Be A Window, Not A Wall

Be a window,

Not a wall.

Some stand tall,

Yet all eventually fall.

Some loom large,

While others seem small.

 

We’ve all heard the call,

But a few of us are still afraid to fall.

We’ve all failed,

But Christ has prevailed.

 

Windows let the Son shine through,

Yet walls shield people from seeing the real you.

Windows are open and transparent,

But walls are closed off and hide what sin has bent.

Windows crack and shatter,

While walls pretend to have everything together.

 

Be more like a beautiful flower,

Than this structurally unsound tower.

Let the light into every area of your life,

Before darkness hurts like an ill-intentioned knife.

If you want to grow,

Then the walls need to go.

 

There is no guilt or shame,

In the power of Christ’s name.

Be honest above all,

No one expects you to be Saint Paul.

Be a window,

Not a wall.

 

With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

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The Thorns of Life | March 17th, 2018

Photo CredFelipe P. Lima Rizo on Unsplash

So in the first segment in this series on sermons, I’d like to go back and revisit sermons that I have preached in the past, in order to learn from them through self-reflection. The preparation, the prayer, the delivery, and so on for each sermon that I have given to better not only myself but possibly you as well. By learning from the past we can do better in the future and that includes improving our ability to preach.

I’d like to share a sermon that I preached in mid-March of 2018 and breakdown the process of creating that sermon. It was called The Thorns of Life and dealt with the parable of the sower as told in the Gospel of Luke. My sermon was based on Luke 8:7 and 8:14, which was about the thorn-filled soil.

Getting Started

This sermon was given to about 80 students at StudentLife‘s winter camp (i.e. The Growdown) and it was roughly 25 minutes long. I began to prepare for this sermon on February 26th, which was just over a month out from the Growdown retreat and I was pretty rusty since the last sermon that I taught was 3 years ago. Typically, I can start prepping and praying through a sermon within a week’s time, but because it had been so long I started extremely early. There was also the added pressure of this being our first winter camp as a youth group, so I didn’t want to let the other leaders or the students down with a sermon that sucked.

Before I even began to work on my sermon, the four teachers (David Margosian, John Lewis, Andrew Morrison, and myself) for that retreat met up a few times to discuss the theme and pray about what we should teach through for that winter camp. Eventually, we all felt led to teach on the parable of the sower in the Gospel of Luke for various reasons. John had just taught it to his youth group, while Andrew and David did this theme years ago as the original Growdown winter camp. We figured that this year we should go with this theme to keep things simple.

After the theme was decided upon, we went our separate ways to prepare. Since I was rusty, Andrew reviewed my outline over gmail twice to help me stay on track for the retreat. He aided in keeping my sermon the right length for a 20 to 30 minute teaching.

When I actually started, I read the text and prayed a lot about the theme for my teaching. What was going to be the main idea to explore and share with the students? What did they need to hear that afternoon on March 17th, 2018?

The Text, the Title, and the Elevator Pitch

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Anytime I prepare to teach, I always look for three things first: a basic understanding of the text, a title, and an elevator pitch. To determine the basic understanding of the text you need to comprehend the context. To accomplish this, read past the given text.

For this teaching, I wanted to pinpoint the big picture. When it was reported to Jesus that his Mother and Brothers were trying to get to him through the crowd listening to Him teach, He replies that “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it. (1).” Elsewhere, we get more clarity from Jesus when He says to His disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments (2).” The basic understanding of this text was identifying the true believer.

If we are true believers in Christ, then we will naturally obey him. David and Paul Watson put it perfectly when they wrote that “it appears that God spells love o-b-e-y (3).” The seed that falls on the good soil is the true believer because they obey God.

From there, I asked the opposite question: who does not obey God and why? The text I was given focused on the thorn-filled soil. What happens when we are pricked by a thorn? We are distracted by the pain. This was the basic crux for my sermon.

