The Sinking of the Lusitania
Judges 20:1-6 (1) Then all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was gathered together as one man, from Dan even to Beersheba, with the land of Gilead, unto the LORD in Mizpeh. (2) And the chief of all the people, even of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand footmen that drew sword. (3) (Now the children of Benjamin heard that the children of Israel were gone up to Mizpeh.) Then said the children of Israel, Tell us, how was this wickedness? (4) And the Levite, the husband of the woman that was slain, answered and said, I came into Gibeah that belongeth to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to lodge. (5) And the men of Gibeah rose against me, and beset the house round about upon me by night, and thought to have slain me: and my concubine have they forced, that she is dead. (6) And I took my concubine, and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel: for they have committed lewdness and folly in Israel. I ask the reader to grant me a little liberty to mingle some known historical fact (our text) with the sinking of the RMS Lusitania one hundred years ago today, May 7, 1915, the facts of which are not completely known to us. It is said that the Lusitania was a British world-class trans-Atlantic passenger liner, and fast. She was launched in 1906 and built from the beginning to be convertible into an auxiliary cruiser, to be classed an Armed Merchant Cruiser, and was so fitted for service at the outbreak of World War I. Though the German government had given public warning in America that the Lusitania was considered a legitimate target, she sailed from New York with almost 2000 souls on board, mostly passengers. She was sunk by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland with the loss of almost 1200 lives, including 128 Americans. Suffice it to say that this action was considered outrageous and the debate goes on to this day as to whether the Lusitania was sacrificed to draw America into World War I. Our text today relates an outrageous act that has some background. In Judges 19, a Levite's concubine “...played the whore against him...” (JDG 19:1-2). She was unfaithful, intimately, to “...her lord...” (JDG 19:26), the Levite. He was merciful and conciliatory towards her at first (JDG 19:3) and received her again. But in one of the cities of the tribe of Benjamin where they had to lodge, wicked men demanded to sodomize the Levite (JDG 19:22). The concubine was given to them as an alternative and they raped her to death (JDG 19:23-28). The Levite then cut her up into twelve pieces and Fed-Axed them throughout Israel (JDG 19:29), obviously as a message calling Israel to arms as Saul later did with oxen (1SAM 11:7). What had happened was unparalleled and the inspired penman wrote, “...consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds” (JDG 19:30). Curiously, in the Levite's version of the events here, he spun the story to sound like he was not in any way complicit in the concubine's abuse, yet he had thrown her to the dogs (c/w DEU 23:17-18). I suppose it might be here noted that survivors, not victims, give accounts, and history is generally more according to those who write it than those who lived it (or died making it). The Levite's “message” was successful, though: all Israel united to go to war against the Benjamites. Few things unite a nation to go to war as efficiently as an apparently outrageous act of inhumanity. As a pastor, I caution people to not get too wrapped up in conspiracy theories of history. Some of my reasons are: 1) We should be “...wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil” (ROM 16:19), and an inordinate amount of inquiry into darkness can overshadow the hope-filled light of Christ in the soul, leading to an unnecessary paranoia; 2) Credibility as a witness to the truth of the gospel can be compromised by assuming that the information upon which one builds his theories of political intrigue is as reliable as the Bible; 3) The world system which leads men away from God is like an enticing harlot, and “Lest thou shouldest ponder the path of life, her ways are moveable, that thou canst not know them” (PRO 5:6). About the time that one thinks he has “the system” figured out, Satan re-shuffles the deck. It is not to be denied that Holy Scripture rips the cover off of the wicked designs of the powers that be: visible and invisible. Some of that exposure includes the fact of various conspiracies (combining privily for evil or unlawful purposes). Some of them were personal, as Joseph's brethren conspiring to slay him (GEN 37:18). Some of them were imagined, as King Saul's paranoid rants (1SAM 22:8-13). Some of them were thuggery, as the “one purse” conspirators of PRO 1:10-19. Some of them were commercial, as the silversmiths of Diana who manipulated the masses to protect their industry (ACT 19:21-34). Some of them were political, as Absalom who with good words and fair speeches seduced Israel to make him king instead of David: “...and they went in their simplicity, and they knew not any thing....And the conspiracy was strong...” (2SAM 15:1-12). Some of them were religious, as the conspiracy of the prophets to exploit the people (EZE 22:25) or that of the chief priests and elders to avoid the exposure of their own wicked beliefs and conduct (MAT 21:23-27). Some of them were coordinated between the prince, judge and the rich so they could “...wrap it up” (MIC 7:3). The greatest conspiracy of all was that which brought together the most unlikely partners in crime and they were all in league with Satan himself: “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together” (ACT 4:27) in the worst miscarriage of justice the world has seen, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This outrageous act of inhumanity also drummed up a war. In a parable depicting God's reaction to the rejection of His Son and His gospel, “...he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city” (MAT 22:7). That was in one theater. There was another theater where righteous reaction to the outrageous act started a war. After Christ arose from the dead and was “...caught up unto God, and to his throne” (REV 12:5), “...there was war in heaven...” (REV 12:7); the Devil and his angels were defeated and cast out into the earth so that the elect have no more an accuser before God (REV 12:8-10) but rather an Advocate, Jesus Christ the righteous (1JO 2:1). God frustrated the conspiracies of men and devils unto their destruction. There remains a great final conflict. Satan will mount one last collaborative campaign against the saints and God will intervene with fire to destroy it and them (REV 20:7-10). It is Judgment Day, and all wickedness will be judged with fire (REV 20:11-15). It is also Resurrection Day, “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it...” (REV 20:13), and all those who perished in the sea on that fateful day 100 years ago and all that are in graves “...shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (JOH 5:28-29). Resurrection Day is the last day (JOH 6:39-54), the last day of the present heavens and earth which give way to a “...new heaven and a new earth...” (REV 21:1), “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (REV 21:1). Conspiracies are no more; war is no more; hapless pawns are no more. The one uniting principle of all will not be outrageous acts against humanity, but “...charity, which is the bond of perfectness” (COL 3:14). It survives this world and lasts in that one: “Charity never faileth...” (1CO 13:8).