“Gideon, Get’ Em!” Part XII: Eternity & Legacy (Hebrews 11:1-2, 32-34)

As we come to a close on the brief brush stroke covering the life and death of Gideon, we come to the last segment of the series where we take a moment to reflect on the man’s legacy. A legacy that is unique to Gideon and to Gideon alone. This week we will examine what the author of Hebrews, whoever it may be, as they take time to reflect on many figures of faith in history, including Gideon. Starting in Hebrews 11:1….

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.” (NASB Hebrews 11:1-2)

“And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword,  from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.” (NASB Hebrews 11:32-34)

Now the author of Hebrews is a never-ending issue because since its canonicity, no one truly knows who wrote the letter as it has the writing style and rhythm of many different people. Such as most notably Paul the Apostle, Luke, Barnabas, Apollos, Priscilla, or even Clement of Rome just to name a few. Regardless of who wrote this letter, God inspired the author to write it and so we will examine it as such: God’s Word.

Within Hebrews chapter 11, the author outlines and makes mention of many historic figures that appear in this text like Enoch, Moses, and our guy Gideon. Although mentioned briefly at the end, the author takes note of Gideon and describes him, along with Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets (v32). The author describes this bunch as those that conquered kingdoms (Judges 8:28), performed acts of righteousness (Judges 7:19-22), obtained promises (Judges 6:16, 8:28), shut the mouths of lions (Daniel 6:16-23), quenched the power of fire (Judges 6:19-22, Daniel 3:8-27), escaped the edge of the sword (1 Samuel 23:6-14), went from weak to strong (Judges 6:15, 8:22b), mighty in war (Judges 8:10-12), and caused armies to flee (Judges 8:12b).

See a pattern among these nine categories? Gideon nearly matches every category listed here and is praised by the author for his tremendous faith alongside some other faithful figures of history. What a legacy am I right? That Gideon is known for his years of prime faithfulness and not his latter years of consistent compromise. I find it fascinating that people of the past are remembered the way they are remembered. Like how Albert Einstein is esteemed as one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century, yet was extremely unfaithful to both of his wives during his lifetime and cheated all the time on them with countless other women. Yet he is presented unanimously as a great man. Why? Because his feats overshadowed his faults. And the same can be said of Gideon whose journey was one that began with fear, flourished with faith, bore fruit that brought about feats that gave glory to the Father, and then ended in a series of sinful faults.

The hero’s journey encapsulated in one sentence. It is a journey we all have the opportunity to take, but not all do take. As has been said in an ancient Chinese proverb, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. We all are called to live lives of great importance in this world like that of Gideon, even more so for the kingdom of God. Yet most of us never take that first step. That step from fear to faith. The one toward ultimate meaning, purpose, and value by abiding in the will of Christ for our lives. Is it a risky step of direction? Yes. Is it a rewarding change in scenery? More than you could ever imagine. But in order to reap those rewards of diligence along this journey in life, we must act and take the first step of many steps.

It is a narrow path that few take because of the cost of following Christ, but it is essential in living fulfilling lives of heroic proportions. Look no further than how many people are mentioned in the Bible and how many are mentioned in the hall of faith in Hebrews chapter 11. A stark contrast of the few faithful versus the many who remain inactive in life. Who will you be? A Gideon that is faithful to God or like the men of Succoth that stood back as the world darkened. The choice is yours and it’s only one step away from fruition. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

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“Gideon, Get’Em!” Part XI: Back to Square One (Judges 8:18-35)

As this is our final segment within the book of Judges regarding the life of Gideon and his rise to the status of a military legend, as well as a man of God we come to the wrap up of Gideon’s story. The beginning of things always has an end and thus we have come to Gideon’s end. How does his story of fear to faith and farm-boy to warlord conclude? Well, let’s find out! We’ll be in Judges 8:18-35 this week and that’s where we will pick up starting at verse 18….

“Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “What kind of men were they whom you killed at Tabor?” And they said, “They were like you, each one resembling the son of a king.” He said, “They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. As the LORD lives, if only you had let them live, I would not kill you.” So he said to Jether his firstborn, “Rise, kill them.” But the youth did not draw his sword, for he was afraid, because he was still a youth. Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Rise up yourself, and fall on us; for as the man, so is his strength.” So Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and took the crescent ornaments which were on their camels’ necks. Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, both you and your son, also your son’s son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.” But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you.” Yet Gideon said to them, “I would request of you, that each of you give me an earring from his spoil.” (For they had gold earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) They said, “We will surely give them.” So they spread out a garment, and every one of them threw an earring there from his spoil. The weight of the gold earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple robes which were on the kings of Midian, and besides the neck bands that were on their camels’ necks. Gideon made it into an ephod, and placed it in his city, Ophrah, and all Israel played the harlot with it there, so that it became a snare to Gideon and his household. So Midian was subdued before the sons of Israel, and they did not lift up their heads anymore. And the land was undisturbed for forty years in the days of Gideon. Then Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and lived in his own house. Now Gideon had seventy sons who were his direct descendants, for he had many wives. His concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he named him Abimelech. And Gideon the son of Joash died at a ripe old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. Then it came about, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the sons of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals, and made Baal-berith their god. Thus the sons of Israel did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side; nor did they show kindness to the household of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in accord with all the good that he had done to Israel.” (NASB Judges 8:18-35)

Sad isn’t? In fact, it’s a bitter-sweet ending. That the thing Gideon was trying to destroy ended up destroying him. Just as Two-Face said in the critically acclaimed motion-picture, The Dark Knight, “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” As we can observe here, in Gideon’s early years he rose from a nobody to a somebody, but then took a turn for the worse as he transformed into something ugly by the end of his life. Succumbing to his inward sinful desires as he fell victim to adultery (v30), which tarnished his reputation as a man of God. Instead, he ends up as a man of man and based off of the text before us, it would seem that his poor example in his latter years was the fuel for a future rebellion against God. A rebellion that would draw the people of Israel back to idolatry (v33) and who were cruel towards the house of Jerubbaal (v35).

Now let us reign back a bit and look at how the initial war ends against the Midianites. At the beginning of this passage we see Gideon is speaking to the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and this happens directly after he punished the men of both Penuel and Succoth (v16-17). He reminds them of a previous battle where the two kings barbarously slaughtered Gideon’s extended family at Mt. Tabor, which geographically is a mountain near modern-day Nazareth. A sin not to soon be forgiven on Gideon’s part. But before Gideon goes off on these two kings, he allows his son, Jether, to strike them down (v20).

What is interesting about this certain part of the passage this week is that this is the first mention of one of Gideon’s children by name, that is Jether. What this passage reveals is that Jether was alongside Gideon during the war or Gideon was reunited with his family including Jether when he and the kosher 300 returned home. Either way, Jether is shown here in a rock and a hard place. His father has just told him to slay the two kings, but he hesitates out of fear. It is hard to blame Jether for his actions. I mean, was Gideon asking too much from this young man? Based off the text and basic logic, I concur that Jether was anywhere in between 13 to 18 years old. This is based off of how Joseph, David, and other notable Biblical, figures are described when they are in their youth. Also, he bears a sword which begs the question: why would a child have a sword? Not likely. He had to have been in his teens.

Gideon thus commands his son to kill these two kings, so the kings taunt Gideon to kill them (v21a). Well, Gideon does just that and kills them, then takes the crescent ornaments from their camel’s necks. Crescent moons are a very prevalent symbol in the Middle East even to this day and are mostly associated with Islam, so for Gideon to take those was a statement that his Triune God was greater than their Allah.

