Gideon: A Character Study | Part 6: Kosher 300

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/21/2019

Quick recap: we just finished Chapter 6 where God has appointed Gideon (Jerubbaal) to lead Israel to destroy the Amalekites and the Midianites. Gideon starts out as a dweeb and is still a dweeb, but he’s getting there. It’s in this chapter of Judges that we meet the Gideon everyone is most familiar with: the warlord. They’re about to start their campaign against the Amalekites and Midianites starting with selecting 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 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. They’re 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?! 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 allow it to take root in their life. God wants the Israelites to understand who is delivering their enemies into their hands. Not the number of men, but the God who created mankind. 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. Paul the Apostle has a response very similar to David’s as well:

“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 more interesting is what Paul quotes because it’s a paraphrase of Jeremiah 9:23-24. That’s really all that God wants from the Israelites: properly fixed worship. Instead of worshiping themselves, they were meant to worship God.

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. 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 silly, but God does 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 the NLT:

“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)

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. Not exactly great odds, yet that is the point. God wants Israel to know who is delivering them: God, not men. He wants moldable vessels of honor, not dried-up vessels of dishonor.

Now God, after narrowing down the army to 300 men, gives Gideon an affirmative and comforting promise (v7). He tells Gideon that two things will happen: 1) He will deliver them and 2) He will give them victory over the Midianites. 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 portray a character 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 or do for 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.

“Getting up and living in God’s great story.” Trip Lee, a pastor in Atlanta, 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 toddler across the room, but instead waits for the toddler 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!

Footnotes

  1. 300 (2007)

 

Gideon: A Character Study | Part 5: Jerubbaal, the Amalekites, and the Fleece

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/21/2019

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. But first, let’s read the text.

“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 brewing in the Hebrew lands. The bad guys are closing in and making their presence known (v33). In response to this oncoming onslaught, the Holy Spirit comes upon Jerubbaal in order to counter this imminent threat by rallying up the troops. First the Abiezrites come (v34), then Jerubbaal sends out messengers to Manasseh (v35), next to Asher (v35), Zebulun (v35), and lastly Naphtali (v35).

Since Joash and Jerubbaal were Abiezrites, the Abiezrites mentioned in this text are most likely the family of Jerubbaal because all Abiezrites were descendants of Abiezer (Judges 6:11). The lands of Manasseh were northern Israel, while Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali were neighboring tribes of Israel in the northwestern 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 passage of Scripture.

So now Gideon has a massive army because he sent out messengers to gather all of the neighboring tribes to defend 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.” Because we rely on the Lord, we are taken care of since we understand our place in His grand plan to redeem us.

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 is that the whole Trinity is present within the chapter. In the beginning of the chapter, 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 in Islam. I write more on this subject in my blog-posts The Lovely Trinity Argument and The Greater Than Argument.

Back to the text, Gideon then does the unthinkable: asking God to prove Himself again. As if Gideon needed anymore 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), gave Gideon a sign that He is indeed God (v21-22), then filled Gideon with His Holy Spirit to bring together an army to stand against the Amalekites and the Midianites (v33). What else do you need to know that God is with you? Anyways, 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.

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.

Dew is tiny drops of water that 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 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?

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 do the exact same thing. God will sometimes allow things to happen exactly as we ask Him to have it happen. It’s odd because I have doubts that God would answer those types of requests, yet He does. God meets us where we are at, so that we can hear Him clearly through signs and wonders.

If only we all would be more trusting in God when these signs do come because they are few and far between. Powerful stuff when the Creator interacts with Creation. 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. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. Gideon’s Fleece by J Goeree Dutch

Gideon: A Character Study | Part 4: And He Threw It On The Ground

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/21/2019

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, lil’ god. Very, very, vile things were done and are done in worship to this demonic god. Such as self-mutilation, firstborn sacrifice, 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. 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 thousands of tons? He couldn’t have done it by himself.He couldn’t have done it with just ten male servants either.

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 ten 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 ten male servants and the usage of the two bulls. Based on the text provided, this is the best explanation.

So we now know why two 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. 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 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 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 should not 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 a few options.

Either 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. Supporting their children when they make the right decision and protecting them from opposition.

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 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 (2).”

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!

Footnotes

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAYL5H46QnQ
  2. https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/2384/what-is-the-significance-of-switching-from-gideon-to-jerubbaal

Gideon: A Character Study | Part 3: Altars + Offerings

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 4/23/2019

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. Israel cries for assistance and forgiveness. God saves Israel’s skin and starts His plan to pummel the dweebs 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. 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 too forget the essential aspect of worship in my life and how critical it is to do so out of love for God, 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 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.

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. This is known as the Hypostatic Union and is explained in further detail here. 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 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.” For one, God always says “do not fear” to those who encounter Him 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. For the believer, it is an awe or reverence of how great God is and all that He has done for us.

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, this is succinctly explained by bibleatlas.org:

“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.

In other words, this was Gideon’s hood. He lived in this area when God met with him in Judges Chapter six 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 or no findings at all (here’s looking at you Book of Mormon).

The Bible is the most historically accurate religious text. There is no other book that can compare to the gravity of truth found within the covers of God’s precious Word. It is such a blessing to be able to read and study it.

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!

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/

Gideon: A Character Study | Part 2: The Hero’s Journey Begins

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/21/2019

The first installment of “Gideon, Get’ Em!” focused on the general background of the book of Judges and set the stage for God to raise up the next judge of Israel: Gideon. This time, we meet the hero of our series. The chosen one if you will that God appoints to do His will in saving the Israelites from certain death. Without jumping too far ahead, let’s read the text for this portion of the series.

