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?


Theology of The Last Man Standing

 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’ (Revelation 2:17 NASB)

The British SAS have a motto of “Who Dares Wins”.  It’s a good motto for those who’s life is spent preparing and then daring to enter the most dangerous situations imaginable.  But Scripture has a different approach to winning.  The word in the passage above for “overcomes” is the Greek word for “win”.  It’s the verb form of the Greek word, nike.

The context of this statement ties this “victory” to “repentance” (change of mind).  But a scary aspect of this word is that it’s singular, meaning the one who wins gains the prize.  That’s not an expectation of a crowd in the “winner’s circle”.  On the other hand, it could very well be that every one who wins gains the prize.  It doesn’t have to be exclusive, but it does make it difficult to blame another for either being or not being included.  You either win or you don’t.

So, how is this nike attained?  Is repentance the only avenue to find the way to win?  This word is used in several of the Letters to the Churches in Revelation.  In each case, the criteria for winning isn’t the point, but rather the prize.  So here too, the point is more about what is gained.  But in 1 John 5, we’re told that our victory is our faith.  Or, another way to think of that is our tenacious “bulldog” belief in Jesus.  Therefore enduring belief is what brings victory.  The one winning gains the prizes offered to the churches in Revelation.

This is usually my answer when the discussion about losing salvation turns to my belief.  My answer is typically, “yes, and no”, which also typically bothers both sides.  I consider their discomfort an entertaining side benefit.  What I see in Scripture is that the concern of Jesus is not whether someone along the way at any point is or isn’t “saved” but rather whether or not they will be among those standing before His throne in the end.  The one enduring to the end will be saved, not necessarily the one along the path doing x or y, or believing like I do, or holding this position or that.  The one who’s faith is in Jesus at the end wins.  We may not be terribly comfortable with such an answer, but Jesus seems to be.

So, the call from this passage is to remember the “hidden manna” and “white stone” await us, but we have to get to the end of the race to get them.  The crown, the escape of the second death, the chance to eat from the Tree of Life, to be a pillar in the Temple of God in Heaven, and so much more.  All these things are reserved for the one who wins.  The call and challenge is to win, to remain faithful and steadfast to the end.  “Run with endurance the race set before us.” It’s hard to do with entangling sin and encumbering thinking.  Set them down and get running.  See you in the winner’s circle!

What’s your view through the knothole?