Once the final sword is swung of this long war, the people of Israel ask Gideon to be their king and for Jether to rule over Israel alongside his father (v22). Surprisingly, yet wisely Gideon declines their offer and states that God is their king, not him or his son. In fact, he says that God will rule over them. You know how Tebow did that pointing thing when he got a touchdown or something? That is basically what Gideon is doing here: humbly letting God lead and giving Him all the glory. What fathoms me about this whole situation is that Gideon could potentially have become the first king of Israel, but says no to the offer. Just imagine how much history would change if Gideon was king of Israel. Would Saul become king? Would David? Oh how the timeline of history would have looked far more different from today’s present timeline.

Instead of becoming king, Gideon takes a percentage of the spoils of the war and constructs an ephod (a portable idol that was clothed usually) in the city of Ophrah (v27). This is the mistake that will tarnish Gideon’s life and reputation as it would become a “snare to Gideon” and those of his family lineage. Sad to think that after his entire arc is completed, his hero’s journey, he falls into such an idolatrous lifestyle. After this whole span of time he gives into a stupid, sinful desire: misguided worship.

Although God kept His Word and spared the Israelites from any trouble for the next 40 years as the Midianites were subdued. But that does not mean all was well for Gideon. In fact, far from it for he falls into another sin: adultery. Like a lot of adultery with a lot of women. Another stab at Gideon’s reputation as a man of God. If that was not enough, after Gideon passes away after living a long life that the people of Israel turned back to the gods of Baal, turning their backs on God (v33). Hence, the cycle of dependency and independence in relation to God continues to spin over and over again. A cycle many of us find ourselves in a lot of the time. The cycle of sin.

Alas Gideon’s story is over, yet is legacy will always live on in a positive light despite the sour note that it ended on. Next week we will examine just what exactly Gideon’s legacy is and how he is known today in further detail. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

“Gideon, Get’Em!” Part X: A Man of His Word (Judges 8:10-17)

In last week’s study, we went over the post-war ramifications of Gideon’s actions as well as those jealous of the grace bestowed upon him by God during this time of his life. As Winston Churchill once said, You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” This statement by Churchill is definitely a truth that was apparent in Gideon’s life as he continues his mission to cut off the Midianites for good by hunting their two kings: Zebah and Zalmunna. This week we will be in Judges 8:10-17 and verse 10 is where we will pick right back up….

“Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their armies with them, about 15,000 men, all who were left of the entire army of the sons of the east; for the fallen were 120,000 swordsmen. Gideon went up by the way of those who lived in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and attacked the camp when the camp was unsuspecting. When Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued them and captured the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and routed the whole army. Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres. And he captured a youth from Succoth and questioned him. Then the youth wrote down for him the princes of Succoth and its elders, seventy-seven men. He came to the men of Succoth and said, “Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, concerning whom you taunted me, saying, ‘Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your men who are weary?’ ” He took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and he disciplined the men of Succoth with them. He tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city.” (NASB Judges 8:10-17)

So the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, escape to a place called Karkor. Some speculate that this place of Karkor may have been another name for a place called Qarqor, which is a place East of the Jordan River. As well as possibly being East of the Jordan River, Karkor may have been a type of enclosure that the Gadites may have built to protect their cattle and livestock. If this is true, the Midianites were smart in seeking such a place for refuge because it would be seriously fortified with walls encompassing the area to keep the large animals enclosed.

I find it ironic that an army that began with 135,000 soldiers that waged war with Gideon’s mighty men would in a twist of fate dwindle down to 15,000 men for they lost 120,000 soldiers to Gideon’s kosher 300. When we first started, Gideon had an army of 32,000 men going against an army of 135,000 soldiers of Midian. Wittle those numbers down and we get a ratio of 8 : 34 (33.75). Those were the odds at first. Then God made Gideon send away thousands of soldiers that amounted in the meeble kosher 300, while the Midianites still had 135,000 soldiers. A new ratio of 1 : 450, but after Gideon’s back-to-back victories over Midian over a series of battles shrunk that massive number all the way down to the current 15,000. The current odds of Gideon winning in spite of all of this success is even still tremendously low as the ratio is 1 : 50 and at this rate some could have said that Gideon was pushing his luck. I mean, how does one even fathom that comparison and those odds? If I was in that batch of 300 guys, I would at this point still have serious doubts knowing what we are about to face off against.

Yet God is faithful and once again lets Gideon accompanied by his dope band of misfits have another critical victory. We are only 3 verses into this study and Gideon already won. Like, he has captured both Midianite kings, has had another victory, and caused the army to be routed (to retreat or flee) back to their lands. Some translations say the Midianite army left in confusion and fear from the surprise attack that squashed their forces. It is quite impressive when put into proper perspective. The war is over. Gideon has won and peace is just around the corner to being restored in the nation of Israel.

What’s next for the mighty Gideon? Being a man of his word. This story takes a new turn when on the march back home, Gideon captures a youth from Succoth (v14). Once the youngin’ is captured, he is questioned and because of the war backdrop that this story is placed in, likely interrogated. Although there really is no way to know for certain since we have one verse to back up that claim, so take that interrogation tidbit with a grain of salt.

Next, there is the way of travel that Gideon took which has multiple interpretations concerning what exactly it means. In the translation we are using (the NASB), it says “by (from) the ascent of Heres.” Now is this a time of day like before the sun comes up? Is it a city? Is it a mountain? Hard to say, but biblehub.com takes good time clearing the confusion by providing multiple responses here: http://biblehub.com/topical/h/heres.htm. As for the youth of Succoth? He spills the beans and writes down the names of every prince and elder of Succoth, which amounts to a grand total of seventy-seven men (v14).

Based off of its uses within Scripture (Genesis 5:31, Judges 8:14, Ezra 8:35), the number 77 represents closure as the number is used to amount to a satisfactory sacrifice to the LORD (see: Ezra 8:35-36), as well as here where it symbolizes Gideon’s fulfillment of his own promise that he would execute after God had given him victory in battle. The men of Succoth mocked the things of God, so God sends Gideon to judge them on His behalf for taunting Gideon who was an ambassador for God. Word of advice: don’t mock God. It never ends well. Just look at 2 Kings 2:23-24 where some dumb, Millennial-minded lads mock God’s prophet, Elisha, so two female bears kill 42 of them. Yeah, the things of God and those who do the things of God are not something worth mocking. The consequences are severe.

Speaking of severe consequences, Gideon now knows who the men of Succoth are that taunted him, thus justice is about to be served to these pansies. Gideon brings his undeniable proof to the 77 elders with the 2 captured kings in his possession and then commences to do exactly as he warned he would do. What fascinates me about this whole subplot of the men of Succoth and Penuel is how there were all of these men mocking Gideon for trying to stop the Midianites from terrorizing the surrounding lands, yet they stayed home and remained on the sidelines of the whole war. Neither would they support Gideon’s men or the Midian men. They were lukewarm and that is the exact reason that they were punished so severely because they remained apathetic during the whole war as thousands of men died. They were cowards, plain and simple.

