Judges

Bulls and Baals (Gideon 9)

YHWH decided it was time to smash the Baal and slaughter the Bull.  He picked Gideon for the task (Judg. 6:25).

Gideon’s father, Joash had a Baal altar and before Gideon was to gather troops to overthrown the Midianites, they needed to undertake some idol bashing.  They were supposed to worship YHWH only, so the Baal altar needed to get torn down.  Joash also had an Asherah, which was technically a sacred pole (like a totem pole), but the pole was dedicated to the goddess Asherah, Baal’s supposed wife or consort.  The Asherah also needed to get cut down.  To celebrate this idol bashing, Gideon was also supposed to take his dad’s prize bull and slaughter it, using the wood from the Asherah.

This task should be no problem for a “mighty” warrior like Gideon, but he knew his father and the townspeople might not endorse this undertaking, so Gideon does it at night.  The text tells us that Gideon did it then because he was afraid (Judg. 6:27).

How would you feel if your son took the car (a bit like a bull) and crashed into your HD TV (the closest thing we have to an altar–we devote a lot of time and energy to it–Andrew Luck on TV right now is making it hard to finish this blog…)?

Before God calls us to do something big like Gideon, he’s going to want us to make him first.  God commands us to not worship idols, and even though we’re not really bowing to Baal much (hopefully…), we’ve other things we devote too much time, energy and money to (cars, computers, TVs, houses).

So have you ever smashed a TV, or destroyed one of your idols? 

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Angel cakes and goat stew: Gideon 8

To impress his guest, Gideon makes the angel cakes (presumably not angel food cake?) and goat stew(next time you have an important visitor, I dare you to prepare them a goat–“hmm…this is the best goat I’ve ever had.”).

Gideon has finally stopped arguing that he can’t deliver Israel, but now starts asking for signs.  So, part of the sign involves Gideon making a meal for the angel (Judg. 6:19).  The angel apparently isn’t too excited about angel cake and goat stew, so he torches Gideon’s offering, consuming all of it (Judg. 6:21).

Finally, Gideon realizes he’s been interacting with a messenger of YHWH: “Help me, Adonai YHWH!  For I have seen the angel of YHWH face to face” (Judg. 6:22).  YHWH tells him, “Shalom to you.  Don’t fear.  You won’t die.”  So Gideon constructs an altar, he calls “YHWH-Shalom.”  (God is peace.)

From questioning, to insecurity, to testing, to peace, to praise–not a bad pattern actually.

In the midst of a hurricane (the rain has started, the wind will start in a few hours), it’s good to remember that God is not only responsible for “Acts of God”, but he’s also the source of Peace/Shalom.

How do you find peace in the midst of a storm?  What do you think of Gideon’s pattern (questions, doubts, insecurity, testing, praise)? 

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).

Answers in unexpected ways: Gideon 5

In the last post in this series, Gideon asked the divine messenger why are the Midianites oppressing them and where are YHWH’s wonderful acts of deliverance (Judg. 6:13).  (Gideon apparently has no problems confronting a superior being–I tend to be a bit more conflict avoidant in those contexts.)

At this point the story becomes even more bizarre.  The angel that Gideon has been interacting with seems to disappear, or at least moves into the background.  According to the text, it’s not the messenger who responds to Gideon’s question, but YHWH himself. (Perhaps it’s still the angel of YHWH, but the text is just saying “YHWH” as shorthand?  See Gen. 32:22-32; Hos. 12:4 for a similar God-man-angel ambiguity scenario.)

While we can’t be sure what is happening, it is dramatic.  YHWH speaks directly to Gideon, and instead of providing the why and the where that Gideon asked for, he provides Gideon a who–“you”–telling Gideon to “Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; I hereby commission you” (Judg. 6:14).  Notice, they are calling Gideon “mighty” again (sounds prophetic to me).

How is this “Go” an answer to Gideon’s questions?  Does God not hear well?  (Although, he wasn’t very old at this point in the Bible.)  While God’s response doesn’t address the why, the prophetic messenger sent by YHWH earlier hits that one head one (Judg. 6:10-“You have not given heed to my voice”).  And Gideon’s question about where are the wonderful deeds seems to receive an indirect answer in that God tells Gideon that he’s the one to perform those deeds.

I guess the lesson is, be careful what you ask God for.  Gideon wondered where Israel’s deliverance was and God said, “You’re the man.”  God apparently knew that Gideon was bothered by Israel’s oppression and that Gideon was bold enough to ask about it.  Those two characteristics were the prerequistites that God required for the person he’d choose as judge.  (Gideon’s not convinced yet that he’s the one, but we’ll discuss that next time.)

Why doesn’t YHWH address Gideon’s question more directly? 

Image: “Gideon and the angel” by Jacob de Wet.