Gideon’s Dad

Evidently, Gideon’s father had an altar of Baal and a grove to go along with it. As a Hebrew, he knew

the God of Israel. It seems like he had everything covered. Having both belief systems covered is not without problems especially since the Midianites were attacking and destroying crops and their way of life.

Gideon had asked God why all the problems were happening to them. They were hiding from the Midianites that had invaded their land. Times were tough, they were not living freely.

God gave Gideon a solution which was to destroy his father’s altar of Baal and cut down the grove. He did what God said to do and quickly the men of the city arose against Gideon.  They went to his father and wanted him to give them Gideon so they could kill him.

30 Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that was by it.

31 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. 

32 Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar. Judges 6:30-32

The Hebrews were having problems because they had one foot in paganism and one foot their own religion.  It sounds like a good way to get along, but it isn’t really. God wanted His people to live freely and abundantly enjoy the plans He had for them. If someone else tried to remove this freedom and abundance, there was pressure and a fight. The enemy cultures in that time were aggressive and violent. Tolerance of the invaders was not healthy.

Joash, Gideon’s father, had an interesting comeback about Baal.  If Gideon was Baal’s enemy, then Baal, being a so-called god, should be able to take care of the situation if he is truly a god.

From that time on Gideon was called Jerubbaal or ‘enemy of Baal’. God had chosen Gideon to save Israel. God’s battle plan was very unusual.  It had a strong underlying theme of believing God as I wrote about in the previous blog. It is a fantastic story of power and reliance on God. Once Gideon believed and was reassured about the job God wanted him to do, he could get it done because God empowered him and showed him how.

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Gideon’s Time and Our Time~What Is Different?

Gideon lived in a day when the Hebrews relied on strong leaders to deliver them.  As we have seen over and over in the Old Testament, the spirit of God rested on certain ones in order to save the rest. Gideon lived in a time when those around him became entrenched in the culture that surrounded them and they adopted pagan thinking and mixed it with their own beliefs. Problems plagued them as a result. That still happens today.

What is different today is that the spirit as a gift from God is available to everyone that accepts the good news of what Jesus Christ accomplished for us. It is a gift, not a  something we can strive for by our works. The only works we have to do is to believe and accept the gift. Because of the pride of man, this may be tough for some. Pride in accomplishments, power and control can be serious impediments.

I love reading about the heart of Gideon.  He seems pretty humble.  I know some theologians have described him a weak, because he asked for assurance that God was reaching out and empowering him. It is pretty clear that he respected God when others around him were not.

22 And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the Lord, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord God! for because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face. 23 And the Lord said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die. 24 Then Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord, and called it Jehovah shalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. Judges 6:22-24

It seems to me that most men are weak in some way or another. It is pretty evident throughout the Old Testament. God challenges people in stunning ways. In the Gideon record, a nice size army accumulated to take care of the enemy.  God had other plans:

2 And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.
3 Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.
4 And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go.

The army was whittled down to 300 from 32,000! Actually, when you think about it, that is pretty exciting. It is even more exciting today in light of the power that God has given to each one of us. We have access to God anytime we want. We should not be afraid to lay whatever is confronting us out before him with an honest heart and rest in that! The Lord ‘does not forsake us’ (Judges 6:13) when we approach him for even the smallest detail of our lives. The answer that comes may not involve a huge, showy explosion of might, but rather a sure peaceful perfect resolution that is so awesomely right!

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How Does This Stuff Keep Happening?

The Hebrews, as recorded in the sixth chapter of the book of Judges, had 40 great years during the time of Deborah, but then  got into trouble again:

6 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. 2 And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds.
3 And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them; 4 And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass.5 For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it.
6 And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the Lord. Judges 6:1-6

God sent a prophet to explain why:

7 And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord because of the Midianites, 8 That the Lord sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage; 9 And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land;10 And I said unto you, I am the Lord your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice.

The phrase “fear not the gods of the Amorites” caught my attention. It can’t mean be afraid of them. The word ‘fear’ in this case refers to worshipping or serving them.