As promised, Gideon takes the elders and beats them with briers and thorns (v16). Then he goes onto the next city and tears down the great tower of Penuel before slaying every single man in the city (v17). Jesus spoke of this lukewarm nature in Revelation 3:14-22 where he rebukes the church of Laodicea for their lukewarm ways. They neither loved nor hated God. They were indifferent and apathetic to it all. In life, God desires for us to give our all to Him or to keep our all to ourselves. In this situation, the middle ground is the worst possible place to be because it shows how much you really do not care. Lesson of the week: either give God everything or give God nothing. Both are better options than giving God only a portion of what is yours and lying by saying you gave it your all or vice versa. I mean look at what happened to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts chapter 5. They died for making this crucial mistake. Learn from history and live wholeheartedly either for Jesus or for the world. There cannot be a middle ground when it comes to this issue. It’s all or nothing. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

“Gideon, Get’Em!” Part IX: Good Will Hunting (Judges 7:23-8:9)

Holy guac-sauce! We’re nine installments into this commentary series from yours truly and are now approaching the final few parts of this blog franchise of sorts. So far we have journeyed with our protagonist, Gideon (also known as Jerubbaal), as he went from zero to hero. This week will focus on the afterward, post-war ramifications of Gideon fighting for God. As Billy Graham once famously said, “Courage is courageous. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” And that type of stiff-necked, opposition will be observed today in Judges chapter 7, picking up in verse 23….

The men of Israel were summoned from Naphtali and Asher and all Manasseh, and they pursued Midian. Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against Midian and take the waters before them, as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan.” So all the men of Ephraim were summoned and they took the waters as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan. They captured the two leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, and they killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and they killed Zeeb at the wine press of Zeeb, while they pursued Midian; and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon from across the Jordan. Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this thing you have done to us, not calling us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they contended with him vigorously. But he said to them, “What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? God has given the leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb into your hands; and what was I able to do in comparison with you?” Then their anger toward him subsided when he said that. Then Gideon and the 300 men who were with him came to the Jordan and crossed over, weary yet pursuing. He said to the men of  Succoth, “Please give loaves of bread to the people who are following me, for they are weary, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.”The leaders of Succoth said, “Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hands, that we should give bread to your army?” Gideon said, “All right, when the Lord has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, then I will thrash your bodies with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.”He went up from there to Penuel and spoke similarly to them; and the men of Penuel answered him just as the men of Succoth had answered. So he spoke also to the men of Penuel, saying, “When I return safely, I will tear down this tower.” (NASB Judges 7:23-8:9)

Within the first three verses (7:23-25) we see Gideon strategically split his forces into two groups, in order to annihilate the enemies of Israel.  At first he summons Israelites from all sorts of places from uptown to his peeps next door. Then they all go after the Midianites. Knowing he cannot do it alone, Gideon asks the men of Ephraim to aid in stopping Oreb and Zeeb by hunting them in Beth-barah and the Jordan river. So two groups of soldiers are pursuing two different armies for one ultimate aim: decimation of the enemies of God.

So why were the men of Ephraim so mad after having killed their enemies? The short answer is that they were not called upon sooner to help. You see, Gideon went first with his men before calling for help after having already started chasing the Midianites down. It was like “Bruh, we could have helped you, but you went out on your own before getting us to help you.” Essentially, that’s what they said. It was a matter of wanting a part of Gideon’s glory given to him by God on the men of Ephraim’s part. They wanted to be apart of the action.

Gideon takes their accusations and responds with “Wait a minute, guys. Look at all that you did. You beheaded the two evil-dudes that were killin’ and stuff. Compared to my kin of Abiezer, you did far more in comparison to us.” He basically compares what each party has done and shows how the men of Ephraim did far more in the grand scheme of the war versus a single victory Gideon and his kosher 300 did against the Midianites. So all of the men of Ephraim take a chill-pill and calm the pineapple down, instead of fuming with rage against Gideon.

Once this debacle is settled, Gideon and the kosher 300 get back to their unexpected journey and press on in hunting down the kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna. As they journey, they eventually come to a point of pure exhaustion, but they endure through their weariness. Eventually, they come to the men of Succoth and ask for resources to fuel the soldiers for war. This was not an uncommon practice either.

Over the centuries, it was very common during times of war that armies would ask the locales for supplies in exchange for protection like building a wall (TRUMP!) around the city or fighting off bands of thieves that were harassing the locals way of life. Back in these days everything revolved around trade. You give us what we want for something that you want. In fact, the majority of the world, mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere, still lives out this custom of day-to-day living.

What happens here is a bit alarming as the people of Succoth kind of suck because they do not cooperate with Gideon and his army. They say no because Gideon with his homies have come empty handed. Gideon has not taken care of Zebah and Zalmunna, thus the men of Succoth will not help Gideon and his forces during their time of need. So Gideon responds with,

“All right, when the LORD has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, then I will thrash your bodies with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.” (v7)

In other words, Gideon’s a savage with no chill. I mean, yeeesh. That sounds awful. Nothing to really interpret here. Gideon just comes out and says this beastly man-quote without hesitation. Again, showing how much of a character arc he has had throughout his hero’s journey so far. From being a weakling afraid to fight to now being a warlord who is relentless in his God-driven pursuit of the Midianites. What is of note here is that Gideon answers with the assumption that God will deliver the Midianite kings into his hands and was promised beforehand by God. It’s a sign of Gideon’s faithfulness to the promises of God and how he acts accordingly throughout his campaign.

Interesting enough, the name Zebah means victim or sacrifice, while Zalmunna’s meaning is split into two parts. “The first part is probably the noun צל (sel) meaning shade or shadow, from the verb צלל (salal III), meaning to be or grow dark” (http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Zalmunna.html#.VzvOrxMrLnB). Yeah, those aren’t exactly the best baby names, but that is the bad guy’s bad guy names. What is also peculiar is that names of individuals usually reflect a major aspect to those mentioned in the Bible. Gideon means to hew down or cut off, Jesus is a combination of the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) and the root verb yashu which means to deliver, and the list goes on. In the instances just mentioned, this seems to be the case here as well since the Midianites are like a shadow that grows constantly like a weed as Gideon continues to cut them off permanently.

Now that we’re done with our spelling bee, Gideon was busy moving onward to his next pit-stop which was Penuel (Peniel in Genesis 32:30-31) and sought the same supply of resources. Like last time, these jerk-faces say the same thing and Gideon has to say another Russell Crowe worthy one-liner to these dweebs.

“When I return safely, I will tear down this tower.” (v9)

What strikes me with this response is two-fold:  (1) how Gideon mentioned that when he returns “safely” and (2) that he will tear down “this tower.” Statements worthy of further examination. Let us break these down. The first statement that he will return safely goes back to what was mentioned a bit earlier when he assumes God will bring about victory. It once more is a testament to the faithfulness Gideon has had with God thus far. One that continues on this second encounter.