“Then the angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press in order to save it from the Midianites. The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior.” Then Gideon said to him, “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” The LORD looked at him and said, “Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?” He said to Him, “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.” But the LORD said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.” So Gideon said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who speak with me (NASB Judges 6:11-18).””

There is a lot to go over in this passage. Let’s start with the simple stuff, then progress from there. References to “the angel of the LORD” are Christophany moments. A Christophany is an Old Testament appearance of Jesus the Christ and this is when Jesus is physically present in history. This occurs a few times in the Old Testament (2). These are also a foreshadowing of later on in history when the Word became flesh (3) and paid the debt of humanity by atoning for all the sins of mankind.

It’s always awesome to see God interact with His creation in such interesting ways, yet at the same time in ways that the people of that time could relate too. For Joshua, a soldier, God appeared as a soldier. For Jacob (4), He appeared as a man busting Jacob’s hip in a wrestling match. Living under the New Covenant, we too interact with God in ways that on a person-to-person basis, makes sense to us.

When I got saved and came to Christ, I was compelled by the way the Bible was written as a storyteller reading the ultimate story. I was so enthralled by God’s Word when I became a believer that I read the entire book of Genesis the night of my conversion. It was so enthralling! To see the greatest storyteller unveil just a snippet of His master plan was exciting to say the least reading it for the first time.

Although no one living today is apart of the A-Story found in the Bible, we all are apart of the B-Story in history, otherwise known as history or His-Story. The A-Story is a film term referring to the journey the protagonist takes during the duration of a film. The B-Story is the side story that at first, seems unrelated to the A-Story, until it’s tied together at the end of the film with the A-Story. That’s what we are right now. Chugging along through our own B-Stories waiting to enter Heaven and see where our story fits alongside God’s A-Story.

It’s a very interesting time to be in because we look back at the A-Story revealed so far (the Bible, excluding Revelation & the prophecies to be fulfilled, history/the past, etc.) and then look at our own B-Stories, feeling useless in the grand scheme of things. It honestly is really hard sometimes because it’s like we’re on the sidelines learning about “real Christians” like King David and John the Baptist who did incredible things in God’s A-Story. But rest assured, God promises in His Word that all things will be worked together for those that follow Christ (5). Just remain faithful in living out your B-story and one day God will reveal your essential role in His A-Story when we enter His Kingdom.

Something else of note in this passage is how we are introduced to our hero of our story. It’s the perfect example of the humble-beginnings type of hero. Gideon is found serving his household diligently beating his wine-press, in order to hide wheat from the clutches of the Midianites. I like how bible-history.com describes this moment as the following: “Gideon, in order to avoid being seen by the Midianites, beat out his wheat in a wine-press instead of threshing it on the threshing-floor,” which is not usual because in those times someone would thresh the floor, not beat the winepress. In other words, Gideon was scared out of his mind and arguably should be with the life he has being so insignificant in the grand scheme of things from his perspective. The Midianites were going to take all that they could consume, so he tried to hide it from them.

Gideon is the Luke Skywalker of this story: a nobody going nowhere in life. Or so he thought. He was the youngest son in his family (v15), of a family of little to no name in society or Israel for that matter (v15), is most likely tired of living out his B-Story compared to past mighty people of God who had great triumphs (v13), and has doubts when it comes to miracles (v13). It’s understandable that Gideon would complain to the LORD about his B-Story when the A-story looks so awesome.

Little did he know that his B-Story was about to become an essential part of the A-Story. You see in the kingdom of God, the bench-warmers are the starters and the starters are the bench-warmers. God loves to use the foolish in the world’s eyes to shame the wise of this world (6). It’s kind of God’s favorite method: using the broken to fix a broken world. So too, Gideon is our broken protagonist who God has chosen as the centerpiece vessel for His plan of redemption for Israel. What happens next in this encounter is the first few steps in the master plan from the master.

The LORD comes to Gideon in verse 12 and starts the conversation with “The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior.” As if Gideon was some valiant warrior to begin with, which he was not, and the following conversation between the two seems to imply this truth. Just on a side note, it’s always interesting when God will call someone by what they will be one day as if they already are this position or title. Since our timelines are linear and God is outside of time, he can look at our entire timeline, instead of us who only see the pieces of the past or present. So from God’s point of view, Gideon is a valiant warrior. He just does not know it yet.

Back to the text, Gideon responds with basically “God, you left us and now we’re doomed. What happened to all of those promises you said you would keep and the things you did for us in the past” (v13)? At this point in time, Gideon seems quite frustrated and afraid of the future believing the worst is to come for Israel. But God has other plans, so He presses with His proposed plan: “Gideon, you’re the chosen one. I picked you to save Israel. Go as you are to do My will” (v14). Then Gideon wines like a Skywalker about how unprepared he is to do God’s will (v15), so the LORD replies with “Dude, I’m God. They will lose” (v16). Next, Gideon is like “Alright God, if it’s really you, then show me somehow. Please stay, so that I can build you something cool and then show you my cool thing” (v17). The LORD ends the conversation with “Yeah, sure thing Gideon.”

