"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!'"
May 2, 2012
This week I will continue the story of Gideon, where I left off last week. As we ended the devotional last week, God had whittled down Gideon's army from 32,000 to 300 men. He did this in order to show Israel that their deliverance from their enemy did not come from man, but from Him. He wanted them to once again acknowledge Him as the one true God. God was up to something and was getting ready to amaze the Israelites!
The camp of Midian lay in the valley below where Gideon and his men were. During the night the Lord said to Gideon, "Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp."
The camp was like a huge city. The scripture says that the Midianites, Amalekites and all the other eastern people had settled in the valley, thick as locust. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand of the seashore.
Gideon arrived at the camp just as a man was telling a friend his dream. "I had a dream. A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed." His friend responded, "This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands." Apparently, the men had heard that Gideon and his army were pursuing them.
Gideon worshiped the Lord when he heard this. He woke up his camp and told them that the Lord has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.
Isn't it amazing that out of a camp of a magnitude of thousands, God directed Gideon to the exact location he needed to be in order to hear the dream and interpretation! God didn't condemn Gideon for being afraid, but told him what to do in order to put his fears to rest. He gave Gideon the encouragement he needed to attack the enemy. When we're facing our toughest situations, God doesn't rebuke us for being afraid. But He will encourage us and help us put those fears to rest so we can do what needs to be done. God will give us the peace that passes all understanding and allow it to fill our hearts and minds. He may place us at the right place at the right time so that we will hear a word from a friend or sermon or read something that will encourage us to not give up.
The three hundred men were divided into three companies. Gideon placed trumpets and empty jars with torches inside into the hands of all the men. "Watch me," he told them. "Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, "For the Lord and for Gideon."
Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, "For sword for the Lord and for Gideon!" While all the Israelite men held their positions around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled. When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords.
What kind of military tactic is that? Gideon defeated this massive army with trumpets and jars with torches inside! When we have God on our side, He will do things that will astound us. What He does or has us do may not make a lick of sense, but it will work if we will obey!
The Midianite army fled toward Zererah, and as far as the border of Abel-meholah near Tabbath. Israelites from Naphtali, Asher and all Manasseh were called out, and they pursued the Midianites. Gideon sent messengers throughout the hill country of Ephraim, saying, "Come down against the Midianites and seize the waters of the Jordan ahead of them." So the men of Ephraim did as Gideon requested, and captured two of the Midianite leaders and killed them. They pursued the Midianites and brought the heads of the two leaders to Gideon, who was by the Jordan river.
Then the men of Ephraim said to him, "Why have you treated us like this? Why didn't you call us when you went to fight Midian?" And they criticized him sharply.
Although the men of Ephraim were quick to respond to Gideon's request and come to his aid, they immediately turned on him as soon as they fulfilled their duty. Instead of rejoicing with him for the Israelites deliverance from their enemy, they were resentful and full of criticism. Perhaps they were jealous of Gideon's victory and wanted some of the credit for themselves. That seems to be human nature; instead of being happy for someone who has endure a hardship and come out victorious we will say things like, "Why didn't you call and let me know; I would have helped you!"
Gideon answered them, "What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren't the gleaning of Ephraim's grapes better than the full grape harvest of Abiezer? God gave Oreb and Zeeb, the Midianite leaders, into your hands. What was I able to do compared to you?" At this their resentment against him subsided.
What Gideon was basically saying here was, "What I have done in cutting off some of the common soldiers is not to be compared with your destroying their princes. I may have begun the war, but you finished it. What you have gleaned after me by this capture of the Midianite leaders is greater than my entire harvest."
Philippians 2:3 admonishes us to, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself." In this instance, Gideon showed us a great example of how to regard someone as more important than himself. Although God had greatly used him to defeat the enemy of Israel, he was able to regard what the men of Ephraim had done as being greater than the acts of himself and his army. It's during times such as these when we see what a man is made of; will he be filled with pride in his accomplishments or have a humble spirit?
There are times when we may do something big or succeed at something and we tend to enjoy the attention and accolades of others. But what is our attitude when we are sharply criticized and perhaps even have others who resent us? Do we respond with anger or self-pity? Do we think, "Fine! I just won't ever do anything again, if that's how people are going to react!" Or are we able to honestly respond with meekness and kindness, pointing out even greater accomplishments those who are speaking critically to us have made? That's difficult to do! Having a humble attitude doesn't mean we're a door mat and allow others to take advantage of us, but it's showing a modest sense of our own importance and being able to put the well-being and achievements of others above our own.
Gideon and his three hundred men were exhausted from their pursuit of the Midianites. They crossed the Jordan and asked the men at Succoth for bread to eat because they were worn out. Gideon told them that they were pursuing the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna. But the officials of Succoth asked, "Do you already have the kings in your possession? Why should we give your troops bread?" For them refusing to give bread to Gideon and his army, Gideon promised retribution after the capture of the two kings.