The second statement about tearing down this tower is significant because in these days towers represented power or dominance, so to threaten to take out their tower was to basically say that Gideon was going to end them. A threat to the highest degree. Actually, this idea of man-made symbols of power (castles, high places, pyramids, towers, etc.) versus God-made symbols of power (mountains, etc.) has always fascinated me. This dichotomy was brought to my attention back when I watched the “Know Your Enemy” YouTube series with my good friend David a few years back. Maybe I will post my findings once I do a topical study in my personal Bible study time after I finish the Gospel of Matthew. Who knows what I’ll do next. But God does and next week we’ll examine the expansion of Gideon’s campaign and how power corrupts. Until next time, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

“Gideon, Get’Em!” Part VIII: It’s Clobbering Time! (Judges 7:19-22)

The moment we have all been waiting for has finally arrived! The moment Gideon’s name is forever cemented as a warrior of the one, true God! It’s a pretty enthralling moment to see the hero finally come to form. It’s the peak of his origin story and a moment that will have a rippling effect not only throughout the surrounding lands, but throughout history.  Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s check out the text for this week starting in verse 19 of Chapter 7:

“So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just posted the watch; and they blew the trumpets and smashed the pitchers that were in their hands. When the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers, they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing, and cried, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” Each stood in his place around the camp; and all the army ran, crying out as they fled. When they blew 300 trumpets, the LORD set the sword of one against another even throughout the whole army; and the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the edge of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath.” (NASB Judges 7:19-22)

After reading the text for today, there is such a uniqueness to how God does things versus how we do things. I mean, just imagine being a soldier in Gideon’s army hearing your orders on how to take out the opposing enemy army. “You want me to blow this trumpet as loud as I can, smash this pitcher as loud as I can, then take my torch and trumpet to make more noise as loud as I can, so that we can defeat our enemies? What is this Gideon? Some type of joke?” That’s what I would be thinking, but it’s actually a genius plan for multiple reasons.

For starters, it completely points to how great God is. I mean, who else could “set the sword of one against the other” besides God? It speaks volumes as to how powerful God truly is and what He is capable of doing. It shows how God can use anything to accomplish His ultimate will in life, whether with or without our participation. Even if that participation is so small like doing what Gideon’s army did and playing Nickelback’s greatest hits live. I mean, clashing and smashing stuff.

Secondly, God’s plan kills pride. Think about it. How could Gideon or anyone of his soldiers take pride in the way this battle played out? They had two options: if they lost, then they were humbled by the might of men. If they won, they were humbled by the grace of God. Which of course they did win and were praising God in humility. God’s ways are always higher above our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Hence, we are always humbled by His great works in our lives.

Lastly, this plan made it loud and clear who defeated the Midianites: the God of Israel. The Hebrew 300 literally shouted “For the LORD and for Gideon” before the Midianite soldiers unintentionally killed each other in the confusion of it all. It was their anthem of triumph over their enemies as God made them His footstool. It was a declaration on both Gideon and God’s part: let my people go. And let go the Midianites did, as a matter of fact they fled in fear. Talk about a reversal!

The battle took place during “the beginning of the middle watch” and middle watch is from 12am to 4am. So around that time frame, Gideon’s men attacked the enemy camp and awoke them in their sleep as they bellowed downward from the hills those deafening noises as they were instructed. The enemy army fleeing to “Beth-shittah toward Zererah” with some going even farther to “the edge of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath.” This was not a good day for the Midianites or anyone opposing Israel for that matter. They just showed how a couple kids from band class missing a couple keys can take out an entire army under God’s guidance. Things will never be the same from this pivotal point onward.

This moment in history is what has made Gideon such a popular figure of reverence in military history, since this great battle. In the 12th-century Prefatio de Almeria, the author describes a Count Ponce de Cabrera as

“the leader of the troops of Extremadura, is said to have possessed the strength of Samson and the sword of Gideon and he is compared to Jonathan.  He was a leader of the stature of Hector, strong and truthful like the invincible Ajax, fearless in battle and as wise as Solomon, but nevertheless humble enough to serve his knights at table. [78]” (http://deremilitari.org/2014/01/from-tyrants-to-soldiers-of-christ-the-nobility-of-twelfth-century-leon-castile-and-the-struggle-against-islam/) PA, vv. 176-98.

Quite the description of a military leader campaigning against the evils of 12th-century Islamic expansion. Although, this is just one occasion where Gideon’s name is associated with something war-related. There are others like the 16th-century Swiss poet Benedikt Gletting wrote that the Swedish need the “Sword of Gideon” in his work, Song of Warning for the Confederacy, in wake of the Swedish Reformation and is the 1934 edition created by Hanns In der Gand (Ladislaus Krupski). Then there is the British-led special forces group nicknamed “the Gideon Force” who were primarily stationed in East Africa and the surrounding area during World War II. Nowadays, the name evokes a sense of victory in the hearts of soldiers familiar with the legend-like status of Gideon. Next week, we will see the ramifications of Gideon’s bold act of faith in God that resulted in the fleeing of the so-called great Midianites. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

“Gideon, Get’Em!” Part VII: A Matter of Loaf and Death (Judges 7:9-18)

So far we have read about in Chapter 7 is the whittling down of Gideon’s army to the Kosher 300 and with them proceeding to take out the Midianites. Where we pick up today we will find an interesting encounter before the great battle with the Midianites. Gideon is about to go to war, but first must see what odds he is up against with his homie Purah and hear a word from God through a stranger. Before we let the carriage go ahead of the horse, let’s read the text of Scripture for today’s study starting in verse 9 of Chapter 7:

“Now the same night it came about that the LORD said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hands. But if you are afraid to go down, go with Purah your servant down to the camp, and you will hear what they say; and afterward your hands will be strengthened that you may go down against the camp.” So he went with Purah his servant down to the outposts of the army that was in the camp. Now the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the sons of the east were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. When Gideon came, behold, a man was relating a dream to his friend. And he said, “Behold, I had a dream; a loaf of barley bread was tumbling into the camp of Midian, and it came to the tent and struck it so that it fell, and turned it upside down so that the tent lay flat.” His friend replied, “This is nothing less than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given Midian and all the camp into his hand.” When Gideon heard the account of the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship. He returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the LORD has given the camp of Midian into your hands.” He divided the 300 men into three companies, and he put trumpets and empty pitchers into the hands of all of them, with torches inside the pitchers. He said to them, “Look at me and do likewise. And behold, when I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. “When I and all who are with me blow the trumpet, then you also blow the trumpets all around the camp and say, ‘For the LORD and for Gideon.’”” (NASB Judges 7:9-18)

Starting off, we find Gideon at night after the day when Gideon’s forces were divided into a mere 300 soldiers. God then reveals how powerful He is by showing His knowledge of Gideon’s heart, specifically the fear that encroaches it. The LORD tells Gideon that he is to go and take out the camp of the Midianites, yet at the same time offers an alternative way of approaching the Midianite camp down in the valley (v9-11a). One way to understand the two options is that Gideon could either a) immediately go down against the camp with his army of 300 soldiers or b) go with Purah his servant to the border of the camp to hear a word of confirmation, then gather his troops to go against the camp. How peculiar that God offers an alternative to someone and yet approves of both scenarios because of the certain specifics of their situation. Not very rare to see that happen in the Bible or in our time really.

The only time I can think of a situation playing out like this is when God told my Mom that she could either marry my future Father or not marry him, but either way God would approve of her decision. As my Mother recalls the moment, God did not favor either option, but instead allowed my Mom to choose and whatever she chose, God was going to bless her decision. Well, I think we all know what she chose because I exist and no thanks to the both of my parents starting their marriage wisely by seeking God first. I believe every follower in Christ will one day come to such a decision from God, if they follow Him diligently like Gideon or my Mother did.

Like in my Mother’s situation, we know from reading the text which option Gideon chose because in all respects he was very afraid. It’s Gideon’s most common trait since we started reading about him in Chapter 6. He’s a man of great fear, but will one day be known as a man of great faith. He’s about to go to war for the first time and has never fought a day in his life. To even begin to describe what Gideon must have been feeling or thinking in this moment is too hard to articulate as someone who has never faced the fires of war.