Now that’s my own paraphrase of their conversation, but you get the idea. God wants to use Gideon. Gideon wants to water his dirt farm. God tells him to stop being a dweeb. Gideon listens to God and goes to get some power-converters. You get the jist of it. So Gideon heads out to go and prepare this offering for God, while God stays around for the offering. Come back next time as we observe what happens next in the life of Gideon as his B-Story ends and his A-Story begins. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. Star Wars (1977)
  2. Genesis 18:1-33, Joshua 5:13-6:5
  3. John 1:1
  4. Genesis 32:22-30
  5. Romans 8:28
  6. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29
  7. Disclaimer

Gideon: A Character Study | Part 1: Setting the Stage for the Savior

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/21/2019

When I say “Bible Heroes,” who comes to mind? Daniel? Esther? Samson? You know, those historical figures that did mighty things for the LORD and are praised for their amazing courage in Scripture. Well for now, forget about those peeps because today we are going to look at one of the more underrated figures of the Bible: Gideon. This 12-part blog series will be a study on the life, death, and legacy of Gideon. A man whose impact was so far reaching in the Bible that he is praised by the author of the book of Hebrews as a man of faith who served God diligently, but we’ll get to that later. For now, let’s look at some historical details to set the stage for this first installment in this series.

About The Author

The majority of Gideon’s story is written in the book of Judges in the Bible. The author of Judges is most likely the Prophet Samuel, but that’s not for certain and is only attributed to Samuel because of the oral Jewish tradition. Although the case can be made that it was a collaborative effort (2). The author would have to be someone who lived just after this period in history, about 1045-1000 B.C. and Samuel the Prophet fits this bill the best. Also of note, “the Book of Ruth was originally a part of the Book of Judges, but in A.D. 450 it was removed to become a book of its own” (3). So the author of Judges may have also been the author of the Book of Ruth.

Background & Culture

The book of Judges is the Mad Max of the Bible and the time of the Judges was kind of insane. There was outright anarchy, rebellion, violence, and all other things of that nasty sort happening everywhere you went. Then every once in awhile, God would handpick someone to be a judge and do His will in drawing His chosen people back to Him. Whether that be Deborah or Samson, God would pick out some nobody to do something absolutely magnificent, in order to bring God’s people back to Himself. Israel at this time was a wreck and broken from the inside by sin, as well as on the verge of war by opposing nations seeking to annihilate them permanently.

As the book of Judges says itself, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes (4).” Rightly so, because the people of Israel rejected God and went their own way towards sin. This time period could be compared to an emergency room where one goes to die, yet lives. Where death and life clash. Where eternity and time cross paths. Often the times of Judges was a continual back and forth of resuscitation. Where Israel would spiritually die, God would resuscitate them, and then they would experience spiritual revival. This is where we start our study in the life of Gideon. Israel is dead and needs God, so God decides to use Gideon to get’em back to being alive in Him.

“Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD gave them into the hands of Midian seven years. The power of Midian prevailed against Israel. Because of Midian the sons of Israel made for themselves the dens which were in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds. For it was when Israel had sown, that the Midianites would come up with the Amalekites and the sons of the east and go against them. So they would camp against them and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel as well as no sheep, ox, or donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, they would come in like locusts for number, both they and their camels were innumerable; and they came into the land to devastate it. So Israel was brought very low because of Midian, and the sons of Israel cried to the LORD.” (NASB Judges 6:1-6)

Notice how Israel is always in this continuous cycle of dependency for God and in-dependency from God. How in the previous chapter, “the land was undisturbed for forty years” (5), completely dependent on God’s mercies and now after merely a generation are back to their evil ways. In chapter 6 we come to the second half of this vicious cycle of humanity’s relationship to God and His mercies: the independent stage. It’s a very dangerous stage. Full of volatile lifestyles and chaotic consequences on humanity’s part as God eagerly awaits to save His precious nation.  

So because of this rebellion, God allows the Midianites to completely wreck the lands of Israel. The Midianites and Amalekites were Arabian nomad races: groups of people that wandered for resources with no homeland. They were from the east (modern day Middle East) and would continuously raid Israel of all its resources until they were full and then leave, while the Israelites would take shelter in caves, mountains, or strongholds to avoid conflict. Since their numbers were too many and the Israelites were no match for such mighty people groups like the Midianites and Amalekites, this series of raids went on for seven long years.

It’s usually during times of war when one finds out what they are made of in the face of extreme circumstances. Whether that be physical, mental, or spiritual, warfare is the ultimate way of revealing one’s true character. Or in this case, the character of the nation of Israel: afraid and resistant to conflict. They showed their true colors. They let their enemies take anything they desired as they sat back in fear. It was probably embarrassing for those who lived during the days of deliverance when Deborah and Barak faithfully did God’s will, which led to ending the tyranny of Jabin the king of Canaan just forty years ago (6). But Israel in their time of trouble finally cried out to God and God, in the following verses of Chapter 6, replies with some scathing words of correction and comfort.

“Now it came about when the sons of Israel cried to the LORD on account of Midian, that the LORD sent a prophet to the sons of Israel, and he said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘It was I who brought you up from Egypt and brought you out from the house of slavery. I delivered you from the hands of all your oppressors, and dispossessed them before you and gave you their land, and I said to you, “I am the LORD your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live.” But you have not obeyed Me.”’”” (NASB Judges 6:7-10)

The sons of Israel were guilty for committing sin against God by disobeying His laws and doing their own thing. Now they are rightfully repenting of their sins and believing in the saving grace of God. In response to their turning away from sin, God sends a prophet to speak on His behalf and speaks to the people of Israel. In His response as spoken through the prophet, God essentially says “Did you forget who I am? What I’ve done for you? How I saved you from back in the day?” Even when Israel was again in rebellion towards God, He still spares them and keeps His promises. A key theme in the book of Judges is God’s ability keep His promises and the inability of mankind to listen to Him.

