Tag Archives: Gideon

Life is Messy

Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his town, in Ophrah; and all Israel prostituted themselves to it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family.
Judges 8:27 (NRSV)

Life is messy. We generally like things to be black and white and believe that things would be so much easier if they were. We like our movies to provide us with simple delineations between the people who wear white hats and those who wear black hats. We like the ending of our movies to wrap up neatly. The bad guy is dead. The good guy rides off into the sunset.

But life is rarely that way. We would like a simple choice for President. We want the person who is fully qualified, looks the part, has no moral flaws, is void of skeletons in the closet, inspires us, communicates clearly, and unites a diverse citizenship. That person, however, does not exist.

Even the great heroes of the faith, whom God raised up as leaders in ancient days, were sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. They were flawed the same as me and you. God raised up Gideon to defeat the Midianites, but in today’s chapter we find that Gideon was far from perfect. He defeated an idolatrous oppressor only to create a golden ephod (generally, a garment woven with gold) that became an idol itself. Gideon, for all of his leadership qualities, had his flaws. With his power and prestige he amassed for himself many wives and concubines. With 70 sons on record, the total number of his children had to be well over a hundred. Talk about messy.

Today, I am reminded that on this life journey East of Eden we rarely get the storylines of our lives to work out how we like them in our movies. Despite our perceptions, people rarely fit into simple black hats or white hats. Most all of us wear shades of gray. We all make mistakes along the way; Some of them tragic. We have messy lives, messy relationships, and mortal flaws. Riding off into the sunset is often just the view we choose to see through our rose colored glasses.

I do not believe, however, that this is cause for pessimism or cynicism. Rather, it is an opportunity for grace, forgiveness, and understanding. Just as Jesus taught, if I can be honest about the log in my own eye, I can learn to have grace for the speck in the eye of my brother, my sister, my friend, and my neighbor.

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featured photo by senorhans via Flickr

Overwhelmed, and Short on Confidence

[Gideon] responded, “But sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
Judges 6:15 (NRSV)

History is, by and large, filled with stories of privileged people. Kings, rulers, nobles, and generals were typically people born into the right families. They had the means to the best educations, were connected to the right people, and leveraged the opportunities at their disposal to become “great.”

Along life’s journey, I’ve come to appreciate one of the meta-themes of God’s Message which is summarized in His words to the prophet Isaiah:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.

Throughout the Great Story, God time and time again goes to the youngest, the least, and the weakest to use for His purposes. Today’s story of the calling of Gideon is a great example. You can feel the shame that exists at the core of Gideon’s soul. He is a nothing, a nobody, a person with no privilege, no means, and no connections. That is, until he received a visit from a very peculiar guest.

On this Monday morning, with a pile on my desk and a task list long enough to rival a child’s wish list to St. Nick, I can identify with Gideon’s attitude of being largely overwhelmed and a little short on confidence. Yet today’s chapter reminds me, once again, that God delights in calling unlikely individuals to particular tasks, and then graciously providing what is needed for the task to which one is called.

Chapter-a-Day Judges 8

A different time. Gideon made the gold into a sacred ephod and put it on display in his hometown, Ophrah. All Israel prostituted itself there. Gideon and his family, too, were seduced by it. Judges 8:27 (MSG)

I love old family stories and history. However, I have a hard time comprehending some historical events in my contemporary brain. I don't get why my maternal great-grandfather would commit suicide on his son's birthday after being diagnosed with tuberculosis. I can't fathom it. I wonder at my paternal great-grandfather being so upset that he up and left both his family and homeland to emigrate to America by himself. Nor can I understand his mother not wanting him to return to see her when he offered to do so.

It's difficult to get our heads wrapped around the times and realities of family just a few generations back. How can we expect to fully understand the equally flawed humans who lived in the brutal, chaotic time of the Judges three thousand years ago?

And yet, there is a common thread of fallen man that connects us all. Gideon makes an altruistic refusal to be Israel's leader, telling them that God will be their leader. Good for you, Gideon. What spiritual maturity. What humility. What a guy. A few verses later I'm scratching my head as Gideon turned his spoils of war into a "sacred" ephod which becomes the center of idol worship.

I'm perplexed. But, should I be? The same sinful, hypocritical blood flows in my veins. How often do I do and say things that leave people scratching their heads? How often are my actions during the week incongruent with my words on Sunday?

Chapter-a-Day Judges 7

Give thanks. God said to Gideon, "You have too large an army with you. I can't turn Midian over to them like this—they'll take all the credit, saying, 'I did it all myself,' and forget about me." Judges 7:2 (MSG)

As I write this post, plans for Thanksgiving are in full swing. In just over two weeks we will gather with family and friends to share in a feast and to give thanks. I've always loved Thanksgiving. Unlike most holidays, there is something about Thanksgiving that still repels commercialism. Thanksgiving is a humble holiday. It is a simple holiday. It is one of the few holidays we celebrate that still lends itself to introspection.

In a culture steeped in rugged individualism, self-seeking, and the perpetual pursuit of 15 minutes of fame, I find the idea of stopping to give thanks is a welcome moment of sanity. Like Gideon's army, we are at constant risk of taking all the credit for what God has done to bless us.

Several centuries ago, Thomas a' Kempis wrote a wonderful treatise on the difference between nature and grace. "Nature willingly accepts honor and respect," he wrote, "while grace attributes all honor and glory to God."

Today, I'm mindful of the many ways my natural self seeks to hoard respect and glory for myself. I'm reminding myself that God deserves all respect, honor, glory…and thanks.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and soulrider

Chapter-a-Day Judges 6

I'm not listening. Gideon said to him, "Me, my master? How and with what could I ever save Israel? Look at me. My clan's the weakest in Manasseh and I'm the runt of the litter." Judges 6:15 (MSG)

Consider, for a moment, some of the "heroes" of God's story:

  • Jacob: the younger son, a deceiver, becomes the father of the twelve tribes of Israel.
  • Joseph: the youngest of Jacob's sons, became the most powerful man in Egypt and saved the nation.
  • Moses: an orphan and a murderer on the lam (with speech impediment to boot) leads Israel out of bondage and delivers God's law.
  • Deborah: a woman leads Israel in a time when women had about as much social standing as livestock.
  • Gideon: the "run of the litter" leads Israel to defeat the Midianites.
  • David: the youngest, smallest son of Jesse becomes the greatest King of Israel, through whom Jesus would be born. All this despite being an adulterer and murder.
  • Solomon: the youngest son of David, born out of a scandalous marriage to Bathsheba, becomes the most powerful king in Israel's history.
  • Mary: a young girl with no social standing, becomes the mother of Jesus.
  • Jesus disciples: an eclectic, rag-tag group of uneducated misfits would turn the world upside down sharing the good news of Jesus.
  • Paul: a murderer and persecutor of Christians becomes the most influential follower and apostle of Jesus.

Anyone see a pattern?

As human beings, I've noticed that we are quick to believe the most negative things about ourselves. "God would never use me. I'm not sure God even loves me. I could never to anything worthwhile for God. I'm too…worthless, sinful, ugly, small, fat, dumb, short, stupid, dirty, weak, sick, poor, young, old, sinful, untalented, unknown, unlucky, unimportant, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera."

Look at the list again. 

Join the club.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Ashley Rose