Random verse for the day:
Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east were gathered together, and went over, and pitched in the valley of Jezreel. (Jdg 6:33)
And Joash said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar. Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar. Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east were gathered together, and went over, and pitched in the valley of Jezreel. But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him. (Jdg 6:31-34)
The chapter in general:
Let's get a little background in before we dig into the chapter at hand.
Forty years prior to the events we'll read about in this chapter, the prophetess and judge Deborah, in obedience to God's word, brought peace to Israel by defeating Israel's Canaanite enemy, King Jabin. She spoke God's word to an Israelite named Barak, telling him to gather his forces and head to mount Tabor, where God would draw Sisera, chief captain of Jabin's military host, and his forces out to the river Kishon to deliver them into Barak's hand (read: he would defeat them utterly).
Barak didn't believe her right away, not unreservedly anyway. He told Deborah that he wasn't taking any armies anywhere unless she went with them. Apparently, he doubted that Deborah was speaking the word of God to him, thinking to test her sincerity by requiring that she place herself in the same danger as he would be in. Frankly, I don't have all that much of a problem with that, it seems a reasonable thing to do and more an act of humility than unbelief. Test the spirits, so to speak. God sent you to ME?
Deborah, and maybe even God, do have a problem with it though. She tells Barak that she certainly would go to battle with him, that he would gain the victory over the Canaanites as God had promised, but also that he would not have the honor of personally defeating his Canaanite counterpart Sisera. Instead, she tells him, that honor would be a woman's, which would be a dishonor to him.
I'm going to do some studying on that. If Deborah had a problem with Barak's doubtful response, I can live with that. If God Himself had a problem with it, I'd better do some focused studying and learn how to have a problem with it too! I don't want to be in disagreement with God over even the smallest thing! Any thoughts?
Okay, so Deborah and Barak go out to battle against Sisera and his forces. Barak and his forces route the Canaanites, as God said they would; the Israelite forces hammered them. While Barak and his men pursue the fleeing Canaanite chariots, Sisera escapes the battlefield on foot, apparently going unnoticed by the otherwise engaged Israelite forces. He arrives at the tent of the wife of a Kenite named Heber, with whom Canaanite king Jabin had good relations, expecting aid and shelter.
Heber's wife, Jael, welcomes him and makes him comfortable, promising that she would hide him if anyone came looking for him, ie a berzerkified jew. Relieved for the aid she promised and exhausted from the battle and his flight from it, Sisera nods off and goes to sleep. Upon arriving at Jael's tent, he had asked for water and been given milk instead; I wonder if Jael didn't have it in mind to get him to sleep from jump street.
Whether or not she did, that's exactly what happened. Sisera slept. Once Jael was sure that he was out of it, she reached out and grabbed a hammer and a tent peg, tip-toed to where Sisera was sleeping, and hammered the spike straight through his head until his it was literally nailed to the ground. I'd imagine her husband, ol'e sleepy Heber, thought twice before arguing with her and kept his tools secured after that lol.
Eventually, Barak remembers something about some enemy commander guy named Sisera, and goes hunting for him. As he comes near Jael's tent, she goes out to meet him and says "Psst... I know where the guy you're lookin' for is." Barak enters her tent and finds Sisera hammered, as it were lol, layin' around doin' nothing.
That battle eventually led to the total defeat of Jabin, and Israel dwelt in peace for the next forty years.
Today's chapter opens with Israel, after enjoying those forty years of peace, turning away from God and doing evil once again. In response, God gives them into the hand of the Midianites for seven years, who make things so bad for the people of Israel that they were actually forced to make dens in the mountains and hide in caves and if they were in a position to, build fortresses.
During this time, the Midianites, Amalekites and others to the east were in the habit of coming around every year after the crops had been planted and overrunning the land with their livestock, destroying the crops and leaving Israel destitute of sustenance. The Israelites had to learn guerilla gardening tactics to produce any food at all. Anything grown in plain sight of the enemies of Israel was sure to be destroyed.
After seven years of this, Israel was impoverished to the point of despair. The people cried out to the God of their fathers, who sent a prophet to remind them that He had rescued them from Egypt with miracles and a mighty hand, driven out the inhabitants of the land they now possessed and gave it to them, and having done so, commanded them not to fear the gods of the Ammorites all around them. But noooooooo, you didn't listen, Israel.
God didn't say any more than that through this prophet He sent, but He did send an angel to one of Joash's sons. His name was Gideon.
The angel tells Gideon, who is engaged in some of that good old guerilla farming, that God is with him, calling him a mighty man of valour. Gideon is somewhat cynical toward the angel's statement. He asks the angel why, if God is with them, are they suffering so badly at the hands of their enemies, and where, if God is with them, are the miracles they heard their fathers tell them about now that they needed them. Gideon concludes by saying that YHWH had forsaken them and handed them over to the Midianites.
YHWH, acting and speaking through the angel, looks Gideon up and down and tells him something like "Look at yourself! Take this hulking brawn of yours and fight, and I'll deliver Israel from the Midianites you're crying about through you. After all, it's ME, YHWH man, and when I send you to do something, all ya gotta do is show up and I'll do the rest!"
