Jesus brings us together.TIF

Background Text: Judges 6:1-32

Devotional Text: Hebrews 11:32

This week, we begin a two-part series on Gideon, the fifth judge in the Old Testament, as we prepare for the upcoming celebration of Father’s Day on June 20.

While we find the life of Gideon in the Book of Judges in the Old Testament, he is also mentioned in the New Testament in the Book of Hebrews, 11:32. In this chapter, the Scripture writer is found to be enumerating the great people of faith from both Old and New Testaments.

Gideon is mentioned, along with others whom the writer says he doesn’t have time to talk about, but he adds that they were all men of faith who “conquered kingdoms and administered justice.”

So, who actually was Gideon? Many of us may remember him as the man who put out a fleece to test God’s word to him. We still use that phrase today, “putting out a fleece,” when we are unsure if we are understanding the nudges we receive from God. We may ask for a sign from God to help us understand.

Getting back to Gideon, we find him in Judges 6-8, a time when the Israelites were being threatened by the Midianites along with other eastern nations. This time period followed 40 years of peace when the judge, Deborah, spoke God’s prophecies to the nation.

After Deborah, the Israelites again had turned toward the idols of false gods worshipped by the surrounding people. Then, for seven years, their crops were ruined by the Midians. Their herds were taken and they became a nation facing dire straits. Judges 6:5 tells us the lands of the Israelites were being invaded by these enemy nations “like swarms of locusts.”

Finally, the people started crying out to their one true God. In Judges 6:10, a prophet from God is sent to remind the Israelites that God has told them not to worship idols and false gods. However, the people had ceased to follow that commandment.

The people had had 40 years of peace under Deborah, as they followed God. Then, they began to forget about God and became interested in those who were worshipping false gods. Only, at last, in their time of greatest need, do they call out to their God.

Where is God?

In today’s world, we might not bow down to idols made of stone or gold, but we still do have our idols. An idol is described as anything in our lives that becomes more important than God. Naming a few of them, we can include the love of money, obsessions with shopping and material things, having a life that is all work, and so on.

As we read about the Israelites who were losing their faith in God and seeking other ways of worship, we also find them in the midst of growing troubles. It isn’t until they are nearing their end that they reach out to God. Instead of turning to God when their troubles began, they waited until they were in dire straits.

We find the same attitudes today. “Where is God?” we ask. Well, he’s right where we left him when we walked away. God is still there, waiting for us to come back to him.

In Judges 6:11, we find Gideon, a young farm boy, threshing wheat in a winepress. As farmers well know, that would not be a first choice in which to take on this work. However, because the Midians would come and destroy the crops at any time, threshing wheat in a winepress was one way to keep this job hidden from them.

An angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon in Judges 11:12, stating, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!”

Gideon was immediately taken aback by that statement. After all, he was a member of the weakest clan of Israel and he, himself, was the least one of his family.

The angel’s response was, “I will be with you, and you (and I) will strike down the Midianites together.”

Here we come to Gideon’s first test. Was this really the Lord speaking to him? Could he really accomplish what the Lord had in mind for him? He decided to offer a test that would show him for certain if this angel was really of God.

Gideon went home and prepared the meat of a young goat, along with about 22 liters of flour without yeast in which he made bread, and a pot of broth. Returning to the angel, he was instructed to put down the meat and the bread together and to pour the broth. Then, using the tip of the staff the angel was carrying, the angel touched the offering and, it was immediately consumed by fire.

The angel had indeed gotten the attention of young Gideon. But what he next directed Gideon to do seemed fraught with trouble. The angel of the Lord instructed Gideon to take one of his father’s bulls, tear down his father’s altar to the false god, Baal, and cut down the pagan worship pole next to it. Then, he was to build a respectful altar to God, and, using the broken pole as kindling, sacrifice the bull.

Gideon had to have been fearful on two accounts. Should his new-found faith lead him to do as instructed and face the wrath of his father, or should he decline to do the job and face the wrath of God?

He decided to do as instructed, but he did it in his own way. Taking his servant, at night, the two of them did the deed. In the morning, the townspeople were extremely angry and wanted to find and kill the culprit. Soon it became known that the one who did it was none other than Joash’s son, Gideon.

However, we find Joash showing a return to his own faith. As Joash spoke to the people, (Judges 6:31) he responded in this way: “If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.”

This is where we begin to see the faith of Gideon’s family. Joash’s love for his son, his sudden understanding that Baal was not a true god to be worshipped, and his willingness to stand up for his son as well as the God of the Israelites, brings us to the rest of the story.

Next week, we will learn about Gideon and the fleece.

The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh is the pastor of Schenevus United Methodist Church in Schenevus, New York.

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