For those who are big on action/adventure stories, we’re in the heart of a lot of action and adventure among people of faith against great odds. Today the stories of Deborah and Gideon (or at least part of Gideon’s story).
Deborah is a real anomaly among the leaders of Israel, she’s a woman! She was a prophetess and a judge in Israel, and when the Canaanite king Jabin oppressed Israel she (as a woman) sent for a man named Barak, possibly at God’s command, to lead Israel into battle. As far as we know, Barak didn’t necessarily have any military experience, and we certainly know that he was over-cautious, insisting that Deborah come with him as he met the army of Jabin, featuring plenty of iron chariots, and led by a general named Sisera. It is, in fact, this over-cautious behavior (did he suspect — maybe because she was a woman — that she was “talking through her hat” about this proposed military engagement?) that causes him to lose the real glory in the defeat of Sisera. In any logical approach to this battle, it was clear the Israelites were likely to have their heads handed to them; but Barak was lacking in faith in God, who is able to march an army around a walled city and throw its walls down flat!
The lesson here, as in so many other similar stories is that we need to proceed in faith! Remember what God has done in the past and rely on Him to lead to victory again.
The story of Gideon will, in the end, be much like the story of Deborah and Barak. Gideon was reasonably faithless, insisting that God give him signs before each of the things he did. Before he tore down the altar of Baal, he needed the sign of the miraculous fire on the altar. Before he would think of attacking the Midianites he needed not one but two signs (the fleece thing), before he would act. In fact, despite the 2 signs of fleece, God gave him one more sign later, on the night before a battle against the Midianites. How much reassurance can you need? Apparently, we humans have an almost bottomless need for reassurance. This is probably the reason for the multitude of stories about God’s people facing overwhelming odds only to emerge victorious because of God’s power. But still we often hesitate.
Let me make note of one more thing, too, before I close. Before Gideon could attack and conquer the invading Midianites, he needed to tear down the Baal. This is an important principle that shouldn’t be overlooked in the larger story of defeating 120,000 Midianites with just 300 Israelites. God provides the victory after we’ve provided the repentance. Gideon knew that and it’s why his first act was to take the huge risk of taking down the local Baal — even if it was under cover of darkness). You can’t expect God to bless, while you are still living in your sin.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.