For my title, I took that basic understanding and distilled it. Making it brief and to the point. For me, the title has to be the main theme of the teaching. It must be the anchor that I can refer back to over and over in the sermon. So I called it “The Thorns of Life.”

Lastly, an elevator pitch is a one sentence description of a story. My elevator pitch was my basic understanding of the text summarized. That being that the thorns of life are the distractions of life. Next, I got into the bulk of sermon prep. Analogies, cross references, exegesis, research, and all that other good stuff. That’s usually my favorite part of the process.

Once my outline was complete, I moved onto revisions and verbal practice. This was roughly two weeks out from the retreat and I was really afraid it was going to flop. During this time I mostly prayed and would practice maybe a dozen times before finally delivering my sermon. I found that prayer would calm me, so I prayed before I practiced verbally delivering it.

The Day of and the Delivery

When we all left for the Growdown, I barely ate. During that Friday and Saturday I only had two meals. When I get nervous, I can’t eat because I get really sick to my stomach.

Had a long day of winter camp stuff and trying to run everything as a leader, so when it finally came to preaching I had about an hour and a half to get prepped one last time. As worship was closing, my anxiety and nervousness just kept increasing. Prayed a lot of little prayers inwardly. Too afraid I was going to forget something, I poured over my outline making last-minute changes and rehearsed a few more times.

Andrew came down and prayed over me. It helped reassure me that this teaching was put on my heart by God, so I didn’t have to rely on my own ability or talent because the Holy Spirit would guide me. Worship ended and I waited a minute intentionally before heading up. I told Jason Best, the worship pastor, that I wanted there to be an awkward moment of silence before I enter the room to set the tone.

This little stunt played into my theme of being distracted. Also, I wore a pink morph suit and did some goofy stuff to distract the students before telling the story of my best friend Zach’s car accident. This was all in the hopes of using body language, humor, and other visual cues to reinforce the effect that a good distraction can have on someone not paying attention.

The silly sermon illustrations went okay. Some landed, some hit an abrupt thud. As a public speaker, you’ll know when what you did worked or didn’t.

I think of the 25 minutes I spent, 5 to 10 minutes should have been used better. I started strong, but felt I wasted the opportunity for a strong ending. I ended up cutting out the Value of Time segment completely because I knew from practice it probably wouldn’t make the cut. I liked it, but it wasn’t necessary for this audience.

Had some obvious slip-ups and an over reliance on my outline, yet I felt positive about the delivery afterward. The students got a kick out of my ridiculous introduction and the call to action seemed to stick that night during the altar call, which resulted in praying with a student named Abe for almost an hour as we cried our eyes out before God. That was the highlight of the teaching for me: seeing a young man run back to God that night.

Overall, loved the time I spent on this teaching and it gave me confidence to return to preaching. Next time, I’ll share my sermon on Exodus from May 3rd, 2018. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Luke 8:21b
  2. John 14:15
  3. Contagious Disciple Making: Leading Others on a Journey of Discovery, P. 45

 

 

The Thief and the Cross

In light of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, I wanted to take some time to write about the thief on the cross. Originally, I was planning on writing this much sooner in the year, but was too busy helping my church run our youth group winter camp that I had to push it off. So I figured that publishing it this weekend would be an ideal and relevant time.

By thief on the cross, I am referring to one of the two thieves that were crucified with Jesus. One became a believer, while the other did not. So for now, any references to the thief on the cross are towards the thief that became a believer.

Why Were People Crucified?

Bart-d-ehrman-2012-wikipedia
Bart D. Ehrman, PhD | James A. Gray Distinguished Professor University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

This thief on the cross is an interesting figure in the historical account of the crucifixion of Jesus, but is often overlooked in the grand scheme of things. He most likely would have been a Jewish man due to a number of factors like his belief in one God (1) and his familiarity with the teachings of Jesus about the kingdom of Heaven (2), along with his punishment. Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar, points out the uniqueness of the crucifixion and why only a certain group of people would receive this form of punishment when he writes

Crucifixion was reserved for special cases. But there were lots of special cases. Two of the most common were low-life criminals and enemies of the state. These are two very different matters – they are not the same thing… This was especially the case – I reiterate – for enemies of the state. Rare exceptions might be made for low-life criminals – escaped slaves, horse thieves, general riff-raff who did not matter to anyone in power (3).”

