"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
April 25, 2012
This week I am beginning a series on Gideon. As I began reading his story, I saw things that I had never noticed before. That's the awesome thing about the Bible; it seems like no matter how many times you read a story or passage of scripture, there is always something new that God will show you.
Gideon was a great warrior in the Old Testament book of Judges. But he did not have a background in military training or come from a prestigious family; rather he was an ordinary man chosen by God to lead the Israelites to victory.
Over and over again the children of Israel would repent and turn from idol worship to serve the one true God, only to go back to doing evil and building idols. And over and over again God would forgive them and save them from their enemy, when they chose to repent and turn to Him.
Deborah was a righteous judge and the people had peace in the land for forty years. Then the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord gave them over into the hands of Midian for seven years. Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves, and strongholds. Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites, and other eastern peoples invaded the country. They would camp on the land and destroy the produce of the earth, and leave no sustenance in Israel as well as no sheep, oxen, or donkeys. They swarmed in like locust and invaded Israel and ravaged it. Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help.
The Lord sent a prophet to Israel that gave them this message, "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I snatched you from the power of Egypt and from the hand of all your oppressors. I drove them from before you and gave you their land. I said to you, 'I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.' But you have not listened to me."
So many times we will try everything within our power to take care of any adverse situations that arise, and it's only when we've reached a point of desperation that we will truly fall on our knees and call out to God. Oh we may say a little prayer now and again, but we're still trying to handle it on our own. We only use God as our last resource when all else fails. Midian may have invaded Israel a little at a time, until they had finally completely oppressed them and taken over their land. The Israelites may not have liked it at first, but they thought they could deal with it and that it was just something they had to learn to live with. It was only when they were having to find shelters in mountain clefts, caves, and strongholds, their crops were being destroyed, and they had absolutely nothing, that they began crying out to God for help. Our situations may be completely different, but we tend to respond the same way. We will cry out to God when all else fails and we have no where else to turn.
God chose to show mercy to the Israelites. The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash, whose son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress in order to save it from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord said to Gideon, "The Lord is with you, might warrior."
Gideon's response was much like ours would have been. "If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all His wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, 'Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the Lord has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian."
The Lord looked at him and said, "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?"
"But Lord," said Gideon asked, "how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father's house."
The Lord answered, "I will be with you, and you will defeat Midian as one man."
Gideon's reaction was so typical of human nature, and how we too often react. "God, if You were really with us, then why did this happen? We heard the stories others have told of Your miracles, but God, we feel abandoned by You." We think if God were really watching out for us, then nothing bad would ever happen. But we live in a sin filled world and bad things do happen to us all. That doesn't mean that God has abandoned us or has turned the enemy loose on us. But God is ever present to help us if we'll cry out to Him. Sometimes He may give us a miracle and completely remove whatever it is that we're facing, and other times He will give us the strength to endure our hardship. But regardless of how God answers, He will never leave us. Gideon didn't feel capable of saving Israel from their enemy; after all, his family was the weakest clan and he was the youngest in his father's house. But he chose to obey.
The Lord gave Gideon a sign to further prove that He truly was real and who He said He was. The first instructions given to Gideon was to tear down his father's altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole. He was to get rid of places of idol worship, and build an altar where sacrifices could be offered up to God. Gideon was afraid, so took ten of his servants with him, and did this at night. The next morning the men of the town saw that the altar to Baal was demolished and the Asherah pole was cut down. They investigated and found out that Gideon had done this, so went to his father's house and demanded that Gideon die.
Joash replied to the hostile crowd, "Are you going to plead Baal's cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning! If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar."
From that day they called Gideon"Jerub-Baal" meaning "let Baal contend with him" because he had broken down Baal's altar. Throughout the story of Gideon you will find the names "Gideon" and "Jerub-Baal" interchanged at times, but they are referring to the same man.
I sincerely doubt that any of us have idols built in our homes that we're bowing down to and worshipping, but there can still be things in our lives that we are placing in a higher position than God. Any activity or person or position that we place before God can become an idol to us, if we're not careful. It may even be our own intellect that we rely on more than we do God. If our prayers aren't being answered and God seems far away, perhaps we should re-evaluate our life and see if God is truly our Lord. Do we trust God with all our needs, or do we look to ourselves and others first? Is God just a last alternative, if all else fails? We may need to break down those things that have taken priority over God so that He can bring victory to our situations.
The next morning, Gideon took his men and camped beside the spring of Harod. The Lord said to Gideon, "You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against Me that her own strength has saved her, announce now to the people, 'Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave.'" So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.
But the Lord said to Gideon, "There are still too many men. Take them down to the water and I will test them for you there. If I say, 'This one shall go with you,' he call go; but if I say, 'This one shall not go with you,' he shall not go.
Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, "Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink." Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.
The Lord said to Gideon, "With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place." So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites to their tents but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.
Sometimes the things that God does just doesn't make sense to us! Gideon was facing an enemy of thousands upon thousands of men; too numerous to even count. He left to pursue them with 32,000 men and God told him that was too many. I probably would have argued with God that my army was way too small and I didn't have enough. I would have wanted Him to send reinforcements, not cut the size of my army. But twice God told Gideon that he had too many men, until he ended up with a small army of only 300. Gideon listened and obeyed. God wanted to show Israel that He was the one who brought their deliverance from the enemy, not Gideon and a huge army. God's sole purpose for delivering them was so they would turn away from idol worship and acknowledge Him as the only true God. It's too easy for us to give thanks to people or medical science or numerous other things when we're blessed or our prayers are answered, instead of acknowledging God. I think sometimes God does things out of the ordinary to amaze us so that we will look to Him and know where our help and miracles come from.
When the angel of the Lord told Gideon that he would lead his people to freedom, Gideon didn't seem distrusting, but confused. He was still thinking that he was being told to go and save the Israelites. It's very different from when David was sent to defeat Goliath. David realized he was going to the battle so God could defeat Goliath.
It's a hard leap to go into a situation that looks hopeless, wondering what miracle God will perform. It would be much easier to go into the situation with a plan, with a big army, and heavy armor.
But that isn't how we learn faith.
Crash Hot Potatoes
12 whole New Red Potatoes (or other small round potatoes), leave whole
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
Kosher Salt, to taste
Black Pepper, to taste
Rosemary (or other herbs of choice), to taste
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add in as many potatoes as you wish to make and cook them until they are fork-tender (do not peel or cut up potato; leave whole).
On a sheet pan, generously drizzle olive oil. Place tender potatoes on the cookie sheet leaving plenty of room between each potato.
With a potato masher, gently press down each potato until it slightly mashes, rotate the potato masher 90 degrees and mach again. Brush the tops of each crushed potato generously with more olive oil.
Sprinkle potatoes with kosher salt, black pepper, and fresh chopped rosemary (or chives or thyme or whatever herb you have available).
Bake in a 450 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
The third verse of Blessed Assurance will be sung without musical accomplishment.
The Rev. Merriweather spoke briefly, much to the delight of the audience.
During the absence of our pastor, we enjoyed the rare privilege of hearing a good sermon when J.F. Stubbs filled our pulpit.
Next Sunday Mrs. Vinson will be soloist for the morning service. The pastor will then speak on "It's a Terrible Experience."
The concert help in the fellowship hall was a great success. Special thanks are due to the minister's daughter, who labored the whole evening at the piano, which as usual fell upon her.
A song fest was hell at the Methodist church Wednesday.
Admitting mistakes is not a fault; failing to correct them is. - unknown
We love you!
Loretta & Jon