The God of Small Groups

Typically, these blog entries have been very personal, or were supposed to be, and a lot of it was first-person. Since I’m using the ones from Judges as articles in a guide to study Judges, I’ve been rewriting them, removing the first-person references. Rather than re-write this next batch on Judges 7, I’m writing them as I would for the book, but still putting them out through this blog site. Just FYI.

It’s an often use cliche about God, that He works in mysterious ways, whatever is meant by that. Still, we see that Jesus seems to never use the same process to heal someone in the Gospels. And, in the Hebrew Scriptures, Yahweh seems to work with different people differently. He rejects Saul when he sins, and forgives David when he sins. So, it shouldn’t surprise us when we read Yahweh working differently with Gideon than He does with other Judges.

Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him, rose early and camped beside the spring of Harod; and the camp of Midian was on the north side of them by the hill of Moreh in the valley. The LORD said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’ Now therefore come, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.'” So 22,000 people returned, but 10,000 remained. (Judges 7:1-3 NASB)

Just prior to this in the Book of Judges, Deborah and Barak face down 900 chariots of iron with 10,000 men of Naphtali and Zebulun. So, why is 32,000 men, from basically the same tribes, too many men to face down more desert nomadic raiders than anyone can count? That’s really different. At least he has 10k men now, but even so, losing 22,000 men is okay with Gideon. So far, the tests of an offering and two fleeces seems to have given him faith to use 10,000 versus too-many-to-count camel-riding raiders. But Yahweh’s not done.

Then the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many; bring them down to the water and I will test them for you there. Therefore it shall be that he of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go with you; but everyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “You shall separate everyone who laps the water with his tongue as a dog laps, as well as everyone who kneels to drink.” Now the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was 300 men; but all the rest of the people kneeled to drink water. The LORD said to Gideon, “I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and will give the Midianites into your hands; so let all the other people go, each man to his home.” So the 300 men took the people’s provisions and their trumpets into their hands. And Gideon sent all the other men of Israel, each to his tent, but retained the 300 men; and the camp of Midian was below him in the valley. (Judges 7:4-8 NASB)

Even though 10,000 men worked last time, now, with vast numbers of foes, it’s too many. Now 300 is the right number. Keep in mind this happens long before the king of Sparta faces down the entire Persian army at Thermopylae. Even there, he probably had more total people than 300. Here, that’s all Gideon gets to face the camp of Midian. So, how are those three tests bolstering his faith now? And what is Yahweh doing anyway?

Look at the explanation Yahweh gives Gideon as He reduces his force. Yahweh claims that Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’ Or, more likely, give praise to Baal, the regional god they worship. Remember from the previous chapter, they still worship Baal, they’ve not repented. They’re watching Gideon to see if Baal “smites” him. The sons of Israel around Gideon, the other tribes and clans, they weren’t a part of his “rebellion” in tearing down the altar, Asherah pole, building a new altar to Yahweh, and offering a bull on it.

So, whether they claim the victory for themselves, or give praise to Baal, the battle would have been less of a divine victory for Yahweh. But now, it’s impossible to see it any other way. Why is this so important for Yahweh when His people seem so disinterested in Him? They cry out to Him for help, but not in repentance. They seem confused when He reminds them of His “exclusivity of worship” clause in their covenant. The prophet He sends has no impact, even Gideon is sarcastic with Him when He shows up in person to enlist him. Gideon even blames their problems on Yahweh, all the while Gideon has an altar to Baal in his dad’s front yard. What is Yahweh’s fascination with this collection of ignorant boneheads?

Because of grace. That often-touted quality of Jesus, Christians mistakenly believe was invented by Paul, is the eternal quality of Yahweh described here. These ignorant boneheads are the same as the ignorant boneheaded Christians running around in Paul’s churches, and in ours today. The cultures are different, the belief systems are different, even the covenant defining the relationship has changed. But the Person to whom we relate is the same!