Although they have rightly repented and turned back to God, sin has long-lasting consequences that are harder to get rid of than the actual sin. In this case, the Amorites and the Midianites are back in the picture. The next step is for Israel to remove the their enemies who are destroying God’s chosen people. But how? They’re no match! The Israelites have nothing compared to the massive forces of the Amorites and the Midianites. Well, God has a plan of redemption and it begins with the heroes journey of one specific man: Gideon. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
  2. 1 Chronicles 29:29
  3. http://www.gotquestions.org/Book-of-Judges.html
  4. Judges 21:25
  5. Judges 5:31b
  6. Judges 4:4-6, 23-24
  7. Disclaimer

The Lovely Trinity Argument

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/21/2019

This blog-post is a little different than past blog-posts in that I will be showing you briefly my first argument for the Christian Trinity. My argument is called “The Lovely Trinity Argument” and was heavily inspired by the works of C.S. Lewis, especially his arguments in Mere Christianity. The argument resides on the central question found in premise seven and is actually what I asked myself a few years ago when the original concept for the argument began to take shape in my mind. Shout out to my friend, Kevin King, for helping me fine-tune my argument to make it as logically airtight as possible. Here is the argument down below presented in a premise-by-premise structure like almost all other philosophical arguments:

The Lovely Trinity Argument

By Christopher Cribari

  1. Before Creation, there was God (✝).
  2. God was alone and nothing existed, except for God before Creation.
  3. Therefore, God is the objective standard for all things pertaining to morality and the like, including love because He is all that existed.
  4. Thus, God is love (✝), love is God*, and God is all-loving.
  5. Love is an action expressed towards an object.
  6. Love is actively expressed from person to person.
  7. But if God is love, love is God, and God is all-loving, who would God love?
  8. A Unitarian God cannot love Himself because He is one person.
  9. Thus, God would need to be 2 or more than 2 persons to actively express love, in order for God to be love, for love to be God, and for God to be all-loving.
  10. Therefore, God is one being (✝), but multiple persons.
  11. But in order for love to be expressed for others to see, there has to be a third party or person.
  12. Thus, a Binitarian God cannot love another person without a third party or person to validate that love.
  13. Therefore, God is one being, but three persons (✝).
  14. Hence, the doctrine of the Trinity is true because it validates that God is love, love is God, and God is all-loving, while at the same time affirming that God is triune.
  15. For God is a Trinitarian God: one being, but three persons.

Argument Footnotes

* = C.S. Lewis penned “love is God” in his work, Mere Christianity, in chapter 4 of book 4 entitled “Good Infection.”

✝ = Biblical References

  • Premise 1) Genesis 1:1, Hebrews 1:10
  • Premise 4) 1 John 4:8, 16
  • Premise 10) Deuteronomy 6:4, 1 Timothy 2:5a
  • Premise 13) 2 Corinthians 13:14

Well, that is my argument for the Christian Trinity and I hope it helps you wherever you are in relation to God. If you would like to hear my newer argument for the Christian Trinity, click here. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. Disclaimer

An Argument For Apologetics: Part II

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/21/2019

Since this is apart of a blog-post series, let me briefly remind you of what I have already gone over in Part I of my argument for apologetics. In the first post in this series, I defined faith, described apologetics, and went over my first point on why we need apologetics in Christianity. That point being that it is pre-evangelism. The way I argued this was with a knight allegory, but I will instead use an expression used at the film school I attend to make the point clearer.

When it comes to film, it really boils down to 2 things: knowing your audience and knowing your story. Relating this back to the topic at hand, apologetics is about knowing your story, while evangelism is about knowing your audience. Let me quickly explain what I mean by that.

Apologetics is all about understanding on a logical and technical level who you’re, what you believe, and how to appropriately answer any objections to Christianity. Evangelism is all about understanding on a moral and spiritual level who someone is, what is holding them back from the cross, and how to appropriately guide them to the cross. Both are equally relevant and dependent on each other in outreaches to the world. Whether that’s a missions trip, feeding the homeless, street witnessing, etc. As my Dad once said, “Apologetics is pre-evangelism and if it’s not, you’re doing it wrong.”

2) Apologetics Saved the Church From Heresy

In A.D. 325, there was the Council of Nicaea and this meeting brought church leaders from the East and the West together to discuss a series of current Christian topics at hand. These topics included, but were not limited to the calendar date of Easter, defining the Trinity, and the nature of Jesus Christ. The latter being the most prominent topic of the meeting because it was debated by two opposing forces within the church at the time.

One side of this debate was Arius the priest who thought that Jesus was not eternal, but created. He was literally punched in the face for this heretical claim during the proceedings by Bishop Nicholas. The other side of the debate was led by Deacon Athanasius and Bishop Alexander who argued the biblical stance of Jesus being eternal like God the Father. The whole council, which consisted of hundreds of bishops and other prominent Christian leaders, watched as one of the most important debates in Christianity took place over one of the most central truths of Christianity: Jesus is God.

It was a debate that had so much riding on it: the future of Christianity, the foundation of the church, and so much more. The emperor of Rome, Constantine, resided over the proceedings looking to end the division in the church, which he thought would end political division within the Roman Empire, only added to the tension. It was the debate of the century. After much back and forth, a vote was taken and the vast majority agreed with Bishop Alexander and Deacon Athanasius that Jesus is God. Arius was eventually expelled as a heretic from the church, along with Arianism altogether.

