Judges, Chapter 20.

Every day we experience defeats and victories. We call upon God for guidance, and yet in the span of a day we suffer set backs and detours even as we receive Holy Spirit assurance. “What’s wrong with this picture?”  

As a litigator, I plan a course of action, aimed at victory. So does my opponent. I believe I have the right position, and the better preparation. Still, I am defeated, perhaps by losing an important pre-trial motion, or by not obtaining an important jury instruction. In the course of a trial, a judge may exclude critical evidence, and dismiss most of my client’s case. “What’s wrong with this picture?”  

What’s wrong with this picture is that it is the “small picture.” God has the “big picture” of winning the war, even as we are focused on the pain of losing a particular battle in that war. That is what the Israelites experienced against their renegade Benjamite brothers in this chapter of Judges. Imagine the test of faith: On 2 consecutive days, God says “attack” and on two consecutive days, the obedient Israelites are “devastated” by defeat. They do not see the “big picture” but must act on faith that God does not direct their path only to have them ultimately experience defeat.   

Note an interesting development. God directs but He does not micromanage. He does not set up the new strategy of the third day of battle. The Israelites use their own God-given strategic thinking to take a different approach on the third day, using the defeats of the first two days to advantage. They set ambushes for the now over-confident Benjamites, and outflank them as they pursue the Israelites outside the protection of their City.  

This is simply the way God seems to work in our lives. We are tested in our faith when we endure defeats even as we follow his guidance. We can wonder: “What are you up to, God?” Yet we are to persist in faith. We are to use our rational powers and determination to make the best of our situation each day. We are to continue to call upon God for comfort, confidence, and resolution.  

In trial, the winner is often the one who stays the course, even after a bad day of adverse rulings. It only takes one surviving “cause of action” to be decided by a Jury to result in a favorable verdict. The battle is not the war, and one day’s defeat is not ultimate defeat. The message of these verses is to hold firm in faith to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, trusting that God will give the ultimate victory.