So Israel was brought very low because of Midian, and the sons of Israel cried to the LORD. Now it came about when the sons of Israel cried to the LORD on account of Midian, that the LORD sent a prophet to the sons of Israel, and he said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘It was I who brought you up from Egypt and brought you out from the house of slavery. ‘I delivered you from the hands of the Egyptians and from the hands of all your oppressors, and dispossessed them before you and gave you their land, and I said to you, “I am the LORD your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But you have not obeyed Me.”‘” (Judges 6:6-10 NASB)
Before we even get to the discussion between Yahweh and Gideon, we have this setup by the author of Judges. It’s important to know, not only what God does for His people, but the condition they are in before He helps them. It’s a big part of the author’s point to his audience.
So, what is the condition of God’s people? They cry out to Yahweh because of the oppression of the nomads, and He sends a prophet with a scathing message. The word from Yahweh to His people that He has kept His side of the covenant by bringing them out of Egypt and into the land, but they have not kept their part of the covenant by not fearing the local deities. That wasn’t the only part of the covenant, but it was a key, repeated, element of it.
So, you would expect repentance. You would think at this point, if they’re crying out to Yahweh, they would also put away the other gods, idols, altars, practices, and what not? You would think they would change their minds and hearts to agree with God’s mind, search out His heart. And yet, no. In fact, they seem confused by the prophet. Yahweh has done all this stuff, and told them to not fear the gods of the Amorites. But they did.
See, you’d think the prophet would even wake them up, wouldn’t you? Sure they cry out, but don’t get exactly what they’re doing wrong. In that case they wouldn’t know how to repent. But when the prophet delivers his message, they still seem baffled. If you keep this part in your mind as you read the rest of the chapter, the heart condition of these people is nearly unfathomable. It’s so wrong it’s baffling, it can’t possibly be that bad.
This setting for the rest of Gideon’s story is critical to the author’s point. After all, if you’re going to make a point that God is, and has always been, gracious, wouldn’t a drastic contrast between His goodness and the people’s rebellion be a good illustration? The author doesn’t use the term “grace”. Instead, he shows Yahweh, the God of the Sons of Israel, being gracious.
This chapter especially, is the Creator of the universe rescuing this ridiculous people of His in spite of themselves. They are so far gone, they don’t even know they’re gone. They have no concept of their wayward, rebellious, and adulterous ways. They are confused by why Yahweh would be upset with them in the first place. They are blind to their sin, completely ignorant of the problem.
And, so are we. We don’t really believe that the Bible should be taken seriously. We don’t. Don’t even try to act innocent. I spend hours weekly sifting minutia in the original texts, and I don’t really take it seriously. It’s not about how much we know or don’t know. It’s not about what church we attend or translation of the Bible we use.
It’s about, when we read the Beatitudes, whether we truly put such attitudes ahead of our cultural attitudes Monday through Saturday. It’s about whether, when we read about the cost of discipleship, whether we pay it or not. It’s about whether we truly love God, the One having already sacrificed His only Son for us, with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. We don’t. I know I don’t. My behavior is evidence enough of that.
So, before we characterize these unfathomable clueless people as aberrant, perhaps we should stop, and see where we stand. Let’s ask ourselves some tough questions, like, “Do I really believe the Bible?”, “Do I live like Jesus is first in my life?”, and perhaps ask our Master for that prophet to point out in us that blind spot in our relationship with Him.
Because here’s the thing, we will always have one more thing to work on in our relationship with Him. But, His grace to us is evidenced in that, while we wander cluelessly, He preserves our relationship with Him. This isn’t about being good enough for Him, it’s about clinging to the One having already loved us unfathomably.
How ridiculously obtuse is it of us to consider anything of the stuff of this earth to be of any value compared to our relationship with Him? And yet we let our relationship with Him languish, while we pursue one more thing of this world. Silly people, let’s put things back in proper order. Let’s do it, not because He will punish us if we don’t, but because He has already rescued us from punishment.
That’s my view through this knothole this morning. What do you see of our Master through yours?