Why do I bring this up? Because it is instances like this where large opposition has risen against the church, usually from within the church, and without the use of apologetics, would have destroyed the church. Another time where this has happened was the Protestant Reformation. This was when Martin Luther boldly left the Catholic church, which had seriously deviated from correct biblical truth, to bring them back from their heretical claims. Such as the Pope’s word was equal in measure to God’s Word (the Bible) in authority.

So the greatest Christian church split in history happened. It was a time when apologetics was absolutely necessary to defend the Christian faith from those who had twisted it. Other instances when apologetics saved the skin of the church from either destruction from the outside or manipulation from the inside were the following: the rise and fall of Gnosticism, the Enlightenment when the church was under attack from the intellectuals of the time, or even today with the rise of Prosperity Theology, otherwise known as the Faith Movement.

Every generation of the church body has had its heresies, cults, false religions, and worldly belief systems to deal with that help the body of Christ stay alert. This “always be ready” mentality of confronting heresies head-on with apologetics to protect the flock of God from falling away is essential to continual growth in Christ. Some notable apologists who defended the Christian worldview are Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (The Cosmological/Contingency Argument, invented binary language), Rene Descartes (The Origin of the Idea of God Argument, invented the cartesian coordinate system), and Blaise Pascal (Pascal’s Wager, invented the first working mechanical calculator).

These men were also the fathers of modern philosophy and science, who still impact the culture with their use of apologetics centuries later. As was once said in a lecture at Rice University by Professor John Lennox, “Far from being a hindrance to science, belief in God was the motor that drove it.” In short, without apologetics Christianity would not be where it is today because of those bold enough in the faith to protect others from the deceit of the Devil, the world, and even our own corrupt selves.

3) Apologetics Builds Up the Church

If you do not know why you believe what you believe, why believe? This is the motivating question behind my apologetics passion and why I care so much for it. I strongly believe in the fact that every believer needs to not only know what they believe, but to know why they believe it in the first place. Christianity is not led by blind faith, but is led by bold faith. But this faith is not bold because of blind passion like followers of other worldviews.

Rather, it is because we know what we believe to be true, which causes the believer to understand certain things like the fear of God, the compassion of Christ, and that there are billions of people living today who are not ready for the return of Christ. It’s an abundance of emotions to know God, while at the same time know how few know God. It’s sad and joyous all at the same time. It’s the motor that drives the believer to distant lands all across the globe or to local rough parts of town in our cities. We are driven by the burden of the broken to mend them with the good news of the Gospel.

But with this burden for the broken comes questions from the broken that wish to be built back up, yet are afraid of being broken again. How can the broken be reassured that what you have and offer from God is any different from say Islam, Buddhism, or any other belief system with the same exact claims? Claims of fulfilling meaning, purpose, and value? This is when apologetics is to be appropriately used in defending the Christian worldview by differentiating it from other worldviews. This in turn builds up the believer at the same time as reassuring their broken spirit.

Apologetics not only defends against outward opposition and intense inquiry, but also from inward doubts and fears. One fear that used to cloud my mind early in my faith was ‘How do I really know that God exists? Is what I am experiencing really a supernatural experience that I can personally interact with God or just my feelings overcoming my emptiness for relevance in life?’

Eventually, I came to the same conclusions that the late C.S. Lewis came to in his lifetime. That for every desire, there exists a satisfaction for these desires of ultimate meaning, purpose, and value. This is better known as The Desire Argument famously made by Lewis in his book, Mere Christianity.

There was also the fact that the universe screams for a necessary, intelligent, mindful, personal, first-cause that could conceive of the universe itself. This was my starting point as to why I believed in the existence of God and has helped me when going through times of doubt or times of spiritual struggle. Knowing God is always there is something that I always find comfort in and helps me cope with the harder times in life as I bet it does for other believers as well.

You see, apologetics builds up the church by reinforcing the spiritual connection the believer has with Jesus with logical and relevant facts to support such an ambitious relationship. I mean, how many people really understand the uniqueness of interacting with God on a day-to-day basis worldwide? Not many because it sounds too strange at first to accept, but in reality is far from it.

That dynamic with God really starts when we admit we are wrong and He is right. It’s so simple it boggles the minds of the greatest skeptics around the world! Lunacy to some to even consider they could be wrong or better yet, indebted to God.

The more you learn in the realm of apologetics, the more you appreciate and understand your relationship with God. Things like how the persons of the Trinity interact, essential doctrines that define the specifics of certain aspects to Christianity, and the list goes on. It’s encouraging to know that I know what I believe in and then to have even more joy when sharing that faith with others because I fully grasp what I am sharing. It’s logical substance fueled by fiery passion equaling a great servant of God. Apologetics is meant to build the body of Christ up, not tear it down.

Just as a mother tells their child to put on their coat to protect themselves from the weather, so too you ought to put on the shield of apologetic faith to protect yourself from the horrors of spiritual warfare. In so doing, the church in general is built up knowing that whatever comes opposing truth can be deflected with that same truth.

Basically, every Christian should know a little apologetics because God commands us to in 1 Peter 3:13-16, in order to further the Gospel. In that passage, the Apostle Peter writes that we should give a defense for the hope that is in us. So above all else, the believer needs to know apologetics and use apologetics because God commands us too in His Word, in order to further the expansion of the kingdom.

