The Levite’s Concubine (2 of 3)

Levite concubine 4

(Continued from yesterday)

Second, the sons of Israel inquired of God three times, each time before they battle against the sons of Benjamin:

Judg 20:18 Now the sons of Israel arose, went up to Bethel, and inquired of God and said, “Who shall go up first for us to battle against the sons of Benjamin?” Then the LORD said, “Judah shall go up first.”
• Judg 20:23 The sons of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until evening, and inquired of the LORD, saying, “Shall we again draw near for battle against the sons of my brother Benjamin?” And the LORD said, “Go up against him.”
• Judg 20:27-28 The sons of Israel inquired of the LORD (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, Aaron’s son, stood before it to minister in those days), saying, “Shall I yet again go out to battle against the sons of my brother Benjamin, or shall I cease?” And the LORD said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hand.”

But note that they had already decided what to do before they inquired of God:
Judg 20:8 Then all the people arose as one man, saying, “Not one of us will go to his tent, nor will any of us return to his house.”
• Judg 20:10 that when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, they may punish them for all the disgraceful acts that they have committed in Israel.
• Judg 20:12 that we may put them to death and remove this wickedness from Israel.

To punish the perpetrators of Gibeah was not wrong, but Israel had determined what to do before bothering to ask God. Their first inquiry was not what they should do, but “who shall go up first“.

Even after God gave them victory on the third day, they swore rash oaths before consulting the Lord:

Judg 21:1 Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpah, saying, “None of us shall give his daughter to Benjamin in marriage.”
• Judg 21:5 Then the sons of Israel said, “Who is there among all the tribes of Israel who did not come up in the assembly to the LORD?” For they had taken a great oath concerning him who did not come up to the LORD at Mizpah, saying, “He shall surely be put to death.”

So while they inquired of God and even wept before Him, their hearts, as betrayed by their actions, were bent on calling the shots themselves and not following Him as Lord.

(To be continued)

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The Levite’s Concubine (1 of 3)

Levite concubine 5

Q. In Judges 19-20, to protect himself from homosexual attack, a Levite pushed his concubine to the wicked men of Gibeah (Benjamites) who raped her to death. He then cut up her body into 12 pieces and sent one piece to each tribe in Israel. This triggered a civil war between the tribe of Benjamin and the rest of Israel. Israel inquired of God and yet was defeated twice before they won. The tribe of Benjamin was almost annihilated. Why would God do this to Israel and Benjamin?

A. No one knows for sure what’s on God’s mind because the Bible did not tell us. Skeptics use this passage to attack God’s character and the Bible’s morality. However, even though we do not know for certain, there are clues for us to deduce a plausible explanation. Similarities exist between this incident and that of Genesis 19, where God destroyed Sodom for her wickedness. Before we question God, let’s note what’s in the text.

First, the broad theme was “in those days, there was no king in Israel“, repeated four times in the text and immediate context:
Judg 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.
• Judg 18:1 In those days there was no king of Israel;
• Judg 19:1 Now it came about in those days, when there was no king in Israel,
• Judg 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

The meaning of “no king” is not only literal, but also “no King” figuratively, i.e. no recognition of God, as “every man did what was right in his own eyes”. No one acknowledged God as Lord of their lives, and did as he pleased. The biblical principles on our relationship with God are:

Jas 4:8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you, and
• 2 Tim 2:12 If we deny Him, He also will deny us.

It wasn’t God did not care, but men ignored God. So God gave them over to impurity, degrading passions, and a depraved mind:

Rom 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity,
• Rom 1:26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions;
• Rom 1:28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind,

and allowed them to suffer the consequences of their action. This is exactly what happened in Judges 19-20.

(To be continued)

Cheltenham Badlands

Our daughter told us that the Ontario Heritage Trust will fence off the Cheltenham Badlands in Caledon at the end of May, so that they can figure out how to preserve them. Although we have lived in Toronto nearly four decades, we have never visited this site less than an hour’s drive away. So we took a day trip to see what it is like before they are closed to tourists for at least a few years.

The place resembled the barren terrain on another planet, say Mars, in sci-fi movies – without vegetation, but with reddish soil in round mounds and gullies. Geologists identify the rock as Queenston shale, exposed and rounded by water and wind erosion. The red comes from the iron oxide, parts of which turned green by ground water.

Some believe the badlands started as a raised river bed turned into farmland. Over-grazing some 80 years ago stripped the area of vegetation. Without tree and grass roots to hold the soil in place, the top soil soon got washed away, exposing the underlying shale which does not support plant life, and gradually eroded to its current form.

