About 50 years ago in Palo Alto, California police cars went around town picking of people for Armed Robbery and Burglary. It was a mass arrest, but it wasn’t a real mass arrest, these were college students who had volunteered for a prison experiment. It was what is now known as the Stanford Prison Experiment. They were taken through the entire process as if they were guilty of a crime, they were frisked on the sidewalk, handcuffed, put in the cop car, booked, warned of rights, fingerprinted…the works. Over 70 people applied for this and 24 college students were chosen and paid $15 per day in the study. A prison was constructed using the help of consultants. This would be as close to prison conditions as it could be made. There was a video camera at the end of the hallway and the cells were bugged using an intercom system. Everything was going to be recorded or videotaped. Each prisoner was stripped naked and sprayed with a delousing spray to get rid of germs and lice that they may have. The guys were forced to wear a nylon stocking over their head to keep their hair back, in lew of having their head shaved, and they wore a chain around their foot. Then they were given an ID number, they didn’t have a name anymore just an ID number.
The guard were also volunteers involved in a study. They had no real regulations, just freedom within limits to do whatever was necessary to maintain law and order. The guards were warned about how dangerous their situation was and they made up their own rules as to how to proceed. The guards dressed alike, in khaki and mirrored sunglasses and carried with them a whistle and a billy club.
The study itself has recently come under some scrutiny, but in everything that I have read it is the depravity of people in control that is the most telling part of this study. Human depravity shines in this study as the guards begin doing things like rudely waking the prisoners up at 2:30 AM for a count. This was done often during the night shift and it gave the inmates an opportunity to learn their number which was now their identity. The prisoners apparently didn’t take this all that seriously in the beginning so the guards felt it necessary to do more to assert their power over the inmates. They began forcing the inmates to do pushups. By the second day the prisoners had had enough and were ripping the numbers off of their shirt and taking off their stocking caps. This angered the guards who began doing things like shooting the prisoners with fire extinguishers, stripping the prisoners naked, removing beds and forcing people into a solitary confinement. This is also when the guards began harassing the prisoners and decided to begin using psychological harassment to rule over the prisoners.
A “privilege cell” was made, it was given to the prisoners that were least involved in the rebellion. They got to wear their uniform, use a bed, brush teeth, and wash. The privilege cell also got to eat special food while the other prisoners were not allowed to eat. Then, to confuse and pit the prisoners against one another, the worst prisoners were given the “privilege cell”. The guards grew harsher and even going to the toilet was seen as privileged activity. At times the buckets that were used by those who were not privileged were left in the cells to stink.
Within 36 hours one prisoner was driven to hysteria and sent home. Later there was a rumor that there was going to be a mass escape. The guards spent a whole day trying to stop it only to find out that there was never really going to be an escape and they got so angry about it that they made the prisoners do lots of pushups and jumping jacks and the harassment continued. Another prisoner grew hysterical and went home. Six days in the study had to be ended. Parents were trying to get their children out of the fake prison, the guards were become more and more sadistic in their behavior. The conduct of the guards was so bad that the study had to be stopped, their behavior is described as ever increasing in its pornographic and abusive behavior.
Why bring this up? What place does this have in a discussion about Scripture?
This study was used to bring about different prison reforms, but it tells us a lot more about the human condition. These were not prison guards, but given the opportunity to abuse people and the reason to abuse people they did it, driving some people mad. Some of the prisoners had almost forgotten their names by the end of the week. Given the right circumstances humans will show their depravity. Guards will put other humans into gas chambers and just abuse them until they are dead. Humans systematically abuse people all over the globe and they have done it since the Garden of Eden.
I want to look at Judges 19-21 today. I want us to read it in its entirety and feel the weight of this passage. It is so very dark. The picture painted in it is awful. But what I want us to see is that when we reject God and His Word our corruption shows.
The story that we find in Scripture is that Adam rebelled against God and His ways. Our first parents rebelled against God and introduced sin into the stream of humanity. Before this mankind was good. After this mankind is corrupt and Judges 19-21 illustrates what happens when people reject God and His Word.
Six times in the Book of Judges it is stated that “there was no king in Israel” (Judges 17:6, 18:1, 18:31, 19:1, 21:25). Two of those six times the phrase “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” is attached to that phrase (Judges 17:6, 21:25). The idea with these phrases is that the people are following their own ways. There is no leadership guiding them and they are doing whatever they feel within their heart is right. What’s the problem? Their heart, like ours is corrupt. You can’t trust your own desires and your wicked heart will often lead you astray.
People Commit Heinous Evil When They Reject God And His Word
When We Reject God And His Word We Become Shaped By The World (Judges 19:1-28)
If I were to ask you what the worst behaved city in all of the Old Testament was what would you answer? After giving it some thought you would probably say Sodom and Gomorrah. But the actions of the people of Israel, specifically here the people of the tribe of Benjamin, have descended to the lows of that of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. The people of Canaan were wicked and evil when God’s people took the land, and the tribe of Benjamin has become like the people of Canaan and not the people of God.
A side note to be remembered is that the man offers his daughter to the crowd instead of his visitor (Judges 19:24), the Scripture does not discuss the rightness or wrongness of the action. This is a common thing to be seen in the area, in fact the same offer is made in Sodom before God burns the whole place down. Like in Sodom, It only tells the story. Furthermore, it is telling the story of a terribly immoral people whose judgment is terrible. They rape her and kill her. It is a heinous evil that is done.