To end, here are some great resources in no particular order that you can use to sharpen your apologetics utility belt in furthering the message of the Gospel, as well as strengthen your own faith:

  1. On Guard by William Lane Craig
  2. Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli
  3. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  4. Know What You Believe by Paul E. Little
  5. Christian Apologetics by Norman L. Geisler
  6. Essential Truths of the Christian Faith by R.C. Sproul
  7. Jesus Among Other Gods by Ravi Zacharias

Of all of these resources, I recommend Paul E. Little’s book, Know What You Believe, the most because it covers everything the Christian absolutely needs to know in detail without the extra baggage. It’s short and covers everything the Christian absolutely needs to know about their faith. Highly recommended resource and it’s one book I turn to often to sharpen my faith. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://wikipedia.com
  2. Disclaimer

An Argument For Apologetics: Part I

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/21/2019

In recent years, there has been a rise in the claim that apologetics is no longer necessary in Christianity. Well, I disagree with that notion and here’s why: apologetics is a quintessential aspect to the life of every Christian. It is the shield, so to speak, that the believer stands behind and gives a defense of the faith from, with, and through. There is a reason that when Paul the Apostle mentions the armor of God (2), he refers to the shield, as a shield of faith. And that is exactly what apologetics is in the tool belt of the believer: a shield. As Professor John Lennox of Oxford University said in a dialogue with Richard Dawkins, “My faith is a faith of evidence.”

In another lecture he quipped that “Faith is a response to evidence, not a rejoicing in the absence of evidence.” Put succinctly, the Christian faith is on the higher ground right from the get go compared to every other belief system in world history. Apologetics is merely quintessential to the Christian faith because it a) reveals this higher ground and b) shows you how to defend this higher ground from all who look to capture the flag of victorious truth that rests on Calvary hill. Like the author of the book of Hebrews put it, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (3).”

The word apologetics is derived from the combination of the word ‘apologetic’ meaning to give “a formal defense” in Middle French and the suffix ‘ics’ for “nouns that denote a body of facts, knowledge, principles, etc.” (4). But to be more specific, apologetics is the “the branch of Christianity that deals with the defense and establishment of the Christian faith” (5). With all of this in mind, here are 3 reasons why apologetics is necessary for every Christian.

1) Apologetics Is Pre-Evangelism

Have you ever seen a medieval knight charge into battle against an opposing force? Put more bluntly, if an opposing knight is charging towards you with their sword preparing to strike you down, how would you counter their attack? With your sword or with your shield? The obvious answer should be to deflect the sword with the shield and then proceed with your own sword to strike back.

This analogy is the relationship of apologetics and evangelism in a nutshell: apologetics is the shield and evangelism is the sword of Christianity. But the problem with those who misuse apologetics is twofold: they either use the sword (evangelism) first or they just use the shield (apologetics) without using the sword (evangelism). Let me explain the problem with both of these tactics.

Let’s start with the first tactic: using the sword first. Now at first glance, going out to preach the gospel seems simple enough. I mean who really needs apologetics, right? Plenty can get done with just a sword! Well, let’s set the spiritual battleground with a simple story. 

You’re on a train going to the big game tonight. There are hundreds of people on the train wearing their team’s jersey and excitingly talking about the game. Now you being a believer, overhear a heated conversation between a New Atheist and a devout Hindu who just so happen to be in the same section as you on the train. 

The two are discussing the idea of God and whether or not belief in God, or as the Hindu would argue, many gods makes logical sense. In fact, there are about 330 million gods according to the devout Hindu. So you being an active believer, burdened with the work of the ministry, jump politely into the conversation in order to win them to the faith (6).

At first everything seems fine. You’ve prayed beforehand, you’re well versed in the Scriptures, and you’re humbly listening before engaging in the conversation. Hearing what the discussion is about before you present your worldview. Then it happens: your turn to speak. So you being a cheerful giver, give them the gospel, but there’s one problem. Neither see the need for the gospel. Now what do you do? 

Well, you stumble a little over your words and begin to reiterate how much God loves them and has this wonderful plan for their life! How much Jesus loves them! Neither seem the least bit interested, laugh at your little love speech about a Middle Eastern man, and continue with their conversation without you.

Now what? You then in a fury, spew Bible verse after Bible verse of how Jesus is God! Yes, this must work! Nothing. Absolute zero attention is paid to your poetic spewing. So you, in utter defeat, walk away embarrassed and mad. What happened? Let me explain.

You see, using the knight analogy, you kept using your sword when you should have been using your shield. As a matter of fact, you were using your sword as both the shield and the sword, causing you to be spiritually exhausted because you had only offense as an option. No time to counter correctly or to pause on an important point like the existence of God, which was the original conversation the two were having in the first place. Remember, the New Atheist doesn’t believe in God and the devout Hindu believes in many gods, so without addressing that topic you have no firm footing in this fight.

Now let’s try a different option, using only the shield. So the same scenario, but you are an apologetics nut. You know every argument, every counter-argument, and every rebuttal. So you boldly go into the discussion without any fear because you know how to defend the faith. And after a little back and forth you finally convince both the New Atheist and the devout Hindu that there is only one God. But now you come across your first hurdle. Why does that matter? 

Sure, they now believe in a single God, but where do you go from here? What was the point of proving that there was a God in the first place? So then the conversation quickly dies off and goes back to simple things like the big game tonight. What did you do? How did this happen? You knew everything! Or so you thought. Let’s go back to the knight analogy.

You’re going to war, but you decide to only take your shield and leave your sword behind. Do you see the problem? By only taking the shield, you can only survive the war intact, instead of ending the war intact. You can only deflect opposition without ending opposition. Eventually you’ll be too tired from blocking the opposing knight’s attacks that they will kill you by simply fighting until you are exhausted. Or in the case of the train story, you’ll eventually just go back to simpler things because you knew no way out. 