Jesus chooses fishermen, Israeli terrorists, Israeli collaborators, and others to change the world. Here, Yahweh chooses 300 confused ignorant descendants of Abraham to challenge an army no one can count. Both tasks demonstrate the power of Yahweh, not those chosen. Both tasks are impossible, yet get done. Both tasks are miracles, and yet who marks them as such? Who speaks of them as the wonders they are?

Why, even with all this overwhelming evidence of the power of small groups, are we fascinated by large numbers? Why do we believe some things are only possible in larger churches, more people, greater resources? What better “resource” is there than the One forming stars, and tracing quarks? Who is more impressive than the One walking on water, calming the storm, and defeating unnumbered foes with 300 confused men?

In John 6, Jesus basically runs off a multitude of over 5,000 people. He then turns to his disciples and asks them if they intend to leave as well. Confused as they were, Peter says for them all, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life?” (John 6:67-68 NASB). From 5,000 plus a bunch of disciples, down to twelve, and He’s willing to go even further down. Yet, we can’t imagine a vibrant church ministry without 300 regular attendees, at least.

That doesn’t describe every church, every pastor, nor every church attendee. It describes an attitude way too common among churches of various denominations. It’s not that large numbers are wrong. Over 6,000 were baptized at Pentecost. This is about an attitude that judges differently than our Savior does, that measures success in the Kingdom of Jesus on larger numbers. It’s an attitude that measures ourselves by ourselves, and pits us against each other.

So, if our Savior calls a group of 300, awesome, get them together and run. But if, in His call, He only provides 5, don’t delay. Don’t wait for the other 295 to show up someday. Run anyway, obey in spite of the small number. Be faithful even though there’s too few to do so much, face down so many, or even surround the given territory. Remember, it’s not about us, or you, or your “crew”. It’s about Jesus. And He can do anything with nothing. Or with five.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation


The Fabled Curse of Jotham

There are a lot of things in the Bible that confuse people, and I don’t want to add to the list. Yet, we have here one of the oddest accounts, but which clearly illustrates God’s hand at work through seemingly unrelated circumstances.

Continue reading “The Fabled Curse of Jotham”

Good Roots Gone Very Bad

The sad story of Judges continues after Gideon dies, with the sad story of his children.  Gideon’s faithfulness and courage seems to have imprinted only a few, for some reason.  I would hope to have more of a lasting impact after having done so much for a people.  He sank good roots into his people, but the produce was lacking when it came to harvest.

Continue reading “Good Roots Gone Very Bad”

Choose Your Trap

Wouldn’t it be great if one good choice ensured the rest of your choices would be just as good?  Maybe if the reason we chose correctly was right, the rest of our choices would just as right? Then again, maybe not.  Here, again, we find choices leading to a sad ending.

Continue reading “Choose Your Trap”

Better to Feed

Then Gideon and the 300 men who were with him came to the Jordan and crossed over, weary yet pursuing. He said to the men of Succoth, “Please give loaves of bread to the people who are following me, for they are weary, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” The leaders of Succoth said, “Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hands, that we should give bread to your army?” (Judges 8:4-6 NASB)

Gideon’s 300 “mini-army” has crashed the pots, shook the torches, blown the trumpets, and saw the innumerable army of desert nomads chaotically rout from the few.  Now, pursuing two of their kings, they’re kind of tired.  It’s been a long hard day of slaying fleeing foes.  They could use a break today, and there’s no fast-food joint to be found.

As they pass by Sukkoth, Gideon asks the city for help for his weary men.  The response from the walled “secure” city is, “But you haven’t beaten them yet.”  What if we help and those kings survive and come back to punish us?  What if you fail?  What if…?  They’re afraid.  They fear the repercussions of doing the right thing.  After all, we know that “no good deed goes unpunished.”

So, Gideon promises them a “sign”, but after the fact.  Once his men have the heads of the two kings, Gideon will come back and punish them.  They’re not exactly afraid of 300 men, having just seen 15,000 camel riders pass by ahead of them.  And Gideon moves on, still tired, still hungry.

