The Story: Day 15
We just completely skipped the book of Joshua. My OT prof is not very happy with me right now. I promise this is the last time I lament the speed at which we are reading through the Bible (see posts from Day 12 and Day 10), however I hope you understand how hard this is for someone who puts food on the table by talking for 35 minutes on 4–6 verses of scripture a week. I understand the necessity of skipping a few stories. After all, it’s a 40 day plan. Skipping the book of Joshua, however, makes me feel like I’ve done something wrong. If you see me at the altar Sunday, now you’ll know why.
Here’s an easy solution: before I share a few thoughts on Gideon, go read the book of Joshua. At least chapters 1–14 and 23–24. Done? Now you know why you have a lot of friends named Joshua and Caleb and not so many friends named Achan.
I know you didn’t read it, here’s what you missed: 1) Joshua, Moses’ successor, miraculously defeats Jericho and settles the Promised Land. 2) the land is divided among the 12 tribes of Israel. 3) the book of Joshua ends with the Israelites living as a loose confederation of tribes without a king or central government. Here is a promise the people make as the book comes to a close:
Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! …We will serve the Lord”
Joshua 24:16, 21 NIV http://bible.com/111/jos.24.16,21.niv
Understanding how Joshua ends helps us make sense of Gideon’s situation. The people have not kept their promise. They have followed other gods and have reaped the consequences of their apostasy. Failure to exclusively follow the Lord has resulted in the the Midianites, among others, to ravish and pillage their land, crops, and villages.
Gideon is hiding in a wine press, covertly threshing out the little bit of wheat that he has for his family. The angel’s announcement that God is with Gideon and about to do something to alleviate their suffering is met with doubt…serious doubt:
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
Judges 6:13 NIV http://bible.com/111/jdg.6.13.niv
Gideon is several generations removed from the slaves that were liberated from Egypt. Although the story has been told and retold every Passover since, it hardly seems believable in light of such brutal oppression.
Gideon’s question is our question: if God is benevolent, powerful, present and active, why does (fill in the blank)? Many look at the circumstances of our world and only see a malevolent, impotent, distant, and passive deity.
Gideon’s doubts are not carelessly dismissed by the angel that delivers this commission. Gideon voices his doubts and asks for confirmation of the Lord’s power and presence. The meal is consumed by fire, the fleece is dry, and then it is wet. God knew that Gideon could be a mighty warrior if he were able to work through his doubts. Isn’t it interesting how God chose a skeptic to lead an army of 300 men against 30,000 Midianites?
God is patient with you in your doubts. He sees past your skepticism to the mighty warrior he knows you can be. Don’t think that fear disqualifies you for the mission of God. God can take our fear and transform it into radical dependence upon him.
Here’s a song that encourages me when I feel alone and facing a great obstacle: http://youtu.be/qOkImV2cJDg