During a battle recorded in Judges 20, two times the Israelites prayed and asked God if they should fight the Tribe of Benjamin. Both times God said, yes. Both times they were defeated, proving obedience does not guarantee victory.
The Israelites couldn’t figure out the loses. They asked. God said fight. They fought. They were defeated.
God didn’t guarantee victory. He just told them what to do.
As the Israelites discovered through this battle, obedience does not guarantee victory. Nor does it guarantee our desired outcome. Sometimes the purpose of obedience is to teach us faithfulness to God’s directions.
After suffering severe losses both days of battle, the Israelites once again asked God if they should fight the next day. God said, yes, adding, “I will see to it that you defeat the men of Benjamin.”
Often, I believe, our default is to expect our desired outcome because we are obedient. Have you ever felt that way? As we see with the Israelites, although they prayed for direction and did what God said, victory was not granted until the third time they went to battle.
While writing this post I thought of Elisabeth and Jim Elliot, missionaries in the jungles of Ecuador. For Elisabeth, after nine months of developing a written language for the Ecuadorans in the jungle, her suitcase full of handwritten materials translating the language was stolen as she prepared to leave. Everything she worked tirelessly on so the people living in the remote jungle could have the Gospel in their own language was gone. Elisabeth’s obedience did not guarantee victory.
Then there is Jim. For nine months he repaired three dilapidated buildings, and constructed two new ones at the Shandia mission station in the eastern jungle of Ecuador. In addition to all that, he had five hundred hand-planed boards for future buildings on hand. Those boards represented five hundred day’s work. Regardless of his obedience to spread the Gospel to the people of Ecuador, the entire station of Shandia was demolished in a flood. It literally washed away. Not long after, Jim died at the hands of the Auca Indians at the age of 29. Jim’s obedience did not guarantee victory.
There are many more stories where the obedience of God’s people did not guarantee victory, both in Scripture and in the lives of those around us. The important thing, I believe, is to be obedient. And in that obedience, God brings victory.
Victory may not look as we imagine, or happen in our timing. Who knows? Victory may not come until we hear Christ say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
How do you handle times when your obedience does not bring the victory you expected?
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The men of Israel asked the Lord, “Shall we go out again and fight against our brother Benjamin, or shall we stop?”
And the Lord said, “Go, for tomorrow I will see to it that you defeat the men of Benjamin.” Judges 20:28b
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