He went up from there to Penuel and spoke similarly to them; and the men of Penuel answered him just as the men of Succoth had answered. (Judges 8:8 NASB)

So, now, having been refused twice by people of the “Half-tribe of Manasseh”, Gideon presses on after the two kings.  It’s very possible, highly probable, that these two cities had a lot to gain by Gideon winning.  So, why not help?  Seven years of these camel-riding “locusts” led them to believe it wouldn’t change because of 300 men.  And no one believes in God anymore.

We’re not that far from this situation now.  There aren’t enough people to make a difference, and no one believes in God anymore.  But, this is still early in the chapter.  The fight hasn’t ended yet.  And Gideon does defeat these kings with the 300.  On his return we have the following:

Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres.  And he captured a youth from Succoth and questioned him. Then the youth wrote down for him the princes of Succoth and its elders, seventy-seven men.  He came to the men of Succoth and said, “Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, concerning whom you taunted me, saying, ‘Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your men who are weary?'”  He took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and he disciplined the men of Succoth with them.  He tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city. (Judges 8:13-17 NASB)

In our day, we’re distracted by the brutality, but the point then, as now, is that God did deliver victory with 300, in spite of nay-sayers, doubters, and quitters.  Those who refused to help didn’t prevent the victory, or even impede it.  Instead, they opted out of the blessings that were theirs for participation.  That’s what the writer of Judges intended for his audience to learn.  And that’s the lesson for us today.

That’s what I see through my hole in the fence.  What do you see?

The Spirit of God and Faith

Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the sons of the east assembled themselves; and they crossed over and camped in the valley of Jezreel.  So the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon; and he blew a trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him.  He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, and they also were called together to follow him; and he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they came up to meet them.  Then Gideon said to God, “If You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken, (Judges 6:33-36 NASB)

If you have the Holy Spirit, you have all you need, right?  Well, yes, except, having the Holy Spirit, is not like having a cool new power tool.  The Holy Spirit is His own Person.  So, when He comes upon you, it’s still sometimes a struggle for control.

The common understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures is that the Spirit of Yahweh would come upon a person rather than upon a people.  In the Christian Scriptures we see groups being affected by Him at once, and the effects are durable.

So, when the Spirit of Yahweh comes upon Gideon, then Gideon should be all set to accomplish all Yahweh has for him, right?  Well, yes.  But, while even faith is a gift of Yahweh, having His Spirit present upon us doesn’t guarantee we receive the faith He has for us.

Clearly Gideon needed more than the Spirit of Yahweh to fall on Him in order to have the necessary faith.  Gideon needed some proof, actually, more proof.  And Yahweh acquiesced to his need.  It’s possible we have higher expectations of ourselves and others.

Paul says, in Ephesians 2:8 and 9, that we are saved by grace through faith, and that this is a gift of God.  The antecedents of the pronoun “this” is the “this” that says, “…and this is not from yourselves…”  So, the “this” refers to the whole, “…saved by grace through faith…” phrase.  It’s the entirety of salvation, not just any one part.  But it has to include the parts.  So, faith is a gift as part of salvation.

The point is that the Holy Spirit on Gideon provides the faith, but as a gift, Gideon must accept the gift.  Fear, fear of a vast army of nomads, impeded his reception of the gift.  Those nomads weren’t a figment of his imagination, they were real, and a real danger.

So, reality, a firm grasp of our circumstances can impede our reception of faith.  When our Master asks us to do the scary thing, to face the scary circumstance, the terrifying person, place, or action, faith can be difficult to receive.

But on the other hand, rather than the Holy Spirit “coming upon us”, He’s within us already, if we have a relationship with our Master.  So, the faith is available, immediately.  It’s the game of “what-if” that impedes our reception of it, our fear (Future Events As Real).

