He said to Him, “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.” But the LORD said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.” (Judges 6:15-16 NASB)
When the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was torn down, and the Asherah which was beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar which had been built. They said to one another, “Who did this thing?” And when they searched about and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash did this thing.” Then the men of the city said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has torn down the altar of Baal, and indeed, he has cut down the Asherah which was beside it.” But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal, or will you deliver him? Whoever will plead for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because someone has torn down his altar.” Therefore on that day he named him Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he had torn down his altar. (Judges 6:28-32 NASB)
Gideon makes excuses. He asks for proof, repeatedly. And he seems to stretch the truth. “My family is weak, and I’m the weakest.” You may almost hear him whine it out to God. The truth, as it ekes out in the story, is a bit different. His family has the local altar to Baal on their “stronghold” (to protect the grain), making his father’s place the center of community life, the strongest, safest place to store grain for the surrounding farms, and probably the village. So, how weak are they again?
But the most telling diversion from Gideon’s complaint is his father. Joash is no wimp. The whole community gathers with their torches and pitch forks, and it’s not for the ogre. They gather to execute Gideon for tearing down the altar to Baal and offering to Yahweh on a new one he built. Sorry, but wasn’t the “prophet” just here saying we shouldn’t be worshiping Baal?
Joash faces down the entire community, and harshly. “But Joash said to all who stood against him…” That took courage. And what does he say, “Will you contend for Baal? Will you deliver him?” Great words! The altar was in his yard, but it seems, not so deep in his heart. These words will be echoed, to a degree, later on by a prophet of Yahweh on Mount Carmel. Let the real god contend for himself. Hard to argue with that.
But Joash goes further. He also says, “Whoever will plead for him will be put to death by morning.” In other words, whoever sticks up for Baal will be executed, which pretty much turns the tables on the community pitch-fork committee. Consider the courage and faith of Joash. Honestly, it should make us wonder why God didn’t choose him instead of his youngest son.
Again, the obvious choice may not display the mercy and grace of God as well as the weaker choice. And so, brave and faithful Joash – well, that’s probably too strong a description. How long was the altar in his yard, we don’t know. It took the work of his son in the night to bring out his own faith. But it did bring out his own faith. Perhaps Joash winds up being one of the 300 torch-and-pot guys in the next chapter.
Regardless of when the character reveals itself, Joash’s character comes out. And it’s good character. He is a good father for Gideon. Consider how encouraging it would be for Gideon to have his father stand up for him like that. And the people of the community are cowed by Joash. They rename Gideon (like it’s an insult), but they don’t lay a hand on him. Joash is a good father, he’s strong and demonstrates faith.
So, how do we, when faced with our kid or one close to us tearing down that altar we’ve been ignoring in the front yard, how will we respond to the world? When our culture accuses our family member or close friend of betrayal, will we acquiesce, sacrificing them as they sacrificed for us? Or will their act of courageous faith inspire the same in us? Will we be the strong, courageous friend or parent or sibling they need?
The truth is that people do stand against culture, and we, who should back them up, don’t. We bow to culture way too often. We have platitudes like, “you can’t fight city hall” or “that’s just how things are in the ‘real world'” and so on. They’re lies. They’re the whisperings of our enemy telling us to give up. Otherwise we might actually win, or, more accurately, his Enemy might win through us.
So, if you’re a father, stand up for your kids’ faithful counter-culture acts. Defend them from this insidious culture rebelling against their Creator. If you’re a friend or sibling of one who stands against culture, defend them. The culture has plenty of defenders, they don’t need another. And defending someone’s stand for faith may increase your own faith. And, can’t you live without the altar in the front yard? Shouldn’t you?
Well, I think I hear someone in my front yard with a tractor and chains doing some damage. I probably should go get dressed, and help them out…
What do you see of God through your knothole?