17 05 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY SEVEN : Judges 6 v. 1 – 7 v. 8a; John 5 v. 16 – 30; Psalm 57 v. 7 – 11

Gideon – so after that period of forty years of peace in the land, there are seven years of  severe oppression by the Midianites, because Israel ‘did evil in the eyes of the Lord’.
The Israelites even built shelters in the mountains and caves, to hide themselves from the Midianites. All their crops were ruined by the Midianites and others. No food for themselves or their livestock.
So, the Israelites cried out to God for help, and God sent a prophet to remind them how far they had fallen away from the covenant relationship (‘I said to you, ‘Do not worship the gods’…but you have not listened to me’).
The ‘angel of the Lord’ came and spoke to Gideon under an oak tree in Ophrah. Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress at the time. The angel’s first words were,
‘The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.’
Gideon delves deep and asks how the Lord can be with them when they are suffering so greatly. Rather, it feels like all the miracles, all the wonders are far behind them and that they have been abandoned.
‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?’ says the Lord.’
Gideon, then, focuses on the weakness of his clan (and of his even lowlier place), completely missing the angel’s point about ‘the strength you have’ – what we already have is enough for God to begin to use us – it is He who adds to the strength, the wisdom, the gifting we offer in service to Him.

The choice of one who appears to be the least is a pattern throughout the Old Testament.

The Lord’s promise is always, ‘I will be with you, and you will…..’
Gideon asks for a sign to be sure he’s got this right in his mind. He asks the Lord to stay while he goes to get his offering and brings it back. The Lord agrees to stay.
Having prepared his offering of goat and unleavened bread, he returns and follows the angel’s instructions. The angel touches the offerings with his staff, and fire consumes the meat and bread. The angel disappears.
Gideon now knows without doubt that he has been in the presence of the angel of the Lord, and seen him face to face.
The Lord reassures him that he will not perish, and that he is not to be afraid (to see the angel of the Lord was to anticipate death). Gideon builds an altar there, calling it, ‘The Lord is Peace’.
That night, the Lord speaks to Gideon again, telling him to tear down his father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole, and rebuild a proper altar to the Lord God, use the wood from the Asherah pole to make a fire to sacrifice the seven year old bull from his father’s herd.
Gideon did as he was commanded, but out of fear of his family, he did it at night.
The people of the town were furious when they discovered their altar to Baal and Asherah pole had been destroyed, and demanded that Joash (Gideon’s father) bring out his son to be killed.
Joash stands up for his son, and throws back the challenge for Baal to defend himself, if he really is a god. So, Gideon gets the nick-name ‘Jerub-Baal’ which means ‘Let Baal contend with him’.
As the enemy forces gather in the Valley of Jezreel, the Spirit of the Lord comes upon Gideon, and at his trumpet blast the Abiezrites (his father’s people) gathered to follow him. Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali also join in.
Gideon lays his fleece before the Lord, asking for a further sign – ‘If you will save Israel by my hand as You have promised….’ then He asks God to let dew rest only on the fleece and all the ground around it be dry in the morning. And it happened. He filled a bowl with the water he wrung out of the fleece. He asked for one more sign (and begs God not to be angry with him for asking), but the reverse this time, for the fleece to be dry and all the ground around it wet with dew. And it happened.

Gideon needed lots of signs to be certain it was God who was asking this of him, and God graciously offered the signs. How good and gracious God is, bringing us to a place of complete trust in Him, if we are open to it, and long for God to show Himself to us.

Gideon Defeats the Midianites – Gideon has tested God (the fleece) to be sure of his obedience, and now God is going to test Gideon, and his obedience !
Early in the morning, Gideon and the army were at the Harod spring. The Midianite camp was not far from them, to the north. God tells Gideon he has too many men – to spare Israel from boasting about its own strength and prowess, but rather that God has saved her – God reduces the number by telling the fearful to go him – 20,000 leave.
There are still too many, so God gives another test – when the men are taken down to the water and told to drink, those who lapped the water from their cupped hands (300) were chosen and the rest, who drank by lapping the water directly (like dogs) were sent home.
So Gideon sent home thousands of men, but kept just 300 for the battle and God promised to use just the 300 to deliver the Midianites into his hands.

Life Through the Son – Jesus experiences persecution from the Jews because (i) He has been active on the Sabbath (though He claims even God is active for good on the Sabbath), and (ii) by calling God His Father, He was claiming an equality with God.
Jesus says some very provocative things to the Jews :
‘The Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.’
‘Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom He is pleased to give it.’
Jesus says that all judgment has been passed from Father to Son – a divine occupation.
‘He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent Him.’
‘I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.’
Jesus says, also that the dead will hear His voice and be raised – divine activity, again.

Jesus is claiming such a unity with the Father, that the Jews cannot sit on the fence regarding His ministry – either He’s right, and they must turn to believe in Him, or He’s a liar / evil, and must be wiped out…..the cross looms large already.

‘My heart is steadfast…I will sing and make music
Awake, my soul, harp and lyre…awaken the dawn.
I will praise You…I will sing of You among the peoples.
Great is Your love, reaching to the heavens…
Be exalted, O God…let Your glory be over all the earth.’




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