core our rebellion is against God and His goodness and grace. It is out of the hatred for evil that God judges. But, sometimes, we look at situations and don’t think God is judging sin. We might wonder when God is going to zap a group of people because of their rebellion, and it never seems to happen. . . or does it?
There are times in the Bible when God’s judgement is quick and very evident. God sent fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). He flooded the world in the time of Noah. He instantly killed Annanias and Sapphira for lying to Him (Acts 5:1-11). On the other hand, there are times in the Bible where God’s judgement involves the removal of His protection. The outcome is the slow but very true reality that when we are left to our own sin we will implode. This is one of those stories.
This story may have been hard to understand, but here is the basic idea. Abimelech was one of Gideon’s sons (notice they have begun calling Gideon, Jerub-Baal, which is his pagan name). Abimelech promised wealth and a wonderful life if the people of Shechem would make him the new ruler and get rid of all his competition. The people responded by catching the rest of Gideon’s sons and killing them. Only the youngest brother survived. They did all this so they could worship other gods, and live life as they pleased. Abimelech’s greed, and the people’s wickedness had come together to commit a horrible crime, the murder of 70 people.
Verse 23 tells us that God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem. Since both Abimelech and the people of Shechem had wicked hearts, and had done such a terrible thing, God allowed them to be ruled by a demonic spirit. Their relationship was destroyed, and they turned on one another. The people of Shechem found a new leader, a man named Gaal. In two separate battles, Abimelech’s armies annihilated the new leader and the entire city of Shechem. He burned down the city and killed all the inhabitants. Then he turned on another city, but in that conquest, a lady dropped a millstone out of a window and fractured his skull. As he was dying, he asked one of his servants to run him through, because he didn’t want to be humiliated by being killed by a woman. What started with a little greed and idolatry, led to murder, and ended with total destruction of all the people involved. And they did it to themselves. The lived with the consequences of their own sin. But realize, sometimes God’s judgement comes subtly, by people living with the consequences of sin as God removes the grace that keeps them from experiencing the deep consequences of their evil.
We see this every day. Our society doesn’t believe God is judging sin, but we live with the horrible consequences of sinful choices. Violence in our schools, drunk driving accidents, AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, gangs, drug addiction. . . These are all symptoms of a greater sin problem in our society. People who are involved sinful behaviors think they are “getting away with it”, but in reality, their lives go down the tubes. God may not zap them, but they experience the effects of God’s judgement just the same.
The only remedy for our sin is the cross. As we repent and look to Jesus’ death in our place for our sin, we receive grace rather than justice, mercy rather than judgment. And while we may experience the consequences of sin, God will even make this beautiful and redeem it for His glory and our good.