Month: August 2011

“Gosh, darn people like you” Gideon 7

Last time we talked about how Gideon thought he was the least and the weakest (Judg. 6:15) so he was convinced that there was no way he could deliver Israel from the Midianites.

Interestingly, YHWH doesn’t correct this impression.  There’s no, “But you really are special, Gideon.  You shouldn’t say that about yourself.”   (Stuart Smalley would say, “And gosh, darn, people like you.”)  That’s the sort of insipid thing we typically say when trying to encourage someone.  God doesn’t worry about that, because it doesn’t matter if Gideon is the least and weakest or the greatest and strongest.

YHWH says to Gideon, “But I will be with you and you will strike down the Midianites.”  God tells him not to worry about his supposed inadequacies, but focus on God and his presence.  Previously, the text has called Gideon’s dialogue partner “the angel of YHWH” (Judg. 6:11, 12) and referred to YHWH in 3rd person language (YHWH appeared to him, “YHWH is with you”).

But at the moment of Gideon’s call YHWH speaks directly to Gideon (Judg. 6:14) and now the promise of divine presence isn’t expressed in 3rd person terms, but 1st person–“I will be with you.”  Not “he’s with you” but “I’m with you.”  Gideon should have known God was with him because he was talking with God.  But for some reason, Gideon wasn’t aware of what God was doing.  Sound like anyone you know? 

Instead of telling someone who is discouraged that they are special, perhaps we should just remind them that God is with them.  Surprisingly, even as Gideon was chatting with YHWH/an angel of YHWH he still doubted that God was present (Judg. 6:13).  Have you ever said, “If only God spoke directly to me, then I’d know what to do?”

Yeah, that didn’t work for Gideon, at least not at first (and he’ll continue to doubt along the way).

Why is it more powerful for people to hear that God is with them, than that they are special? 

What does God see in this guy, anyway? Gideon 6

Gideon has been given the call to “Go, deliver Israel from Midian” but he’s not too keen on the idea.  He responds with another question: “How can I deliver Israel?” and follows that with a two statements that portray “mighty” Gideon as pretty humble: “My clan is the weakest and I’m the least in my family.”  (Perhaps, he’s just trying to avoid the call of God?)

Israel is weak (they are getting their butts kicked by Midian), Gideon’s tribe (Manasseh) is weak, his clan is the weakest among’s Manasseh’s clans, and if all that wasn’t bad enough, Gideon is even more pathetic than all his brothers.

If I were YHWH, I would have said, “Yeah, I don’t think this is going to work.”  What does God see in this guy anyway?

God sees a guy that he can use to accomplish his purposes.  He sees a guy who knows he’s going to need help.

Do you ever feel like Gideon, the least, the weakest?

I don’t.  At least not very often.  (OK, nine days when playing golf.)  That’s the problem.  I  don’t usually think I need help.  I feel pretty self-sufficient.  I needed help when I was trying to finish my doctorate before Oxford kicked me out.  I needed help when I was look for an academic teaching job.  But now, things are pretty good, I’ve got this book that people still seem to want to buy.  Maybe I’m weird, or perhaps this is just a guy-thing?  But most people seem to be pretty self-sufficient.  Our culture makes us that way.

What things can one do to put oneself in a place of need, a bit like Gideon, to become more aware of one’s dependency upon God?

Image: An 18th century Russian icon of Gideon (I think).

“It’s about cooking”: Julie & Julia

“It’s about cooking.”  I knew that would grab their attention.

My two teenage sons and I were driving home from soccer practice.  Their favorite films were the Pirates series, Lord of the Rings and Inception and they like to play Halo on the Xbox.  Violence, death and mayhem appeal to them.  (I didn’t actually think cooking would be a draw.)

I told them, “You need to watch at least 30 minutes of Julie & Julia before you can move on to a recorded episode of Wipeout” (more mayhem).  J & J had been sitting on my desk, unopened inside its red Netflix envelope, for several weeks.  Shannon and I had been waiting for an ideal time to watch it after the boys were asleep, but during the summer, they kept staying up later and later.  With this lame strategy, the film would never get watched.  So, I hatched an ingenious plan to make the boys watch with us.

(I know you’re not supposed to review two-year old films, but I thought it was possible that there were a few people out there who haven’t seen it.)

The trailers were all romantic comedies or artsy foreign films.  I wasn’t sure we were going to make it to the 30 minute cut-off.

But then as the story unfolded, the boys engaged.  It was not only funny but also fascinating, particularly to see how Nora Ephron (writer, director) wove together the stories of Julia Child, who taught America how to master French cooking, and Julie Powell an aspiring writer who committed to cook all 524 of Child’s recipes in only 365 days while blogging about the adventure.

We made a serious stop at 35 minutes for the required cookies/ice cream break and to give the boys an opportunity to declare, “Wipeout, Now!”  They, a bit like Fred Savage’s character at first in The Princess Bride, agreed to keep watching.  (Their favorite section, not surprisingly, was the Dan Akroyd spoof of Julia Child from Saturday Night Live–it had blood and mayhem).

What I appreciated about the film is how it portrays mentoring from a book.   Even though they never meet, Julia disciples Julie in the realm of cooking.  One of my professors at Fuller (Bobby Clinton) challenged students to receive mentoring from Christian biographies, particularly as you get older and find it hard to find mentors.  This film portrays how powerful book mentoring can be.

Any film about cooking that can hold my sons’ attention must be pretty good.  Well-written, clever, funny and fascinating.  We highly recommend it.

Any other cooking flicks you think my sons might enjoy? 

The Wrath of Dave

About six months ago, IVP asked me to write an article on “Wrath” for their upcoming Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophetic Books (I wrote on “Jehu Dynasty” for IVP’s Dictionary of the OT Historical Books).  You may ask, “Why Dave for wrath?”  (My family thinks I’m the obvious choice.)

I’d like to think that I was selected for “Wrath” (does that make me a vessel of wrath?) because I wrote about God’s anger in God Behaving Badly (ch. 2–“Is God angry or loving?”), not due to something they knew about my temperament.

Shortly after IVP asked me to write on wrath, another friend (Heath Thomas) invited me to contribute an article to a volume he was helping put together on holy warfare in ancient Israel (I think their 1st choice fell through).  Since I was already writing on wrath, I decided to focus on two motivations for holy warfare: wrath and compassion.

Since I was starting to get a reputation for being the wrath of God guy, when the chance came to speak at my church I spoke on God’s wrath (based on ch. 2).  An another opportunity to preach came a few weeks later, so what did I chose?  Divine wrath, of course.

While at the InterVarsity regional conference (Shannon’s on staff with IV), I went golfing with a few friends last Thurs.  So the same day Tiger Woods shot a 77 at the PGA, I shot a 65 (although, I only played 9 holes).  One of my friends was looking at my clubs, and he says, “What’s this?  It says ‘WRATH’ on your golf club.”  I took the photo on the left.  (If you don’t believe me check out this link.)

So, what does it say on the bottom of your golf clubs?  “MERCY”?