From there they traveled to Peniel and made the same request of them, and they answered as the men of Succoth had. Again, Gideon promised retribution when he returned in triumph.
The two kings were with a force of about fifteen thousand men. Gideon and his men fell upon the unsuspecting army. Zebah and Zalmunna fled, but Gideon pursued and captured them.
Gideon also kept his word to the men at both Succoth and Peniel. He took the elders of the town of Succoth and taught them a lesson by punishing them with desert thorns and briers. He also pulled down the tower of Peniel and killed the men of the town.
Gideon asked the two kings what kind of men they had killed at Tabor. Gideon found out that they had killed his brothers. "As surely as the Lord lives, if you had spared their lives, I would not kill you." Gideon then stepped forward and killed them.
I'm not sure whether or not Gideon acted in a godly manner by punishing these two tribes of men for not aiding them when they were hungry, or if he acted out of his anger. I'm also not sure if him killing the two kings in revenge for killing his brothers was in accordance to what God would have him do, or if he decided to execute judgement on his own. I really can't judge and don't fully understand some of the things that happened in the Old Testament. I do know that there were certain laws that the people lived under that were voided and no longer in effect when Jesus came to earth. At times it seems as if God instructed men in Old Testament times to punish others and do things that is hard to understand, but I also wasn't there to understand the customs and laws of the day; but on the other hand, the scriptures doesn't say that Gideon was acting on the instructions of God here. There were many times when biblical men and women acted outside the will of God and disobeyed Him. Gideon may have been tired and hungry and felt responsible for feeding his men, and acted out of his own emotions. I also don't know if he was acting on his personal feelings when he killed the two kings who had killed his brothers. Laws and judgement changed in the New Testament when Jesus came and died on the cross and paid the sacrifice for our sin. Some things that seemed to be acceptable in some incidences in the Old Testament, Jesus spoke out against when He came. So I don't have the facts to know if Gideon was acting in the flesh or not, but the scriptures don't say that the Lord gave him instructions to do the things he did.
It's easy at times to want to carry out our own judgment and punishment upon those who refuse to reach out to us when we need help. Especially during those times when we may be feeling weak, tired, hungry, and have reached the end of our rope. If we're not careful our attitude can turn to one of, "Fine, don't put yourself out to help me! Just wait and see -- I'm not going to lift a finger to do anything for you when you need it." If something then arises where they need help, we'll make a point to tell others how they mistreated us when we needed them and how we're not going to do anything to help them now.
If you're facing a battle right now, God wants to amaze you with an answer, if you will only cry out to Him. What God did through Gideon and those 300 men is not a made-up fairy tale, but it really happened. And God doesn't love them more than He does us. He can turn our impossibilities into possibilities. Nothing is too hard for God! But we have to be willing to step out in faith, believe and obey.
Gideon sounded scared, and confused about what was going to happen. But he went anyway.
Sometimes there's a big difference between taking an act of faith and feeling complete confidence. Gideon acted on faith, but was probably terrified. He may have expected to lose half his army in the first battle. He might have expected to die as well. But he acted on faith that God needed him, and was going to save Israel.
It's okay to be nervous or scared about what your doing, as long as you are taking that act of faith, following what God has instructed.
Easy Cheesy Zucchini Bake
2 medium-sized zucchini, cut in slices or half-moon slices
2 medium-sized yellow squash, cut in slices or half-moon slices
2-4 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
2 Tbsp. thinly sliced green onion
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
3/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup white cheese (like pizza cheese, which is a blend); divided
1/2 cups coarsely grated Parmesan
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8x8 baking dish with olive oil or non-stick spray. Wash the squash and cut in slices or half-moon slices. Wash basil, spin dry or dry with paper towels and finely chop. Slice green onions. Combine the sliced squash, chopped basil, sliced green onions, dried thyme, garlic powder and both kinds of cheeses (minus 1/2 cup of the white cheese). Stir together until the veggies are coated with cheese and the herbs are well-distributed. Season with salt and pepper. Put the mixture in the baking dish and bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes. When the zucchini is nearly cooked through, take the casserole dish out of the oven and sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/2 cup of white cheese. Put the dish back in the oven and bake 10-15 minutes longer, or until cheese is melted and nicely browned and zucchini is fully cooked. Serve hot.
Okay, I'll give you a break; here's the last of the church bulletin bloopers for a while!
Today's Sermon: How Much Can a Man Drink: with hymns from a full choir.
Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community.
On a church bulletin during the minister's illness: God is good -- Dr. Hargreaves is better.
Pastor is on vacation. Massages can be given to the church secretary.
This afternoon there will be a meeting in the South and North ends of the church. Children will be baptized at both ends.
Tuesday at 4:00 PM there will be an ice cream social. All ladies giving milk, please come early.
People are like tea bags -- you have to put them in hot water to see how strong they are. - unknown
We love you!
Loretta & Jon