The other day I was chatting with a friend about various and sundry spiritual topics, and as the conversation developed, I mentioned Naaman and then Gideon. We were talking about how God sometimes requires us to do things that fly in the face of our logic, and I mentioned both Naaman and Gideon as examples of individuals from whom God required an action that was completely illogical. Naaman had to dunk in the Jordan to get rid of leprosy, and Gideon had to cull even further an army that started out too small for the enemy numbers they were facing.
My friend just sat and stared blankly at me. I said, “You do not know who Naaman and Gideon are?” He shook his head. Now, ordinarily I would not expect a person to know these two characters from the Bible, but this man is a longtime Christian. He is active in his church. I would venture to go so far as to call him a pillar in his church.
This conversation disturbed me, and I have had it sitting at the back of my thoughts poking me every time I would attempt to erase it with more current events. The question that is linked to it is, “If he does not know who these men are, what has he been studying? These are important stories in the Old Testament. Any person who has spent time in the Word will have come across at least Gideon who is mentioned not only in the Old but in the New Testament as well.
I guess the reason I have been so burdened by this is that I am seeing a disturbing progression in our Christian culture. We are moving away from the Word of God. We are spending far too much time listening to speakers pontificate about the subjects of “Godliness” and far too little time actually delving into God’s Word.
I am not knocking people who speak and preach, as long as they are preaching the Word of God. But in a time when we are encountering a culture completely single-minded in its pursuit of happiness, which make no mistake, is the pursuit of self wrapped in a shiny new package, we need something concrete to which we can compare all things of the world, as well as the reminder that this life is not actually all about us.
I have been a counselor for around 20 years, and the thing I hear that disturbs me most, comes from Christians, and it blows my mind, is this idea that “God did this to me.” I have sat trying very hard to keep my jaw from dropping as individuals tell me about their lives and the choices they have made then end with, “And I have been very angry at God for doing this and allowing this to happen to me.”
I sit there and think, “God please tell me I do not say this. Please tell me I do not sit and blame you for the choices I have made, and more specifically, blame you when the crappy choices I have made do not pan out.”
We are losing our prayer warriors. They are our parent’s generation. They are also the ones who have delved into the Word of God, and if we don’t strap on some depth and jump into what God says…
And if we continue to make horrible choices for our lives outside of God’s will for us, and then blame Him when things don’t go the way we planned…
We are in big big trouble, folks.
It is not enough to say, “I am a Christian.” It is not enough to say, “I believe in God.” If that is all we have, we will fail. We will fail ourselves, our children, and we will fail God. We cannot continue to ride the disciplines of the generation before us. And I guess that is what is really bothering me.
As children of God we are not expected to be perfect, but we are expected to be accountable (Romans 14:12). We are not expected to work our way to heaven, but we are expected to give our lives to God to do with as he sees fit (Ephesians 2: 8-9). We are not expected to understand why God does what he does (Isaiah 55:8), but we are expected to obey (2 Corinthians 10:5). And we are not expected to know everything, but we are expected to know what is available, and that is the Word of God (Luke 11:28, Ephesians 6:17, 2 Timothy 3: 16-17, Hebrews 4:12).
I have heard people talk about how they can’t get into the Bible, because after all, it has changed so much, and we really can’t know that it is God breathed. I tend to not honor that statement with a response simply because any person who is diligently seeking Him, God will reward (Hebrews 11), and if we are actually reading the Word it will not return void (Isaiah 55:11).
I’m going to be doing a couple of blogs on Gideon, not just because of my conversation with my friend who did not know who Gideon was, but because Gideon is a Hall of Famer. He is listed from Hebrews 11, which is called the Faith Hall of Fame.
The story takes place in Judges Chapter 6. Israel has once again moved away from God and is doing “evil in the eyes of the Lord” (v.1). So God does what only He can do. He says, “Fine. You want to do your own thing and disobey me, go ahead.” And he hands them over to the Midianites for 7 years.
Now the Midianites were bad dudes. They were so oppressive that the Israelites hid from them in caves. And even Israels’ crops were destroyed by these guys along with the Amalekites and other eastern peoples. They destroyed everything in their path like locusts.
When I think of the Midianites I get a flash of an image from Mad Max with all these mean and nasty people on motorcycles getting ready to tear up anything in their path (though, of course motorcycles did not exist back then, so it would have been on camels). The Word says there were so many it was impossible to count and they left not a single beast of Israel’s alive.
So Israel was so tormented, they cried out to God. Took them 7 years, but they finally wore down and called for help. God heard them, as he always does, and he sends a messenger to tell them, “Hey, I am God. I am Yashuea, your rescuer, and I have done all these things for you. I told you to worship me and not the god of the Amorites, but you didn’t listen!”
Then he sends an angel to speak with Gideon, who is in the process of threshing wheat in a wine press, because to do so in the open would leave him open for an attack. I think it interesting that the angel just sits down under a tree. I picture him sitting there watching Gideon work. And then he says in verse 12, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
Now, before we continue I just have to ponder this a minute. An angel appears and sits down under a tree, no doubt in the shade. He is just hanging out watching Gideon sweat and toil, and I wonder if Gideon feels someone watching him and looks up. This big dude (I have seen angels, and I know they are huge), no doubt in disguise of some sort, or he would have scared the crap out of Gideon, says, “Hey the Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” And what does Gideon say….?
“If the Lord is with us, why has all of this happened to us?” Sound familiar?
Seriously, I have to wonder about this exchange. I mean, did Gideon just not know with whom he was conversing? And then he says, “How could the Lord abandon us?” (My paraphrase). That took a lot of nerve. Or maybe just a despair and frustration cocktail.
Anyway, he certainly said what was on his mind, and we see a lack of accountability was alive and well back then. I have heard similar commentary from others, and from myself. God always reminds me, as he did Israel, that He has not gotten me into the pickle I am in. My choices have gotten me where I am. It can be as simple as moving to a place where I am unhappy, and realizing that I never consulted him on whether or not HE would like me to make the move.
Been there. Done that.
Or it can be the choice of partner. Having been a hairstylist for many years, I have heard countless women lament their marriages and blame God for the fact that the marriage did not work out. When if fact, God did not choose that partner, the woman lamenting the marriage did! And when things don’t work out it’s, “How could God do this to me!”
My response is, “God didn’t do this to you, honey. You did it to yourself, and now you want God to make it like it was his perfect choice for you. God is not a genie. He is the God of the Universe. He is Yahweh. He is the beginning and the end. And he is also
Yashuea, the Rescuer.
He loves us so much. He loves us with a love that will not end (Jeremiah 31:3). He WILL rescue us, but we must own the consequences of our actions, and we must not do it our way, as Gideon will find out. I suspect, having been sifted myself, that part of the complication for Gideon’s process, was to develop him, to grow him, and that was as important to God as rescuing Israel.