When Failure Is Victory
Before the battle the Israeli army went to Bethel first to ask counsel from God. "Which tribe shall lead us against the people of Benjamin?" they asked.
And the Lord replied, "Judah shall go first."
So the entire army left early the next morning to go to Gibe-ah, to attack the men of Benjamin. But the men defending the village stormed out and killed twenty-two thousand Israelis that day. Then the Israeli army wept before the Lord until evening and asked him, "Shall we fight further against our brother Benjamin?"
And the Lord said, "Yes." So the men of Israel took courage and went out again the next day to fight at the same place. And that day they lost another eighteen thousand men, all experienced swordsmen.
Then the entire army went up to Bethel and wept before the Lord and fasted until evening, offering burnt sacrifices and peace offerings. (The Ark of God was in Bethel in those days. Phinehas, the son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron, was the priest.)
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 20:18-28 (TLB)
The story in Judges 20:18-48 used to confuse Kayla Reay, from Victoria, Australia. The Israelites asked God for counsel on whether to go to battle. God told them to fight. The Israelites listened, and they lost, suffering 22,000 casualties. The Israelites went back to God to ask counsel, and the reply was the same. They lost again, suffering another 18,000 casualties. A third time, the Israelites went before God and asked for counsel. God answered, "Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands." Finally, the Israelites won.
As Kayla read this story, she wondered, Why would God clearly guide the Israelites and then allow them to fail? It didn't make sense to her. But this past year, when she faced her own apparent failure after following God's will for her, Kayla saw this beautiful truth: God's ways are not our ways and God's thoughts are not ours.
In each battle, the Israelites were learning the best strategies to prepare them for future battles. And most important, they were learning to have complete faith and dependence on God despite the circumstances. God sees victory even in our apparent defeat because God knows the important lessons we are learning along the way.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, may our strength in you never falter. And may you continue to finish your perfect work in us, in Jesus' name. Amen.