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Posts Tagged ‘Book of Judges’

Today’s Old Testament reading in the Daily Lectionary is Judges 6: 1-14. The narration of Gideon is Judges 6-8, three chapters.  He obviously towers as a judge and warrior. Gideon was a hero, but as he towered he first cowered.

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, the angel declared the Lord’s blessing:  “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” (6: 12).  This “mighty man of valor” immediately responded, if the Lord is with us, where has He been of late? Where are all His wonderful deeds?   Here Gideon sounds like 21st century man filled with doubt and cynicism, not exactly the major motion picture portrayal of a “mighty man of valor”! After all, the Midianites had conquered and controlled Israel for seven years and oppressed Israel. What could Gideon do?   “And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” (vs. 14).   Just as with Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre, the angel is the LORD.  His comment, “go in this might of yours” may be sarcasm.  Gideon makes abundantly clear in the next verses he has no “might”.  He tells the LORD his tribe is the weakest of the 12 tribes of Israel and of his tribe and his family, “…I am the least in my father’s house” (vs. 15).   Gideon asked, “How can I save Israel?” (vs. 15).  The Lord responds, “ “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” (vs. 16)  The LORD reiterates the blessing:  I am with you. 

I am with you:  Those 4 English words sum up the Gospel promises, as our Lord’s final words before His ascension, “Lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the ages of ages” (Matthew 28)  In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus, literally, “God saves” is  Emmanuel, God with us.  When the LORD said to Gideon “I am with you”, Jesus Christ was with Gideon.  The LORD has quite a track record of choosing the least, the last and the lost to bring His Word into this world:  David, a shepherd boy, of the least of the cities of Judah, Bethlehem;  Abraham, a pagan idolater;  Moses, a stammering murderer;  Peter, a fisherman;  Paul, a persecutor of the Church…there are more. You. Me. Gideon asked, How can I save Israel?  Gideon had that right:  he could not save Israel, only God can, but men and women of faith in the LORD are part of His salvation as He saved them first, as He did Gideon: I am with you.

Then Gideon asked for a sign (vs. 17) and he asked the LORD to stay put till he brought Him a gift (vs. 18).  The LORD said, “I will stay till your return”. The LORD is steadfast.

In vss. 19-24, Gideon gives his gift and the LORD consumes it in fire. What can we give to the Lord who has given us all things?  The LORD gave His sign and Gideon dries out, “Alas, O LORD God”  And the LORD said to him,“Peace be with you.  Do not fear; you shall not die.”  The LORD is our peace and here for the third time the LORD gives the promise:  I am with you.  Gideon builds at altar at the spot and calls it “The LORD is peace”.  The LORD gives His peace, not as world gives, He gives Himself (John 14:27).  Now Gideon will wage war and destroy altars of demons.  Not peaceful, you say?  But the horror is idolatry and immorality which are not peace at all. The world calls good evil and evil good.  This vain world thinks if we are peaceful, while committing idolatry and immorality, we have peace, but we do not.   And the sword of God’s Word will cut it out, as did Ehud with Eglon, the war of our flesh, the world and the devil.  As Gideon, as Ehud, as Deborah, we are up against overwhelming odds.  Again,before  Gideon towered, he cowered and it was only in the power of the LORD, could Gideon triumph, but it was finally not the triumph of Gideon!  I too would have said just what Gideon said and I have!  We are called not to save the world, but to serve the Savior and hold on to His promise: I am with you, as He held  up Gideon.

 

 

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“But Jael the wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand. Then she went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple until it went down into the ground while he was lying fast asleep from weariness. So he died.” Judges 4: 21

Read today’s Daily Lectionary Old Testament reading is the narrative of Deborah, Barak and Sisera:  Judges 4.

Deborah, a prophetess, and a Gentile woman Jael were decisive in beating a foreign power with “900 chariots of iron”, an overwhelming force.  They helped win the victory for idolatrous and once again, repentant Israel.   The Lord promised the Israelite Barak the victory. It took Deborah to coax him into battle with the promise that a woman would carry out the victory.  Barak was like another general, the union one, George Meade, who after winning the battle of Gettysburg should have pursued the Lee and his army and utterly stopped them, per Lincoln’s desire, but Meade did not.   Barak, whose name means “lightening” was anything but quick and decisive, like Meade.  In fact, Barak wanted Deborah to go with him.  Deborah had faith in the Lord at His Word…Barak’s faith seemed to be weak. A woman’s act of winning the battle meant only one thing in that culture:  shame. God’s Word is the strength and honor of both men and women. The glory of Israel was not the strength of their arms but the arm of their strength was the Word of God. 

 Jael lured the fleeing General Sisera into her tent and then drove a stake through his head into the ground:

“God had His way by incorporating the Gentiles into His plan.  The stake of the cross was firmly planted by Christ into the head of our enemy. Boldness in the faith is now the legacy left to us Gentiles.” (Pr. Scott Murray, A Year with the Church Fathers, 9 July meditation) 

The battle lines are becoming clearer every day as our nation and world dissolves into secularism and sectarianism and idolatry.  The Church must stand firm in the faith and firm in the love of our neighbor.  Deborah mostly sat under the palms with God’s Word from which she rendered the wisdom of God’s Word.   A moving cup can not be filled.  We need to be still, and so stilled,   in prayer and meditation to be filled with the Word through the Holy Spirit, as Deborah.  May these narratives from Judges, also God’s Word, fortify us in the Incarnate Word,  Jesus Christ.   

Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word, curb those who by deceit or sword would wrest the Kingdom from Your Son and bring to nought all he has done. (Hymn by Martin Luther)

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