Then the angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press in order to save it from the Midianites. The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior.” Then Gideon said to him, “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” (Judges 6:11-13 NASB)
Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and named it The LORD is Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. Now on the same night the LORD said to him, “Take your father’s bull and a second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it; and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of this stronghold in an orderly manner, and take a second bull and offer a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah which you shall cut down.” (Judges 6:24-26 NASB)
The Angel of the Lord is Yahweh, Himself, in visible form, dressed for a visit. He goes to a guy threshing wheat where there is no wind, a wine press. That’s a job that will take a while, and will seem pointless through much of it. Gideon can’t be happy. At the point of the visit, his life is pretty much at an all-time low. Hence his reply to his Creator.
It’s Gideon’s reply that is so incredibly ironic though. “Why…” It’s a good question for someone suffering wrongfully. It’s a good question for the righteous man to ask of God, like Job, for instance. The impression received from the question is that Gideon asks from a standpoint of innocence.
At first I thought, perhaps, it was the prophet who reminded the people about Yahweh. Perhaps the previous generation had forgotten to pass down the stories. Yet Gideon replies to this Yahweh that the “…miracles which our fathers told us about…” were lacking at the moment. It seems they hadn’t forgotten to pass down the stories.
So, then I figured that Gideon didn’t know that it was wrong to serve Yahweh and Baal…and Asherah, and so on. That’s possible. He at least knows that the people around him won’t like being exclusive. He immediately builds an altar to Yahweh, there at the wine press. And he tears down his father’s Baal altar… in the dark.
But think about it. His first task given to him by Yahweh is to tear down his father’s altar to Baal, and the Asherah pole next to it. There is an altar to Baal and an Asherah in the front yard. And Gideon has the audacity to ask, “Where is Yahweh, and why has He abandoned us?” Are you kidding me? Seriously, he doesn’t get that?
The condition of the people of God at this point in their history is shocking, or should shock us. We should be slapping our foreheads, going, “REALLY?”. The thing is, we’re not. Instead, we glibly read through, barely stopping to notice the incongruity before us. Gideon is a hero, and heroes are great people. Keep reading, we have a lot to get through.
But when we stop and look at what is happening, it should startle us. It was supposed to startle the author’s audience when written. It was supposed to shock them into realizing what they were doing, how they treated Yahweh. They were supposed to see how boneheaded ignorant they were. And that’s what is supposed to happen to us.
Is gathering together as believers something that only happens once a week? Does it happen in a large crowded venue? Are you able to hide there, choose not to interact? Does your experience as a “church-going” follower of Jesus make a minimal impact on your time during the week? People, there is probably an altar in your yard, and you don’t even realize it’s a problem.
Is your church constantly preaching about giving, and wanting you to give more, and harping on how much it doesn’t have…are you tithing? Is all you have, God’s, and you’re simply the steward? Would your neighbors say you’re weird because you clearly honor God with all your stuff, money, and time? Or do you look and act a lot like them? There could be an altar in your yard you have learned to pretend isn’t there.
You see where this going? Do you need another example? Okay, what would your kids say about your devotion to God? Would they, one, say you’re truly devoted; and, two, want that for themselves? Or does your attitude toward, and your treatment of, your family deviate widely from what you say you believe? Do you have an altar to yourself in the yard, one you’ve been using regularly, but pretending is something else?
Are you sufficiently depressed? Has conviction angered or saddened you to near uselessness this morning? As my dad would say, “Have I gotten your goat?” I still don’t know what that means, by the way. I mean, I do, from the way he used it, but why does it mean that? So, if you take my goat, does that mean I mow my yard myself? Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe I’ll get tired of mowing around the altar, and TEAR IT DOWN!
Stay tuned. It gets better. God didn’t reject Gideon for being an ignorant moron. So, we’re probably safe. Be honest about it, though. That’s the process of repentance, honesty about who and what we are before God. Seeing ourselves for who we really are, and then appreciating what He does for us, is rearranging our mind to be like His.
That’s my view through the knothole this morning. What do you see?