Tuesday, 1 April 2014

(92) April 2: Judges 6-7 & Luke 8:1-21

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read consider what is being stressed by the detail of the story.

To ponder:
The cycle continues, “again.” This oppression is so severe, Israelites prepared shelters to hide in. Hoards would wreck their crops, kill their livestock and impoverish them. So Israel “cried out” to the LORD.
            First God sends a prophet to remind them that in response to the Exodus they were to remain faithful, but have not listened. This clarified their hardships did not stem from any inability in him. The same point is made by the angel of the LORD. Gideon takes the angel’s words “the LORD is with you mighty warrior” to refer to God being with the people in general. Not realising who the person is, he mentions the Exodus and asks why, then, Israel were being oppressed, suggesting God must have abandoned his people. These events set the backdrop for the coming story in which again and again it is emphasized that the LORD (not Gideon) is the one delivering Israel.
            God sends Gideon “in the strength” Gideon has. But Gideon replies he is the “weakest” of the “least in my family.” Indeed, he was threshing wheat in secret, probably for fear of the Midianites (6v11). So God points out where strength is to be found, replying: “I will be with you.” However, Gideon’s weakness is also of faith. Time and again he therefore asks for reassurance, and God graciously and patiently gives it.
The angel responds to Gideon’s first request for a “sign” by bringing not water (Num 20v7-11) but fire from a rock with his staff, to consume Gideon’s offering (probably a burnt offering, expressing devotion to God). This proves the angel is the God of the Exodus. And like Moses, Gideon declares he has seen “the LORD face to face” (Num 12v8).
God then tells Gideon to tear down his father’s altar to Baal and Asherah pole, erecting a proper altar and offering a bull on the wood of the pole. This is Gideon’s first act against the cause of Israel’s oppression. But once more he shows his timidity and weak faith, by acting at night in fear. The next morning his father restrains the enraged crowd, declaring: “If Baal really is god, he can defend himself.” Of course this only proves that Baal is not.
            The Midianites and their allies then enter the land again. As with Othniel, “the Spirit of the LORD” comes upon Gideon, he rallies various tribes with the trumpet and goes to do battle. Yet again, he needs reassurance that God will do what he “promised,” twice testing him with the fleece. But the LORD is well able to fulfil his promise. Here 7v2 is key. So that Israel will not boast in her own strength, God reduces her army from the thirty-two thousand to three hundred! 6v5 stressed the enemy always came in a number “impossible to count.” To defeat them now could therefore only glorify God. To reassure Gideon again, God makes plain he is going to “give them” into Gideon’s hand and sends him into their camp to hear an enemy recount a dream interpreted to mean God had indeed “given” them into Gideon’s hands. So Gideon worships God and is victorious. His men simply blow trumpets, smash jars and give out a battle cry. The enemy flee in panic, and we read “the LORD caused” them to turn on each other with swords. Other tribes are then called out to pursue them and two of their key leaders are killed.
            Just as God used the weak Gideon with so few men, so he defeated all evil through just one man, Jesus Christ. We are therefore reminded once more of his absolute ability to deliver us from sin and help us in times of need. Yet we are encouraged too, of his gracious patience with our weakness and struggling faith.

Praying it home:
Thank God for his grace and patience with our weakness. Pray that you would be able to trust him sufficiently even to stand apart from your family as Gideon did, in faithfulness to Christ.

Thinking further:
None today.

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