Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Crushing Defeat - to Growing Faith

Today is April Fool's Day. No April Fools in Judges 6 and 7.

Starts out with more of the same:

1 -6 "Yet again the People of Israel went back to doing evil in God's sight. God put them under the domination of Midian for seven years. Midian overpowered Israel. Because of Midian, the People of Israel made for themselves hideouts in the mountains—caves and forts. When Israel planted its crops, Midian and Amalek, the easterners, would invade them, camp in their fields, and destroy their crops all the way down to Gaza. They left nothing for them to live on, neither sheep nor ox nor donkey. Bringing their cattle and tents, they came in and took over, like an invasion of locusts. And their camels—past counting! They marched in and devastated the country. The People of Israel, reduced to grinding poverty by Midian, cried out to God for help."

People are disobedient. God punishes them. (Yes, PUNISHES them) THIS is the prelude for one of my favorite stories in the entire Bible!

Gideon is hiding. He is trying to thresh his family's wheat, yet not be seen so it will not be stolen from them. So here he is, trying to be insconpicuous. He was IN the winepress. So is he in a hole in the ground?
"The angel of God appeared to him and said, "God is with you, O mighty warrior!"

Do you get the IRONY of this? Gideon is in a hole, working very inefficiently so as to hide from the enemy. And the angel says, "God is with you, O mighty warrior!"
Gideon does not fall over laughing. In fact, he doesn't miss a beat. He answers,"With me, my master? If God is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the miracle-wonders our parents and grandparents told us about, telling us, 'Didn't God deliver us from Egypt?' The fact is, God has nothing to do with us—he has turned us over to Midian."
The whole encounter with the angel, Gibeon's obedience and his humility is the great story of this section. We all like the sensational story that follows, but that battle was won here, in his heart, as he submitted to God and obeyed God. He even risked death by pulling down the pagan family altar. THAT is the key to Gideon's early success - his bravery in obeying God even when it might cost him his life.
After the angel's promise, and his steps of faith and growing obedience, Gideon gets the challenge of his life.

Cowering in fear? That was yesterday. Today he is full of the Spirit and has faith that is starting to grow. Even with all the bravado, He REALLY needs to hear from God.
36 -37 "Gideon said to God, "If this is right, if you are using me to save Israel as you've said, then look: I'm placing a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If dew is on the fleece only, but the floor is dry, then I know that you will use me to save Israel, as you said."
38 That's what happened. When he got up early the next morning, he wrung out the fleece—enough dew to fill a bowl with water!
39 Then Gideon said to God, "Don't be impatient with me, but let me say one more thing. I want to try another time with the fleece. But this time let the fleece stay dry, while the dew drenches the ground."
40 God made it happen that very night. Only the fleece was dry while the ground was wet with dew."

OK. God was with him. He knew this task ahead of him was completely impossible without God. But he obeyed what he had been told so far. His faith had been stretched from where it was before. He had even risked his life to honor and obey God.

The stage is set for God to use him in a spectacular way!

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