We all live in a mixed culture and it is easy to see from experience how subtly this can happen. People just get caught up in the times. Recently I marveled when someone said to me that I needed to get with the times as they were a changin’.  In actuality, the issue that we were talking about was an issue that has occurred throughout recorded history and without fail has reaped the same results in a culture. It is not about being out of touch, but rather about not being ignorant of truth as it really is.  I guess as one gets older and older, that claim might be laid more and more so it is wise to get used to it. 😜  Just don’t call them a ‘young whippersnapper’! 😉 They won’t know what you are talking about.

There is so much around us that tries to pull us in one direction or another. How often we are ‘gaslighted’ (oppressing and twisting someone else’s thinking) these days? It is everywhere. Conformity is a tempting solution.

In Judges 6, God raised up another deliverer, whose name was Gideon, when the Israelites finally asked for help from God.

12 And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.13 And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? but now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.14 And the Lord looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?

How come this stuff keeps happening? People get sucked into conformity as the right measure of worth. Gideon posed a great question. He wanted answers and he got them from the right source.

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Unity ≠ Group Think

The women’s march that recently occurred in conjunction with the inauguration, caused a lot of stir. Sound bites from the event are disturbing. ‘Victimization’ is defining the women’s movement and it is not very pretty.

Try matching our culture with that of the culture in which Deborah lived! Despite that culture’s view of women, Deborah rose up and became a great leader for God. Her type of leadership was not the same as what most people today think of when then think “leadership”. It was not “my way or the highway” for her. Nor did she did not stick her head in the sand to avoid the uncomfortable. Her power base was God and she led with a courageous heart walking outside the nine dots of the culture.

I was amazed recently when I heard a leader say that one of the people he had hired thought differently about something than he did. He added that he respected the other’s thoughts, experience, and judgment and that guy was the one he wanted in that job. Oh my, what happened to ‘groupthink’? What about unity?

I think I finally now understand what people are referring to when they talk about “the establishment”. Both parties in this country have an “establishment” wing that dominates the party. Ideology is groupthink! “Groupthink” is a dangerous human endeavor and it is seducing in that it captures people in a web of thinking and action that renders them fruitless. Sometimes we defer to groupthink for the sake of unity. We can’t have true unity unless the focus is on what is right. People need to talk about what is is right openly, honestly, and not hide or smother it. People also need to listen at the same time. Sensitivity, emotions, politicization, victim mentality and insecurity should not be allowed to dominate this process.

God designed the original man and woman and he thought it was very good. So why are there problems with gender issues? Not with God! Deborah is a great example of empowerment! Her leadership qualities originated from a love for and from God. Her style was not in calling the shots, but in rejoicing in God and carrying out his will. She knew a lot of people were involved in carrying out God’s will. God wanted people to flourish, Deborah imparted and facilitated that desire. She encouraged others to rise up and praised with great humility. Nowhere, whatsoever, did she lead from a victimization stance.  She pulled people up to their rightful position.

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Differences in Worldview

The increasing political polarity that has been occurring in our country today is so perplexing. For a land that has enjoyed great freedoms, this is inevitable. How each of us views life can be a source of conflict.

In the song of Deborah and Barak in the book of Judges, there are three different women mentioned: Deborah, Jael, and the mother of Sisera (the mother of the military commander of the army that fought against the Israelites). Two of these women are called mothers, Deborah and the mother of Sisera. These two have very different views of the world they live in.

Deborah, as a judge and prophetess, held court under the date palm tree which has been described as ‘flourishing’, ‘upright’ and as a symbol of victory. As a prophetess, Deborah’s view of the world in settling disputes was from God. She valued her people to the point of going to war over the oppression in which the Hebrews found themselves. She encouraged and planned and did not guess about the outcome.

The other mother mentioned, Sisera’s mother, was of a different ‘worldview’. We don’t know her name, but she is described as standing at the window looking for and bewailing the fact that her son had not returned from war. Her attendants discussed it but she said:

29 Her wise ladies answered her, yea, she returned answer to herself, 30 Have they not sped? have they not divided the prey; to every man a damsel or two; to Sisera a prey of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of needlework, of divers colours of needlework on both sides, meet for the necks of them that take the spoil? Judges 5:29-30

Dividing prey? To every man a damsel or two? A prey of diverse colors, diverse colors of needlework? Spoil? She had uncertainty and see what was in her thinking.