How sad is this? That you can disarm your opponent, but cannot finish them? Yet that is the reality of those who only use apologetics in outreaches or ministry. They deflect the accusations of the mind, without getting to the heart of the issue. And the other tactic of just using the sword to cut to the heart of the issue without addressing the logical issues of the mind is also unuseful. Both are foolish ways to enter the spiritual battleground because a true knight of God is well equipped with a shield and a sword.

Now let’s see what happens when you bring both your shield and sword to the battle. Again, same scenario, but this time you’re prepared in all aspects that matter: spiritually, mentally, etc. First you use the shield, deflecting every fiery arrow with logical and truthful answers. It works and neither the New Atheist nor the devout Hindu has a shield anymore.

Now is the time to strike with the double edged sword. Their mind is ready, but the heart is not. This is the time to finish their seeds of doubt by driving the sword of spiritual truth through them. So you being a faithful steward, drive the point home with the sword of evangelism. The end result? Two new believers in Christ. Well, in this train story at least.

There will be times when people do not come to faith in Jesus. Not because you didn’t do your part in sharing the truth, but they didn’t do their part in accepting the truth. Your job as a believer is to share the truth with others, but how they react to the message is not up to you. That’s up to them and God from that point on. How exactly did this work? Because the tools at your disposal were used properly for what they were designed to do: reach the lost by sharing what has been found in Christ.

Although I use very blunt analogies with knights to describe the relationship between apologetics and evangelism, that does not mean that you should be mean or rude towards whoever you’re reaching out too. Far from it! I am speaking in spiritual terms when I speak of the war terminology and this shouldn’t actually spill over into actual witnessing. Just something to keep in mind to help with witnessing. Understanding that you’re in a spiritual war, not a physical or verbal war with the lost that you’re reaching.

Remember, these are tools that the believer should use together when at an outreach, but they do not always have to use them together. There will be times where simple evangelism will bring someone to the cross or vice versa with apologetics. The reason I argue that they should be used together is because most of the time people have a spiritual wall that is blocking them from a relationship with Jesus. So the walls need to come down before the real evangelism can work. 

But the Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways, so don’t take this as factual, but more as suggested when outreaching to the world. Then again this approach can be seen used by Jesus (7), Paul the Apostle (8), Stephen (9), Peter (10), and so on. Usually this is a combination of apologetics and evangelism, not a simple one-two punch when outreaching. More of a back and forth dynamic when talking to others with civility and respect.

But without love, none of this information matters. You’ll be nothing but sounding brass speaking to the lost, yet not reaching the lost (11). As Ravi Zacharias once said, “Love is the greatest apologetic. It is the essential component in reaching the whole person in a fragmented world.” In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is quoted saying “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets (12). “

You have to have a loving heart for the lost in order to be effective for the work of the ministry. It is the single greatest aspect in the life of the Christian. Just as Jesus did, you too have to have a heart for the harvest (13). So to put it sufficiently, apologetics is pre-evangelism and only works when done in love. Come back next time for Part 2 of this series, which delves into my second point: how apologetics saved the church from heresy. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://www.deviantart.com/pandarice/art/knights-mounted-fight-32834504
  2. Ephesians 6:16
  3. Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)
  4. https://dictionary.reference.com
  5. https://carm.org/apologetics
  6. 1 Corinthians 9:19-27
  7. Luke 24:13-35
  8. Acts 17:1-15
  9. Acts 7:1-53
  10. Acts 2:14-42
  11. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
  12. Matthew 22:35-40 (NASB)
  13. Matthew 9:35-38
  14. Disclaimer

What Happened to the Dinosaurs?

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/21/2019

As long as I can remember, I have always loved dinosaurs. From having dinosaur toys to watching Jurassic Park at least a dozen times growing up, I have always loved dinosaurs. This huge interest that I’ve always had in dinosaurs has given me the inspiration to write a blog-post about what happened to the dinosaurs. But before I give my theory, first let me lay out the 5 most common theories, along with the most common stance held among scientists. So, what happened to the dinosaurs and why do we no longer see them on Earth anymore?

The Cretaceous–Paleogene Extinction Event Theory

 According to some scientists (2), all the dinosaurs died from a cataclysmic event that wiped out every dinosaur from the face of the earth about 66-65 million years ago during the end of the Cretaceous period, hence the name. Admittedly, the article does go on to explain that there is no actual evidence for such a claim, but a lot of scientists adhere to this first theory. But there are some theories as well that use this cataclysmic event as a foundation for their answer to what happened to the dinosaurs like the following 5 major theories:

  1. The Meteorite Theory: “A big meteorite crashed into Earth, changing the climatic conditions so dramatically that dinosaurs could not survive.”
  2. The Volcano Theory: “Ash and gas spewing from volcanoes suffocated many of the dinosaurs.”
  3. The Plague Theory: “Diseases wiped out entire populations of dinosaurs.”
  4. The Drought Theory: “Food chain imbalances lead to the starvation of the dinosaurs.”
  5. The Bird Theory: Some have come to the consensus that dinosaurs after millions of years of evolution became birds and are flying among us today.

Now although all of these theories are plausible, I propose my own theory after having done some of my own research. so without further exposition let me present to you my theory on what happened to the dinosaurs and where they are today.

My Theory

So there are a few factors that make up my theory that actually include some of the previously mentioned theories and some new ideas as well. My theory includes the following: lack of food, hunted by humans, different terrain, and migrated to isolated/unexplored land. Now in order to understand my perspective on the state of dinosaurs, you need to know a bit about my worldview.