In other words, the two thieves were most likely crucified for either stealing something very valuable like horses as their names would suggest or for being insurgents that were sworn enemies of the state. Regardless of why they were hung in the first place, these two men died alongside Jesus and witnessed His final moments before His death. This will be the bedrock with which the rest of this blog-post will rely on as a foundation moving forward.

Artistic Depictions of Christ’s Crucifixion

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What is also of note is how artists depict where the three are in different works of art. For instance, Peter Paul Rubens and Titian seem to have placed the thief on the cross to the right of Christ, while the proud thief is to His left. This deliberate creative choice of putting the thief on the cross beside the right hand of God is significant.

In both Judaism and Christianity, to be on the right hand of God was a sign of God’s “ruler-ship, authority, sovereignty, blessing, and strength and is significant in Scripture (4).” We can see this in many places in the Bible such as Psalm 110:1b where it says “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” To be fair, there are other works of art like Rembrandt van Rijn’s Christ Crucified between the Two Thieves: The Three Crosses (5) that appears indifferent to where each thief is in the picture and is rightly so focused on Christ Himself.

Likewise, James the brother of Jesus once wrote “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you (6).” It would seem that in the spirit of this passage and the current state of the thief on the cross, that Rubens and Titian visually depicted what was spiritually taking place inside this thief’s soul. That as the thief on the cross was up there next to Jesus, his heart and mind were radically changed. A series of events that brought this man to a point of understanding.

Things like Jesus asking for the forgiveness of His executioners (7), soldiers dividing His garments by way of casting lots, and those passing by railing blasphemous statements towards Christ in a taunting way (8) all occurred before the thief on the cross had a change of heart. In the Gospel of Matthew (9), it even records both thieves mocking Jesus until a certain point where only the proud thief is left to mock Jesus. Sometime between both thieves mutually mocking Jesus and the one thief continuing to mock Him, was there a sharp change in attitude from the thief on the cross.

A Change of Heart

What happened so suddenly that a thief dying on a cross would suddenly have a complete change in how he perceived Jesus? I’d argue it is a combination of moments, but for now we will only focus in on one. What Jesus said and how He acted during this whole ordeal.

Gamelin2_t01
Anatomical Crucifixion Sketch | Jacques Gamelin, 1779 (11)

Just for a little more context, their punishment by way of crucifixion was not so nice. In fact, it was one of, if not the most painful form of torture at that time. According to Maslen and Mitchell’s article written in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (10), crucifixion had many cruel ways of ending one’s life.

Some of those causes of death may have been, but are not limited to acidosis, arrhythmia plus asphyxia, cardiac rupture, hypovolemic shock, and so on. Death by crucifixion was a brutal, yet extremely prolonged way to die. For some, they died in a matter of hours. For others, they died in a matter of days.

I believe of the three events that took place before the thief on the cross had a change of heart, the moment of Jesus forgiving His executioners had the most impact on the thief. Christ’s response showed the thief a direct contrast to the way He lived His own life. A seed of regret was planted.

Jesus forgave those that were killing Him. The two thieves probably hated those that were crucifying them. Jesus was known as an exorcist and a teacher who wanted to help the poor and sick. The two thieves were most likely men that spent the majority of their lives only helping themselves.

As if the name was any indication, these thieves were probably selfish. Christ was selfless. The thieves died for crimes they committed. Jesus died for crimes we committed. For the thief on the cross and from his perspective, this man was different in almost every single way from him and the other thief. They deserved this death, but Jesus didn’t.

This strong distinction between a thief and the giver of eternal life is a drastic black-and-white difference. One died for taking that which was someone else’s, while the other died for giving all that He had for others. This I believe is what changed the thief on the cross from mocking Jesus to defending Him in front of everyone.

