Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Mar 20, Jdg 6-7

Today's readings are Jdg 6-7.

Once again Israel begins to "do evil in the sight of the Lord" (Jdg 6:1) and falls captive to Midian, a former enemy (Num 25:16-18). 

God calls Gideon to go against the Midianites. While he is called a "mighty man of valor" (Jdg 6:12), Gideon seems to have his struggles. He immediately questions God’s decision, explaining why he’s not qualified (Jdg 6:15). When the angel persists, Gideon asks for a sign and receives a spectacular one (Jdg 16:19-24). Notice, Gideon acknowledges his divine calling even building an altar. Gideon is confident of his calling but evidently harbors some fear (Jdg 16:27). So far Gideon is not acting much like a “man of valor.”

Then in one of the most misunderstood passages in the Bible, Gideon questions God's call yet again. He wants additional signs and utilizes a fleece twice (Jdg 6:36-40)! Suffice it to say, while many have been taught to "lay a fleece before the Lord," it may not be the best idea to continue testing and questioning God.

Even though Gideon is acting fearful and testing God, God is gracious and forgiving. However, as believers, we should not take this as a license to question God and test Him. We have the blessing of the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide us and strengthen us. Gideon does not.

Perhaps God's grace is provided to Gideon to prepare him for what was to come. The fleeces work but whether Gideon likes the outcome is doubtful. Ultimately, God reduces Gideon's army to the point that defeat is assured without supernatural intervention (Jdg 7:1-8). 

Much has been made of the last three hundred men and how they were chosen (Jdg 7:7). There are several explanations as to why they were singled out, most of them having something to do with the remnant being alert and cautious to the point that they did not kneel to drink but remained upright and vigilant. This line of reasoning misses the point made in Jdg 7:2. God is reducing the army to ensure that credit for the victory goes to Him, not any man. If these three hundred men were somehow more capable than the others, they would get the glory. They are chosen only because God chose them not because they were more valiant or more qualified.

Notice, as Gideon prepares to spy on the enemy camp, God tells him to take Purah if he is afraid to go alone (Jdg 7:10). Gideon reveals his fear by taking his servant.

Be careful with those fleeces, folks! The modern tendency is to use them to feel some security and assurance about a tough decision. The fleece neither allayed Gideon’s fears nor made his task any easier.

 Once God responded to Gideon's fleece, Gideon had to respond to God's directives. With all the testing and questioning completed, God then made Gideon’s calling impossible to accomplish without divine and supernatural intervention.  

Gideon’s men set the vast army on the run, apparently without ever engaging in hand-to-hand combat, but by breaking jars, blowing horns and standing in their places (Jdg 7:20-22). Once the panicked and confused enemy army was put to flight, the rest of Ephraim was rallied to engage (Jdg 7:24-25).

Gideon’s doubts and testing of God, rather than giving him confidence and assurance, only led to a set of circumstances in which he had to trust God’s word completely. Look at the progression of events. Gideon went from “I want to be sure God is calling me” to “God is surely calling me to do the impossible!” God called Gideon a “man of valor” not because he was a fierce or capable warrior, but because he was willing to obey God regardless of his fears. 

If we lay a fleece and God responds, are we ready to do whatever He tells us?

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