Gideon responds by asking how he, a member of one of his tribe's poorest families, is supposed to do a thing like that. "I have no money and no esteem. Who will follow me? I'll wind up alone, surrounded, and throwing dirt at them!" Through the angel, YHWH responds by telling Gideon that He surely will be with him when he fights, and that's how he'll win.
If a pep talk like that, coming from an angel no less, isn't enough to get you fired up, then I don't know what is, and I'm sure Gideon's heart was racing now as the angel's words careened around his cranium. But like Barak had forty years ago, Gideon needed some kind of proof.
Barak forty years earlier, Gideon then, and me today.
I really can relate to these two guys. I'm always skeptical when someone tells me "God says...", and even more skeptical when I think God is speaking to me directly. It isn't that I don't trust God, I do with all my heart. It's that I don't trust people, and I'm a people too. I spend more time picking my thoughts apart than I do thinking them (which accounts for my rather frequent time management lapses lol), and please don't take offense if I don't accept a thing you say in God's name unless I can confirm it in His word. Our flesh is corrupted, and our minds are inextricably linked to our meat brains, so nothing is to be trusted without examination. That's my take on it anyway.
Like Barak and Gideon though, I'm also willing to do exactly what I'm told once I know that what I'm hearing is genuinely of God. I look for those opportunities, I'm just very careful not to be misled by my own corrupt mind (and hopefully anyone else's either) and do something foolish that might harm people needlessly (including me), reflect badly on my faith, and possibly damage it or someone else's.
I think that's where these guys were coming from too, and if I'm right, I think they take a harder rap than they deserve when we study these chapters and talk about them. It seems that we almost look down our noses at Gideon for requesting signs of authenticity from the angel and later from God, but honestly, I don't blame him a bit based on the limited information we have in this account, and the same goes for Barak when we speak of his story.
Now that I've given away the next part of the story lol, let's move on. Gideon invites the angel to stay for dinner, and asks for a sign that what he's saying is real. He kills a kid (four-legged variety of course) for the main course and makes some unleavened bread to go with it, and brings it our to the angel, who tells him to put the meat and the bread on a rock and pour the juice out over it. Gideon complies, the angel reaches out with his walking stick and taps the meat and the bread, and fire bursts forth from the rock under it and totally consumes them, and the angel splits.
Having realized that he had indeed been communicating face to face with God through an angel, Gideon feared for his life! He cried out, and God said "Peace to you. Don't be afraid, you're not gonna die." Having seen and heard all this, Gideon is so moved, shaken I think is more like it, that he builds an altar on the spot and calls it YHWH PEACE.
Why build an altar and name it YHWH Peace? As a lasting reminder to YHWH that he promised him peace and that he wasn't gonna die, that's why! Gideon really believed he was going to die because he spoke face to face with an angel of the Lord!
God now had Gideon's undivided and undoubting attention, and He began speaking directly to him without the intermediary agency of the angel. He put him right to work the same night. He tells Gideon to commandeer his father's young bullock and use it to topple the altar of Baal situated on his father's land, cut down all the trees around it, build an altar elsewhere, and sacrifice the bullock on it using the wood from the ex-grove around the altar of Baal.
Gideon grabs ten servants and does as instructed under cover of darkness for fear of his family and the people who lived in the city. That morning, the city awakens to find the altar of Baal destroyed, the land where the grove of trees stood the day before completely denuded, and a brand new altar to another God built with the young bullock lying slaughtered on it. They reason among themselves as to who the perpetrator might be, and they conclude that it must have been Gideon. I'm not sure why, maybe one of the servants who was with him narc'd him out.
The men of the city pay Joash a little visit, demanding that he bring his son out so they could kill him a little. Joash isn't buying it though, and tells them that if Baal really was a god, he could defend himself, and says that anyone else who would plead the case of Baal that morning would be pushing up daisies that afternoon. Joash then gave Gideon the symbolical name Jerubbaal, which means something like "let Baal contend" according to Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions for e-Sword.
Well, Gideon was right about one thing: The people around them were none too happy about their mighty god Baal having been toppled by a dumb bullock, and they encamped to make war against the perpetrator in the valley of Jezreel.
The spirit of YHWH came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet to call Abiezer to his aid, and he sent messengers out to the tribes of Manasseh (homeboys), and Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, all of whom responded with forces.
Having a bona fide Aok4way moment, Gideon asks God for a sign that He was really truly for sure going to give him and his allies the victory over the heathen, and I'm sure again that he was doing it to avoid mistakes that would cost all those people putting their trust in him their lives.
You know the story, dew on the fleece but not on the ground, dew on the ground but not on the fleece, and...
Thus ends the chapter
Thought for the day:
I like lettin' it all hang out and sharing my thought processes with you like that once in a while! I know how easy it is when we read things like this to conclude that someone is being preachy or teachy, but if any of them are like me, they're actually doing exactly the opposite. These are studies, and I do them to educate myself and gain a better understanding of my Father in heaven and what He wants me to do, because I really do love Him. I go to school every morning by the grace of God, I do my assignment, and some days Teacher lets us sit around and discuss before moving on to the next assignment. I like that almost as much as recess!
To me, this is like the class sitting around and discussing an assignment it has just completed, and your comments make that possible. Your recs are also appreciated, because the more kids there are in the classroom, the more fun discussion time is, and the Teacher is a living breath of fresh air
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