By everyone, I mean everyone. Gentiles and Jews. Pharisees and Roman soldiers. Family, friends, neighbors, and so on. Everyone there at the crucifixion knew of or had heard of these three crucified men and were probably shocked watching the thief on the cross have a change of heart. A thief for the first time encountering something he had never seen before: unlimited love in response to unbridled hate. The love of God in reaction to the darkest of human deeds. The Gospel happening before his very eyes.

The short story of the thief on the cross ends in a profound way. Luke chronicles the rest of that story when he writes

But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise (12).””

In response to the thief’s change of heart and his humble demeanor, God gives Him grace. A grace that surpasses all understanding. This is the thief and the cross. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Luke 23:40
  2. Luke 23:42
  3. https://ehrmanblog.org/why-romans-crucified-people/
  4. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2015/06/13/what-does-the-right-hand-symbolize-or-mean-in-the-bible/
  5. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/41.1.31/
  6. James 4:6-8b
  7. Luke 23:34
  8. Luke 23:35-37
  9. Matthew 27:44
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1420788/
  11. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/historicalanatomies/gamelin_home.html
  12. Luke 23:40-43

Who Is Chris Cribari?

Updated: 10/12/2018 | Photo Cred: Daniel Walton

For those of you that are new to this blog and since I’m closing in on 50 blog-posts pretty soon as of this blog-post, I figured it might be time to reintroduce myself to new visitors to this site. Who am I exactly? Well, here is a little about myself and what makes me who I am today.

I grew up Southern California for the first ten years of my life and then my family moved to Colorado in July of 2007 for my Dad’s job where I have lived ever since. I was raised by my parents in the Calvary Chapel Movement, along with my four siblings. My four siblings are Rachel, John, Corban, and Nathan. My parents grew up in very broken homes, which directly influenced their strong emphasis on a family established on Christ first and foremost.

I came to faith in Christ when I was 9 in the summer of 2006 and have been a Christian ever since. My parents strong belief in Christianity had a great impact on my path towards the Christian faith, but the decision was all my own. I privately accepted Christ walking home from my friend David’s house where we were watching Playboy DVD’s after school. I publicly came to Christ at Calvary Chapel Oxnard’s Summer VBS a few weeks later when my VBS group leader explained the Gospel to me after I questioned him as to whether or not it was true.

I am and always have been an avid storyteller, along with an active listener to people’s stories. I started writing my first stories in either second or third grade and continue to write to this day. At home, I have stacks of partially-written novels, poems, sermon ideas, and short stories either on flash-drives or busting out of years-old binders. Writing allows my soul to speak truthfully, in spite of my high-spectrum autism disorder as diagnosed by Stanford University.

This is also why I love cinema and going to the theater so much. When Blockbuster was still a thing, my siblings and I would watch our VHS movie collection to death as we rewatched our favorites all the time growing up. This collection that we had as kids contained the original Star Wars trilogy (1977-1983), The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003), the Wallace & Gromit series (1990-1995), a pair of Jurassic Park movies (1993; 2001), a few Val Kilmer movies like The Ghost in the Darkness (1996), The Saint (1997), and The Prince of Egypt (1998), along with a few dozen other films.

When we got a little older, we boys got the privilege of watching my Dad’s infamous movie collection that holds some of the best films I’ve ever seen. This collection consisted of mostly war movies like Braveheart (1995), Gladiator (2000), Saving Private Ryan (1998), The Patriot (2000), and We Were Soldiers (2002). It also had other genre movies like A Beautiful Mind (2001), Bandits (2001), Equilibrium (2002), Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy (2002-2007), The Matrix (1999), The Passion of the Christ (2004), and the Phantom of the Opera (2004). It might just be a box of DVD’s, but it holds some of my favorite memories as my Dad showed us boys what men he wanted us to be through the medium of film.