I hope your church is not like the badlands, started out fertile but the faithful workers burned out through overwork and under-supported. With the faithful core gone, there is no one to hold the crowd together. Gradually they also thinned out. What’s left is only a barren landscape, devoid of life. I hope your church is a vibrant community instead, full of life and vitality. Pray that it will be so.

Cheltenham Badlands in Caledon

Cheltenham Badlands in Caledon

Badlands formed by water and wind erosion exposing the underlying shale

Badlands formed by water and wind erosion exposing the underlying shale

The reddish soil is due to iron oxide deposits. The greenish patches are caused by ground water turning the iron oxide green.

The reddish soil is due to iron oxide deposits. The greenish patches are caused by ground water turning the iron oxide green.

Taipei Zoo

On our last day we visited Taipei Zoo, smaller than Toronto’s Metro Zoo but the largest zoo in Asia. Too bad the Maokong Gondola is closed but the zoo is still worth a visit. We finished the day with dinner at the famous Din Tai Fung, more expensive and with long lineups, but wanted to see if they live up to their reputation. It’s pretty good, but I still prefer Cantonese over northern food.

There are many beautiful places to visit in Taiwan, such as Taroko Gorge National Park in the east, Kenting National Park in the south etc., but that would have to await another time.

Taipei Zoo

Taipei Zoo

Resting on a tortoise

Resting on a tortoise

Mimicking a penguin

Mimicking a penguin

Fake cage

Fake cage

That's as close as we can get to a wood duck before it flew away

That’s as close as we can get to a wood duck before it flew away

Hippo

Hippo

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Noah's Ark

Noah’s Ark

IMG_7051

Xiaolongbao at famed Din Tai Fung

Spicy beef noodle

Two Memorial Halls

We visited two memorial halls, Sun Yat-sen, Father of the Nation, and Chiang Kai-shek, former president of Republic of China. Of the two, the latter is a better known landmark sitting in Liberty Square together with the National Concert Hall and the National Theater. Sun overthrew the Qing Dynasty and introduced democracy to China. Chiang fought the regional warlords, the Japanese during WWII, and then the Chinese Communist Party.

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall

West entrance mural

West entrance mural

Statute in main hall

Statute in main hall

Statute in west garden

Statute in west garden

National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

Statute in main hall

Statute in main hall

National Theatre

National Theatre

Yilan

Our friends took us to Yilan (宜蘭) on the Taiwan’s north-east coast. En-route we visited Gold Waterfall, so-called because the minerals in the water gleamed in the sunlight. We stopped at Nanya Peculiar Stones, so named because wind and water eroded the sandstone to peculiar shapes of rich color. Next we passed by Nanyang Museum, then visited National Center for Traditional Arts, which was quite interesting with shops and displays of the old way of life, plus music performance. The day ended with a sumptuous 9-course Japanese fusion meal for about C$35/person, taxes and tips included. Beautiful scenery, enjoyable company, nice weather, good food – what more can one ask for? Thank God for His goodness!

Gold Waterfall near Gold Ecological Park

Nanya Peculiar Stones

Nanya Peculiar Stones

Without our friends as guides we would have missed a very scenic place.

Without our friends as guides we would have missed a very scenic place.

Rocks with rich color along the coast

Rocks with rich color along the coast

The golden hue is due to the iron within the rock oxidizing - fool's gold, not real gold.

The golden hue is due to the iron within the rock oxidizing – fool’s gold, not real gold.

Nanyang Museum exhibits Yilan's history

Nanyang Museum exhibits Yilan’s history

National Center for Traditional Arts

National Center for Traditional Arts

Sweet tooth? (NT$100=C$4)

Sweet tooth? (NT$100=C$4)

Making dragon whiskers candy

Making dragon whiskers candy

New Friends, New Places

Our friend introduced us to her god-brother in Taipei. He and his wife are very friendly and hospitable, and drove us around to scenic spots near Keelung in north-east Taiwan, places not easily accessible by public transit. The scenery along Hwy 2 on the Pacific coast is very beautiful, with places you can recognize in movies sets and TV drama. Here are some photos:

Enjoying coffee at a Ruifang hill-top cafe overlooking the Pacific Ocean

Enjoying coffee at a Ruifang hill top cafe overlooking the Pacific Ocean

White House Aegean Sea Cafe

White House Aegean Sea Cafe

Ocean side park

Ocean side park

Keelung night market

Keelung night market

As Keelung is a seaport its specialty is seafood.

As Keelung is a seaport its specialty is seafood.

We tried many new foods, including this Taiwanese specialty we can't even pronounce.

We tried many new foods, including this Taiwanese specialty we can’t even pronounce.

Another famous dish - crab stew and sticky rice

Another famous dish – crab stew and sticky rice

Charcoal broiled corn with Shacha sauce

Charcoal broiled corn with Shacha sauce