God understands our fear.  He already knows we can’t see as He sees.  But as He accommodates our weaknesses, let’s take steps ahead in His plan.  Obey as we have faith to continue to receive more faith.  Let’s work the work He has for us as He provides for us.

It’s time to stop operating in fear, which keeps us from acting (therefore halts operations).  Instead, lets receive the faith offered, take the next steps, and seek the faith for the next steps of obedience.

Well, it’s time for me to carry out the trash, metaphorically as well as concretely.  I’m putting what fears I can into a separate bag, and kicking them to the curb.  How will you deal with yours today?  Obedience awaits!

What’s your view of our Master through the fence?

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?

Supernatural Selection

So Gideon said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who speak with me.  Please do not depart from here, until I come back to You, and bring out my offering and lay it before You.” And He said, “I will remain until you return.” (Judges 6:17-18 NASB)

Then Gideon said to God, “If You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken, behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I will know that You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken.” (Judges 6:36-37 NASB)

Then Gideon said to God, “Do not let Your anger burn against me that I may speak once more; please let me make a test once more with the fleece, let it now be dry only on the fleece, and let there be dew on all the ground.”  God did so that night; for it was dry only on the fleece, and dew was on all the ground. (Judges 6:39-40 NASB)

Why do we think God thinks like we do?  Don’t we?  Don’t we fall into the default of believing that God will do the expected?  He will choose the strongest, smartest, tallest, best looking, anyone but me (or you).  He will choose the others, the others our culture claims are the best of the best.  Or even those of stronger faith, the righteous, He’ll choose those, but not us.

Or, maybe, as Scripture teaches, He’ll chose people like us instead.  Remember us, the ones with the altars in the front yard about which we are in denial?  Us, the ones who judge others but not ourselves.  We are the ones failing our Jesus as we selfishly seek whatever we want in our days.  It’s possible that this choice our Master makes is rigged in favor of the weak ones, like us.

Here’s an excellent specimen.  Gideon, a coward threshing wheat in a wine press, is hailed as a mighty warrior.  He has God’s favor.  And God is with him, even though he lies about the status of his family, has an altar to a pagan god in his front yard, and seems completely disinterested in national covenant obedience.  That’s right, let’s choose this guy, because at least he has faith, right?  Well, no.  He doesn’t seem to have that either.

Okay, if it is You calling, let me test you with an offering.  Okay, if it is you let me put out a fleece…twice.  Let me test You, let me test You, and once more, let me test You.  And then I’ll create an idol after I’m done.  Leave it to Yahweh to pick a real winner.  But isn’t it cool that He does pick such people?

Think about it.  Jesus picks Simon the Zealot (i.e. “terrorist”), and Matthew the tax collector (professional cheat).  Wouldn’t you think there would be room for us among such persons?  It seems I’m perfect for the job.  I’m not a terrorist, but I’ve cheated.  I’ve tested God, on several occasions.  I’ve acted faithlessly, ignored Him and His calling, walked away from faith (as far as He let me go anyway).  I’m perfect for Him!

The list of things that our enemy brings against us as accusations are actually the things that should drive us to Jesus.  Bring them on!  List them off!  Guilty as charged, but redeemed!  He chooses me, not because I don’t have such a list, but because of the list.  He looks at me as an opportunity to display His grace and mercy.  Because we forget that those are the qualities He wants His human creatures to know about Him.

Think about the accusations leveled at the church and “God” by detractors.  Don’t they all seem to fall on character?  How many attempt to undermine the qualities of grace and mercy?  In fact, a good case can be made that the “wrath of God”, so often pointed out in the Hebrew Scriptures, is only there to highlight the grace and mercy also found there.  Yeah, I’m a mess.  And that’s perfect for Him.  And so are you.

So, here’s a challenge, stop reading the Bible to be a good person.  Just stop it.  Stop praying to make God happy.  Just don’t.  He’s happy.  You’ll never be good enough to impress God.  It won’t happen, stop trying.

