Friday, March 21, 2014

Judges 8-9 Exhausted yet pursuing, asking for help

From Judges 8-9


Jdg 8.1-21; Story; Gideon Defeats Zebah and Zalmunna
Jdg 8.22-28; Story; Gideon’s Ephod
Jdg 8.29-35; Story; The Death of Gideon
Jdg 9.1-21; Story; Abimelech’s Conspiracy
Jdg 9.22-57; Story; The Downfall of Abimelech

Passage and Comments

It seems the LORD has changed Gideon and he has become a bold warrior. He has just won the battle against the Midianites and is pursuing the remainder (Jdg 7.19-25). On his way, tired from the fighting and the pursuit, he meets some men from Israel.
4 And Gideon came to the Jordan and crossed over, he and the 300 men who were with him, exhausted yet pursuing. 5 So he said to the men of Succoth, “Please give loaves of bread to the people who follow me, for they are exhausted, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” 6 And the officials of Succoth said, “Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your army?” (Jdg 8.4-6)
Putting this in context. Israel has done wrong in the sight of the LORD. So the LORD uses the Midianites to discipline Israel. Israel eventually cries out to the LORD, and in response the LORD raises up Gideon to save Israel from the Midianites. Now, Gideon is going about saving Israel and he asks for Israel's help. They refuse him. It seems they prefer the rule of the Midianites and don't want to anger them. Its a bit of a slap in the face to the LORD really. They should have helped Gideon.
7 So Gideon said, “Well then, when the LORD has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will flail your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.” (Jdg 8.7)
Gideon proclaims judgment on these people. Unfaithful to the LORD and his purposes they should be punished. Look what happens after.
8 And from there he went up to Penuel, and spoke to them in the same way, and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered. 9 And he said to the men of Penuel, “When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.” (Jdg 8:8–9)
It happens again. They should have helped Gideon. So he promises retribution.

Story of Israel

To be sure, all people stumble (Jas 3.2). But as a reminder it is helpful to look on Israel as a mix of faithful and unfaithful. Gideon and his men are the faithful ones pursuing the purposes of God. The men from Succoth and Penuel are being unfaithful. This is not the first time people from Israel oppose the purposes of God and prefer foreign rule to the LORD's. They should have helped Gideon.

If we skip along the timeline the pattern continues. How did Israel treat the prophets? Quite often they were alienated, despised and rejected. Sometimes killed. They were going about the LORD's purposes, calling Israel to repentance. Perhaps it was because Israel preferred their current lifestyle that they did not respond as they should have.

Story of Jesus

When Jesus sent out his apostles he assumed this same pattern might happen again.
11 And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. (Mt 10:11–15)
Today, some of God's people involved in ministry are exhausted, yet they still pursue God's purposes. We need to acknowledge what they are doing and help them as we can.