When I have time to train, I occasionally compete in Strongman too. I was introduced to the sport by my mentor Andrew Morrison and have loved it ever since. I have competed four times and I am preparing for future competitions as well. Through my time training, I’ve met some of the world’s strongest men like Brian Shaw, Mike Burke, Robert Oberst, and Stan Caradine. My favorite Strongman lifts are Atlas Stones, Deadlift, and Log Press.

My theological stance is Molinist, while my preference on church function leans heavily towards Anabaptist. I favor the elder-run church model versus the Moses model as seen in the Calvary Chapel Movement. As the old saying goes, power corrupts. For me, the more powerful one is the more likely they are to be corrupted. Therefore, more accountability before God and His church is necessary for the Great Commission. I currently attend and serve at church in Colorado called LifeGate Denver as a youth pastor.

My favorite apologists are John Lennox, Ravi Zacharias, and William Lane Craig. Although some honorable influences also include Alvin Plantinga, C.S. Lewis, Hugh Ross, James White, Michael L. Brown, Nabeel Qureshi, Norman Geisler, Peter Kreeft, R. C. Sproul, and Voddie Baucham. My parents taught me the basics of Christianity when I was young and from there I have continued to develop my own systematic theology as I mature in the faith.

If I specialized in a subject within Christian apologetics, then it would either be philosophy or world religions. With that said, I’d like to know more about every subject if I’m perfectly honest. I’m mostly self taught, but I have had mentors in my life that have sharpened my worldview to be more coherent and concrete.

I attended the Colorado Film School for a while and have an education in screenwriting, along with directing for the screen. I continue to use my education in my career as I am currently the Director of Creative Content for AvidMax and produce their video media. I’m in the process of researching for two books that I am writing. The first book is a fictional novel that focuses on a married couple’s grieving a stillborn birth and the problem of suffering. The other book is like Mere Christianity for the modern world.

I started this blog for a few reasons. It gave me the opportunity to speak freely about whatever has been on my mind. People have also asked and encouraged me to write, so that inspired me as well. Most importantly, I believe God put me on this planet to write for Him.

This blog started in June of 2015 and will continue to go on as long as God wills. I’m Chris Cribari and this is just a frame of my life. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

The Value of Time

Updated: 11/12/2018 | Photo Cred: (1)

Time. It is the most valuable resource in the universe and in life. As Charles Darwin put it, “A man who dare waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” Time is a mysterious thing.

What Is Time?

It is not quite like other resources, such as water or oxygen because it is not limited by the boundaries of space. In fact, it does not actually inhabit any space or  physical matter like water or oxygen. Time is simply here, but is hard to comprehend sometimes why it is here. Some argue that time is its own dimension or reality.

Why is the universe limited by an ever increasing range of numbers that eventually will stop when God decides that it is time for a new earth and a new heaven (2)? Why even place this limit upon the universe? Why didn’t God just create an eternal universe, instead of a transient universe? Why is time so valuable you might add?

Unlike water or oxygen, time can never be stored or saved for later. Time is ever ending. It’s like a bowl of sand being poured out slowly, but surely until the bowl is completely empty. Once the bowl is empty, that’s it. Time has run out. As scary as that sounds, that is the reality of time.

Another way of understanding time is that it is like throwing a stone or firing a gun at a specific target. Both the bullet and the stone will travel for awhile at various rates of speed before colliding with the target, thus ending their course. Time is like the distance the bullet and the stone travel. The “trigger-man” so to speak is God and He caused everything into being, which includes the starting point of time and the endpoint.

Then again, is time even linear to begin with in the first place? Some say time is linear, while others propose it is cyclic like a cone (i.e. the Big Bang Model), along with a few that say it may even be an ever expanding sphere of sorts (i.e. a balloon being blown up). Now I’m no scientist, so I cannot determine which view is correct. What I can do is present each theory briefly to help us better understand time.

For the traditional view of time, that camp argues that there was a first cause. Since that first cause, there has been a sequential series of events moving on a horizontal plane to an unknown end. Think like a ruler or a simple line with two end points.