Instead, let’s read the Bible so we won’t miss a word He says to us.  Let’s pray to spend time with Him.  Let’s do that.  Make that our priority.  Because doing those things for those reasons brings us into relationship with our Creator, and makes Him the priority, not ourselves.  Let’s do that.  I mean, if He’ll spend so much time on Gideon, we have a pretty good chance He’ll choose us too.

That’s my view this morning.  What do you see of our Master through the fence?

Grace In The Picking

The LORD looked at him and said, “Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?”  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.”  So Gideon said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who speak with me.” (Judges 6:14-17 NASB)

When confronted by God, the first thing Gideon does is show off his ignorance.  He is in a culture completely unaware they live in violation of their covenant with God.  And yet, God doesn’t say to Gideon, “What’s wrong with you people?”  We say that as we read, but God’s response is different.  He drags this guy back into a covenant relationship with Him.

There are some interesting details given about God’s interaction with Gideon.  For instance, the Angel of Yahweh sits under the oak in Ophrah, and then appears to him.  The language is specific that Gideon couldn’t see Him until after He sat under the oak.  And now, we have the description that Yahweh looks directly at Gideon.  Gideon has His full attention, a dangerous thing of Yahweh’s to have.

These details may not seem like much, but they provide some insight into God’s character.  And it’s His character here that I think is so important.  Gideon gives one excuse after the other, and Yahweh patiently ignores and sweeps them aside.  First, Gideon is a “valiant warrior” with whom Yahweh hangs out, but Gideon asks the insulting question of where is this Yahweh.  Then Yahweh ignores the response, stares at him and tells him to go “in this your strength” and defeat Midian.

The fact that Yahweh doesn’t debate the first question, nor accept the falsely humble statements of Gideon about his family, and then waits around for the first “test”, all indicate that Yahweh is patient.  When He sends the prophet with the scathing rebuke, we think Him harsh.  But we forget that Yahweh didn’t wait around for their repentance.  In fact, there’s no real indication that the people truly repented.

God’s grace in this story is truly grace.  It’s not conditional on the objects of His favor, it didn’t wait around for some criteria other than the people calling out for God.  He just wanted to be acknowledged.  Clearly they didn’t understand their covenant relationship with Him.  Obviously they didn’t change their ways, they try to worship the stupid gold pendant Gideon has made at the end.

The point of this story, for the author and for us, is that God’s mercy is always available.  It may not look like we want.  It may not involve the people we would choose.  It may not be the most comfortable thing to receive.  But it’s always available, and available for the asking.  We may be amazed at how much we can survive, but we’ll survive.  It may be we only see the sheer amount of mercy He shows when we are before Him in heaven.

The thing is, God is merciful to the idiot, the ignorant, and the bonehead.  He is faithful to the unfaithful.  So, what are we?  Do we have all the answers?  Do we “get it”?  Are we faithful?  Don’t we have altars to other gods in our front yards?  Don’t we demonstrate the same level of ineptitude that Gideon showed?  Sure we do.  Daily, we display our ignorance and arrogance before God and everybody.  And yet, He continues to show His love for us.

The truth is that we are as dependent upon our Master as any believer in a third-world country.  In some ways we’re probably worse off.  And yet, as bad off as we may be, or may get, the love of God for us is as strong as His love for those more faithful followers in other countries.  He doesn’t wait for us to “get it”, to understand Him more, or even to repent.  Repenting is good, but God doesn’t wait for us to be faithful to Him, He simply is to us regardless.

Even repentance is a response to the love and faithfulness of God.  Even falling before Him in anguish over our sinful ignorance and boneheadedness is a response to His mercy.  We worship because He already loves us.  We honor Him because we’re already accepted.  We serve because we have already received His blessing.

I suppose the question for today is, what will you do in response to Him today?

That’s my view through the knothole.  What’s your view of God this morning?

How Does He NOT Know?

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?