As a Christian, my stance on the Creation debate is very loose. I used to be a YEC (Young Earth Creationist) when this was written, but I now affirm the Big Bang model and evolutionary creationism. At the same time, I am no scientist so I am very open to suggestion on this issue. Within that former YEC worldview was the belief that land dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark with the other animals and lived after the events of the Flood recorded in Genesis chapters 6-9 respectively. So with that in mind, here are the 4 premises to my theory as to what happened to the dinosaurs.

1) Lack of Food

The first premise of my theory revolves around a lack of resources and this may have been caused by some imbalance in the environment that may have triggered a scarcity in food. Makes sense to me that after awhile the dinosaurs lacked the necessary amount of food to supplement their diet and slowly died off because of it. There is also the fact that the bigger the creature, the more health related problems could go wrong like the Square-Cube Law indicates (3). All health and dietary conditions considered, it seems likely that a few seasons of food shortage could significantly impact the dinosaurs as they would need more calories per day, in order to survive than most creatures.

2) Hunted By Humans

This point is rooted in the fables and fantasies of long ago where valiant warriors across multiple civilizations hunted these behemoths and dragons. Note that several world societies spanning hundreds, if not thousands of years all depict in some shape or form dragons. These societies range from Great Britain to China, displaying all sorts of terrible lizards. Dragons are a staple of many mythologies, but why?

Well, I theorize that they too were some form of dinosaurs that indeed roamed the earth at one point. They may have possibly been under the canopy of pterodactyls or something of that nature. Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to what type of dinosaurs dragons may have been, if they existed.

One may point out that dinosaurs and humans did not live during the same time period (the Cretaceous Period versus the Late Cretaceous Period), but from my worldview it may have been possible. There are even certain Scriptures that would lead one to believe that humans and dinosaurs coexisted together for a brief time (4).

Now these passages of Scripture are from the poetic and prophetic sections of the Bible, so it is hard to tell whether the original intent of the author was literal or figurative. Either way, I believe that at one point human society became advanced enough to hunt the dinosaurs and killed them for sport or survival of the fittest. In European mythology, killing a dragon was usually considered noble, so why not think that these “terrible lizards” were the dinosaurs? To me, it makes sense that if dinosaurs did coexist with humans, then humans would have hunted them for resources, sport, and/or survival of the fittest.

3) Different Terrain

During the days of Peleg, according to Genesis 10:25, the earth was divided. At first, this seems a little odd to add that detail into the text within this long list of genealogies, but under further examination this Scripture gives a clue as to what happened historically in those days. This dividing of the earth event happened sometime between the Flood mentioned previously and the events of the Tower of Babel, so this may have been a natural phenomenon like an earthquake or Pangea.

Then again an event like Pangea probably didn’t happen over night (5), so the most plausible answer is that the various people groups spread out and were divided because of the repercussions of the Tower of Babel. This could have affected not only humans, but all living creatures because what happens to one species can have a strong effect on another species within an ecosystem. With all of humanity spreading outward and beginning new civilizations across the Earth, it could have led to the dinosaurs being hunted for food and other resources.

4) Migrated to Isolated/Unexplored Land

Although humanity has discovered some of the most isolated parts of the world through exploration and expansion, there are still parts of the world that are hidden and isolated across the globe. Despite having such advanced map-making tools like Google Maps to chart the world, there are still aspects of our world that we have no idea exist. The BBC wrote a piece on this dilemma (6).

One point that the article mentioned was on the state of favoritism when it comes to map making. In the article, they point out that “This neglect [in properly mapping out certain regions due to a number of circumstances] means maps of remote regions can contain errors that go unnoticed for years.” In other words, certain areas are emphasized because the map-maker is either from there or knows of that area better, while other areas are completely ignored. For instance, an American map-maker would make America super huge compared to other countries.

This neglect has led to large portions of the world remaining unexplored entirely and only known to native tribes within the vicinity. With this in mind, there is still the possibility that dinosaurs that live on land could possibly be living in these very remote areas of the world, neglected by the map-maker’s own personal bias. Places such as Vale Do Javari, Brazil which is about the size of Austria and home to about 2,000 indigenous people scattered throughout the region could be the perfect habitat for dinosaurs.

There is also the Sakha Republic, Russia, which is one fifth of Russia and is largely untouched because of the extreme weather conditions. Although, large animals that can bare those conditions like reindeer do live in this remote region. For more on those unexplored areas of the world, Mental Floss has a good read on just fifteen places around the world (7).

What is most intriguing is the fact that sea dinosaurs are extremely more likely to still be roaming the Earth compared to land dinosaurs because according to the National Ocean Service, less than 5% of the ocean has been explored (8). Makes absolute sense to me that sea dinosaurs are still alive and living today if only such a small portion of the ocean has been explored. Something to consider for sure. Where are the dinosaurs and what happened to them?

Well, they could be living all over the world and we just don’t know it yet. So those are my thoughts on what happened to dinosaurs and where they are now, along with my theory as to why we do not see them today. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://www.dinopit.com/5-awesome-pieces-of-cool-dinosaur-art-from-deviantart/
  2. http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/why-did-all-dinosaurs-become-extinct
  3. https://youtu.be/X5rb3Kis6eY
  4. Job 7:12, 40:15-24, 41; Psalm 74:13, Psalm 104:25-26, Psalm 148:7, and Isaiah 27:1
  5. http://www.icr.org/article/what-happened-days-peleg
  6. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20141127-the-last-unmapped-places
  7. http://mentalfloss.com/article/63902/15-unexplored-corners-earth
  8. http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/exploration.html
  9. Disclaimer