Whoever refreshes others, will themselves be refreshed….(Proverbs 11 v. 25)

20 05 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY EIGHT : Judges 7 v. 8b – 8 v. 35; John 5 v. 31 – 47; Proverbs 11 v. 19  – 28

JUDGES
Gideon Defeats the Midianites – so, Gideon is rather worried about the vast army of the Midianites compared to his mere 300 men, but God tells him to take his servant Purah and go down to listen to what the Midianites are saying. Gideon does this and overhears a conversation about a mysterious dream – the dream is of a giant bread loaf rolling down the hill and collapsing the Midianites’ tent. The interpretation was that this was a sign that Gideon and his army would easily defeat the Midianites and that the whole camp would be given into his hands.
Gideon is encouraged by this dream and its interpretation and wakes his army with a plan to attack. Three companies of a hundred men are organised, with trumpets and jars and torches. With a loud shout,
‘For the Lord and for Gideon’
they attach the camp and the Midianites flee – at the trumpet blast the confusion (it’s the middle of the night) caused the Midianites to turn against one another. Then the Napthali, Asher and Manasseh tribes were called in to pursue the fleeing Midianites. Ephraim, also is called in to help from the hill country, focussing on the Jordan area. The Ephraimites capture two of their leaders, Oreb and Zeeb, and kill them (there are place names reflecting where they ‘fell’ – Oreb’s Rock and Zeeb’s Winepress), bringing their heads to Gideon (euch).
 
Zebah and Zalmunna – Gideon is criticised by the Ephraimites for not including them sooner, but Gideon points out that they had accomplished far more than he (defeating the two leaders, Oreb and Zeeb), even after a shorter time. Their resentment subsides.
The pursuit continues up to, and across, the Jordan.
Asking for food for his small army at Succoth and at Peniel, but being refused (even taunted at Succoth), Gideon warns that those towns are doomed to destruction when he returns with the remaining Midianite leaders, Zebah and Zalmunna.
Gideon’s three hundred strong army defeat the Midianite’s 15,000 at Karkor. The two leaders are captured.
So one the way back, with Zebah and Zalmunna, Gideon punishes the seventy-seven officials of Succoth, and tears down the tower at Peniel, killing all the men there.
Finally, Gideon finds out from Zebah and Zalmunna exactly what their victory at Tabor had been like – and hears that many like Gideon had fallen at their hands. Gideon knows the only outcome for these two is for them to suffer the same, and so orders his son, Jether, to kill them. Jether, described as ‘only a boy and…afraid’ refuses.
Zebah and Zalmunna suggest that Gideon do it himself – ‘As is the man, so is his strength’.
So Gideon kills them and….
takes ‘the ornaments off their camel’s necks’……(whatever next!!)

Gideon’s Ephod – mmm, the section v. 22 – 27 starts off well. Because of his successes, the Israelites plead for Gideon to be their leader, their ruler. Gideon refuses, saying ‘The Lord will rule over you.
But then, when he requests a gold earing from each person, and gathers 1,700 shekels in weight of gold, Gideon crafts a golden ephod (remember, an ephod was a part of the priestly garment worn beneath the breastplate), I suppose as a memorial to the victory over the Midianites. The problem is that this golden ephod becomes a ‘snare’ to Gideon and his family, and ‘all Israel’ who prostitute themselves by bowing down and worshipping the golden ephod.
Maybe Gideon’s intentions in setting up a golden ephod were wholesome, but that physical / material memorial becomes a place of worship rather than pointing to the God who rules over them and who enabled the victory.

A warning to us, that even if our motives in setting some project or initiative up are wholesome, it can all go pear-shaped if that project or initiative takes attention from God, and becomes the focus for undue honour or worship….

Gideon’s Death – Gideon is credited with bringing forty years of peace to the land, having conquered the Midianites. Gideon (Jerub-Baal) returns home and has 70 sons (goodness me!!) from his many wives, and one (Abimelech) from his concubine. When Gideon dies, he is buried in his father’s grave.
As soon as Gideon is gone, the Israelites turn to worship Baal once more, forgetting the Lord their God. They also neglect Gideon’s family, and too easily forget the victories Gideon had led them through.
Fickle people, eh.

JOHN
Testimonies About Jesus – Jesus continues to challenge the Jews who have been persecuting Him because of His good deeds on the Sabbath. He is building His case before them – ‘don’t just take my word for it’, He is saying, knowing that the witness of one person is not valid OT teaching.
His cousin, John, has testified to them
‘John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light’
but Jesus is claiming a higher authority (‘not that I accept human testimony…)
‘the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me….you diligently study the Scriptures…these are the Scripture that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.’
He tells them that they do not have the word of God dwelling in them because they don’t believe in Him.
He tells them, also, that they do not have the love of God in their hearts.
He claims Moses as their accuser, for‘if you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me…’

PROVERBS
‘The truly righteous man attains life’
– that righteous life is pure gift to the soul surrendered to Jesus, the holy one, who alone makes us holy.
‘The Lord delights in those whose ways are blameless’
‘Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion’
– what glorious pictorial language !
‘A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed’
‘He who seeks good finds goodwill’
‘Whoever trusts in his riches will fall….’

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