Sunday, November 7, 2010

Judges 6, 7, 8 Gideon

Gideon is a judge appearing in the Book of Jud...Image via Wikipedia
In stark contrast to the song of Deborah, the Israel of Gideon was in the grip of paralyzing fear.  Hordes of neighboring tribes, seeking to destroy Israel, raided Israel, ravaging the land, the crops, and the livestock.  For seven years, Israel, cowering in fear, hid in caves, mountain clefts, and strongholds. 

So, where was the God of Israel?   While Israel was creatively hiding from enemy forces, there was no Biblical account of Israel seeking God.  In fact, this section began with, “Again, Israel did evil in the eyes of the Lord…” (Judges 6:1).  Israel abandoned the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when they turned to worship the gods of the land. 

There is what is of God and what is not of God; the forces of Light and the forces of Darkness; forces of Good and forces of Evil.  These are very distinct black and white delineations – they are no shades of grey.  Right and wrong are absolutes in God’s spiritual economy. 

When Israel chose to worship pagan gods, they effectively rejected the God of Israel.  When the peace and wisdom of God’s reign ceased, fear flooded the emotional and psychological landscape of Israel.  Worship of false gods generated both false and harmful lifestyles which reflected toxic values.

Israel was so entrenched in pagan idolatry, that they couldn’t see clearly through the spiritual darkness that enveloped them.  Unable to formulate a prayer to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Israel continued to suffer at the hands of the Midianites until they couldn’t tolerate it any longer.  Then, Israel called out to God who immediately responded to them.

Scripture introduced Gideon as representative of the people of Israel.  Because of his great fear of the Midianites, he was threshing wheat, normally done in a large open area, in a winepress, a fairly confined, enclosed structure.  While Gideon saw himself to be a helpless victim, the Angel of the Lord came to him and greeted him saying “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” 

Failing to perceive God’s ambassador, Gideon took this opportunity to voice his frustrations and fears.  As far as he understood, God had in fact abandoned Israel.

When the stranger commissioned him to fight Midian, Gideon declined, by citing his own weakness and social insignificance.  When the Angel of the lord promised to be with him in battle, Gideon, too fearful and perhaps too spiritually blinded to readily discern God, sought a sign to confirm that he was talking to God.

After Gideon received the sign he needed, he again became fearful because he saw God.
While God conferred His peace upon him, He also admonished him to cease being afraid.
Later that night, God instructed Gideon to tear down his father’s altar to Baal and an Asherah pole.  Because he was afraid of his family and of the townsmen, Gideon, with friends, tore the altar down at night. 

Although Gideon chose to obey God, it appears that he was not fully convinced of God’s power and of God’s covenant agreement with Israel.  When God appointed him to lead the military, Gideon seemed to be more concerned with Midianite destruction by his hand rather than Midianite defeat because it is God’s Sovereign will, regardless of whose hand God used.  Perhaps Gideon didn’t fully understand God’s plan for His people.  While Gideon didn’t know God that well, he still gave God a willing and obedient heart. 

Even though Gideon as always fearful, God faithfully met him at the point of his fear and gently worked with him.  With God’s help, Gideon subdued the Midianites and Israel enjoyed forty years of peace.  So towards the end of his life, Gideon was the man that God saw him to be when He first greeted him, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
Gideon relied on God for the direction, strategy, and planning that went into his military campaigns against Midian. And, God was with Gideon, the mighty warrior.
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