Jael was not a Hebrew and the record says that she and her husband were at peace with Jabin, the oppressive enemy. The tent Sisera entered into was Jael’s tent. A man caught in a woman’s tent fell under the death penalty. Part of the oppression to the Hebrews as pointed out in verse 29 above, was was the exploitation of women. Jael had a different point of view but she was a part of the deliverance and Deborah called her “blessed above women” twice in Judges 5:24. (Interesting- Cp Luke 1:28,41-42).

No human being has a right to oppress another for their own gain. Women are to be treated with respect and dignity as exemplified in Deborah. This is God’s heart. This is God’s will. Women were treated very poorly in the Canaanite culture and in other cultures (even the Hebrew culture at times), but when people have the right vision from God, all lives matter.

Oppression occurs when things go awry. Gain, power, and control become focal points. If it is allowed to continue it grows. Oppression does not go away on its own. If we find ourselves in such situations, the only true way out of it is God’s path and God’s revelation.

12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Ephesians 6:12-13

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What Is A Prophet?

There used to be a time when it was quite frequent to see a bearded man on a street corner holding a sign that said something similar to ‘Sinners repent’! I haven’t seen too much of it lately but maybe it still happens in some places. I never remember seeing a woman do it. I suppose this was the idea of a prophet that I had back then. I think I’ve always thought that a prophet or, as the case with Deborah, a prophetess, speaks for God; but my image of the office has changed quite a bit.

I remember hearing someone teach about the five ministries in the body of Christ and a statement about the prophet changed my perception forever. He said that the prophet was known for the love with which he/she spoke. The prophet calls people back to God.  If when we think of God, we are reminded of sin, guilt, our performance, consequences, we will think of the ‘sinner repent’ idea. Prophets are called to speak God’s word in love. Check out the first use of prophet in the Bible in Genesis 20; it is interesting. It is a record full of forgiveness, love, restoration, healing and prayer for people.

God is love. He is encouraging and has provided abundantly. If we define sin as missing out on the greatest thing there ever was, we might not condemn ourselves and others so much. We would openly, honestly truly love God because he first loves us.

In the life of Deborah, we see her encouragement, challenging people to rise up and be more than conquerors and believe God. She stated it plainly and simply and without condemnation. The song she and Barak sang, was and is, uplifting and victorious. The last line in the song is:

31 So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might. And the land had rest forty years. Judges 5

People perish because of a lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6), not because God wills it. God has provided his word to free people, not cause them to cower and cringe. God’s desire for us is to stand up boldly, honestly, truthfully and in love and to share the greatness of his desire for us. What Moses said to Joshua  in Numbers 11, truly is a great thought:

…would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them! Numbers 11:29b

How different our world would be!

 

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A Story Within A Song – Jael

Within the song of Deborah and Barak, there is another story of a woman named Jael. She lived near Kadesh. She was married to Heber the Kenite (related to the father-in-law of Moses). They had separated from the Kenites (maybe because of Philistine aggression) and moved north to the Napthali area.

11 Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh. Judges 4:11

Deborah had told Barak, the military leader of Israel, to go up Mt Tabor with 10,000 men to get ready to fight the Canaanites (Jabin was their ruler) and deliver them from Jabin’s oppression (4:3) This was accomplished with God’s help: good strategy and timely weather conditions. The Canaanite military leader, Sisera, escaped back to the Kadesh area and sought safety from  Heber’s wife, Jael:

17 Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. Judges 4:17

However, Sisera was not safe with Jael as he had thought:

24 Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent. 

25 He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish. 26 She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen’s hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples. Judges 5:25-26

Sisera was killed by Jael. Deborah had told (4:9) Barak earlier that a woman would end Sisera’s life. Verse 27 is interesting from a figure of speech view. A figure of speech gives added emphasis to the situation.

27 At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet he bowed, he fell: where he bowed, there he fell down dead. Judges 5:27

There are two figures in this verse: asyndeton (no-ands)  and epibole (overlaid repetition). The asyndeton involves a series of phrases with no conjunctions. It speeds up the tempo of the sentence ending with a climax statement ‘he fell down dead’.

The Israelites were delivered from the devilish oppression of 20 years by Deborah, Barak, the leaders and people of certain tribes of Israel and finally by Jael the Kenite. It is interesting how many were involved and who was involved in doing his/her part. God certainly operated in a variety of hearts to bring deliverance. The land had rest for 40 years after this victory.

 

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