The dawn of battle and war is a very scary thought even to the toughest of soldiers. It’s hard for me, a civilian, to describe to you what those moments feel like on the battlefield, so here is a quote from a former soldier on his experiences in combat:

“Several hours of pure terror, your heart pounding so hard you think it might leap out of your chest, your best friend on fire, running as fast as humanly possible, pure luck, sleeping with one eye open and your hand on your weapon, laser focused on the task before you, the world melting away as the only thing you observe is a heart beating and breath being taken in, then silence.

You walk along with the rest of the group. Everyone celebrating that we’re going home, but you just give a fake smile. All you can think about is not having been there 5 minutes earlier, or why didn’t he duck, or why him… And the sound still stays muted even through the great yell being given by everyone as the plane lifts off the ground and heading home, the high fives given are half hearted and unenthusiastic as we stop at several airports on the way to the states. Everything quiet and just as dead as your best friend.”–mherick, Reddit

With this in mind, not only is going to battle a jarring experience of courage conflicting with fear, going to your first battle even more so than most people can describe. From the testimonies of soldiers I have heard from online and in the past face-to-face, it’s an odd combination of a love/hate relationship with war. Love because there is no adrenaline surge on Earth that can match the testosterone high that combat can give to someone, especially men. Hate because of the atrocities and effects that result from combat afterwards: death, destruction, purple hearts, body bags, remorse, regrets, and the like. Again, I can’t do justice to what that moment is like before going to your first battle, but it’s something that every soldier that has gone to combat can relate to. Gideon is going through this swell of emotions and thoughts, along with 300 soldiers ready to die for their precious nation, Israel.

Choosing the alternative option, Gideon goes down to the border of the Midianite camp with his servant Purah and comes upon two men discussing a dream that one of them had. Just a side note, the name Purah is very similar to the English word “purity” and means “bough” like the central branch of a tree. Some biblical scholars say that Purah was most likely Gideon’s armor-bearer as he is referred to as a servant, which an armor-bearer was a type of servant during battle. When the two arrive at the extremity of the battle array, they stumble upon an army innumerable in size and appeared like a blanket of “locusts” in the valley below (v12).

It must have been humbling to see such a site of human power. Numbers are always impressive, no matter what it is that the numbers signify: a yearly-salary, a sports car’s horsepower, Zydrunas Savickas’ log press. It doesn’t matter. To us mortals, numbers are impressive because they always represent some sort of power, which can lead to pride to those who have that power. Which is why God dwindled down Gideon’s army, so they knew they could only win with God on their side, not from their own numbers.

As this immense enemy camp looms over Gideon’s heart and fears, he and Purah find two other men by the edge of the enemy camp as one of them is “relating a dream to his friend.” The dream is told as the following:

“Behold, I had a dream; a loaf of barley bread was tumbling into the camp of Midian, and it came to the tent and struck it so that it fell, and turned it upside down so that the tent lay flat.” (NASB Judges 7:13b)

Then once the dream had been proclaimed in the presence of Gideon, Purah, and the interpreter, the latter man responds with an interpretation that declares some very important truths. Let’s see the interpretation in its entirety before dissecting it:

“This is nothing less than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given Midian and all the camp into his hand.” (NASB Judges 7:14b)

Now, the dream and explaining the interpretation. In the dream of the first man there is a loaf of barley bread representing Gideon and his army. For you safe-space, triggered, millennials out there a loaf of bread is like a Twinkie, but made from real food and stuff. The loaf of bread may also signify how the Midianites were known for taking the Israelites resources, only to have it literally come back on their heads. Boy, this is a matter of loaf and death. Sorry, the-uh tumbling into the Midianite tent and turning it upside down symbolizes the victory that God has promised to Gideon. Thus, Gideon’s fears were finally squashed as he hears the final confirmation that God will deliver the Amalekites and the Midianites into Israel’s hands.

It’s always fascinating to me how God uses dreams in the Bible to confirm or reveal information. Jeffrey Kranz of www.overviewbible.com has found that there are 21 dreams in the Bible, including this one in Judges Chapter 7. He summarizes the dream in Judges Chapter 7 as “a piece of bread rolls* into Midianites’ camp and turns over the tents, foreshadowing Gideon’s victory. *bun intended?” Yes Kranz, the bun is most certainly intended and the victory is now destined to happen with this divine word from God through these two men conversing.

After hearing the interpretation, Gideon worships God and then heads back with Purah to gather the kosher 300 to annihilate the enemy. He divides the 300 into groups of 100 and places trumpets in every man’s hands, along with empty pitchers for their torches. Lastly, Gideon gives instruction to his army by telling them to do as he does. He ends with giving his men the battle cry of the night, which will cement his name as one of the greatest warlords in Israel’s history:  “For the LORD and for Gideon” (v18b)

Not only does this battle cry ring loudly as to how God will deliver Israel, but to whom God has appointed to unleash His will on those who oppose it: Gideon. A name that will send shudders down the spines of those who stand in opposition against God once His wrath is let loose upon the enemy next week. Our next study will show how Gideon’s life will become a legend that will forever define his legacy as a man of faith. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

“Gideon, Get’Em!” Part VI: Kosher 300 (Judges 7:1-8)

Quick recap: we just finished Chapter 6 where God has appointed Gideon (Jerubbaal) to lead God’s chosen nation, Israel, to destroy the Amalekites and the Midianites. Gideon starts out as a scaredy cat and is still a scaredy cat, but he’s getting there. It’s in this chapter of Judges that we meet the Gideon everyone is most familiar with: the warlord. In other words, THIS IS JERUSALEM!! And they’re about to start their campaign against the Amalekites and Midianites starting with the selecting of the best men fit for the job. Let’s first examine the passage for this week and then dive into the deeper themes within the text:

“Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him, rose early and camped beside the spring of Harod; and the camp of Midian was on the north side of them by the hill of Moreh in the valley. The LORD said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’ “Now therefore come, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.’” So 22,000 people returned, but 10,000 remained. Then the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many; bring them down to the water and I will test them for you there. Therefore it shall be that he of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go with you; but everyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “You shall separate everyone who laps the water with his tongue as a dog laps, as well as everyone who kneels to drink.” Now the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was 300 men; but all the rest of the people kneeled to drink water. The LORD said to Gideon, “I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and will give the Midianites into your hands; so let all the other people go, each man to his home.” So the 300 men took the people’s provisions and their trumpets into their hands. And Gideon sent all the other men of Israel, each to his tent, but retained the 300 men; and the camp of Midian was below him in the valley.” (NASB Judges 7:1-8)

So Leonidas, uh-I mean Gideon and his mighty men are gathered together beside the spring of Harod near the camp of the Midianites who are by the hill of Moreh in the valley. These beastly soldiers are pumped and ready to go to war. About to vanquish their enemies, but then God gives one final command to Gideon: you have too many men and need to send some home. What the what of the what?! Why on earth would God do that?! Why would God demand such a strange act of obedience from Gideon before going to battle? Doesn’t that seem counter-productive?

Pride. That’s the reason for God’s command. Pride is one of the deadliest sins one could ever commit. A spiritual blindside to all who play with it long enough and allow it to take root in their life. He wants the Israelites to understand who is delivering their enemies into their hands. Not the number of men, but the God who provided those numbers of men in the first place. What’s so wrong with pride? Let’s take a look at a couple passages from the Bible:

“Why do You stand afar off, O LORD?

Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?

In pride the wicked hotly pursue the afflicted;

Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised.

For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire,

And the greedy man curses and spurns the LORD.

