Strong Little Father

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?


What Does Jesus Think?

But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.” And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.  For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”  (Luke 9:21-26 NASB)

Luke makes some modifications to his account here.  In Matthew and Mark, Peter rebukes Jesus for saying He will be killed by the religious leaders; then Jesus rebukes him right back.  Luke leaves that out.  Then Luke adds in the “daily” element to Jesus’ challenge to pick up a cross and follow Him.  In Matthew and Mark this is missing, the challenge is to follow Jesus literally to His crucifixion.  All three have the familiar saying that the one saving his life loses it, and the one giving up his life for Jesus saves it.

None of the Gospels have any of the disciples following Jesus into death.  They all, but John, are executed afterwards at some point (John was too tough, he survived his execution).  It’s possible that Luke adds the “daily” element because of this.  Buy why leave out Peter’s rebuke?  Luke doesn’t leave a memo about that.  But regardless of whether Peter’s and Jesus’ rebuke-fest is in there or not, the challenge to follow Jesus with a cross is real enough.

What constitutes a “cross” is a constant debate.  What is really clear though is Jesus’ negative, unbalanced comment about Jesus being ashamed of those ashamed of Him.  So if we’re ashamed of Jesus here, He’ll be ashamed of us in heaven.  Think about that.  That concerns me deeply.  Why don’t I tell everyone about Jesus all the time?  Am I ashamed?  Because if that’s why, then I don’t have to wonder about what Jesus thinks, it’s pretty clearly spelled out here.  I think it’s very interesting that we debate the “cross” we’re to carry, but few debate what it means to live ashamed of Jesus here.  I’m really hoping the Christian-themed tee-shirts I wear count toward being unashamed.  Otherwise I’m possibly in real trouble.

I believe that our preoccupation with what Jesus means by “cross” here and the absence of what it means to be unashamed here are symptoms of our self-focused culture.  One is about us (what is my cross to bear?), and the other is about Jesus (what does Jesus think?).  The view through my knothole is that Jesus considers the cross to be the same as being unashamed.  It’s the attitude absent of shame that brings the ire of the world down upon us.  They hate and try to kill us when we’re obviously for Jesus.  Jesus is counter to every culture, so in every culture, being unashamed of Jesus brings dangerous attention.  It’s one of the ways we know we’re on the right track (but not the only or best way).  But it’s always the most uncomfortable way, so clearly not the American way.

Today, I will seek to be uncomfortably obvious in my devotion to Jesus.  I hope I don’t get fired.  What’s your view through the knothole?