Our culture likes to believe that things are getting better…that morality is getting better or moving toward something better. The arguments sound something like this. Society is advancing and we’re moving in a different direction so it’s okay to kill the babies. Society has moved out of the dark ages, homosexuality is okay. Society has advanced, it’s okay to think that you are a girl when you are actually a boy, or vice versa, and have a doctor mutilate your body to match it. The only way that a person can endorse such vile evil throughout the culture is by rejecting God and His Word. Wickedness is rampant in the land. If you reject God and His Word then you become shaped by the world and start thinking that these things are quite alright.
Your mind is beings shaped as we speak. If you reject God and His Word then you will be shaped by the wickedness of the world.
There wasn’t really an innocent person in Israel at the time. The whole of Israel was doing what was right in their own eyes. The tribe of Benjamin was just the worst among the group. It is no accident that the people of Israel chose a man from the tribe of Benjamin to be their king in the Book of 1 Samuel. Saul would rebel and disobey God as he also did what was right in his own eyes.
When We Reject God And His Word The Inward Call For Justice Remains (Judges 19:29-20:48)
This is a horrific event. The unthinkable has just occurred and this guy does what we look at now as completely unthinkable. He cuts her into pieces and sends pieces, probably with an explanation, all over Israel. A similar thing will later happen when Saul cuts up an oxen to summon the people Israel to fight the Ammonites (1 Samuel 11:6-8). For the first time all of Israel comes together and assembles as one (Judges 20:1). Upon hearing the story, though they were also wicked, they desired justice. They sought the Lord and Judah would spearhead the endeavor against Benjamin. By the end of this the tribe of Benjamin was virtually wiped out. They were slaughtered like the wicked Canaanites.
This is an interesting thing that occurs often in people in our culture. Even though people seem to be making up their own idea of just and justice they still want for there to be justice served. There is still an understanding that justice needs to happen. Think about it. People, participating in activities that the Scriptures consider to be vile seek for justice to be done. They hear about the horrible actions of a Bill Cosby or a Harvey Winestein and they have to have justice. Even while their own lives are perverse, they need to see justice in the Earth. And you see that here as well. Even as the rest of Israel is rebelling against God there is a sense in which they need to see justice done.
When We Reject God And His Word Our Decision Making Is Corrupted (Judges 21)
There is not a lot of indication as to the rightness and wrongness of what is going on, that is until the last line of the book. “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25 ESV). I believe that everything you read here should be seen as wicked and deserving of condemnation because of that line.
In Judges 20:48 the people of Israel turned around and killed everyone and everything they found in the town as if these people were wicked Canaanites. It causes a real problem. The tribe of Benjamin is part of the people of Israel and this was going to wipe them out. The people of Israel had already sword that they would not give their daughters to be married to a man from the tribe of Benjamin. Their plan, which was wicked, was to go and wipe out all the men and women of Jabesh-gilead. The girls who could be married were not killed, they were abducted and given as wives for the men who were left of the tribe of Benjamin. There were not enough women to give wives to all the men of Benjamin so they concocted a plan that would allow the men of Benjamin to be married to their own daughters without breaking the vow they had made to not allow the men of Benjamin to marry their wives. The men of Benjamin actually hid and abducted these women from the feast of the Lord at Shiloh.
Then the summary statement that ends this dark chapter in Israel’s history. “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25 ESV)
How wicked had Israel’s decision making become? As they rejected God and His Word they fell into deeper and deeper sinfulness, doing whatever their wicked hearts led them to.
I am arguing that this is what is taking place all around us today. It may not look as ugly as what you read at the end of this book but it is there. People are making up their own morality as they go today and it has gotten incredibly weird and messy.
We are sinful people whose hearts can be easily pulled into horrific sin. There is only one way of salvation in the midst of this wickedness. It’s Christ. He has come and lived a perfect life on our behalf. He has died and paid the punishment for our sin. He has risen from the dead and given His people resurrection life, a desire to follow God in the midst of this world of sin. He gives to His people the Holy Spirit who enlightens us and enlivens us in the fight against sin. He makes us new and makes us want to follow Christ. There is only one hope for you in the midst of this sinful world and that is Jesus.
The second thought is this, trust God’s Word. Stay near it. Love it. Learn it. Ponder what it says. As people leave God’s Word behind it will be harder and harder to stay on the Way. Hear it, read it, think about it, meditate on it, memorize it, love it and follow it.
Third, and I think this is going to be more important as life goes on. The different nature of those who have trusted in Christ and cling to His Word is going to become more and more evident. Christians will need to be those people who are upholding the truths and values of the Scriptures as the world descends into greater and greater chaos. This is already evident for those who will take notice.
Christians who attend church regularly have a remarkably lower divorce rate than those who do not. While somewhere in the neighborhood of half of all marriages end in divorce, Christians who regularly attend church divorce at a rate of 38%. 5% of all Christian households adopt children. This may not sound like much but the statistic for the country is around 2%. Studies have shown that conservative states give more money to charity, these states are usually more religious as well. It would be hard to study how much money people give to charity based on religion because these studies usually use tax returns. But we know that there is a higher ratio of religious conservatives than religious liberals, especially right now. My point is that Christians will need to work to order their lives according to God’s Word and pray that God would aid them through the power of the Holy Spirit to be faithful to Him in this dark world. And as they do so people really will notice that.
People commit heinous evil as they reject God and His Word. Lives are destroyed because of it. Their lives become chaotic and just not good. Be there to show them the Way.
R. Dwain Minor