The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him.

All his thoughts are, “There is no God.” (NASB Psalm 10:1-4)

 

“Pride goes before destruction,

And a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (NASB Proverbs 16:18)

 

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” (NASB 1 John 2:16)

Instead, I believe God was desiring this response from Gideon and a heart like that of David who once sang in Psalm 20:7 about the subject of boasting:

“Some boast in chariots and some in horses,

But we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God.”

Notice the difference? Rather than boast in themselves, God desired that they boast in Him. That they boast about how great He is and always will be. Paul the Apostle has a response very similar to David’s on the subject of pride as well. It looks like this:

“But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”” (NASB 1 Corinthians 1:30-31)

What’s even of more interest is the quote at the end of Paul’s quote because it’s a paraphrase of Jeremiah 9:23-24, which only adds more credence to Paul’s declaration. That’s really all that God wants from the Israelites: properly fixed worship. Instead of worshiping themselves as superior to all other nations, God desired that they worship the most superior authority in all of history, namely Himself. It’s a simple request and one that is actually in their own Ten Commandments, the first commandment explicitly.

So first, Gideon is accompanied by 32,000 soldiers, but the fearful are sent home which results in 10,000 being left to go to war against the Midianites (v3). Not bad, but not ideal either. I mean, it’s a third of the army, so they could win even though it’s a big stretch. Yet that’s not the last cut of the Israelite army either. No, God makes another crucial cut to their forces by dividing them into two camps of ways to drink from a body of water, most likely the spring of Harod. I know it sounds kind of silly, but this is God we’re talking about and He can do what He wants, even if we don’t quite understand why. The passage sounds a little confusing in this translation, so let’s look at it in another translation that clears the confusing structure of this specific NASB translation of Scripture:

“When Gideon took his warriors down to the water, the LORD told him, “Divide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream.” Only 300 of the men drank from their hands. All the others got down on their knees and drank with their mouths in the stream.” (NLT Judges 7:5-6)

Anyhoo, there are those who lapped (made their hand a cup) to drink the water with their tongues, like a dog might (300 men) and then those who knelt down to drink the water with their mouths (9,700 men). So the 9,700 were sent away and Gideon was left with 300 men. Well, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that there were probably some within those 300 that were having some serious doubts about their victory against the Midianites. I mean, they went from 32,000 to 300. That’s a 320:3 ratio. Not exactly great odds. Yet that is exactly the point. God wants Israel to know who is delivering them: God, not men. He wants mold-able vessels of honor, not dried-up, hardened vessels of dishonor.

Now God, after narrowing down the army to the best 300 men for the mission at hand, gives Gideon an affirmative and comforting promise (v7). He tells him that two things will happen: 1) He will deliver them and 2) He will give them victory over the Midianites. Notice how active God is in all of what Gideon does since we picked up with him in Judges 6 and have barely touched Chapter 7. It’s incredible how actively involved God is in the proceedings of bringing redemption to Israel through the use of a judge like Gideon. It reminds me of Proverbs 16:9 where it says….

“A man’s mind plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” (RSV)

Gideon may be doing all of the planning, but God is doing all of the directing of those plans. Like in film, an actor may have an idea on how to behave according to the character presented in a script, but the director will guide and direct them to ensure that their portrayal is what the director has in mind. According to the director’s will, the actor will behave and inhabit their specific character in alignment with that vision. In the same manner, God will guide us as our plans align with His will for what to aspire for in our lives or do in our lives. In John 15:1-11, Jesus speaks on this idea and explains how the Father finds joy in those who bear much fruit according to living lives aligned with His will for them.

This is how our relationship is like with God: “Getting up and living in God’s great story.” Trip Lee, a pastor in Atlanta and rapper, wrote those words in his book Rise and I think it sums up this passage quite well. Although God could do everything He wills without us, He desires us to participate because it gives Him great joy to see us rise up to the occasion and bear much fruit for His name’s sake. It’s similar to how a parent knows they can carry their child across the room, but instead waits for the child to eventually walk towards them. Desiring that they learn and grow, which always brings joy to a loving parent’s heart. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

 

“Gideon, Get’Em!” Part V: Jerubbaal, the Amalekites, and the Fleece (Judges 6:33-40)

Last week we went over Jerubbaal’s first stance against the Amalekites and the repercussions from his own people who wanted to end this godly revolution. This week, we’ll dive into the last few verses of Chapter 6 of Judges and see what happened after Gideon received his new name Jerubbaal. Pick up with me in Judges 6:33….

“Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the sons of the east assembled themselves; and they crossed over and camped in the valley of Jezreel. So the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon; and he blew a trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him. He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, and they also were called together to follow him; and he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they came up to meet them. Then Gideon said to God, “If You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken, behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I will know that You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken.” And it was so. When he arose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece, he drained the dew from the fleece, a bowl full of water. Then Gideon said to God, “Do not let Your anger burn against me that I may speak once more; please let me make a test once more with the fleece, let it now be dry only on the fleece, and let there be dew on all the ground.” God did so that night; for it was dry only on the fleece, and dew was on all the ground.” (NASB Judges 6:33-40)

Right away, there’s evil afoot and trouble brewing in the Hebrew lands. The bad guys are closing in and making their presence known in verse 33, so in response to this oncoming onslaught the Holy Spirit comes upon Jerubbaal in order to counter this imminent threat by rallying up the troops, so to speak. First the Abiezrites come (v34), then Jerubbaal sends out messengers to Manasseh (v35), and lastly to Asher (v35), Zebulun (v35), and Naphtali (v35).

Since Joash and Jerubbaal were Abiezrites, the Abiezrites spoken of in this text are most likely the family of Jerubbaal because all Abiezrites were descendants of Abiezer (See: Judges 6:11). The lands of Manasseh were the northern tip of Israel, while Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali were neighbouring tribes of Israel in the North Western region right near the Mediterranean Sea. The Amalekites were south of the Hebrew nation near Egypt, whereas the Midianites were southeast of Israel, but were apart of the land that is modern day Saudi Arabia. With all of this geographical context established, let’s get to the deeper thematic elements in this brief passage of Scripture.

So Gideon now has a massive army reporting for duty because he sent out messengers to gather all of the neighboring tribes to defend their homeland of Israel. In a way, this is sort of symbolic of when tragedy strikes our own lives and we cry out to God for aid, so God sends everything that we need to us. It reminds me of John 15:7 (NASB) where Jesus says “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” How because we rely on the LORD, we are taken care of since we understand our place in His grand plan to redeem the fallen. We can’t live life without the constant help of God. He’s literally our life support. Without God, there is no you or me. Nothing would exist. There would be nothing without God. “Surely He scorns the scornful, But gives grace to the humble” (NKJV Proverbs 3:34). And that is what is happening here. God is giving grace to the humble-hearted Hebrews by aiding them in their time of desperate need.

Another thing of note now that we’re at the end of chapter 6 (freakin’ finally) is that the whole Trinity is present within the chapter. Allow me to explain. In the beginning, we are introduced to God the Father authoritatively addressing Israel (v8-10), then God the Son otherwise known as the angel of the LORD (v11-24), and lastly God the Spirit (v34). It’s just another evidence as to why God has to be Trinitarian, rather than Unitarian like Allah of Islam. I write more on this subject in my blog-post “Explained: The Lovely Trinity Argument” which you may find on this website. Just a cool observation I found as I was studying this passage.