In the cyclic (cone) group of thinkers, they presume that time is a lot like the way people understand the universe in that both are expanding in the shape of a cone. There was a starting point where the first cause occurred, but since then it has been expanding. These thinkers use the phenomena of red-shift stretching across space as proof of this theory.

The third camp does likewise in that they use red-shift as evidence for their view, but to a different extent. They argue that time is a lot like a big ball that is slowly growing in size until it finally pops. An easy example would be to refer to the way oxygen fills up a balloon until it explodes. In a way, they believe time is a swirling twirl of cause and effect colliding in an incomprehensible pattern that is interwoven like a ball of yarn. A chaotic masterpiece.

Why do I bring up these various ideas of time? Because I want you to know how much we do not understand about time. How much we barely know. How much we as human beings under-appreciate time and undervalue it. Life’s most valuable resource.

What Does The Bible Say About Time?

The Bible, God’s inspired Word, has a lot to say concerning the concept of time. The actual word “time” appears in the NASB translation of the Bible 626 times. To say that time is important to God is an extreme understatement. Some passages of Scripture that come to mind would be Ecclesiastes chapter 3 where King Solomon reflects on the concept of time and seasons. In the chapter, he asserts that “there is an appointed time for everything.” Essentially, every single moment in time matters. There are no coincidences, but only opportunities. With this in mind, nothing can be random because something caused those “random” moments.

Time is a lot like the wind. We cannot actually see it, but we can observe its effects on our environment. Time is an effect-full, yet invisible force of nature that guides everything within the universe, including the universe itself.

Time is also like a loan from God. When God first created the universe, a countdown was started. From that point onward, time has been counting down to the moment when the universe ends. With this in mind, everything within the universe also has a beginning, a middle, and an end. We are born, live our lives hopefully to the fullest, and then die. It is the cycle of everything in the universe.

Because we are limited by time, we are also on a countdown to our own inevitable end. Eventually, our time here in the material realm will be done as we transition into the spiritual realms of either Heaven or Hell. If you adhere to the Naturalist worldview, then this is it and you have nothing to look forward to after death. Those who hold to a theistic worldview can look forward to a better or worse eternity. For the Naturalist, nothing. Even in this life there is nothing. From the Naturalist’s worldview, you have no meaning, purpose, or value.

Now let’s observe the other position. That there is meaning, purpose, and value because there is something beyond the material as the theistic worldview asserts. Where does this meaning, purpose, and value come from? Just as the meaning, purpose, and value of a work of art comes from the artist giving their artwork these qualities, we too find these same things in God.

Since we derive our meaning, purpose, and value from God it would only make sense that those must be fulfilled in this life. I mean why would God instill these desires in our hearts, if not to see us follow His plans for our lives and satisfy these desires within our lifetimes? C.S. Lewis once spoke of this predicament when he said “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists” (3).

The question remains: how do we fulfill these desires and how does this tie back into the value of time? Well, let’s go back to what the Bible has to say on the topic of time in a bit more detail. This will clue us in on how to appropriately answer this question in a way that is both emotionally and logically reasonable. If time is a variable in which we are contingent on, then how do we use it to our benefit to satisfy our ultimate desires? In the book of Exodus, reflection and remembrance is a key theme that carries throughout this book in the Old Testament of the Bible.

Specifically, Exodus 13:10-14 where the LORD instructs the Hebrews on how they are to reflect and remember how God delivered them from the land of Egypt by taking them to the Promised Land. This aspect of reflecting and remembering time is also of note in Exodus chapter 34 where an entire chapter is dedicated to this idea of remembrance, particularly Exodus 34:21 where the Hebrews are commanded by God to rest. The key lesson here is that there is a time and a place for everything. God formulated this philosophy when He created the universe by spending six days working and one day resting. Thus, fulfilling what we would call the work week.

Next, we jump to Nehemiah 2:6 where we can use time as a measurement to map out our lives or God can for that matter (4). Yet at the same instant, be men and women of our word. Nehemiah did this when he gave King Artaxerxes, accompanied by the Queen, a definite time of when he would return. A promise was proclaimed.