Back to the text, Gideon then does the unthinkable: asks God to prove Himself, again. As if Gideon needed anymore evidence or proof that God was going to help. Let’s briefly recap what exactly God has graciously done to aid Gideon just in Chapter 6 of Judges: He sent a prophet to communicate with them (v8), spared Israel from utter annihilation (v9-10), gives Gideon a sign that He is indeed God (v21-22), and filled Gideon with His Holy Spirit to bring together an army to stand against the Amalekites and the Midianites (v33). It’s like, bruh, what else do you need to know God is with you and is on your side? Get it together Gideon. Alas, Gideon asks God to give Him another sign which involves a fleece, but this sign is not meant to prove that this indeed was God who He was speaking. Rather, it was to see if God would deliver the Amalekites and Midianites into the hands of Israel. To ensure victory you could say.

Specifically in verses 36-37, Gideon asks not just for any sign, but a very distinct way of God answering with a sign that Gideon proposes. Gideon asks that if God will bring victory to the Israelites, then let the fleece he lays out on the threshing floor over night be covered in dew, while the rest of the floor is dry. The threshing floor is an outside area where certain types of grains like barley or wheat were threshed with a flail over a smooth stone surface. For those who may not know, dew is when tiny drops of water appear on a surface from condensing atmospheric vapor. This happens a lot when you go outside early in the morning and see little water droplets on your front lawn. That’s exactly what Gideon is talking about in this passage. If this dew is on both the fleece and the rest of the threshing floor, then Gideon knows that God will allow the Amalekites and the Midianites to win against the Israelites.

Once he wakes up in the morning, Gideon finds that low and behold, it happened exactly as he said it would, if God was to bring victory to the Israelites. In fact, the fleece was so wet with dew that Gideon filled a whole bowl with water (v38)! How crazy is that? It’s always the simple, little miracles that amaze me. Little things like this that could only be done by God. Pretty cool. But then Gideon asks God once again for the same sign, but reversed. That the fleece would be completely dry and the rest of the threshing floor would be covered in dew. Likewise, God does exactly as Gideon proposed and only further confirms in Gideon’s mind that the LORD is with him.

I find it interesting that Gideon asks for so many signs from God to reveal Himself, yet I relate to that because I do the exact same thing. Probably the strangest part about it is that God will sometimes allow something to happen exactly as I propose it to, if it’s God’s will and it happens that way exactly. It’s odd and ironic because a lot of the time I doubt that God will answer those types of requests, yet He does. If only we all would be more trusting in God when these signs do come because they are few and far between when God reveals His will in such a way. Powerful stuff when the Creator interacts with Creation. With that, we have finished Chapter 6! Wahoo! Yet in retrospect, Gideon’s A-story is only just beginning and we will find out next week as we start Chapter 7 how his story continues to unfold. Until next time, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

“Gideon, Get’Em!” Part IV: And He Threw It On The Ground! (Judges 6:25-32)

Like the hero’s journey, we have arrived at the point in every classic story when our hero enters the new world. For all the film nerds out there, this usually happens a third of the way through a film. In literature, it would be a third of the way through a book or novel. This is when Gideon steps out in faith and does something he would never have done, if not running into his mentor, God, sitting in a tree. He is about to go out and take his first stand of opposition towards the establishment of wickedness. It’s a pivotal moment that changes Gideon permanently for the duration of his life because there is no turning back for him. He must keep going from this point onward, but before we get to that let’s dive into the text first for some well-rounded context:

“Now on the same night the LORD said to him, “Take your father’s bull and a second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it; and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of this stronghold in an orderly manner, and take a second bull and offer a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah which you shall cut down.” Then Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the LORD had spoken to him; and because he was too afraid of his father’s household and the men of the city to do it by day, he did it by night. When the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was torn down, and the Asherah which was beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar which had been built. They said to one another, “Who did this thing?” And when they searched about and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash did this thing.” Then the men of the city said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has torn down the altar of Baal, and indeed, he has cut down the Asherah which was beside it.” But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal, or will you deliver him? Whoever will plead for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because someone has torn down his altar.” Therefore on that day he named him Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he had torn down his altar (NASB Judges 6:25-32).”

So the LORD comes back and gives Gideon further instruction to further His plan of redemption for the Hebrews by tearing down the altar to Baal. Without getting deep into paganism, Baal is one bad, evil, lil’ god. Very, very, vile things were done and are done in worship to this demonic god. Such as self-mutilation, sacrificing of the firstborn child, sacred sexual orgies, copulation with animals, and so on. There is a great, detailed article that thoroughly explains Baal worship, which you can read here: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0003_0_01786.html. Most likely, this was Baal-berith because of the name drop later on in Chapter 8 of Judges, but it could have been any variation of Baal.

First thing that we notice is the way God instructs Gideon to tear down the altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah beside the altar. He commands Gideon to do a number of things in sequential order: 1) take your father’s bull and a 7-yr. old bull, 2) pull down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it, 3) build an altar to the LORD on the stronghold previously holding Baal’s altar, 4) and then finally take the second bull and make an offering to the LORD using the wood from the Asherah. Let’s breakdown this 4-part command from the LORD. Notice how God tells Gideon to bring 2 bulls, his father’s and a 7-yr. old bull. Now the 7-yr. old bull was used for the sacrifice, but what was his father’s bull used for?

I am going to infer based on the Scripture at hand that God’s intention for bringing Gideon’s dad’s (Joash) bull was so that Gideon could pull down the altar set up for Baal by Joash, along with his ten male servants. Think about it: why else would God command Gideon to bring his father’s bull, if not to use it to tear down an altar made of extremely heavy stones that weighed 1000s of tons? He couldn’t have done it by himself. He couldn’t have done it with just 10 male servants. Of course he used the bull to pull down the altar. In fact, he probably used both bulls before sacrificing the second bull. Even with his 10 male servants they couldn’t possibly have done this task without the strength of the two bulls. Logically, Gideon tore down the altar and the Asherah with the help of his 10 male servants and the usage of 2 bulls. Based on the text provided, this is the best explanation.

So we now know why 2 bulls, but what about the Asherah? Well, the Asherah in ancient times is believed to have been made almost always out of terebinth trees because they were considered sacred and the etymology of the word Asherah, elat, is almost exactly the same for terebinth tree, ela., in Hebrew. For more on that, go here: http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/asherahasherim-bible. Since the Asherah was made of wood, Gideon could easily cut it down with an axe of some sort and probably wouldn’t need help from the bull to do that either.

With all of that in mind, God then commands Gideon to build an altar for the LORD and then offer the 7-yr. old bull as a sacrifice using the wood of the Asherah, which is so significant to say the least. God’s basically putting His foot down and saying “I’m Gideon’s God. Whoever messes with Gideon, is messing with the great I Am” by having Gideon do all of this stuff for God’s glory. Gideon likewise was making a statement as well by affirming who not only is his God, but who is the only God, which we will see in a little bit.

Yet Gideon’s bold stance is suddenly made so much bold-less when we realize that he was afraid of his father’s household and the men of the city, so he did all of this in the middle of the night. How sad is that? That Gideon compromised out of fear of others? Sad indeed it is that such an awesome proclamation of faith was undermined by an abundance of fear. Oh, how often I see this in my life. Where God wants me to do something or go somewhere and how I undermine the “God-moments” with compromise over something not worth compromising over. I think we can all relate to that fear that Gideon was experiencing during this time. It’s an understandable fear in the sense that anyone can relate to it, but also an irrational fear because God is with us who believe in Him.  With Him, we ought not to fear anyone; not even those who desire to stop us.