There are “God-Moments” when God enters time and accomplishes His will for His glory by allowing us free agents to bring about these so-called “God Moments” (5). Time can peel away inner heartache that can unveil who we are or what we have become (6). Time is a witness of the past (7) and is always brimming with opportunity (8) for us to fulfill our God-given desires.

Final Thoughts

How do I spend my time? Good question. How should I spend my time? Better question. If time is a loan from God, then how much time has God given me? No one knows. I don’t know and you don’t know. That is what makes this life so interesting and so risky. Our time is set, yet we are not informed of how much time is set.

That is why we must use our time wisely, in order to make the most of the time we are given from God. We must redeem the time (9) as we wait expectantly for the appointed time to be fulfilled and remain alert for that to pass (10). We use our time wisely when we set out to fulfill the God-given desires of our hearts by abiding in Christ, which will in turn satisfy our craving for ultimate meaning, purpose, and value.

Love your loved ones. Fellowship with friends. Work hard and do not become sluggish in what may end up being your final moments. The past grows as the future shrinks, so this is the time to seek God. This life that you and I live is an ever ending marathon. A journey one might say that is not over until we enter eternity.

This is just a brief summary of why I uphold the value of time and treasure it far above anything that this life can offer. How will we use this gift? What will we do with our time? Well, that’s up to you. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. 2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 21:1-5
  3. Mere Christianity (bk. 3, chap. 10)
  4. Exodus 9:5; Psalm 75:2; Daniel 2:16
  5. Judges 16:28
  6. Job 36:10, 15
  7. Isaiah 30:8
  8. John 7:6
  9. Ephesians 5:16
  10. Mark 1:15; 13:33

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

Updated: 11/11/2018

We’re nine installments into this commentary series and are now approaching the final few parts of this blog series. 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. 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 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 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 down, instead of fuming with rage against Gideon.

Once this debacle is settled, Gideon and the kosher 300 get back to their unexpected journey 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 around the city or fighting off bands of thieves. Back in these days everything revolved around trade. In fact, the majority of the world still lives with that bargaining mentality.

What happens here is a bit alarming as the people of Succoth do not cooperate with Gideon and his army. They say no because Gideon and his army have come empty handed. Gideon has not taken care of Zebah and Zalmunna, thus the men of Succoth will not help Gideon or 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. That sounds awful. 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). What’s interesting 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 as Gideon continues to cut them off.

Next, Gideon moves 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, they say the same thing and Gideon has a similar response:

“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’s 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. 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. 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)

Updated: 11/11/2018

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 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. For starters, 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.

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 than 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 Kosher 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 with 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. 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. In the 12th-century, a poet in his poem Prefatio de Almeria 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]” (1) PA, vv. 176-98.

Quite the description of a military leader campaigning against 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 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 my dude Purah and hear a word from God through a stranger. 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. Basically, God offers an alternative to someone and yet approves of both actions.

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 Dad or not marry him, but either way God would approve of her decision. As my Mom recalls, God did not favor either option, but instead allowed my Mom the freedom to choose. Whatever she chose, God was going to bless her decision.

Like my Mom’s situation, we know from reading the text which option Gideon chose because he was afraid. It’s Gideon’s most common trait since we started reading about him. 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 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 understand. Gideon is going through this swell of emotions and thoughts, along with 300 soldiers ready to die for their country.

Choosing the alternative option, Gideon goes down to the border of the Midianite camp with his servant Purah and finds 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 edge of the battlefield, 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, Big Z’s world record log press. It doesn’t matter. To us, numbers are impressive because they always represent power, which leads to pride.

As this immense enemy camp looms over Gideon, 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 reveals some very important truths. Let’s see the interpretation 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)

In the dream of the first man there is a loaf of barley bread representing Gideon and his army. 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. The 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 going 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. 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)

Updated: 11/11/2018

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!

 

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

Updated: 10/12/2018

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!