But then opposition comes Gideon’s way when the men of the city find out that the altar has been destroyed. So they go to the household of Joash and demand for Gideon’s head. Like, they seriously wanted to kill Gideon. They were a lil’ on edge. Keep in mind, that Joash is not aware of what Gideon has done and is hearing these accusations against Gideon for the first time. His reaction is unparalleled when considering this prospect. He should have allowed the men of the city to take Gideon and kill him out of anger towards Gideon tearing down Joash’s own altar, but nonetheless that’s not what happens. In fact, what we do see Joash do is protect his son Gideon by putting the responsibility of exacting judgment onto their own god, Baal, and making it his responsibility, not their responsibility. In other words, Joash told them that if your god is so powerful, let him take care of Gideon.

Then again, maybe Joash did know about Gideon tearing down the altar before the men of the city told him or Gideon confessed to his father that night because of the fear that he felt of his father’s wrath. Either way, it’s hard to understand why his father, Joash, responded in the way that he did, but there are only two options. One, Joash had a change of heart before the men of the city came for Gideon or he had a change of heart when the men of the city came to him and told him all that happened. Bottom line: something or someone changed Joash’s heart because he let Gideon live and stood up for him. Now this is what every father should be doing, but are not doing. Supporting their children when they make the right decision and protect them from opposition to their actions. We need more parents like this.

Once the men of the city hear this bold proclamation from Joash and leave, Joash then renames Gideon Jerubbaal, which means “Let Baal contend against him.” As if to say, Gideon will struggle with Baal. We will see what this foreshadowing means, but for now let’s stick to the text at hand. I like the insight that Jon Ericson adds. He writes at this link: http://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/2384/what-is-the-significance-of-switching-from-gideon-to-jerubbaal that

“the name Gideon seems to be associated with the man’s struggles and victories over foreign nations and the name Jerubbaal is associated with his struggles against idolatry.”

This makes sense then because the first mention of his name as Jerubbaal is in this chapter and is given to him as he struggled, both physically and mentally, to tear down the altar to Baal. Then in the spiritual sense, Gideon had to choose between the one, true God’s will or the will of other men’s gods. A tough decision and a life defining struggle indeed that as we proceed through the life of Jerubbaal (Gideon) will be ever more apparent. Until next time, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

“Gideon, Get’Em!” Part III: Altars & Offerings (Judges 6:19-24)

Before we starts this week’s study, let’s recap real quick with caveman talk. God told Israel stop doing the bad stuff. Israel does the bad stuff. God face-palms through the Son. Israel cries for assistance and forgiveness. God saves Israel’s skin and starts His plan of awesomeness to pummel the noobs that are hurting His nation. So now that we’re all caught up, let’s get to today’s text! Picking up in verse 19, we find Gideon preparing his offering for the LORD who has stayed where He promised He would remain in the oak tree He was chillin in. Before we go any further let’s take a look at our text for this study:

“Then Gideon went in and prepared a young goat and unleavened bread from an ephah of flour; he put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, and brought them out to him under the oak and presented them. The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And he did so. Then the angel of the LORD put out the end of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. Then the angel of the LORD vanished from his sight. When Gideon saw that he was the angel of the LORD, he said, “Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face.” The LORD said to him, “Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die.” Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and named it The LORD is Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites (NASB Judges 6:19-24).”

It’s hard not to admire Gideon’s insistence on worshiping God through his offering to God. It’s such an admirable approach to the calling of God. Basically what Gideon was saying through this display of worship was “LORD, thank You for all that You desire to do in my life. Use me as You wish and I will serve You according to Your will. With that, here’s my gratitude from me to You.” It’s honestly beautiful how Gideon responds to this call of God.

As far as great starts go, this is one of the best in the Bible. Remember, this was voluntary on Gideon’s part to sacrifice to God and bring this offering before Him, so that God could reveal to Him that He is the great I Am with a sign (v17). God didn’t ask for this affection, it was given to Him and that just speaks for itself. Do you answer God’s calling in your life for great and mighty things first with an offering of worship? If not, you’re not alone. Often times I to forget the essential aspect of worship in my life and how critical it is to do so out of love for YHWH, before doing anything else. This little passage is humbling and encouraging because it’s a great reminder to us all to act towards God with a heart of worship.

With all of this in mind, Gideon presents his offering to God and like God told him, He reveals through a sign that He is indeed the great I Am of old. The angel of the LORD does so in a peculiar, yet powerful manner: He places His staff on the rock where the offering was poured out and immediately the rock bursts with flames that utterly consume the offering. Then to top it all off Jesus, who is also known as the angel of the LORD, vanishes. Just simply leaves. Without another utterance or anything. He dropped the mic. It was a drop the mic moment.

I’ve always loved how God shows who He is throughout Scripture and in life. It’s always mesmerizing and awesome. With Job, He gave Him the teleological talk of the century by showing all that He designed and created. With us, the second person of the Tri-Unity of God (Jesus), took on a second, human nature in order to show us the true Messiah. Both Jew and Gentile. This is also known as the Hypostatic Union and is best explained in further detail at this link: https://carm.org/dictionary-hypostatic-union. Anyways, it’s always these amazing acts of power that God reveals who He is to us and I always love hearing about the moments when the Creator reaches down to interact with His beloved Creation.

Back to the text, Gideon’s next response to seeing the angel of the LORD, who remember is Jesus, and what he does about seeing God is also of note. Once the angel of the LORD leaves, Gideon exclaims joyously how he has laid eyes on the LORD (v22). A powerful moment indeed. When the angel of the LORD leaves and after Gideon verbally responds to this sweet encounter with the angel of the LORD, the LORD then responds verbally with “Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die.” Now this is worth note for 2 reasons. For one, God always says do not fear to those who encounter Him in a miraculous way because He is truly worth fearing. The fear of the LORD is a genuine fear and the most genuine fear. Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7, and Hebrews 12:28-29 help define this concept for those who are saved. Put simply, for the unbeliever the fear of the LORD is fear of God’s impending judgment for their unrepentant sin and for the believer is an awe or reverence of how great God is. That’s probably the best way I can explain it.

So Gideon has this fear of the LORD and his reaction to God’s call to action is to erect for Him an Altar, which we can see in verse 24. Gideon then calls this altar “The LORD is Peace” and at the time of the writing of this book, it was still there in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. Which for those who do not know your Middle Eastern geography is thoroughly explained by bibleatlas.org as the following:

“A city in the tribal lot of Manasseh West of Jordan. It is mentioned only in connection with Gideon, whose native place it was, and with his son Abimelech (Judges 6:11, etc.). It was, indeed, family property, belonging to Joash the Abiezrite, the father of Gideon (http://bibleatlas.org/ophrah_2.htm).”

In other words, this was Gideon’s hood. He lived in this area when God met with him in Judges Chapter 6 and this is where he built the altar to the LORD. One of the ways that the Bible is different from the rest of religious writings is the specificity in how detailed it is compared to other writings that are always rewritten to match new archaeological findings (here’s looking at you Book of Mormon). It’s the most historically accurate religious text ever. There is no other book that can compare to the gravity of truth found within the covers of God’s precious Word. Such a blessing to be able to read and study it with you internet peeps. Well, we went over a lot today! Next week we will discuss what happens after nightfall when God gives Gideon further instruction on what to do next in His plan of redemption for the Hebrews. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!